An Interview with Hanoch Piven
As the phenomenally successful “Family Matters” draws to a close, Hanoch Piven talks about his joint venture with Beit Hatfutsot
This summer thousands of people came to Beit Hatfutsot to take part in “Family Matters: what families are made of”. This joint venture between Beit Hatfutsot and artist Hanoch Piven gives families from Israel and around the world an opportunity to participate in a unique crowd-sourced art installation. As this hugely successful, one-of-a-kind initiative draws to a close, Hanoch Piven spoke about his experience.
Why is crowd-sourced art and this project so important to you?
This is a first time experience creating together with so many people, and it is so important in so many ways. It creates communication on three levels: generating internal dialogue between the family members, creating a dialogue between the families and myself, and then, the final piece allows for the third level of communication – what I wanted to convey. The families became a part of that larger piece of art and communication.
Why did you choose to work with Beit Hatfutsot?
In my first meeting with Shelley (Shelley Kedar, Director of the International School for Jewish Peoplehood studies at Beit Hatfutsot), I felt that we talk a similar language. I really wanted to create a space where families could explore what’s important to them, to create a dialogue among themselves. To use the language that I have developed as a means to communicate between people; not just to be creative and to create a piece of art and show people who don’t think they are creative that they can create, but here there was a different layer, communication within families in order to create a piece of art.
This totally fits in with the Beit Hatfutsot motto – you are part of the story – together we made that happen, we made it into reality.
What did you want people to walk away with after taking part in “Family Matters”?
Joy, real joy from a good experience, a good artistic experience brings joy, but here there is also the joy of having spent good quality time together without the distractions of mobile phones, computers, a noisy movie, etc. Also, things came out when the families were taking part in the project, things to discuss and deal with later on. But most of all I wanted the people to have a good artistic experience and to feel joy at having taken part in this and spent time together.
What kind of reactions have you received?
I met close to 1,000 families during “Family Matters”. People were very grateful for having the opportunity to participate. They respected the fact that we gave them the space, the time and the means to explore their family and that we respected them and that everything was so well produced. The families were in a sort of bubble for an hour and they were grateful for that. I’m used to getting feedback for my own work but this was totally different, the people were pleased to have the opportunity to create for themselves, for being treated with respect and together with Beit Hatfutsot, we did it right! People walked out with joy.
When the project was conceived, we knew immediately that it had the potential to be great and we felt that anything we do might only spoil it so we jokingly said: “Let’s not do it”. But then we did it and it worked out fine, the production was complicated but we pulled it off together and it was amazing that we achieved what we had set out to do. Talking about production, it is important to thank those who helped us make it happen, like HP Indigo who offered us to print the family pixels on their printers, and of course the NADAV Foundation and the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot.
What does being Jewish mean to you?
That’s a tough question, it’s not something I think about every day, I would say that family is definitely a large aspect of it - the idea of ‘Where do I come from?’ Religious aspects do not play a part in my daily life. Living in Israel, there is that point where your definition as Israeli moves to the side your definition as Jewish.
Though the project is not quite finished yet, it has been such a huge success so far, what is your dream following this success?
The result itself is so beautiful in all the layers that it contains. To create such a large scale, permanent piece of art for a museum on a long-lasting surface is amazing. This is the first large-scale piece that I have created and I am proud it includes also my role as a teacher by opening a space for other people to participate.
Shelley has talked about reaching out with this project to Jewish families and communities from around the world through the internet in order to create something even larger and more encompassing. That would be really wonderful.
About Hanoch Piven
Hanoch Piven, born in Uruguay, made aliyah in 1975. He is an artist with a distinctive style, making use of common everyday objects for creating portraits. For nearly two decades his work has been appearing in the world's leading magazines, from Time and Newsweek in the United States, to Der Spiegel and The Guardian in Europe.
In Israel, Piven achieved fame by his personal portraits column in Ha'aretz newspaper, and his children’s books (Purple Feather). Recently, he has created television programs, for the Israeli educational television station.
During the last few years, Piven frequently holds workshops in which participants – children and adults – experiment with his unique methodology. The "Piven language" technique is enjoyable, entertaining and does not require artistic knowledge or skill. Organizations which have conducted workshops with Hanoch Piven include the I.D.F. (School for Leadership), Bank Hapoalim, Strauss, Amdocs, Schneider Children's Hospital in Tel Aviv, the World Zionist Organization and others.
Hanoch Piven's work has earned him the reputation of a unique Israeli and international artist. His exceptional work has been displayed at exhibitions at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, at the Prague Cultural Center and at Beit Hatfutsot.
"Family Matters" is sponsored by