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Return to: Shai Zakai

Concert for Cement Mixers


December 13, 2001

Synopsis of the Press Release

On December 13, 2001, during the Festival of Hanukkah, an unusual event will take place in the Etziona Stream, Emek Ha'Ela.

Instead of the conventional musical instruments playing in a concert, "tunes" will be produced by cement mixers, trucks, the public in attendance and the sounds of Nature. The public invited to the event is one that does not usually get together at joint events: cement-mixer and truck drivers and quarry workers, ministers and high ranking officials from the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Culture, curators and gallery owners, artists and scientists, members of the local community, school children from the area, and representatives of the media.

The Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Culture, Science and Sport will open the event.

The project's initiator, artist Shai Zakai, Chairperson and Founder of the Israeli Forum for Ecological Art, is leading a unique process for the reclamation and cleansing of the stream, and, concurrently, is organizing social activities geared toward raising environmental awareness of those working in the stream's vicinity and making them partners in the process of creation. The artist drew up a reclamation plan for the contaminated stream while challenging those industry workers who caused the pollution in the first place.

The stream was blocked as a result of regular pouring of leftover concrete by cement-mixer drivers, years of washed off concrete waste from the concrete factory and dumping of construction waste.

After two years of work costing some 800,000 NIS - money which was invested mainly in the form of working hours put in by the artist and the concrete factory managers and employees, funds and donations - some of the artworks are already installed in situ. Among them is an avenue of concrete flags supported on palette-shaped concrete casts made of cement leftovers, which are intended to prevent trucks from dumping waste in the stream, as well as raise drivers' awareness (through the visual language) of the fact that there is a stream there, and that it is their responsibility to take care of it. In other words, artistic practice is central to the process. Shai Zakai perceives the artist as a link between man and the environment. Therefore she initiated a sequence of activities, which culminated in the stream being reclaimed and the local workers' awareness being raised.

The cement-mixer drivers who previously perceived her as their enemy (as she perceived them) have become her closest friends and collaborators in the process of creation. The quarry owner donated his part in equipment, working hours and openness. The Ministry of the Environment embraced her initiative. Scientists and environmentalists from various green organizations take an active part in development and consultation in an effort to devise a model for the project.

Part I of the project - Have you cleaned a creek today? - was featured as part of the exhibition Environment held in May 2001 in the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds and evoked much interest. The installation brought the audience in on the experience of contamination through some 100 tons of waste collected from the stream and scattered in the display space to form a maze. The work addressed issues such as identity, contamination, blindness and the reasons for the "disease". Visitors were asked "Have you cleaned a creek today?", and their answers were documented on a 17 min. film.

As part of her work Zakai endeavors to raise public awareness and involvement in environmental problems, implementing an ongoing, innovative process aimed at "healing" the society that contaminates its streams. She perceives her work in the creek as a study testing art's ability to influence and inspire greater awareness of environmental issues in the individual as well as the decision-makers in Israel.

Subsequent to the show Zakai was invited to participate in the Third International "Art, Nature, Culture" Conference, in Flagstaff, Arizona, in June 2001, and in September 2001 she exhibited excerpts from the show in a San Francisco gallery. Her lecture in the conference attracted attention and she was invited to talk about "Concrete Creek" in a convention of artists and scientists in Berlin last August.

In the event scheduled to be held in the Creek on Dec. 13, 2001 under the title Concert for Cement Mixers, the drivers will be called upon to pour leftover concrete onto a massive iron table - "The Last Supper Table" (constructed in collaboration with the quarry workers) and on the supports of concrete flags installed along the access road leading to the quarry.

The Minister of the Environment will announce the beginning of the "concert," and place his speech in a transparent box which will be fixed in the concrete (a project plan for the rehabilitation of all streams and rivers in Israel and their transformation into central sites in the daily and recreational activities of any citizen).

The Minister of Culture, Science and Sport will call upon artists to address social and environmental issues, and through their fresh outlook promote environmental awareness.

Artist Shai Zakai, along with other participants, will insert the garbage gathered in the creek for two and a half years into the wet concrete, and the table will be transformed into a "monument" for ending the creek's contamination, like a treaty signed by all the attendants.

The public will be invited to imprint a note/wish related to streams and rivers in Israel on the "The Last Supper Table", after walking along the stream's route and viewing the joint pieces created by the contamination generators and the artist. Along the rehabilitated section of the stream, Zakai invited guest artists, members of the "Israeli Forum for Ecological Art", to respond to her work there within, among them: Aliza Ulmert , Dov Or-Ner, Meirav Davish Ben-Moshe, and Adi Bar-Noy. Their works will be presented during the event.

A local group of female dancers, "Living Roomers", will present pieces staged especially for the event by dancer and choreographer Eva Elkayam , alluding to the creek's environs and Zakai's work.

The ecologist, philosopher, hydrologist, art critic, driver, quarry owner, and additional artists who took part in the project will imbed their professional articles and expert opinions in the wet concrete, in pre-made transparent boxes fixed within the table.

The event's participants will inaugurate the first eco-tourism route in Israel along the stream whose reclamation was implemented through the initiative of an eco-artist. Thus, the route will become part of the international events inspired by the UN decision to announce the year 2002 as the International Eco-Tourism year.

The event's goals

To create an unconventional artistic installation/performance that strives to function simultaneously as a work of art and as the culmination of an ongoing process to raise society's awareness of environmental issues by setting a precedent.

To put forth a challenge for other artists to invest their time in environmental issues.

To initiate a four-way dialogue for the environment spanning artist-citizen-scientist-establishment.

To mark new sections along the stream tracing the artist's reclamation route, thus rendering it the first eco-tourism route in Israel. Signs will be placed along the route describing the actions performed on site, and a kit will be produced for individual hikers, which will enable them to experience the process of physical and spiritual/social reclamation of the site. We have already contacted the Committee for Path Marking, and an appeal to the Committee for Name Changing is also underway, in order to change the name of the stream in the rehabilitated section to "Concrete Creek".

The Concrete Creek 1999-2002 project was implemented through the generous support of the Beracha Foundation; The Israeli Forum for Ecological Art; the Ministry of the Environment; the Ministry of Culture and Science; Owners and Employees of the Shafir Quarry; Heschel Center; volunteers, scientists from the Israel Nature &National Parks Protection Authority, Life &Environment, Yoav Regional Council, Graphic Design Studio. Chief Scientific Advisor: Dr. Eliezer Frankenberg.

The Shafir Quarry whose access road lies parallel to the stream has been active for some 15 years in a site located in the middle of the Etziona seasonal stream. In the course of time it has become the second largest quarry in Israel, including a quarry, a concrete factory, asphalt factory, a manufacturer of bridge parts, and a logistics center (a garage, locksmith' and fuelling facilities) that provides services for the Shafir company in all its sites throughout the country.

The quarry owners invested a great deal of money and thought into recycling and environment-friendly facilities. The site includes, among others, facilities for treatment of washed off and leftover concrete, facilities to prevent contamination of underground water, a special vehicle (the only one in Israel) that daily wets the sides of the road leading to the site in order to decrease the amount of dust generated by the heavy vehicles passing by there. Some of the main roads within the quarry are soaked with salt water, capturing the humidity at night, thus preserving moist paths that prevent dust by day.

Journalists invited to the event are welcome to take our buses leaving from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Please bring along a good pair of walking shoes, warm clothes and umbrellas (depending on weather) since the event includes a walk along the reclaimed route and will take place in the open air.

For further details email Shai Zakai: shai-stu @inter.net.il

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