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Documentation of one of the participants of the Here/Then and Now research group

Here/Then and Now كان ועכשיו ; a Memoir

Belongs to
Other projects under Interdisciplinary Research Group

As part of the IRG, Hoffman intended to further research, contextualize, and problematize the propositions and methods used in her artistic conversing practice, such as within the Here/Then and Now كان ועכשיו research group of artists that operated between 2018-2021 in Haifa (Israel).

In 2018 Hoffman, together with the Beit HaGefen Gallery in Haifa, and in earlier collaboration with the Mamuta Art & Research centre in Jerusalem, initiated a research group of artists named Here/Then and Now كان ועכשיו. Each year a new group of about ten artists is formed, committing to only one official expectation: to spare the time and be dedicated to gather once a week to have an open group conversation for 5 to 6 hours. In the centre of the meetings is a conversation, meaning that is the only thing the group does together. These conversations are mostly held at the Beit HaGefen gallery, however, the group sometimes travels to talk with different local initiatives in Israel or to visit the places where each of the group participants lives and seeks to work.

How to overcome fragmented forms and structures of the socio-political conditions we live in as an artist?

Reflection of Thalia Hoffman

The group thinks and discusses various models of artistic interventions and organizations and wishes to develop personal art tactics and skills tailored for each of the participants and their living conditions. Next to that, a statement of group tactics was formulated. The resistance to social-political forms and structures of the ongoing violence and racial injustice, that from time to time take numerous lives where Thalia Hoffman lives as it does during these days, stands in the core of this conversational group and is in the center of the research. The general research questions of the group discussions are:

  • How to act as an artist in relation to the local surroundings?

  • How to overcome fragmented forms and structures of the socio-political conditions we live in as an artist?

  • When the art field we art part of or wish to be part of is a sort of continuum of these structures?

The motivation to begin the Here/Then and Now كان ועכשיו [kan ve achshav], grew out of two main needs. Firstly, graduates from the art department of the Haifa University, where Hoffmans teaches, most often return to their rural life and family in Northern parts of Israel, a state in which the art scene in very centralized. Secondly, working as a political engaged artist for the past decade has urged Hoffman to rethink her understandings and to constantly see them in different lights. Within the group she is working and developing propositions that establish the research methods.

The meeting usually begins with new thoughts or updates from each of the participants and/or significant topics from our socio-political surroundings or art field. These usually develop into spontaneous conversations in which standpoints and questions are raised from all the participants. Social scientist Sherry Turkle claims, 'face-to-face conversation is the most human—and humanizing—thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy' ¹. The conversations constantly find their form and variation according to the needs and desires of the participants at the moment of the meeting.

The infrastructure of the group and the methods it practices seek to allow these transformations or at the least confront the conditions and beliefs each of us act within our artistic practice. Hoffman uses the word infrastructure following Lauren Berland, who describes it as 'the living mediation of what organizes life, the lifeworld of structure' ². This is a fragile position to maintain since most of the participants in the group are Palestinians living outside of what is thought of as the centre of the art scene in Israel. As the local art scene is very centralized and because the rest of the country's systems are mostly Jewish, this flipped balance offers to change the dynamics of what comes into the discussion and the way it is conversed.

Lauren Berland redefines ‘‘structure’’ as that which organizes transformation and ‘‘infrastructure’’ as that which binds us to the world in movement and keeps the world practically bound to itself; and proposes that one task for makers of critical social form is to offer not just judgment about positions and practices in the world, but terms of transition that alter the harder and transitional form, she suggests to recast the place of nonsovereignty in social life and link it softer, tighter and looser to infrastructures of sociality itself. For me these transformational opportunities within the conditions and beliefs of how each one of us acts as an artist within her surroundings, is a way to resist the oppressing and violent socio-political forms and structures that artists here are obliged to practice in.

¹ Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, 2015. Print.p.145
² Berlant, Laurent, The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2016, vol. 34(3), 393-419

Reflections and documentation of the Here/Then and Now كان ועכשיו research group

Each group member has documented the process of participating in the research group. In this part you can find a selection of this documentation:

Round table of conversation, Beit HaGefen Gallery, 2018 - photo Safa Kadah
During one of the round table conversations - photo Safa Kadah
Weekly winter soup, 2019 - photo Thalia Hoffman
Meeting at Bir Al-Maksur - photo Valeria Gaslev
Meeting in Haifa home-gallery, 2020 - photo Valeria Gaslev
Thalia Hoffman

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