An interactive installation in which the gallery transforms into the Big Lawn (הדשא הגדול)—a prominent feature of the Kibbutz Movement’s landscape architecture. Visitors to the gallery can take selfies inside large dioramas, similar to dioramas in history museums, or to backdrops common to early nineteenth-century photography studios. These dioramas depict utopian scenes taken from the Kibbutzims’ Rosh Hashanah cards in circulation mostly from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Large prints of some of the original cards—as well as photographs I took earlier of Kibbutz members playing various scenes within those constructed environments—are displayed on the walls between the dioramas.
When the Kibbutz Movement was at its peak power, Kibbutzim Rosh Hashana cards were issued as a PR enterprise, featuring what the Kibbutz hoped to be. Those cards’ compositions were commonly two-thirds blue and green, with central motifs such as new communal buildings made by the best architects, large swimming pools, children playing on the lawn, bountiful fields, water, and sky. They were an attempt to present a constructed garden of Eden, an ever-green utopian environment, clean and pure.
The dioramas in the gallery reconstruct those utopian scenes. They are made of large backdrops, featuring some of the common themes in those cards, as well as fake and real plants, trees, hay bales, and other props in the foreground. Next to each diorama stand clothes hangers, with random costumes and props that gallery visitors can use when taking pictures. Similar to many dioramas in history museums around the world, which depict important historical moments in 3D installations with mannequins in fake environments, these “stages” are spaces where people can “reenact” situations, real or fantastic, and document them with their cameras. The gallery floor is covered with fake lawn, and straw bales are scattered around, giving people a place to sit, take in the scenery, or help their friends compose scenes within the dioramas.
Whether with a brush, with a camera, or with a smartphone, people throughout history have created self-portraits. Just like those Rosh Hashana cards that were used to establish a controlled image of the Kibbutz, self-portraits/selfies allow us to actively control the image we project of ourselves, thus influencing people’s perception of us. When traveling, selfies act as evidence that we were present at a specific place. The dioramas in the gallery give the public an opportunity to take selfies against the backdrop of the nostalgic, heaven-on-earth image that the Kibbutz Movement so eloquently created and advertised. Visitors can enter a space that is both imaginary and real, and they are free to express themselves within it as they see fit.
At the exit of the gallery there is a station where visitors can download their images to a website or an app. Throughout the duration of the exhibition those images are printed and attached to one of the gallery’s walls to create an archive. In this project I take the point of view of the anthropologist—I am interested in how people, in retrospect, react and interact with a lost utopian fantasy, one that was a prominent aspect of Israel’s history.