IN THE SHADOW OF HIS FATHER?

Artist Michael Kovner
In the shadow of his father?

Julian Voloj 12 April 2013

Last month, a strange staging premiere in New York. Following the exhibition opening of "Exteriors" with a series of large-sized New York City views of the artist Michael Kovner was performed under the direction of Jenny Levison, whose graphic novel "Ezekiel's World" as a play to packed houses.

Dialogue with the Father Michael Kovner created with "Ezekiel's World" not a simple but a very interesting work
The 1948-born Israeli explains the motivation to "Ezekiel's World" as follows: "I wanted to develop a dialogue with my father through my art. I had many things that interest me and I was looking for a mode of expression. "Father, the Abba Kovner, the legendary guerrilla leader and Hebrew poet. Abba Kovner is a legend in Israel, a symbol of Jewish resistance and the establishment of the State of Israel. However, in "Ezekiel's World" there is no glorification of the Father, but rather just the opposite.


A private view


"My father was a very important person in Israel. It was he who said that Jews should not be let out as lambs put to the abattoir. (Abba Kovner wrote these words in 1942 in a manifesto that was distributed in the ghetto of Vilna, editor's note). He was a national hero, but people did not know him the way I knew him as a simple man, as a father. Here it is not about the writer and resistance fighter, I show another, my perspective. " In the center of the graphic novel is the 75-year-old Ezekiel, a lonely, bitter man who suffers from chronic arthritis. His only contact with the outside world is his physiotherapist. His son, to whom he hardly has any contact, lives with his family in San Francisco, but then, shortly after the outbreak of the first Gulf War, he visited his daughter to the grandson and tries to start a connection to the old man, and also to create Israeli homeland. True storys "Ezekiel has a lot from my father, but I have the story deliberately added to 1991 to make it clear that there is no question of my father," says Michael Kovner. Abba Kovner, died in 1987, shortly before his 70th Birthday. Ezekiel's past is told in dream sequences, which is, as explained in the appendix, are based on true stories, the biography of his father. It is about the traumatic experiences during the Second World War, which indirectly explain the bitterness and reticence of the protagonist. "To give an authentic voice to Ezekiel, I have inserted in the text a number of poems of my father." Though Abba Kovner not the Intifada witnessed, he seems to stand with his son in a dialog. Michael Kovner experienced the intifada then remotely. "I lived for three years in New York and considered not to return." In the book has Ezekiel's son found a new home in San Francisco, and how the course of history turns out, he left Israel in protest. "It's about very Israeli questions: Should I stay or go? How can we at the expense of others, the Palestinians who live here? But it's also a simple father-son conflict. " unusual work of art , "Ezekiel's World" is an extraordinary work of art. "Actually, I did not plan to write a graphic novel," admits Michael Kovner, and therefore the name of the nearly 300 page work is not just. "Ezekiel's World" is more of a row of concrete and abstract painting in narrative form, as the theater production was a reading rather, in which the images Kovner were projected onto a large screen, which gave them an impressive effect. "Painting is not an easy phraseology. It was not what I wanted. So I started to write the story as a screenplay, "says Kovner, whose son is a director and supported him in his creative process. "It was so different to my normal art." Michael Kovner grew up on a kibbutz, and then launched his love of nature is reflected in his paintings. Mid-seventies, he studied with Philip Guston, New York City and the city has since been his second home. "Ezekiel's World" was, however, only in Israel. "Art is a form of expression. One can express feelings through art, to connect with others. But the painting has no language, it connects through beauty. "For his dialogue with the deceased father took Michael Kovner a language, and the combination of art and words needed him to the medium of the graphic novel. between present and past , "At first I had no idea of a graphic novel "he admits. "I knew only <Maus> (by Art Spiegelman, author's note). When I started to research the art form graphic novel, I found the best comic in the world, the Smartest Kid on <Jimmy Corrigan, Earth> (by Chris Ware, editor's note). It was so impressive that it was intimidating at the same time. For what I could understand of graphic novels? "It took a while after to Kovner had found his style. "Ezekiel's World" is illustrated in various ways, there are no balloons, and other typical stylistic means of a graphic novel, the dialogue is short, and in many scenes seem to determine the context of the unsaid. Colors are partially code of the narrative, many associations remain open, the narrative level alternates between present and past back and forth and sets together a complex puzzle in which the images of the Son with the poems of the Father are one. It is not easy, but it has become a very interesting work. as complicated as the content was also the creative process. "I worked my chapter by chapter through the script. After I had formulated the ideas that I had to find the appropriate actor who personified my scenes. I even played the role of Ezekiel. All scenes were filmed first, then I took still pictures from the film, printed from it, painted it, scanned the painted pictures and edited them in Photoshop for the pages. "A very complicated process that lasted four years. When it came to his exhibition at the New York Jewish Community Center, he spoke Jenny Levinson, whose husband Kovner with Jewish passages in the book helped to, and proposed to make a theatrical production of the text. "I liked the idea. It gives the work a new dimension. There is no other story, but a different interpretation. " In one of the most impressive scenes Ezekiel tries to develop a relationship with his grandson and takes Lego blocks, to explain to him his past. He builds the ghetto of Vilna, the Nazis are dressed in black, the Jews in yellow. When the grandson asks wonder what color because the Jewish policeman should have, yes the one hand, are Jews, on the other hand helped the Nazis, Ezekiel she decides to paint stripes of yellow and black, but not directly answer the question of why. The past is not easy to explain, and it is not the present, and with his work, discusses Michael Kovner complicated the relationship of both. A unique project you do not run away "can before your past. I've tried, but I can not. For many years, I have avoided the subject of the Holocaust, but now that I'm older, I started myself to deal with the past. "The work is thus a posthumous dialogue" is unfortunately never happened. Unfortunately, we were both often too busy with our own world, and a conversation was thereby unfortunately doomed to fail. "For many Israeli was Abba Kovner a" modern prophet, who was standing at the intersection of Jewish history and attempted answers to the cruel finding dilemma of his time that he experienced firsthand. His own traumas but also certain his views. It was important for me to show him the way I knew him. Someone who had a hand full of love, life, humor, but also full of doubts. He lived in opposites and had no solutions. His philosophy was, because to find the meaning of life is to live without fear, to be strong. " In "Ezekiel's World" alienated the strength of the protagonists of his children. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Ezekiel his daughter to suicide operation because it is not her relationship with a non-Jew it approved, the son who has experienced injustice against the Palestinians during his military time, trying in vain to find the conversation with the father . "Ezekiel's World" is a unique project. Michael Kovner has no plans to create more graphic novels. Although he is satisfied with the result of his work, but he knows: "My art, my images are very different from the idea that my father had of art. I know this, but in the end you can just be yourself. "And this is Michael Kovner, he spite of the name itself. "The name Kovner brings a certain responsibility with it. My son hated to be named. I think it's a fate with which you have to live it. "

© 2013 by MICHAEL KOVNER