Jerusalem by the Pixel

On 17 Feb., 2008

Maia Eldar interviewed me the eve of the exhibition “Digital Zion” for the magazine Kol Hazman. This is the translation of the article she wrote

 Jerusalem by the Pixel
Jerusalem by the Pixel
Monday, 11 February 2008

Maia Eldar interviewed me the eve of the exhibition “Digital Zion” for the magazine Kol Hazman. This is the translation of the article she wrote:

He credits Calatrava, but is angry at the development at David’s village. He loves art, and views the internet as magical. He’s enamored with progress, yet he chooses to remain in his hometown Jerusalem. These are but a few of the things that digital artist Mike Darnell chooses to tell us on the eve of the two exhibitions displaying his artwork, scheduled to open in the city later this month. 

“I was born in 1974, part of the baby boom after the Yom-Kippur war. Since then I have been living in Jerusalem, in fact, I have always lived on the same street” Darnell shares his life story with us. Darnell intimates that he feels his life has progressed alongside that of the PC. “A couple of months before I was born the first advertisement for a Personal Computer was published. It was an impressive machine with a whole 1k of memory, costing 565$. The story of the evolution of the PC is in many ways the story of my own maturing. I belong to the PC generation. In our lifetime the PC has entered every home and indeed every facet of human activity. We are the first generation to grow in a world inundated with technology and governed by the mechanics of Moore’s law.” 

When did you connect with all this technology?

“I remember how twenty years ago I got for my Bar Mitzvah my first PC. It was a real festival. We had to drive down to Tel Aviv to pick it up. To me it was the epitome of cutting edge technology. Looking back it wasn’t much more than a box. Today that machine’s memory, and the memory of over a hundred machines like it, would fit comfortably on a 64 Mega Byte flash disk of the kind that is used as a give-away at commercial fairs. 

And you’ve been connected ever since?

“Yes, but the moment I find most magical occurred on the 6th of August of 1991 – the birthday of the World Wide Web. The Internet as a medium is magical to me. I use it daily. The Digital is both my routine my muse.” 

And is the Digital indeed Art?

“It’s true, Digital Art utilizes technology. This does not mean that it is no more than a curio. Many art-forms require technological tools - Photography and Cinema would be impossible without the camera. Interestingly all technology reliant art-forms were subjugated to the same derogatory treatment in there youth. They are required to “prove their worth” to the art world before they transcend their curio status. Treating Digital Art as a curio disregards the activity of the artist involved in the work. The machine alone cannot create. It requires a human being to operate it in order for Art to be created. Once we cease viewing the computer as a curio and begin viewing it as a tool then we can perceive the artistic value of Digital Art. Simply put, the computer is no more and no less than my paint brush.” 

How did you begin “painting”?

“I studied Industrial Design for a while and I create out of curiosity. The feedback I received drove me on. I also teach in a number of academic institutions. My first piece – “Kadishman”, was created due to an exchange I had with an anonymous woman over Skype. She flashed onto my screen and, paraphrasing “The Little Prince”, asked that I draw her a sheep. It was such a weird request and the whole situation was so bizarre that I complied. I found a picture of a sheep, manipulated it, added funny eyes, and sent it to her. She was very happy with her sheep. We chatted for the remainder of the day and never since. I don’t know who she is or how to find her but she is my muse. With her it all began. Today I work on two levels. I either start with an idea and start seeking the images required to give it form, or stumble upon an image that generates an idea.” 

What will be displayed at “Digital Zion”?

“Digital Zion will display fifteen prints that relate to Jerusalem and Israel. Some are modern interpretations of stories from the Bible into which I have woven my criticism regarding our current reality. I have a hard time accepting the crazy attack the real estate magnates are leading on Jerusalem’s skyline. I am angered by the transformation of Jerusalem’s finest neighborhoods into ghost towns. Locations in this city that should be recognized as belonging to all of us are being parceled off to the highest bidder. To add insult to injury these bidders rarely live here. They only come for the holidays. Take for example the old YMCA football court – It was once a vibrant place, vital to the city’s life. Now it is no more than a “project”. It angers me that all this building is not for the glorification of Jerusalem and God, as it was in biblical times, but merely to erect monstrous edifices for a handful of rich people. My art’s politics does not align along the classic Israeli divide between Right and Left. I live this reality and perceive it, therefore I illuminate it. This is true also of my piece “72 Virgins”, an homage to Andy Warhol combined with Hammas flags. Politics is the curse of the Middle East - you can’t it. I never promised anyone 72 virgins but since the promise is there I respond and illuminate it as an artist. People can see in it, and in all my other prints, whatever they like.” 

There is another exhibition at the “Open House”?

“The Open House elected to curate an exhibition of my portraiture, It is important to me that the exhibition be frequented by all Jerusalem’s residents, without relation to their race, sex, orientation or religion. Everyone should come and find their own place.”