Improv@halas.am by Ohad Fishof
Experimental Israel is an ongoing research project by Dr. Ophir Ilzetzki. In 2016, supported by Mifal Ha'Pais and the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Ilzetzki was commissioned by Daniel Meir and Halas Radio to create an original radiophonic study centred around contemporary Israeli music. As a composer identifying stylistically as experimental, Ilzetzki chose to focus on other Israeli artists who are, in some way, identified with experimentalism. In the two official years of research, Ilzetzki met weekly with prominent figures in the Israeli new music scene - composers, improvisers, sound and multi-media artists. With them, Ilzetzki ruminated in unofficial conversations regarding the main research questions. Yet, Ilzetzki prompted the artists not only to tackle the research questions via interviews, but also artistically; and so, Experimental Israel became one of the most extensive call for new works in Israeli music to date.
The main research questions are: How does experimentalism manifest in its artistic form, and specifically music; does the Israeli experimental practice differ from that practiced abroad, and is it possible to detect a distinct Israeli style? Despite its conclusions, the research does not attempt to suggest definite answers, but to place the opaque and widely used term in a clearer context. Since the early 90s, a bustling new music scene is active in Israel, bringing together artists of different genres. Today, these same musicians have already taken their rightful place in the international music scene, making them a fertile ground for queries such as raised by this research. Accordingly, and seeing the research could serve musicians worldwide, Ilzetzki makes sure to summarise each of its interviews into a short article in English. Each article includes the main focal points of the interview, a chronological reconsideration of the fixed research questions, as well as a look at those added during the course of research. Seeing the Israeli experimental scene is constantly growing, and hence, in flux, this research does not, and truly cannot, have a definite conclusion. Therefore, even after its official course has ended, Ilzetzki continues to add new voices to the research archive, so as to expose and clarify the topic even further. In fact, in its inception, the research was introduced as ongoing, and it is our hope that future researchers will refer to it, and continue its course. Thus, at any given moment in time, the research will serve as an up-to-date 'screen-shot' of the constantly developing Israeli experimental scene.
Experimental Israel is broadcast live from Halas Audio. All interviews, alongside interview summaries, are available in this archive. The programs are also available for download on Spotify.
Experimental Israel was made possible due to the kind support of Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts, and the Israeli Center for Digital Art.
Not Having to Decide who I am
Experimental Israel continues its journey on its 23rd installation with an artist that, through his work, manages to perfectly embody the ethos of experimentation. Ohad Fishof is perhaps still best known in the Israeli music scene as the front man of the mythical 90s rock group – Nosei Hamigbaat. In its own accord, Nosei Hamigbaat presented an experimental twist within the pop genre, and indeed with its disbandment some of its members turned towards more esoteric artistic realms. This is especially true for Fishof, who, since, has been affiliated with multidisciplinary work seeming to dwell comfortably between the avant-garde and pop. To those acquainted with Fishof this comes as no surprise, as his career includes training as dancer alongside his musical output. And indeed, a meeting with a sample piece by Fishof, whether installation, dance performance, or pure music, seems always to present a work veering towards a meeting point between different mediums and forms of expression.
Another aspect of Fishof’s work is a trademark at “world making”. I compare this tendency to a similar one to be found in the work of David Lynch, claiming that there, too, is to be found an abundance of detail leading one towards a feeling of meaning, yet a tendency to keep this meaning opaque. Fishof’s reaction is in claiming that he, as an artist, tends to listen to different types of reason, and attempts to shape these supposed meanings into forms. Meaning, continues Fishof, is a consequence of interaction, yet one that the artist can formulate without fully understanding. He relates this practice to his love of exoticism and science fiction, both of which present us a reflection of ideas and potential meanings that are very hard to explain vis-à-vis one’s own culture. This same train of thought finds itself entering frequently into Fishof’s works, where, according to him, he attempts to imagine different realities or a different “me”, as he terms it.
For Fishof, Experimentation and self are two interconnected ideas creating a whole. One’s own research of self requires experimentation with one’s “peaks” – a term borrowed from the world of audio. A peak value is the highest voltage a waveform will ever reach. Transferable to audio, the peak represents the utmost amplitude an audio device can produce. The RMS value (i.e. root-mean-square) is the effective value of the total waveform, or its mean in terms of audio. Using this analogy, Fishof identifies experimentation with one’s own artistic “peaks” as a means to enhance the RMS. This idea sends us into a discussion of Fishof’s creation practices and unfolds his current work on a new album, which attempts to encompass an array from pop songs to abstract forms. We also discover in him a fascination and firm belief in processes – a space in which a sometimes mundane idea can become a wonderful piece, and this only due to the rigour to which the idea was subjected. On one hand, Fishof immediately seems like a critical artist, aware of his artistic surroundings with which he is in an ongoing discourse. The other side presents us with Fishof the teacher, who realises the importance of a non-critical practice for art students, as well as his students of Gaga - the movement language and pedagogy developed by the Israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin. The latter presents a practice that does not seek to be validated by the culmination in artistic expression. However, Fishof also recognizes a personal attraction with another dance practice, namely the dance language invented by Noa Eshkol that, to him, represents a meeting point between life practice and artistic expression.
At the conclusion of our interview I enter with Fishof into a direct discussion regarding experimentalism, and why he personally believes his art tends, more often than not, to choose that direction: As a teenager in Jerusalem of the 80s, Fishof was confronted with more than a few examples of multidisciplinary art (Fishof mentions Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk, The Residents, etc.) that didn’t proclaim themselves as avant-garde, rather maintained or even paraded their pop status. Fishof claims that the times were probably ripe for the underlying understanding claiming that the avant-garde, too, can become traditional. Hence, Fishof, as a product of his time, grew up thinking that music is an experimental art, and more so, allows one to not have to decide exactly who s/he is or where s/he stands. It was a pop art that didn’t seek to adhere to a setting or framework, as well as resounded a loud no to definition.
Improv@halas.am by Ohad Fishof is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.