Unholy Land

The 2nd edition of Unholy Land is now available. Part hipster travelogue and featuring short stories and essays, Unholy Land is an irreverent collection from a cache of Israel’s most talented young writers. This alternative guide to Israel features entertaining essays and short stories. I translated Roy “Chicky” Arad’s poem, Israeli Textile, which captures a farcical scene in which the hollowed-out employees of a doomed textile plant in Dimona stage a last-ditch protest.
Topics include the rise of the ubiquitous Sabich sandwich from it’s origins in Iraqi Jewish kitchens to its dominance as a street-food staple.
* Fashion journalist Sahar Shalev ponders Israeli gay men’s love affair with the sleeveless t-shirt.
* Nadia T Boshnak writes about her people – a Muslim minority called the Circassians who live in a small village in the North.
* Sagi Benita gently satirizes the kibbutzim movement while talking about the time when he and his friends were cast as extras in Rambo.
* Ronen Shamir finds the roots of division between an Arab and Jewish neighborhood in the way power lines were laid in the 1920s.
* Actor Rana Werbin captures a slice of life at the Mersand Cafe in Tel Aviv: four friends sipping arak and chatting about bras, colonics, one night stands, and their monotonous jobs.
* The book’s editor, Ithamar Handleman-Smith, has contributed humorous pieces on sexuality, culture, and politics.

Posted in Books, Culture, Israel by admin on June 30th, 2018 Comments Off on Unholy Land

Diving Chess


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I love chess, absolutely love it. I started playing when I was four and began competing around the age of 10. Four years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties, I came up with diving chess because I thought it would be interesting to incorporate a physical element to make chess a little more cool and quirky. There are other variants of chess such as chessboxing but diving chess was a way to create a sport that was mostly about chess.

The beauty of it is that anybody who can hold their breath under water and is able to play chess can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall or whatever. The idea was to have the board submerged. You’re standing in a swimming pool and you dive down and either you make a move or you don’t. Once you come up, your opponent has to dive down. It’s so pure and simple. You can stay under water only as long as you can hold your breath.

Click on the link to continue reading:


Posted in Mind Sports by admin on August 13th, 2016 Comments Off on Diving Chess

Tenderbooks in New York Times

Tenderbooks is highlighted in the New York Times:


Thank goodness for bookstores!

Posted in Books by admin on August 13th, 2016 Comments Off on Tenderbooks in New York Times

Remainder Trailer

I love Omer Fast’s directing of Remainder (Executive Produced by your truly) and am excited about this week’s UK theatrical release.

You can also read the Variety review HERE.


Posted in Uncategorized by admin on June 12th, 2016 Comments Off on Remainder Trailer

Terence Stamp Interview

Posted in Books, Interview by admin on May 12th, 2016 Comments Off on Terence Stamp Interview

Russell Brand’s Revolution

Russell Brand’s latest book, Revolution, calls for a spiritual revolution and a reimagining of the ways in which society functions: “There is a need for Revolution on every level–as individuals, as societies, as a planet, as a consciousness.” This interview was filmed on September 30, 2014, with Etan Ilfeld and is featured in Watkins Mind Body Spirit issue 42 (Spring 2015).

Posted in Books, Interview by admin on July 4th, 2015 Comments Off on Russell Brand’s Revolution

Tenderflix at the ICA

Tenderflix is back with its 8th edition, showcasing an international film and video competition open to all moving image works, with just two stipulations: all entries must be less than 10 minutes long, and completed since January 2014.

This year’s festival will take place at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London on October 23, 2015, from 12pm to 130pm. The jury includes video collector and foundation director Robert D. Bielecki; producer and Tigerlily Films co-managing director Natasha Dack; artist David Panos; artist Katarina Zdjelar; curator of digital at Serpentine Gallery, Ben Vickers; and Etan Ilfeld, founder of Tenderpixel.


The winner will be announced at the beginning of the screenings and awarded £500. Entries can be submitted at: http://www.tenderpixel.com/tenderflix-2015

Posted in Contemporary Art by admin on December 12th, 2014 Comments Off on Tenderflix at the ICA

2015 Mind Sports Olympiad

I’m delighted to be organizing the 2015 Mind Sports Olympiad from August 23 to 31, which features over 60 different board game competitions ranging from classics like Chess, Scrabble and Go to newer games, including Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Magic the Gathering and Carcassonne. Card games figure too, with an amateur poker world championship and bridge, along with a general knowledge quiz, stratego, shogi, and dominoes. Unique events include Tetris (video game) and a Computer Programming Championship, in addition to over a dozen world championships such as Memory, Mental Calculations and Creative Thinking. The most prestigious title is the Pentamind World Championship, which is awarded to the competitor who has the best results from five different competitions. There are also opportunities to learn games and play uncompetitively for free. Single session tournaments are £10 per entry. For more info, visit: http://www.msoworld.com/

In addition, the 2015 Diving Chess World Championship will take place on August 9 from 3pm to 6pm at the Third Space gym, 67 Brewer Street, W1F London. You can register at by emailing mindsportsolympiad@gmail.com

Posted in Mind Sports by admin on August 3rd, 2014 Comments Off on 2015 Mind Sports Olympiad

High-Brow Aspirations

Lady Gaga often mentions that she aspires to be more than just a pop-star. Her idols are high-art superstars such as Marina Abramovic, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons who created a sculpture of LadyGaga for her latest album ARTPOP.

Gaga is not the only mainstream musician with such aspirations. On the 10th of July, 2013, Jay-Z performed an Abramovic-inspired endurance piece at Pace Gallery in New York City, where he lip-synced for six consecutive hours the lyrics to Picasso Baby whose opening lyrics are: “ I just want a Picasso in my casa / No, my castle.”

Like Gaga and Koons’ collaboration, Jay-Z’s hobnobbing with the echelons of the contemporary art world is an attempt to gain high-art/white-gallery street cred, but it’s also an opportunity to harness the derivatives of their interactions into commercial marketing channels—Jay-Z’s performance was filmed and edited into a music video. When Jay-Z name-checks artists in his lyrics such as Jeff Koons, Jean Michel Basquiat, Shepard Fairey, and Mark Rothko (Lyrics from Who Gon Stop Me: “Pablo Picasso, Rothko’s, Rilke’s/Graduated to the MoMA, and I did all of this without a diploma.”), he is communicating the idea that he is both an art aficionado and wealthy enough to spend millions of dollars collecting art-objects. After all, it’s much expensive to buy a Rothko painting than it is a new Lamborghini. Purchasing expensive art is one of the few ways that the super-rich can truly distinguish themselves, and gain access to art-circles that ‘commoners’ could never even dream of attending.

Art snobs proudly present their aesthetic dispositions in order to alienate themselves from commoners while believing that they are elevating their own social status. However, there can never be a clear divide between the aesthetic taste of different groups of people. Culture is generated by conversation, and high-brow and low-brow constantly intermingle as exemplified in the kitschy pop art of Eduardo Paolozzi or Roy Lichtenstein—who appropriated images from DC Comics’ Secret Hearts series.

One of the most prestigious contemporary art fairs is Frieze which takes place every year in October in London’s Regent’s Park for approximately four days–not including the VIP private view the day before the fair is open to the public. While Frieze is primarily a commercial art market that brings together the world’s top art galleries into contact with ultra rich collectors, it has also incorporated a series of free artist and curator talks akin to a pop-up university. Nevertheless, you’d be naïve to think that Frieze caters to the masses. In fact, in 2013, Frieze reduced the number of tickets sold to the public by 20% not because there was a lack of exhibition space for visitors but rather to ensure that the ratio of invited visitors isn’t too diluted by the general public—creating a situation where everyday of the fair in 2013 was sold out for the public.

While Frieze 2013 presented some works art that would be ilegible to the laymen, most of the works were accessible either as conventionally beautiful objects that are often shiny or as humorous and incongruent objects/images. Indeed, you don’t have to have a degree in art history to be entertained by Dan Perjovschi’s Freedom of Speech 1, Elmgreen & Dragset’s witty Tombstone dedicated to Tomorrow, or by Nicola L’s comic and surrealist Woman Ironing Table.


[Dan Perjovschi, Freedom of Speech 1, 2010, Galerija Greggor Podnar]


[Gravestone dedicated to Tomorrow from Elmgreen & Dragset at Massimo De Carlo, 2013]


[Nicola L, Woman Ironing Table, 2005]

Takashi Murakami’s ‘super flat’ style is also highly accessible to gallery newcomers as it appropriates pop cultural elements such as comics, capitalist consumerism and fetishized sexuality. Murakami has also contributed to popular culture through his long-lasting collaboration with Louis Vuitton’s series of handbags.


[Naked Self Portrait with POM (Gold) by Takashi Murakami, 2013] 


[Murakami’s Pink Circus: Embrace Peace and Darkness within Thy Heart, 2013]

Strolling through Frieze Art Fair, one can almost forget that this is a marketplace rather than a museum. And yet, What on earth would move someone to pay over $10 million to purchase any of Jeff Koons’ sculptures (One of Koons’ balloon dog pieces was recently sold at Christie’s for $58.4 million) ?


[Jeff Koons’ sculptures at the Gagosian gallery booth in Frieze; including Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta) ]

According to acclaimed sociologist Bourdeua “taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier.” Perhaps, the buyer of a Koons piece believes that he/she is projecting an immeasurable amount of wealth and prosperity while indicating some sort of sophisticated aesthetic. And yet, one can’t help but wonder if that money could have been spent more wisely. Overall, the incestuous relationship between high-brow art and pop-culture can produce some magnificent products, but in an a-la-Gaga manner, it can also falter towards a ‘bad romance.’

Posted in Contemporary Art by admin on May 9th, 2014 Comments Off on High-Brow Aspirations

The bitcoin of the Art World

Checkout issue 6 of The Unlimited Magazine with my article on s[edition] and digital art:

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Virtually Real by Etan Jonathan Ilfeld 

As Walter Benjamin has pointed out, art that is mechanically reproducible is perceived differently than traditional art such as painting. Not surprisingly, it took a while until photography was considered high art, and began selling for considerable prices at auction houses (e.g. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #96, 1981, sold in 2011 for $3.89 million). Video-art has faced similar challenges, but thanks to digital technology, video-art is becoming democratized and affordable. Putting a price on a film has always been complex. Although cinemas have commodified the feature film such that the same ticket price will apply to a $200M blockbuster as it will to a low-budget independent film, the pricing of video-art remains elusive and transient.

Traditionally, video-art followed in the footsteps of photography and featured a limited edition series, where the price of each piece increased with the sale of each additional piece so that the last piece in an edition is the most expensive. However, it was a lot easier to collect, preserve, and display photography than it was video-art, which requires electricity and maintaining a technology that can quickly fall out of date (e.g. VCR Cassettes).

s[edition] aims to change all of this—its online platform and marketplace make digital art accessible to anyone with internet access. s[edition] sells limited editions of photography and video art, maintains a centralized registry, issues certificates to buyers, and helps store the artworks in a digital vault. The collector doesn’t have to worry about preserving the work and can display it via the apps that s[edition] develops for iPads, smart TVs, and web browsers. s[edition] also has a secondary marketplace that allows collectors to sell the pieces they purchased once the edition has been sold out.

Is s[edition] a sort of rich-man’s Vine or the bitcoin of the art world? Although the jury is still out, s[edition] has done a great job in getting celebrity artists to join its ranks. Tracey Emin already sold seven different art works, such as Love Is What You Want, a video-art piece in her typical neon-art style, an edition of 2000, priced at $80. Meanwhile, you can buy a stunning mandala-like photo, Idolatry, by Damien Hirst for as little as $10, or a Bill Viola video, “A Phrase from ‘Chris’,” from hisTransfiguration series, for $200.

s[edition] also serves as a social network where you can follow different artists and collectors, as well as showcase your own collection. For example, while following artist Aaron Koblin, you’ll be able to see that he is selling his Flight Patterns video, that he has 96 different collectors on the platform, as well as 417 followers, and that he has collected four art works: a Wim Wenders photo that a few others had purchased, a video piece by Sougwen Chuno, and two video pieces by his former mentor at UCLA, Casey Reas. In addition to its curated blue-chip artists, s[edition] has recently opened its platform to emerging artists, who already feature a wide range of innovative works. Perhaps, the 21st century’s Picasso will be discovered on the Internet.


Posted in Contemporary Art by admin on March 19th, 2014 Comments Off on The bitcoin of the Art World