Artist Profile: Tamar Glezerman
On a recent bleak Friday morning I made my way down a Brooklyn sidewalk to Tamar Glezerman’s apartment, located just one block from mine. In the faint light. everyone I passed seemed to be blinking awake, nodding their half-hearted good-mornings to one another. I rang the doorbell and immediately heard her dog barking noisily inside - moments later Glezerman appeared in black jeans, a denim shirt, and slippers, waving me in and offering coffee and cake. We settled on the couch, where her cat made himself at home on my phone and notebook. The dog sat nearby, wrapping himself completely in a blanket, like a strange canine vanishing act.
I’ve known Glezerman’s work for a few years, ever since a friend showed me the breathtaking music video she directed for the J.Views song ‘Don’t Pull Away’ back in 2017, wherein she somehow manages to conjure an intensely palpable intimacy in just over four minutes. Since then, I’ve also had the occasion to hear her speak about ‘Fill My Heart with French Fries’, a short film she wrote and directed about a heartbroken woman who, after her girlfriend breaks up with her, remains in a fast food restaurant for days, unable to face her pain. In these two pieces, as in her other work, Glezerman is incisive and subtle, driving home carefully hewn ideas and reflections on the modern world.
Born in Be’er Sheva, a desert city in southern Israel, Glezerman was raised in metropolitan Tel Aviv by very politically active parents. “They met at a solidarity rally with the Israeli Black Panthers against police brutality,” she smiled, “I’m pretty proud of that. So I was always like this.” By ‘this’ she meant fascinated and engaged with political and societal discourse, both in Israel and across the globe. This is part and parcel with her creative work; everything is both political and personal. She doesn’t see how her creative work, a direct expression of who she is, could be divorced from her political views. “That’s not in the cards,” she said, “Everything’s political.”
“I wanted to get out of Israel since 1996, since my teens” says Glezerman about her eventual move to NYC in her late 20s. By the time she made the move she had been writing, directing, and editing for various Israeli media platforms for years, having graduated from Tel Aviv University with a B.A. in film and television production. Originally, she had planned to move to London, but “life just happened,” she said, recalling how her short film ' If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now’ was accepted to NewFest in New York in 2006. Initially, she “didn’t really know what to do with this mingle-ey festival world, cause it’s very different from the one we have in Israel.” Nevertheless, she chuckled, “New York is very fun. I wanted to live here.”
Her move across the ocean came on the heels of her thesis project, ‘The Other War’, making the festival circuit, collecting screenings in places as far-flung as Hong Kong, Brussels, Beijing, and Toronto. ‘The Other War’ tells the story of a young woman in Tel Aviv, facing the heartbreak of her lover leaving her for a life in Europe and preparing for her sister’s wedding to a fiancé who has been called to serve in the 2006 Lebanon War. The film, now over a decade old, remains a compelling vision of a progressive city struggling for a sense of normalcy in the midst of an ongoing conflict. In this piece as well, the intricacy of the relationships is admirable - much is left for the viewer to discern. The characters seem like distant relatives of characters found elsewhere in Glezerman’s work; they strive to keep on living, even as their world crumbles at their feet.
For Glezerman, the 2016 presidential election marked a turning point. Since then, she has been creating art that relates directly to her anxieties about the direction the United States has taken. “I was a worried child and I’m a worried adult,” she said, acknowledging that the current state of affairs, “terrifies me to the root of my core.” Of particular concern is the role that technological advancement plays. “The fact that you can’t prove anything anymore - anything can be fake news - is really scary, because it feels like it takes away the fundamental bricks of discourse and the possibility of agreement.”
This reconfiguration of the nature of public dialogue has tipped Glezerman’s projects ever farther into an overtly political realm. Everything’s connected, so what occupies her mind naturally occupies her work. “I grasp reality in narratives and it’s just scary to watch this live. There’s nothing that’s been invented now, as far as human emotions and motivations, but the technology makes it scary.” She gave this some thought, then added, “And on the other hand it also makes it possible to fight the power in many ways that weren’t possible before.”
Her current projects include a TV show about “truth, and lies, and false prophets, knowing what to believe and what to not believe,” as well as a “dark political dystopian musical” about a future where Mike Pence is president, the USA is a theocracy, and an “irreverent queer resistance” is fighting back. She also recently directed a series of sex education videos for Planned Parenthood and a short film, ‘Divison Ave.’ about the the solidarity between an ultra-orthodox Jewish woman and an undocumented Mexican immigrant who works for her in Brooklyn.
These projects are a voice, a beacon of sanity in a time of despair. And Glezerman, through it all, is more optimistic than before. Looking at the composition of the 2018 House of Representatives, she sees politicians who “understand that the New Green Deal is not gonna work if it’s not intersectional.” Politicians who speak their minds and don’t mind ruffling feathers. And that, at least, is a step in the right direction.
Glezerman treats her work as a living, breathing practice, writing daily for over a decade. Over the years she’s learned that trying to force a character to do anything is a waste of time. “It feels like a self-induced state of psychosis,” she explained to me, “where you just basically invent people and then two days down the line you find yourself arguing with people that you invented about what they will and won’t do. And they win. And that’s the state that you’re trying to get to.”
Throughout her work, myriad identities are scattered almost arbitrarily. Glezerman features complex, believable women at the center of her pieces and isn’t interested in legitimizing their various selves. “I’m gay, my characters have been gay…” she paused to contemplate this, then continued, “Gay people, trans people, they just live their lives and fall in love and have their hearts broken - it’s the same thing. If anything, I would need to explain more if I decided to constantly make work about straight people.”
According to Glezerman, some days the world is like an exercise in the Theater of the Absurd. Making parody, comedy, or dramady pieces can seem pointless when the social landscape provides a constant stream of lunacy. And yet she soldiers on, constantly creating new work in spite of the madness. “Remember the Titanic, the movie?” she said. When I asked why, she persists, “Remember the band that keeps playing as people drown? That’s what I feel like I’m trying to do. I don’t know where this is going, but people still need to be understood through comedy. I need it, too.”
Mikhal Weiner is a writer and musician, originally from Israel, currently writing and living in Brooklyn. She studied classical composition at Berklee College of Music, graduating with honors. Her work, whether text or music, is deeply influenced by her experiences as an Israeli gay woman and her love of poetry and all genres of music. She loves writing about people, places and the ways their stories intersect.
All views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author.