From 17. 11. 2005 to 15. 01. 2006

Jewish Museum in Prague, Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Prague 1
11/17/2005 – 1/15/2006, daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Saturdays)

The images shown on this web page are taken from media artist Michael Bielický’s unique telematic installation This Year in Jerusalem at the Robert Guttmann Gallery at the Jewish Museum in Prague, which ran from November 17, 2005 through January 15, 2006.

The gallery was equipped with a special device to track movement (a motion capture tracking system). This system worked on the basis of four lamps that emit infrared rays whose reflections off the bodies of visitors to the gallery were recorded by special cameras. This data was transferred to the system’s centre, which then generated an image according to set parameters. The image is a double, or avatar, of each visitor, a three-dimensional model composed of voxels (3D pixels). When someone moved in the designated area his/her figure and movement were captured and immediately transmitted into the image projected on the screen in front of him/her. This image was provided by a web camera located at the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem and streamed in real time via a high-speed Internet connection into the Robert Guttmann Gallery for the entire length of the installation, thereby offering visitors to the gallery in Prague a unique opportunity to find themselves in Jerusalem without having to overcome any geographical distance between the two cities, or cross any boundaries whatsoever. The web camera located in the gallery enabled visitors to view this revolution in travel in real time and in a virtual space. Viewers could also view the special events that were prepared to accompany the project.

Michael Bielicky

Born in 1954, Prague
Currently based in Prague and Düsseldorf

1969 after the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia emigrated with his parents to Düsseldorf, Germany.
1975-1978 studied medicine at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.
1978-1979 left for the United States; traveled across the continent taking photographs.
1980 lived in New York; experimented with photography and worked part-time as a horse-cab driver in Central Park.
1981 returned to Germany and worked as a part-time photographer for the magazine Monochrom (1981-1984).
1984 enrolled at the State Academy of Fine Arts (Staatliche Kunstakademie) in Düsseldorf, Germany, initially studying photography with Bernd Becher but soon changing disciplines to study under the video-art pioneer Nam June Paik; after graduating in 1988/89, he worked as Paik’s assistant.
1991 returned to Prague and established the School of New Media at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU). In addition to his position at AVU he has worked with the Prague Goethe Institute where at the beginning of the 1990s he organized symposia dedicated to the work of the Prague-born philosopher and theoretician of photography, Vilém Flusser, whom he also filmed in an experimental documentary (Flussers Fluss, 1990).
Since 1991 an advisor to the Soros Center for Contemporary Art.
1995-96 an advisor in culture and technology at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
1996 founded the Institute of Unsettled Ideas in Kiev, Ukraine.
1997 cooperated with the High Tech Center Babelsberg (Potsdam, Germany).
1999-2000 worked at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie – ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany) on the development of a prototype for an interactive virtual environment 360°.
1999-2001 contributed to the development of the ZKM Virtual Set Project.
Since 2002 has worked as advisor for the establishment of the first New Media Department at Chiang Mai University, Northern Thailand; still runs the School of New Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Over the past twenty years Michael Bielický has participated in many international exhibitions, festivals and symposia, presenting projects that experiment with navigation, video-communication and virtual reality technologies.
A DVD publication on Michael Bielicky’s main projects to date is being published for the launch of the installation.

This Year in Jerusalem

The installation is entitled This Year in Jerusalem as a reference to L’Shana Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim (Next Year in Jerusalem), the traditional saying that Jews in the Diaspora have uttered for hundreds of years as a hope that the unification of their people in their own land will soon arrive. For nearly two thousand years this dream has remained unfulfilled. As Michael Bielický’s installation demonstrates, advanced telecommunications technology and the Internet allow us to travel without ever physically leaving our place: We do not need to cross any political, social, religious, ethnic, or gender boundaries. And as our horizons are no longer unreachable, our story ceases to be a linear progression from cradle to grave. Just as we are able to penetrate the picture surface and enter its third dimension, we may also transfer ourselves to a virtual landscape of our imaginings. The image of the world is no longer communicated according to another’s truths, but is something we create ourselves as active participants in it.

The Western Wall

The Western Wall (Hebrew: ha-Kotel ha-Ma’aravi) is the holiest site in Judaism. It is the remains of the retaining wall of the Second Temple (built during the time of Herod the Great) located on the western foot of the Temple Mount (Hebrew: Har ha-Bayit; Arabic: al-Haram ash-Sharif), which legend considers the center of the world and the sacred Mount Moriah where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac. On this site stood the First Temple (Solomon’s) and the Second Temple (Herod’s), eventually destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. After Jerusalem came under Arab rule in 638 CE, the Dome of the Rock was built and later the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These structures stand on the Temple Mount today.
Although the Temple in Jerusalem (Hebrew: Beit ha-Mikdash) has not stood for 1935 years, Jews the world over express though their prayers the hope for its renewal with the coming of the Messiah. The destruction of the Second Temple (Hebrew: churban bayit sheni) marked the end not only of religious practice in the Temple but the ancient Jewish state. The Western Wall has served as a symbol of this state for nearly two thousand years, and as such it is the repository for the expectant longing and entreaties that the Exile (Hebrew: galut) should end and Jerusalem be restored as the center of Judaism. Jews have always believed that God’s presence, Shekhinah, will never abandon the place where the Temple stood, even though the structure itself was destroyed.
Immediately after the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 the Arab League expelled Jews from Jerusalem’s Old City and denied them access to the Western Wall. This situation continued until the Six-Day War in 1967 when the Israeli army took control of the Old City. Since Shavuot in 1967 the area of the Western Wall has again become the center of Jewish religious life. People come here twenty-four hours a day to pray, bringing their most intimate wishes and heartfelt aspirations. It would be difficult to find anywhere else in the world with an atmosphere comparable to that of the Western Wall.

Special Events

Robert J. Gluck in concert
November 21, 2005, at the Spanish Synagogue, Vězeňská 1, Prague 1
Robert J. Gluck is a composer, performer and educator. His compositions, often integrating sounds and music from the Jewish culture, have been performed in Europe and the United States. Gluck composes music for interactive performance and installation, directs the University at Albany Electronic Music Studio and is Associate Director of the Electronic Music Foundation (www.emfinstitute.emf.org). He studied at the Julliard, Manhattan and Crane schools of music and also holds degrees from the University at Albany, Yeshiva University, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Samples of his work and recording of his life performances can be found at www.electricsongs.com.
During his performance in Prague, Gluck presented his own compositions for electronically expanded shofar, solo piano compositions Akeda by Ofer ben-Amots and Epitaph by Tzvi Avni, a live electronic interpretation of a 1969 work by Miles Davis, and a composition for piano and computer, Nocturne/Doubles, by Benjamin Broening. This concert was a unique opportunity to hear the work of this major contemporary music theorist, composer and performer.
An evening with writer Joshua Cohen
Robert Guttmann Gallery (U Staré školy 3, Prague 1), December 14, 2005 / Cyberspace (time and date dependent on the viewer’s actual location)
Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. Splitting his time between New York and Prague, for a number of years he has worked as a journalist, essayist, and editor for many publications, including the Prague Pill, Prague Literary Review, and Czech Business Weekly. In New York he regularly contributes to The Forward and served as Arts Editor of New York Press. His short fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, such as Glimmer Train, Sleeping Fish, Fiction Warehouse, and The New Book of Masks (forthcoming 2006). He was awarded first prize in The Modern Word's 2003 Short Story Competition and short-listed for the Koret Foundation's prestigious 2004-2005 Young Writer on Jewish Themes Award. Cohen has a novel forthcoming with Fugue State Press in 2006.
The Quorum by Joshua Cohen is published by Twisted Spoon Press, Prague (www.twistedspoon.com). Cohen has performed in-depth investigations into mirrors and navels to return with The Quorum, his first collection of short fiction. A set of ten stories, a set of dreams, and a long monologue, these are all first person rants given over by the somehow alienated, individuals seeking only a sympathetic hearing, all dealing with identity and religion as well as occupied with technical ideas of reliable narration and the structure of the mind's ear. From a review of a book about the Holocaust that's six-million blank pages to a suicide note from a young university student, from a letter to home outlining an economy based on hair to a eulogy for a poem, from a story narrated by three-hundred concubines to the title story about a group of people who interchange appearances, habits, proclivities and talents, The Quorum is a sensitively written and inevitably absurd take on the individual's lifelong quest to get someone, anyone, to listen.

Other articles about the project:

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