Media Mention: Shahar Golan Interviews with Kol Israel Radio

I was interviewed for the Voice of Israel English News on REKA radio in light of the new Cellcom TV ad. If you are unfamiliar with the ad you might want to check it out first:

Now here is my interview with journalist Idele Ross, as aired earlier today. Unfortunately the interview was cut short by breaking news just as I finishing making my point. Oh well… Fortunately, the interview was broadcast a second time, this time in its entirety:

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Newscaster Naomi Segal: […] You are tuned to Kol Yisrael, The Voice of Israel, broadcasting from Jerusalem. This week even the New York Times reported on the controversial Israeli television commercial for a cell phone company which shows Israeli soldiers and unseen Palestinians playing soccer over the security fence. Bloggers have been discussing the pros and cons of the commercial which carries the tagline “What do we all want? Some fun, that’s all”. Website designer and digital artist Shahar Golan blogs regularly about the culture of advertising in Israel. He spoke to reporter Idele Ross.

Shahar Golan: Usually when I look at an ad that amazes me at how either politically incorrect or just crass it is, I usually imagine, you know, like an 18 or 20 year old Israeli copywriter thinking about it and for some reason the process never stops at “Okay, that was a nice idea, let’s think deeper, let’s go further” and usually, in my mind at least, it seems like Israelis are making jokes and putting them into ads that really don’t make the cut.

Idele Ross: So why blog about this in English on the Internet? Wouldn’t you be more effective if you were, I don’t know, blogging about it in Hebrew?

Shahar Golan: Yeah, well… My niche is basically writing in English about popular culture and also I blog about Israeli stuff but since I see my audience as the entire world, I just can’t constrain myself into writing in Hebrew which has a definite number of people who can understand it. I write in English and hope that the world reads it and Israelis would make an effort to read it.

Idele Ross: So, among your most recent entries is “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 1“, “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 2“. Now, based on what’s out there, who’s reading and what kind of responses or talkbacks are you getting?

Shahar Golan: I usually see what people are searching for and basically people are interested in what offends people, either as research or, you know, they’ve seen something that was just so out there that they wanted to share and see who’s been talking about it and that’s how many people come to and find my blog. In the post that you mentioned, basically, I write down about politically incorrect or ads that were made hoping that no one outside Israel would see them. There’s an ad, for instance, for the cable company, HOT, that uses the Vietnam war in a very elaborate musical kinda way but was a bit too much in my opinion, assuming someone will, from the outside world, from the US or from Vietnam, would see it makes light of it just to entertain Israelis and sell a couple of cable subscriptions and that was a bit too much in my opinion.

Idele Ross: Will you be highlighting the most recent, somewhat controversial, Cellcom ad?

Shahar Golan: Right… I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking what I’m thinking about it and what’s my opinion, because basically the ad itself is rather cute, let me say, and that’s what’s rather annoying about it. You know, as Israelis we’re all soldiers at one point or another, and we like our soldiers, so when you’re seeing a couple of soldiers playing soccer in a cutesy kinda way it’s rather nice, but this has further political implications that I’m not sure either the ad company McCann Erickson thought about or the advertiser Cellcom had thought about because this basically moves them into the political conversation and I’m not sure that they want to find themselves there. The ad can be construed as rather controversial, because you see soldiers basically playing over the security fence, the Israeli barrier, but you don’t see their counterparts, you don’t see the Palestinians who are allegedly playing soccer with them, and it’s a convenient way for the company to say, you know, “We are connecting people, we are in communication”, and how easily it is to connect, to move beyond the obstacles, but basically since “the other” is faceless it’s rather crass and a very strange step for the company to engage in this political discussion that probably has no business within the business world.

Newscaster Naomi Segal: Blogger Shahar Golan. The weather outlook for tomorrow through Tuesday…

Update: I have just noticed I was mistaken and the Vietnam war ad I mentioned during the interview was not for Israeli cable television provider HOT, but for Israeli satellite television provider YES. Apparently, aside from leaving a bad aftertaste, the ad was unsuccessful in ‘branding’ me with their product. HOT, YES, it’s all a blur…

Hagigit Interviews with Hebrew University Student Paper

The current issue of Pi’ HaAton, the weekly paper of the Hebrew University’s student union, features a two-page interview with Hagigit, the artists collective I co-founded. The article, written by Oze Rosenberg, elaborates on our vision of bringing art to the people, instead of persuading people to visit the art. This is our second interview and the first one in print media:
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I Will Always Love You – A Conversation With Artist Ray Fenwick About His Video Art

Last week, a friend of mine saw one of my photo collages and mentioned an amazing video she saw. The video, by Canadian artist and illustrator Ray Fenwick, is made out of three videos found on YouTube (#1, #2, #3), in each one a different woman sings Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. Check out the two versions of this work, before reading my interview with the artist, as conducted today:



And now for the interview:

Shahar Golan: YouTube, the new ‘Mirror with a Memory’, spawned so many cultural phenomena we have just started to notice and examine. Your videos, investigating a number of these aspects, could not have been made even five years ago. Can you elaborate on the ideas that triggered you to create this work?

Ray Fenwick: Well, I think a lot about the internet and its effect on culture, and internet culture itself. There is so much to think about, so many pockets of change happening at once that it’s hard not to think about. Making this work is just a way for me to wrap my head around what’s going on. I’ve never made video before this. All of my previous work has been drawing, and often they’re sort of narrative works that use humour, or kind of explore the idea of comedy. I did some drawings of friendship bracelets a while back, and that was sort of an attempt at thinking about the way the internet is redefining culture, something as simple as the idea of friendship. But ultimately no story I could think of was getting at what was interesting to me. Then one day I just stumbled upon one of these “me singing ____” videos and was totally fascinated by them.
I kind of ignored it though because I thought “I’m not a video artist, I’ll just keep drawing”. I do however make music, so I decided to synch up just the audio from a few of the videos. Then left it for a while. I put that on my ipod and found myself wanting to listen to it, which just told me that I wasn’t done with it yet. So after listening to it for a while I couldn’t resist. I liked the way it sounded, but also what it allowed me to think about. I thought the audio was doing something that could only be helped with something visual, even though I know it raises the intensity a bit.
To do the synch of the whole thing though, that process, it kind of lead me to make the cut up edited version first. You have to kind of loop small parts to get the synch right, or at least I do, and I found that these short loops were interesting. They manage to keep a lot of the earnestness and intensity even though they’re just little bits of the whole.

SG: In no particular order, here are things that popped into my mind while watching your video and its raw material:
– Seeing and being seen, allowing others to see us, and seeing ourselves while doing so.
– What we broadcast and transmit using our bodies, clothes, and the objects around us.
– Singing as this decade’s talent everyone wants to have/thinks he has.
– The awkwardness of not having something to do – as perceived during a break within a song.
– Saying ‘I love you’, saying it out loud, saying it to yourself, saying it to your significant other, saying it to complete strangers.
– Wanting to be different and unique and succumbing to being a faded xerox, a replicant.
Anything on that list you want to relate to?

RF: Well, I would say all of those things are valid readings. For me, what I’m most interested in with this stuff is the intimacy of it, the yearning to be known despite the exponentially increasing odds against that. It’s comedic, in that it makes you want to laugh because of the almost shocking directness, laugh in the way people do when they are surprised by something. Not laughing at these people, in that cruel way, but laughing at what we all do as humans living in this age. To that end, I didn’t choose people that were singing ‘badly’. These women can all sing, and it sounds good.
Also interesting to me are all the levels of intimacy. One is in front of a makeshift stage, one is in her room, and one is in a kind of home office. Even the stage, which is like a sheet hung up on a door or something, it still has this intimate feeling. The key thing is that the intimacy isn’t earned. It’s just given.

SG: How do you see the edited version correlating to the triptych version? To the raw material? Do you have any preliminary thoughts about how to exhibit this work, possibly in a video installation that includes the other aforementioned works?

RF: Well, I am going to try a few more before I think about whether to show it or not. I’m sort of working it out as I proceed. One thing I know for sure though is that I personally like the simple triptych one more, it feels more successful to me at the moment. I would love to be in a room where each separate video had one wall, so you were surrounded on three sides by the synched video. The intimacy of the video, the epic emotion of the song would be interesting at that scale I think. I feel the synched triptych is better as it feels more like a presentation of the ideas, less fussy. What do you think?

SG: I thought that seeing the synched triptych is essential to understanding the edited version, the latter being so addictive and so wonderfully sums up the ideas discussed.

RF: See, which tells me that the edited one is superfluous. Again, I think I want to try a couple other songs and see what I think about it. I think maybe why I am quick to dismiss it is that it feels so… YouTube.

SG: I do fear, though, that people who only watch the edit might falsely dismiss it as gimmicky. It is not!

RF: I hate the idea common on YouTube that everything needs to be summarized and given a hook to be relevant.

SG: I think it all depends on where you exhibit your work and who you see as your audience.

RF: Yeah, exactly. Context is everything. In a way this stuff would be even better if I hadn’t put it up online at all. In fact, haha, I put it up, then took it down for that very reason, because a day after it was online it felt like I was somehow trying to “tap in” to the sharing culture of the internet, where everything is shared without any filter. It took a talk with a friend to make me feel okay about it, or to loosen up enough.

SG: On Flickr the videos are licensed as CC-BY-NC-ND, which means the work can be shared and distributed as long as it is attributed to you, noncommercial, and it is not altered, transformed or built upon. The ‘No Derivative Works’ part of the license made me wonder, since your work is a derivative of the original videos uploaded by the three women. Was that just an oversight?

RF: Oh, it was absolutely an oversight. I had that for my other work, which is less obviously appropriated. I’m going to change that right now.

SG: Would you care to elaborate on the technical tools used in the making of these videos, and on artistic decisions worth mentioning?

RF: Well, I used really basic software for editing. The program I used for the edited version, Ableton Live, is actually intended for audio but still allows for very basic editing of video. It made sense because I could cut up the audio in a way I was used to and just have the video follow suit. I had to use something a little more robust for the triptych though. Luckily for me what I wanted was very little virtuosity in the editing of it… No transitions or titles or anything. I toyed with the idea of having the videos synched but alternating between the three videos, but it seemed less of a direct presentation. I think forcing them into synch is enough trickery.

SG: Most of your work consists of drawings, painting and comics. What made you venture into video, a new medium for you, and can you, at this very early stage, talk about the differences, apart from the obvious ones, including viewer reaction?

RF: Well, it was video itself that initiated the idea, so it didn’t make any sense to then transfer that to the world of drawing. I’m trying lately to just let an idea take the most appropriate form. As for the differences, well, people respond more to video, but that response isn’t necessarily more meaningful. But you can share a link to a video with more people than you can share a link to a painting. Which makes me a little sad.

To see more of Ray Fenwick’s art, visit his website at

Love In The Tub: Discusses Hagigit

Hagigit, the Jerusalem artists’ cooperative I co-founded, got some attention today in the form of an interview:, the self-proclaimed ‘definitive English-language culture guide to the center of the world’ published today an interview with Guy Yitzhaki, a fellow co-founder of our little art group. In the interview Guy discusses the goals of our group and elaborates on our most recent activity. Check it out!

Watch This Film and Become a Better Citizen of the World in 90 Minutes

I have recently watched ‘No End in Sight’, a jaw-dropping documentary that chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy. While essentially a talking heads film, it is the ultimate insider’s tale of wholesale incompetence, recklessness and venality. Watching the film guarantees you would have a better understanding of our world and the political forces that drove it to its current state. The film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003) as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts. The movie shows how the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military – largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today.

No End in Sight

How did a group of men with little or no military experience, knowledge of the Arab world or personal experience in Iraq come to make such flagrantly debilitating decisions? ‘No End in Sight’ dissects the people, issues and facts behind the Bush Administration’s decisions and their consequences on the ground to provide a powerful look into how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war.

You can watch the movie trailer here and purchase the DVD here.

Radio Interview About ‘Almost Finished’ – A Book by Shahar Golan

Shahar Golan - Almost FinishedI was invited by Israel’s Channel A radio to be a guest on the program Writing for the Drawer hosted by Rona Gershon. It is an hour-long one-on-one chat following the recent publishing of my book named Almost Finished. The original broadcast date was Wednesday, September 5, 2007 – 13:05 (repeated Saturday September 15, 2007 – 18:05).

Get a copy of my book: Listen to the recorded interview:

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Music that was played during the show:
Artist Song Album
Dori Adar Irrelevant Answer Jewish Delights
Pink Martini The Gardens of Sampson & Beasley Hang on Little Tomato
Yafit Reuveny Sweet Night Blindness Sweet Night Blindness
Texts that were read on the air:
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