Between the lines
Reading between the lines is something we are having to do more and more. As the planet faces a new problem or challenge almost daily we're confronted by a cacophony of messages.
On the one side there are the people screaming from the rooftops inciting us to head for the hills in panic. On the other there are those who refuse to accept there is a problem. And, in between, there is debate.
Two Israeli Jewish cartoonists use pen and paper to play with this central ground in their latest act Between the Lines, performed at Luxembourg's Abbaye de Neumunster on March 19.
Shay Charka and Uri Fink are old friends but, when it comes to solving the problems of their native Israel, the gloves or rather, pen lids, are off.
In their show the argumentative pair enter into countless debates and heated discussions using the medium of caricatures to convey their views on the world.
And, thanks to their talent for caricatures and desire to out-draw one another the result is both artful and highly entertaining.
“When we get together we argue. It's always a challenge to our beliefs. When we're drawing it's more of a challenge. It's a contest all the time to see who will be more brilliant or more on point,” explained Uri.
The two artists are well-known in their native Israel, having met after they worked on a magazine for young Jewish people. Today Uri creates comics and is credited for creating the first ever Israeli super-hero. Shay, meanwhile regularly draws caricatures for a national newspaper while also publishing comics. It was Shay who had the idea for a show centred around drawings.
“It started off when I was asked to do a lecture about my work in a museum in Israel about 15 years ago. During that lecture I drew more than I spoke. From then on I kept to this kind of lecture and in the last few years I've been doing it with Uri. It's like a drawn argument about politics and religion and other things,” Shay explained.
During the show, members of the audience are invited to feed the debate with questions or statements. In this sense, the performance is driven by audience participation.
In the past, the pair have been confronted with all manner of suggestions, indeed nothing is taboo and most drawings bring a chuckle at the very least. In one show Shay was asked by an audience member if he had a message for the Iranian people. He quickly dashed off a drawing of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad standing on top of a tall building with the sign 'push here' taped to his back.
This approach works well if you have a vocal audience but, what if the Luxembourg audience is too shy to speak up? This won't be a problem, explains Shay. “If nothing happens then we can ask each other questions. It wouldn't be the first time that had happened.”
Of course, the two artists are allowed to talk and interpreter Dorith Daliot will be on-hand to translate the exchange into French. For Dorith, translating the dialogue is a form of entertainment in itself.
She said: “Every time they're together it's like a show even when there is no show. People listen to them and everyone feels close to what they're saying. I think that our way of living in Israel requires humour and they do it each one in their own way.”
The pair were selected to appear in the Abbaye de Neumunster's Comedy for Peace line-up. But it is not the first time they have been acknowledged for their contributions towards conflict resolution.
Uri and Shay are both members of the organisation Cartooning for Peace, set up shortly after the controversial publishing of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Denmark, which incited civil unrest in the Arab world. The organisation invites cartoonists from around the world for conferences and debates to help the world to “unlearn intolerance.”