• Hangin' Out with Uri Katzenstein

    It was a clear, sunny and cool Spring day, mid-April. He told me to meet him at 10:00 on a Friday at his studio in Tel Aviv. As usual, I arrived a bit earlier than we had scheduled. I called him up and told him that I was waiting for him. "I'll be there in ten minutes" he replied, "Try not to get eaten up". One can only assume that he was referring to the "wild beasts" of south Tel Aviv.

    Uri Katzenstein, drove up and got out of his car. The lobe gauge on his right ear and tattoo on his right arm clearly visible. Katzenstein takes me to his studio, an indoor space full of his various art works from over the years. He offers me a smoke and I decline. He offers me black coffee. I happily accept.

    We reminisce about my late uncle. The two were good friends back in the day. He showed me one of his works; a miniature basketball-sized gray figurine of what looked like an enlarged version of a microscopic microbe. He prints them on a 3d printer and assembles them in parts which are then fused together. We sit at his computer. "I created a language" he said, and showed me the font styling for it. "Do you understand what's written here?" I asked. "No", he cynically replied.
    "What's it called?" I asked. "Backyard language for now" he replied. I later learned that Backyard is redesigned symbolic representations for the English alphabet.

     It's not every day that you find yourself in the presence of true genius. Uri's soft tone, somewhat a whisper, enhanced the experience. I felt at ease, almost like I found a new best friend, a mentor for my heart & soul. There was nothing awkward about sharing silence with the man. As a gift, he gave me a book about his latest exhibition, "Backyard" along with a couple of more items.
    2 hours later, deliberating internally on whether I had overstayed my welcome, I raised my hand in the air and gave Katzenstein a "low five", "Katzenstein, happy to meet you." "I'm happy that you came" he replied. "So am I" I replied back. And thus I concluded the morning of April 14th, 2017. Closing the door behind me, I left happy with the knowledge and the memory of an experience, a meeting with no less than a hero, a pioneer, a rebel and sharing a presence with the great Uri Katzenstein.


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