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In Tel Aviv, Stumbling Upon a Pink Line

It was within the last hour of my stay in the Holy Land when I made a fortuitous unplanned turn off of my daily beach-bound Gordon Street walk, at the Nigerian Embassy and onto Rehov Dov Hos, and came upon something so alien yet so natural on the sleepy residential street: a winding, bright pink painted line that wrapped along the street, bushes, the walls of buildings, and their shutters.

Follow the two-dimensional cotton candy snake to its tail and you will come upon its cryptic origin story, entrenched in concrete rubble, center-stage at Ha’Kibbutz Israeli Art Gallery. The short documentary to which Eshkar Oren Wetzstein, the gallery’s operational manager, politely directed me after I stormed in demanding answers presented artist Hagar Mitelpunkt’s public art project as nothing short of profound.

Unlike the earlier manifestation of the pink line, in which Hagar painted an unoccupied building near Rehovot guerrilla style (showing up a month later in a pink suit to confront the building owner, who assumed this was the mark of some pink line gang, and requested that she erase it, which she did), the line on Rehov Dov Hos took shape in transparent dialogue with the city, the gallery, and its residential neighbors.

The video documents nay-saying building managers and the breakthroughs that follow as an art project takes its first breath. In the middle of viewing the documentary next to a woman who desperately wished, along with me, that I spoke more than two words of Hebrew, we got to the root of her enthusiasm when she pointed at the screen and told me, “That’s me!” A neighbor who lived upstairs with a strip of pink decorating the exterior of her apartment, you could pick up the pink, kvelling aura around her from a block away.

Hagar embodies what I consider to be the most critical role of the public artist, connecting the dots between the individual, the community, and the spaces they occupy. The fact that a 200-meter pink object could be temporarily transposed onto the X-Y-Z planes of a block’s normal life is a sign of healthy urban life, reflecting a goal-oriented connectivity between business, residential, and municipal players. And it’s even green: painted over an initial layer of cornstarch paint, Hagar’s peace work will be erased without a trace at the end of this month.

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