This Place, currently at the Brooklyn Museum, displays 574 pictures of Israeli scenes taken by a dozen accomplished photographers. In his review, William Meyers notes that there are “some wonderful images,” but the exhibit’s attempt to convey a message is at best meaningless and at times something worse:
[One of the photographers, Josef] Koudelka, calls the wall Israel built to protect itself from the suicide bombings of the second intifada “a crime against the landscape,” and his extensive documentation makes clear how ugly it is. In his text, Koudelka, one of the world’s great photographers, makes an analogy between Israel’s wall and the Berlin Wall—but the analogy is off. The latter was built to keep people prisoner, to prevent their escape; the former for security, any country’s first responsibility.
For “Desert Bloom,” a series of aerial views of sites associated with the Bedouin of the Negev, Fazal Sheikh began by consulting B’Tselem, . . . Breaking the Silence, and [other] far-left groups that cloak their activities in the rhetoric of human rights but seek to discredit Israel. Aerial photography requires interpretation to be understood, and these pictures, which purport to show Israel’s indifference to its Bedouin citizens and a disregard for environmental concerns, actually document the need for the plans that the government has been trying for several years to implement to improve the educational, health and employment opportunities in the region.
[The exhibit’s organizer and prime fundraiser, Frédéric] Brenner, in [an] interview, . . . said, “I came to feel that only through the language of artists could we hope to create an encounter that truly reflected the complexity of the place, with all its rifts and paradoxes.” This is the hyperbole of fundraising, Brenner’s strong suit. The parties to the conflict . . . will not be swayed by the language of artists. Only donors will.
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