Off to Kallah
One Amazing Day at the ALEPH Kallah

Jerusalem, city of music

The first thing I ever saw by the artist Kutiman was Thru You, an amazing multi-part music and video piece created by using found footage of artists from YouTube. He took footage of unrelated artists -- someone here playing bass, someone there practicing violin -- and mashed it up into a pretty astounding album of music-and-video, artists around the world unknowingly collaborating with one another on the stage of his splitscreen. It's truly transformative work, and it's amazing.

Kutiman's recently released a new work which I find equally wonderful. It's a pair of videos made in Jerusalem, reflecting the sounds and sights of that amazing, contested, complicated, beautiful city.

First he spent three days walking around the city with a camera and created a short video called "My Trip to Jerusalem." (I loved watching this not only because it's beautiful in its own right, but because I recognized places and landscapes and vistas -- it made me miss Jerusalem tremendously!)

(Kutiman's "My Trip to Jerusalem;" if you can't see the embedded video, go directly to it here.)

Then he returned several times over the course of two months, and recorded both footage and live music which he braided into another spectacular mashup of video and sound. (Here's a blog post about the making of the piece, which includes video recordings Kutiman took of artists Safi Sweid, Hani Asad, and Loev -- all of which are part of the final piece.)

It turns out Kutiman himself is Israeli; his real name is Ophir Kutiel, and he was born in Jerusalem and lived there until he moved to Tel Aviv at eighteen. He's Artist of the Season for this year's Jerusalem's Season of Culture, which is how this work came to be. You can read a general overview of the piece here at the Season of Culture website, and a good review (and short interview with the artist) here at Wired. On the Season of Culture page celebrating the piece, I learned that it features

...blues artist Lazer Lloyd (who after a short visit to a rabbi changed his life completely despite being signed by Atlantic Records), Guy Mar from HaDag Nahash, Safi Suede - one of the most important Kanun players in the world; the ultimate marching band - Marsh Dondurma, Emanuel Wizthum on the viola and a few dozen musicians of different ages, different ethnic backgrounds and who play different instruments -- but all of which derive from the city.

(The quote is from the Jerusalem City of Culture page; I dug up the links myself, wanting to know more about each artist. I'm bummed that most of the Arabic artists don't seem to have web presences...)

Anyway, here's the final piece, which moves me tremendously (and is also great music). Unlike in Thru You, where the artists were unknowing collaborators with one another (and that's part of the piece's magic), here is a wide range of artists in Jerusalem who participated in this project knowing that their work was going to be part of a greater whole. An embodied prayer, maybe, for a Jerusalem where Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims and Christians, can make music together in peace.

(Kutiman's "Thru Jerusalem;" if you can't see the embedded video, go directly to it here.)