On Performance Art Platform and Ensemble 209 Dr. Sharon Aronson-Lehavi Department of Comparative Literature, Bar-Ilan University
One can hardly overlook the dissonance between the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, bustling with people, and the pleasant atmosphere of Performance Art Platform. A long gray corridor that is part of the Bus Station leads to a big yellow door, which is already part of Performance Art Platform. However, even inside, behind the door, in a space set apart from its exterior, the buses above keep sending their vibrations through the floor, echoing the familiar realization that reality is theatrical and theater is real. It is along this seam-line that Ensemble 209 members, headed by Tamar Raban, create their works. The uncompromising tension between fiction and reality, essential to performance art in general, underlies all of their works. While marginal both geographically and stylistically, Performance Art Platform is, possibly for this very reason, the most significant Israeli performance-art center. Around the world, the field of performance art has long been regarded as a progressive and challenging art form. It focuses on the immediate, live presence of the performers, who daringly expose their art, as well as on the presence of the spectators, who become participants during the performances. Starting out as an avant-garde art form that challenges conventional theatrical and artisitc modes, performance art is now finding its way into the theater and theater departments in Israel. This kind of creativity inspires many artists, who see the theatrical arena as a dynamic site that openly addresses questions of personal and social identity. Ensemble 209 has created some of the most spectacular performances seen in Israel over the past years. Among them one may recall the "sunken classroom" where students/viewers were surrounded by teachers/students/performance artists in The Second Law of Thermodynamics; the magical bakery of Old Wives' Tales, which, watched through a glass window, created an escapist illusion of a European locale; or Bernarda Alba's home in Ding Dong, which is simultaneously a realistic rural Spanish home and the concrete, actual space of Performance Art Platform. In these works and others, spectators are often invited to eat a dish prepared in real time by the performers, stressing the real, actual aspect of their performance and bringing to life the seam-line between reality and fiction.