Artist Interview with Performance Artist Yuda Braun aka The White Soldier

17 Aug

Performance artist Yuda Braun is unconventional. Initially influenced by his art studies at Dvir and rebuilding the Third Temple in Jerusalem, Braun branched out and made a difference by challenging the perception of the people around him.

Yuda Braun – Fed Up Installation

The installation consists of 70 plaster cast faces, nurtured by glass Coca Cola bottles.
Old City Jerusalem – Photograph by Alexander Janetzko

Each bottle contains an object symbolizing the ailments of western society.

Here is his story:

You were born in Toronto, when did you move to the West Bank, how old were you?

My parents, in accordance to their religious and Zionist beliefs immigrated from Toronto when I was 6 months old. They settled down in Jerusalem, and at the age of six we had relocated to Ginot Shomron, a large settlement in central Samaria.

When did you realize you were creatively inclined? What were your influences growing up?

My first attempt at creating art in a structured program was when i was fourteen years of age. I studied in the Dvir  - Third Temple Academy, a school set out to design and rebuild the Third Temple in Jerusalem as described in the Talmud and Mishna. Since then I have diverted far from their religious and political agenda, while continuing to develop the techniques and inspiration driven from that mad house.

You convey your art unconventionally; what are your influences to create visually the way that you do?

As a creature of awareness I’m greatly influenced by my habitat and the people amongst whom I live. I am reacting to the reality around me, trying to somehow take part in the debate.

What led you to The White Soldier, the character that patrols Jerusalem, Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements?

I am a by-product of society. Living in the tense Middle Easter climate, I am first and foremost trying to unravel the national-emotional complexity on a personal level; before I attempt to challenge the perception of the people around me. The issues at hand are far more intricate than the media would have us think.

The act of The White Soldier enables me to return to places I visit on a regular basis, whether in my military service in the West Bank or eating hummus on a Saturday afternoon in Nablus Gate, and re-evaluate the interactions through a different perspective.

What kind of public reaction to The White Soldier has affected you most? and Why?

When going on patrol as The White Soldier I can never anticipate peoples reactions. They vary from rage and verbal abuse to kind smiles or ever fear and awe. I was very moved by a young boy I met in the border neighborhood of Musrara in Jerusalem. Maybe 9-11 year old, an Ultra Orthodox Jewish(Haredi) boy walk up to me said I am the angel of death. It was unclear if he is asking a question or making an accusation.

On another occasion I walked through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. People were uneasy by my obtrusive presence. I was getting unwelcoming remarks, until a crowd of young Arab teens surrounded me and started shouting while waving plastic guns. A shop keeper from the near candy store saw what was happening and lead me to his shop, where we ate sweets until the crowd dispersed. It’s interactions such as these that motivate me to continue creating art.

Old City Jerusalem – Photograph by Alexander Janetzko

Old City Jerusalem – Photograph by Alexander Janetzko

East Jerusalem – Photograph by Alexander Janetzko

Tell us a little about The Happenings and Pagan Painting?

Messiah of Psychedelics, School of Visual Theater, Jerusalem – Photograph by Uri Lavi

In 2007 I joined forces with notable artists and activist such as Leor Tor, Uri Lavi, Amit Hevroni, Matan Pinkas and Nadav Ariel to form The Good Neighbor Crew. We serve as a non-profit collective specializing in artistic events set out to challenge the perception of urban social communication, where I acted as the creative director and producer.

The underlying concept of these events is to question the interaction of members of our community within an estranged digital era. In each event we strive to create an emotionally stimulating adventure, by redesigning space and redefining the rules of social mediation. The people in the audience are not passive spectators but active participants.

Abraham Lincolns’ famous quote “by the people for the people” is a motto we live by, trying to influence fellow mankind to be proactive in bridging the gaps forced on us by external forces such as media, governments and the underlying market economy.

Notable events: Urban Color Rave, DDTea, Messiah of Psychedelics, BeachLessBeach, the First Supper, Cnaanite Gallery party and Art bike parade.

In 2009, while studying photography in Musrara, Jerusalem I met Yotam Vazana.

Together we performed Pagan Painting which is a thirty minute long performance, a display of improvised dance and tribal sacrifice rituals.

This performance was the opening act of the International Multidisciplinary Musrara Mix art festival in Jerusalem in 2010, and ran for several months. I portray a shaman while unleashing bucket loads of paint at my partner, Yotam Vazana, who represents the sacrifice.

The violence of the act clashes with the brilliance of the colors. The presence of the two characters has an absolute and filter-less impact on the audience. The performance is more an emotional eruption rather than a cognitive piece and combines two things I am mesmerized and driven by color and totality.

Beach Party, Downtown Jerusalem – Photograph by Nadav Ariel

Pagan Painting – Photograph by Yotam Vazana

Pagan Painting – Photograph by Yotam Vazana

What future events are planned for The Happenings?

I addition to the regular summer events (such as BeachLessBeach party and Tea gathering) several art exhibits are planned to be held in residential buildings and abandoned warehouses throughout Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We also began holding an arts and crafts workshop for kids and parents on the weekends.

What else is on the horizon for you? What are you currently working on?

At the moment my two major focuses are an instillation of moss and plaster on the east and west side of Jerusalem, commissioned by “Menofim” gallery.

I am also continuing to patrol as The White Soldier, looking for new locations (Bethlehem, Ramallah, Lebanon border, Syrian border) and working on a documentary film portraying the past two years of the project.

Tell us something about yourself that not too many people know…

When I clean my house I like to listen to traditional Yemenite music.

Visit Yuda Braun’s website and the White Solider website to see more photos of his visual art.

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