Interview


Lise Cadoch


Tel Aviv - 1 November 2014

02

Lise is a scriptwriter and represents Israeli artists trying relentlessly to give them access to the global art scene. I met her in Tel Aviv where she gave me an extensive interview without any concession on her vision of her country and how it is seen from the outside world.

You are a scriptwriter aren’t you?

Yes, I am   basically a screenwriter. I am also a trained stage actress. It is a profession that I enjoyed but left in favour of writing. In fact, it was quite a journey  … I underwent classical theatre training which was specifically tailored in the classical sense of the term, and provided a solid foundation in several respects.

At the same time, I also worked as an “haute couture”fashion model in order to achieve financial independence. I worked for individuals whose impression of the world at the time has remained with me. I am   now 40 years old; so the time I am speaking of was about 20 years ago. I was very young when I started working with people like St Laurent, Lagerfeld, Gianfranco Ferré, who gave me a particular kind of respect for materials and aesthetics. It is something I learned very quickly with my father, who loved it.

And then I left theatre and fashion at the same time because I protected myself a great deal, in other words, I never engaged in any excess. I would disengage myself in the event of any excess. So I took refuge in scripts rather than writing.

I became involved in script writing through my first husband, Patrick Grenier Lassagne, a highly talented writer who introduced me to it.

The first project that involved working in Israel was a project on Mike Brant[1], for which we were awarded the Sopadin[2] prize in 2009. It involved studying the second generation, the transmission of the Holocaust and the silence…

That made it possible for me to understand the manner in which Israel functions, on what basis, on what legacy on what silence, on this double Sephardic Ashkenazi culture … It allowed me to see, in spite of being Sephardic on my mother’s side and non-Jewish on my father’s, that we had omitted many things, and that the unspoken and this silence was present here in politics and in several areas. And then I made a choice afterwards.

After that script, I made the choice to continue to write and to get involved in Israeli projects, with French adaptations of   Israeli cinema. I began to work with the actress Yael Abecassis, who has her own production company in Israel and asked me to adapt her scripts to French in order for them to be presented at the CNC, so as to be able to find producers. It was a fabulous adventure because I had the honour of being the president of the jury at the festival of the Jewish audio-visual memory in Belgium.

It provided me with the opportunity to present Israeli films, documentaries and dramas to the Belgian public, which is different from a Jewish audience, and to observe perceptions in this small country which has attracted a lot of attention and which is extremely paradoxical.

Paradoxical in the way it operates: the dichotomy between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. On the one hand,   there is this freedom that can be found here in Tel Aviv, this desire to have fun, to live life in the fast lane, to enjoy oneself, and on the other hand, there is Jerusalem with its solemn, introverted, religious side.

I worked with her in this manner for one and a half years and it was amazing! I met many Israeli artists, not necessarily writers or directors, who wanted to see what was going on in Europe, Paris, Brussels, Madrid … There were painters, sculptors, videographers, …

That was how I became a sort of bridge between the artists here who may be “established” or beginners. I help them understand how they can have access to institutions such as the Cartier Foundation, the Louis Vuitton foundation, etc.

My role is not to make a selection but to see what corresponds to the specific vision of a collector, a museum etc.

This is something that I had already done for other projects that resulted in my being associated with the Cartier Foundation in particular.

I also assist artists in obtaining funding. For example, a 230 pound 3D statue, by Yuval Shaul (his self-portrait) printed by Startasys, the world’s first 3D printing company has just been erected. Startasys is also associated with Anish Kapoor and other artists all over the world. The statue is the first of a series of three to be produced in three days by the laboratory. It looks likemarble. It is absolutely amazing!

The laser dries the droplets of the material released by the printer. It requires 850 hours of continuous printing because the machine does not stop. The printing company has taken on the role of patron for the project. It would be nice if it could be displayed at the Grand Palais in Paris.

I also represent Mira Maylor[3], a fabulous artist who works with glass, and has held exhibitions in Detroit, Chicago, Rome, and there are also, Dan Reisner[4], Yuval Shaul[5] and Gadi Fraiman[6], among others.

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Dan Reisner

There are plenty of artists here who want to live abroad in order to achieve recognition there. I explain to the artists I represent, that the system works differently. In Israel, they may sell to collectors without achieving any recognition as a result of not participating in any auctions. If a collector approves of your work, they buy it. There are artists whose works sell for 100,000 dollars. Hence they are already quite established, however the sum of the transaction never gets recorded. And introducing an unrecognized artist in Europe is extremely difficult! So much needs to be done here. The importance of selling and holding exhibitions in relevant museums must be explained to them first of all before working on their recognition.  Their works must be introduced in relevant auction housesin particular countries. And the entire process must be repeated in six months’ time  … That would enable a collector using a site such as Artprice to become aware of the importance of such an artist.

Today Israeli artists are struggling to break into Europe because they are viewed against the backdrop of   …. Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Obviously, there are Israeli artists who are recognized particularly at the Louvre, such as Yehudit Sasportas, or Michal Rovner. These are Israeli artists who often spend some time living abroad and spend some time here.

But what happens is that curators or other individuals involved in decision making in museums such as the MAC / VAL, MAMAC in Nice, the Antwerp Contemporary Art Museum… must assume the responsibility for presenting an artist based on their talent, their creation, their vision, without focusing on their Israeli nationality which has nothing to do with their art.

And, with the prevailing political trends in Europe, it is not always easy to find someone ready to assume such a responsibility. The problem arises when you have individuals who equate being Jewish or Israeli with “Zionism”. And that is the end. There are of course extremely brilliant and intelligent individuals who are receptive and understanding. But the problem lies in the hierarchy of decision making.

In comparison with less established artists from Japan, London, Russia etc., an artist from Israel must work 50 times harder to prove himself.

This need to apologise when introducing an Israeli artist is very disturbing. I encounter it every day with people who say “We are booked for the next 4 years”, “We’re sorry the artist is amazing but. … “. The “but” is a geographical location which now means something else. It should however be noted that there are several left leaning artists who are completely in support of peace. It is not a matter of being pro-Palestinian or not.

That is why it was interesting to work with Canadians, who possess astonishing acuity and perception. As well as working with countries such as Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and even Germany, which have a totally different vision. Today there are exchanges between Berlin and Tel Aviv: there are also artist residencies.

Mira Maylor

Mira Maylor

 

Is it better in Asia?

Yes, it is although for a certain type of artist. Asia could be either totally minimalist, very sober, very simple or the opposite, that is to say, much heavier, baroque and bright. For example I have an artist, Gadi Fraiman, who works with bronze: He makes pink flamingos in bronze and colours them with car paint, resulting in extremely bright lacquers. They are very impressive and very beautiful, and the King of Jordan, for example orders one each year. I am inclined to believe this artist would do well in Miami or Singapore. This is the flashier aspect available in the countries of the Gulf, in Dubai, where there is no labelling of countries. It is a work; it is almost Art Deco. Hence it does well there.

Gadi Fraiman

Gadi Fraiman

Are you able to access the Biennial Dubai Art Fair?

At present yes, I think so. It is one of my priorities, and I think it is possible. But, on the other hand the same artist (the one who makes flamingos) is part of the second generation of the Holocaust. He also works with onyx and makes onyx violins and female figures with very prominent bones and it is quite different and you understand very quickly where it is going. Do you understand such limits?

It is almost schizophrenic. That is why it is important to understand very quickly unless you will engage in something you cannot sustain.

How do you choose what artists to represent?

I work with artists who are 80 years old and artists who are 30 years old. I represent these people but am neither their agent nor their artistic director… The role I play goes beyond that.

Being an art dealer and selling a work of art   is quite different. It is not my role. On the other hand what interests me is finding collectors and selling and ensuring the work has a life, a story … Because of my background in theatre and writing, I need to write a story, a backdrop. And that is what is beautiful. That is what I find pleasant and what I enjoy about it. It is quite similar to being a screenwriter. When a writer gets  up in the morning and needs to write, he must find the strength, the desire, the will , but above all , he must remember his personality , certain smells, certain colours and it is often absent  today. People do not have the time and you ask “Well how much is it? “

For example, there is an artist that I would love to introduce you to, but we are pressed for time … he is the son of Rafael Eliaz who was the most famous poet in the 1960s and a great adapter. He adapted Shakespeare, Molière and Corneille for the theatre. He had two sons, one named Amon, who died here during the Lebanese war, and the other, Uri, a painter. Uri combines influences from Picasso and Chagall and has exhibited his works in Israel from a young age. He was also once a shepherd and a soldier: he was wounded during the war of independence. He himself has two sons. His father, Raphael, who is well known here in Israel, once had an affair with a young woman who ended up poisoning his wife, Uri’s mother who then died. Uri whose career was thriving – he was a stage designer, he painted, he exhibited his works – then fled to his father’s side in Haifa. But the war and the life of a shepherd remained in his thoughts: there was a break in his career and he separated from his wife. Then he met another woman, from Jaffa, who is deaf and very attractive. She saw Uri as the Pope, as God. She convinced him to stop selling and displaying, and create. Gradually, he shut himself away and her influence over him increased and she understood less and less: she saw him as a son and he saw her as a mother. Today he is 83 years old. He has created 2,000 works of art and 180 totems. His studio is in Jaffa and he has a house by the sea. He leads a reclusive existence.

Uri Eliaz

Uri Eliaz

I am currently doing a documentary on him. I hope that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem will show it but it seems preferable to exhibit a skirt that is held by a cord or a white square in a 600 square metre room rather than the last of the Dadaists or a genius who has engaged in self-censorship even if he has not remained in obscurity.

These are the stories that live in me and make me live here, while knowing that this is an extremely harsh country, very harsh.

It seems that life is not easy here…

Living here is very difficult because you never know what is going to happen … ever … You cross the street and the sirens go off in two seconds. My family is in the south and I live in the north. They are in Ashdod, 40 kilometres from Gaza and I am 70 miles from Lebanon. It is the same thing. You can be attacked overnight.

I sometimes send my four children to my mother who lives in Ashdod by the sea, to spend the weekend, and there are nights when she says to me “I am sorry, there were three sirens today: we had to go down “. And in Tel Aviv where I am nothing is happening. Tel Aviv and Ashdod are only 40 kilometres apart! Everyone gets searched in every supermarket, in every mall, in every bank. It is something everyone has gotten used to. You open your bag and you close it … It no longer surprises you. The conditions under which we live are so harsh that there are people who can handle it and people who can’t. It is this aspect of self-defence, this form of aggression that you see.

People are harsh here?

Very harsh. That is something that I have never personally become and I have not given into because I cannot.

It has nothing to do with Judaism. I am a delicate and mild mannered individual who understands that I must survive. But it is not possible to be mild mannered and delicate all the time: it simply isn’t.

There are people here that I knew 20 years or 30 years ago with whom I no longer speak, who constantly believe that you want to reach them in order to extort them. In Morocco Jews and Arabs lived side by side in harmony in my grandparents’ time at least. But the factors here are not at all the same. Here we are 300 metres from Jaffa: and there are things going on that do not happen in Haifa. Because Haifa’s history is completely different.  Arabs and Druze live together. There is a respect. Here it is not the same thing at all. This violence, is seen differently.  There are  also  the Bedouins who live  in the dunes of Beer-Sheva,  there is Sinai and Eilat, which also have a religious  aspect – there is a mystique that cannot be found anywhere  else – There are silent Armenian communities in Jerusalem as well as in  Jaffa … and everyone  lives together. This gives rise to all kinds of artists who cannot be found anywhere else.

Yes it is very rich from an artistic point of view, although I did not expect exhibiting an Israeli artist in the West to be that difficult. I thought political divisions belonged to a different sphere from art, especially since politics is not a subject that Israeli artists deal with in their work…

Very few do, indeed.

You know, there are many artists here, whose mothers are Peruvian and whose fathers are Russian and Ethiopian who do not see it that way at all. Israel to them, is the country of their birth and their inspirations come from elsewhere.

Israel is a melting pot

Yes, there are 61 nationalities here!

On one hand my name is  Lassagne Grenier it has aristocratic origins and comes from my ex-husband, on the other hand my name is  also Cadoch because it is the name I use when I write.  It is my mother’s name and means “sacred” in Hebrew.

It is quite amusing because people do not know who I am, where I come from, where you have to catalogue all this. Physically, I am not Belgian at all … but it does not bother me. What does bother me is the fact that I have to justify myself.

The black cause is also of interest to me because I have three mixed race children: my ex-husband is French on one side and multiracial British Caribbeanon the other. I also have a child with my partner who is a Hungarian Israeli. There is a patchwork between Jewish, white and black.

This is a very young country. This is a country that was created in 1948. It is now 2014, at a quick count. It is a country where nothing used to grow. There was barely anything to eat. Cities used to have two shops and five streets. I arrived in Israel from Jeanne Avenue in Ixelles, Brussels in 1979 and landed on the dunes of southern Israel. It was great: I could pick grapefruit, go to the beach with my friends, there was no pollution at all, and I lived in a world of children that was far removed from European civilization! What made a child at that time, was the understanding that each person comes with a sort of window with lots of memories which they try to add others to. In the building, there were Iranians, who are Persians, Hindus, Russians… you learnt accents and names … But there were women – and this is the topic I  covered in the film that I co-authored with my ex-husband Patrick Lassagne – like Bronia Mike Brant’s mother, who came from Poland, from the  camps and Cyprus and she ended up with 350,000 other refugees who spoke Polish and said to her husband: “We are in another ghetto, I shall  not stay here in the kibbutz.”

Those women were not speaking of camps or ghettos. They spoke of nothing because they wanted to forget everything but it did not work. Because when you do not speak, it consumes you from the inside and so what works obviously? The second generation. This second generation that is 60.65 years old today started speaking a few years ago. In Israel, no system was created to receive these refugees, these women survivors. Nobody could hear them. So who listened? The children in the kibbutz. In the scenes at night in the kibbutz, it was those women who gathered a dozen children in the toilet. They sat down, and then explained what they had experienced to them. It was terrifying. But that is what this country was founded upon. These women never spoke Hebrew fluently. They never integrated; they did not feel part of the society. And the work I did on these women was carried out in Europe and in Israel.

I was inspired by Patrick Rotman’s[7] documentary, and I worked with the women in his documentary who were women like Violette Jacquet, a violinist in the orchestra at Auschwitz, a nurse … women of the same generation as Simone Veil. All these women had experienced the “Death march.”

And they all had one thing in common: they were in Europe not in Israel. Their experience was completely different from those who arrived in Israel because, sadly, Europe had the tools to help them survive and to stand.

Here in Israel, there was no time: we were trying to build a country. This is the story of Bronia, who at the death of her son Mike, understood she should have spoken and expressed herself.

But at the time it was not possible. There was the Eichmann trial and she felt as though  it was starting all over again with the two wars (the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War), and that the enemy had come once again.

And that is what Israelis are made of, this alloy with sharp edges and a very soft interior which you must dig to reach. You have to live; you have to understand.

This is what can be found in the other artist I represent, Yuval Shaul, whose character embodies both compassion and remoteness. Why? Because in time you learn as an Israeli that it is in order not to cry, hide or react. But behind all that, the opposite occurs.

Yuval is an artist whose world deals with masculinity, compassion, violence with materials that are very different such as porcelain, skin … He is 53 years old and has exhibited his work in fifteen countries. We presented a work at the Cartier Foundation. We requested finance for it in December. Curators were extremely amazed by his work. Pierre Bergé has devoted a book on a work he created from Pearl Harbour archives (50 signed copies of books that are published by Higgins). It is an amazing work. This is an artist who, while being Israeli is universal in his speech: he addresses this change from man to the warrior while confronting his fragility in face of the destruction he sows.

This is the theme that also embodies the experience of these Israeli men/ children, who as 18 year old soldiers are confronted with realities which are inadequately broadcast on television. And all their lives, they will carry that image with them.

Yuval Shaul

Yuval Shaul

Conveying it within a short period of time is complicated.

And Tel Aviv, is not Israel. It is a capital that tries to bring everything together, from the United States to Europe, from the East to the West and tries to be a window display, but Israel is full of other things. It is Galilee, the Negev, it is a story that is very old. And it is not that the new architecture, the Bauhaus, the museums trying to have a very modern aspect, etc. It is a very exciting city but it will lose its soul if it continues.

Living in Tel Aviv is very expensive, real estate is overpriced.

Aren’t they about the same price as in Paris?

Absolutely, and the average wage is 4,500 shekels or 1,000 euros!

There are people who have several jobs, people who are deeply in debt … It is very difficult.

Doesn’t the country have a functioning economy?

The country cannot function economically while 75% of its resources are invested in the army! Family allowances have been reduced by 50%; there have been pension cuts and nobody has done anything  … In any other country, everything would have been burnt! In Israel, the army plays an important role. Your career path starts with the army. If you are a good soldier in Israel, you will be a brilliant student; you will be successful and respected.

If you are an average soldier or exempted from service, you will be affected academically and during your career as a result.

It is not every boy who wishes to serve in the military for three years or every girl for two years. But here there is no choice.

And then there are also the Russian immigrants who had to be absorbed: 1.2 million people[8]. But Israel is not a poor country. Its economy is based on the American model. Consumer credit, here is completely unbelievable! This country leads you to constantly consume excessively.

And it is the new Russian money that is supporting the economy…

In Israel, there are three or four categories of women.  You have the traditional ultra-Orthodox women who are also traditionalists and young Russian Slavic women who do not share the same societal values regarding modesty and are a kind of absolute paradox compared to the first group. Then you have young Israeli feminists and also women rooted in society with values that will never sell themselves. And then there is also the gay community which is explosive. The lesbian / gay community is huge… And women who go alone to the sperm bank. Because there are not enough men in Israel. It is all a highly charged amalgam!

It is a highly complex society…

Very complex. Tel Aviv is very tolerant. You can live here. People like to have a good time. They are easy going. They often look at things in their proper context. Once you have lived here, you can live anywhere. But Israel is not for everyone.

What are your plans?

Currently I represent artists who are visual artists, sculptors and painters who may have already exhibited their work in France, abroad or in museums. Some require financing for a monumental work and others require sponsorship. That is what I am focused on at the moment.

I also have projects in Israeli cinema with Israeli directors either as a co-writer, or for projects that require production abroad or a foreign partnership. I initiate partnerships. I handle promotion, funding, and editing for the CNC. When I am independent: I work with cultural attachés and with French cultural institutes, with conservators, with productions, etc.

At present, I have the opportunity to be alone and to be autonomous and independent. I work with an assistant in Israel and with someone in Paris.

And I would also like to make a documentary on what is really going on here but exclusively. A kind of continuity…

[1] « Les Nuits Blanches de Mike Brant »
[2] Sopalin Award
[3] Mira Maylor
[4] Dan Reisner
[5]
[6] Gadi Fraiman
[7] « Les Survivants », 2005
[8] A census carried out in 2013 estimated Israel’s population at being 7.7 million.

 

Lise Cadoch’s adresses:

Bars:
– Margoza café, Rabi Yochanan 3, near the Jaffa Flea market
– Aria Bar – see website  – 66 Nahalat Binyamin

Art Galleries:
– Noga Gallery – see website – 60 Ehad Ha’am street
– Gallery 32 – see website – 32 rehov Ahad Haam
– Sissman Gallery – see Facebook – 28 Levontin
– Bineth Gallery – see website – 15 Frishman street

The rest of her recommendations have been included in our tips.