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Lost Spaces (2009), 2009

“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1978

 

Strolling in Tel Aviv on Allenby Street, the soul of the street kept evading me as I faced the overcrowded kitschy stores, oversized dreamlike advertisements, beggars, street musicians and erotic night life.

One day defying an unwelcoming barricade, I entered a deserted house on Allenby 11, stepping into a forgotten world. I  had come across beautiful mansions, visible but inaccessible, now I could spent a few hours in such a house. I was overwhelmed by its sphinx-like aura, by its empty spaces which like fossils attested to the reality of a previous existence and bored the traces of a magnificent past in the faint remains of painted walls, old staircase and iron balustrades near crumbling balconies and broken windows. I discovered the fascinating history of this house built around the turn of the 20th century in the archives of Professor Nitsa Smoke, in charge of the preservation of historical buildings.

It was then that I set out to look for additional deserted spaces in Tel Aviv, places that no longer had addresses, some having either been recently destroyed or, like the house on Allenby 11, awaiting restoration, some disaffected factories and cisterns. All of these sites had lost their original function and were lying like empty shells on the shores of the city’s collective memory. They had become lost spaces, lost to themselves and to the city’s inhabitants oblivious of their existence as they quickly walked past them.

Among the array of marks I discovered within these lost and invisible spaces, there was something perennial in the primal architectonic shapes, in the circle, the rectangle, the square and the triangle, and something ephemeral in the designs created by countless sources of light. These invisible spaces conveyed  remembrance and forgetfulness, stories of the city’s life and death.