Who we are and What we do

Mind the Heart! is a worldwide public art project by Israeli artists Maya Gelfman & Roie Avidan that promotes mindfulness through site-specific street art, public actions, events and lectures. It began in 2009 in Tel Aviv and has since reached more than 100 cities across 5 continents: from New York to Bangkok, Sydney to London, from the Israel National Museum to orphanages in Kenya and Uganda. The project deals with various themes through a lens of mindfulness: im/permanence, the power of choice, the cyclical nature of things, healing and interconnectedness.

As the project evolves, we dive ever-deeper into the practice of the ‘artist as a wanderer’, as introduced by Walter Benjamin and developed by social scientist Michel de Certeau. Their walking-working practice touches on contemporary urbanity and Kevin Lynch’s ‘imageability’ of the city.

Living in a place for a long enough time, we tend to get used to the beauty and to ignore the ugly or uncomfortable. In urban surroundings, our senses are bombarded 24/7 with an endless barrage of imagery, sounds, smells, ads, traffic, people. We shut off, almost in self-defense. But this dimming of the senses results in us moving about inattentive to what surrounds us. We sink ever deeper into our own psyches or phones and become less and less attuned to the present moment. And the next moment is never guaranteed.

With that in mind, in 2009 we started walking the streets and placing small havens for the senses. The project’s red yarn heart is a symbol and facilitator of mindfulness. A sensory trigger to the moment, to where we live, to our neighbors and to ourselves – all as a part of a bigger picture. We strove to get a moment from unexpecting passers-by, to bring them Here Now. We set out to find whether a small and personal action becomes transparent in the urban turmoil or, contrarily, gets a new meaning within this wider context: a meaning having to do with social order, human relations, borders and politics, alienation and intimacy.

In 2017 we took that quest to the next level and embarked on an artistic-social-experiment across the USA. If mindfulness is Being Here Now, then that necessitates a different set of rules for living and working, one in which past and future do not dictate the present. To maximize the potential for truly new creations and experiences, ones unhindered by old patterns, knowledge and biases, we shed all familiar things and cast away all anchors (home, studio, possessions, country). We are constantly on the move in unknown lands, initiating interactions with strangers every day. These strangers dictate where we go next and wherever we go we not only create our works, but also invite communities to actively partake in the project and mark their own spots of significance and mindfulness in the public domain.

Our artistic process has become very fluid and reactionary, almost like breathing – in and out, input-output. It is essentially a performance – the art is in the act itself and we are the blank canvas or litmus paper, absorbing the rapidly changing reality and reacting to it in real time.
It all stems from a single decision – to remove all the barriers between life and art, between work and the artistic process.
The daily movements – walking, sleeping, taking a shower, eating – all are completely entwined in the making of art. There is no separation, no buffer, no pause, no protection. Geography, social life, health, finances, all the way to bowel movements – life and art affect each other constantly, are one and the same.

A few words regarding our choice to work with tangible materials
Our street installations are created on site with few ingredients – yarn, shoe-box lids, duct-tape, treated foam. The visual language is comprised of characteristically red color and recurring themes that evolved and expanded with time: pulsating Red HeartsHealing Scars, Black BirdsFaucets and now Body of Work which is the newest in a line of series and symbols, one in which the we step into the realm of the work itself.

The warm fuzziness of wool clashes with the outdoor setting; the handmade letters begin conversations and construct and deconstruct ideas; the duct-tape “stitches” transform cracks in the concrete into soft tissue. Our pieces are usually delicate, minimalist, even fragile. We make them with the same intent we wish for them to reflect – an open invitation to mindfulness. That’s why we work in daylight, bare faced, signing our real names. We don’t try to take over a wall but rather to explore a possibility of integration with the city fabric. Every day this leads to meetings with inspiring new people and to hearing incredible life stories, and for that we are ever grateful.

If you wish to dive deeper into the art theory behind the works, visit this page.

We want to engage with you every step along the way
Be sure to stay curious and stay tuned. Feel free to contact us with ideas for places, people, collaborations, events, murals, and any creative or serendipitous idea you may have.

Last but not least
If you feel connected to what we do, please consider supporting the project.

You are all invited to take part, influence and be influenced.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and see you on the road! 🙂

~ Maya & Roie