This unique report card was issued for me 6 years ago and is one of the most inspiring artworks I know of. It was in an art event I was one of its organizers, a semi-spontaneous art festival at the “Shuk Makhne Yehuda” – the West Jerusalem market. For the first time, Many artists and a large audience came to celebrate in the Shuk during hours that it is usually a pretty scary place.
At about 2am, two guys showed up with a big plastic container and invited people to their “Teachers’ office” (empty vegetable stand) and had them sit on produce boxes while they issued them a new end of the year report card. I wasn’t quite sure what I’m getting into, but being drunk and excited for the success of the event, I just did. First, they asked me if there was any school year that was somewhat hard for me. I remember thinking for a few minutes since I had many years I’d like to “fix”, many moments during my schooling years that were full of shame, sadness, lack of self-esteem and true friendships. I’ve decided to share with them my first grade experience (I wrote about this unusual semi-sexual experience here).
Soon after sharing this pretty traumatic episode with them I was issued a new report card, in which I was described as a wonderful kid, that no one should disturb him from developing and discovering the world, a lovely and creative child who is perfect just the way he is. Besides getting straight A’s in all of the classes (both semesters) I was sent into the next grade – freedom, and I wasn’t allowed to attend the class of boredom and fixedness. I was described as a child who fulfills his huge potential and that can deal with life challenges in the best way possible. I got sent early to second grade out of love (and not out of my first grade teacher’s issues around fucking) and with faith that I’d keep growing wonderfully.
I couldn’t stop thanking them. It might have been the most meaningful artwork I’ve ever participated in and I can’t overestimate how much it affected me as an artist and as a person. Yes, art can be deep and serious and sad and many other things, but it can also, using very simple tools, make people happy and explore the boundaries between “art”, “loving-kindness”, “therapy” and “humanity”. I’m not even sure if these two guys considered what they did as art. I don’t remember their names but I would never look at my first grade experience the same way. I don’t know if I still have my report card from first grade, but this report card will stay in my heart forever. I heard a theory that our memory is kind of tricky – if we tell ourselves a story many times, we remember it. If I’d tell myself this alternative story about me as a child, my mind might consider it a reality. So why not, sometimes at least, tell ourselves alternative stories?
Inspired by this work, I’m developing an experimental service – if you believe that you (or someone you know) did something special and never got acknowledged for it, or had a bad experience you’d like to revisit with an alternative version, Alfassi Books can issue a special alternative certificate/diploma/report card for you. If you’re interested in such service, please email me with an explanation of the good deed or bad experience and we can schedule a video call to discuss that and figure out what needed to be issued. I promise to be respectful, supportive and hopefully funny. As with the letters project, all certificates can be confidential or I can make an artistic use with them, like adding them to a booklet or to this website, depending on that participant’s choice. I’m very much excited by this artistic opportunity.
In first grade I got punished for writing ‘they fucked’ in a story in my little yellow memo pad. I was trying to describe something I saw on TV, got sent to the principal office but was so scared I hid in the bathroom instead. Eventually a shrink stated that I was bored and should attend second grade.
I find the artistic form of writing creative snail mail letters on old typewriters the most efficient, fun and effective way to politely tell my first grade teacher ‘fuck you!’. Whatever shame or other issues she had around sex, she didn’t manage to stop me from enjoying to write like a little boy who just learned that craft, though after that experience it took me twelve years to explore creative writing again.
I enjoy writing letters. Especially in the past few years, as the Internet is developing so rapidly, I’m constantly exploring this ancient way of communication. I see text as material, like a toddler sees clay and letters and envelopes are one of my main playgrounds.
PLEASE VISIT ALFASSI BOOKS NEW (AND MUCH NICER) WEBSITE at alfassibooks.weebly.com
For about five years I lived in a beautiful old building at 31 Alfassi St. in West Jerusalem. The house was falling apart. Balconies got dislocated from the building, walls had scary cracks in them and leaks occurred every time it rained. The owner wasn’t interested in renovation and tried to cut the cost of basic maintenance. Our building was populated mostly by students who shared the 6 apartments and was known for its great roof parties and Shabbat potlucks.
Once an architect student pointed out to me that the cursive stairway created sort of a pier that wasn’t usable for living but only for aesthetics, and today no developer would build such a space. Soon after that conversation we brought some chairs and speakers and hung some artwork on its walls and the old stair room became one of my favorite places in the building. New stair rooms are often narrow, ugly and functional while the old ones are often beautiful and give an ease to the soul when you’re using them.
When the owner demolished 31 Alfassi St. and turned it into a condominium, I was already in Brooklyn. Like all of my friends who used to live there, I felt sadness in my heart, almost as if a friend passed away. The building had personality, the walls could tell our stories and we had so many precious moments that took place within those old brick walls. On my next visit to Jerusalem, it was already a construction site and I couldn’t get in. Jerusalem has lost many of its most beautiful buildings over the past decade, often to much higher and uglier buildings than the luxurious condominium that is now 31 Alfassi St, which is ugly in its own unique way.
Alfassi Books is a named after that building and it’s a publishing company that celebrates the opportunity of having old and new dwell together. It offers an artistic metaphor of what a renovation of 31 Alfassi St. might look like. Alfassi Books is devoted to writings and art projects that combine old and new ways of creative expressions like typewriters and Facebook, old records and ebooks. Alfassi Books offers services that seem to disappear, like snail mail writing help, but doesn’t hesitate using modern technology such as this website in order to show them.
Alfassi Books is an independent publishing house based on the gift economy model.
Alfassi Books products are offered for free via snail mail (what?? Are you serious? yes! let me explain)
Alfassi Books is based on the model of gift economy. The blood bank, Wikipedia and Freecycle are examples of gift economies, where people give their knowledge, blood or belongings not in order to receive money but for other reasons, usually to help strangers they’ve never met who might benefit from their action. There are many variations of gift economy. I chose to offer both a sliding scale if one wish to pay for a book/service and offer an option of giving some of your own time/money/talent to another cause you’d like to support. I wish to value art not as a commodity and I believe this model reflects that. Using that model I managed to raise $500 to Doctors Without Borders from the sales of the first Magic Bagel book, that I dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away a short time before he was supposed to start practicing medicine. I do have costs and spend a lot of time making this art, and I wish to at least cove my costs.
I don’t want to price the booklets and the services – each price might be too much for those who can’t afford it or too little for those who might not value something that is cheap. As for the letters writing service, some letters were rather silly or light and some were equivalent to a therapy session, some were very meaningful and helpful to the writers and some weren’t as much. I leave the pricing of such service to the receiver to decide how much it was valuable to him or her.
An average booklet cost me about $0.50 to make plus postage ($0.50-$0.70 within the US and $1.15-$2.20 abroad). Magic Bagel booklets are pretty fast to assemble while creating a sketchbook using a record cover is pretty time consuming. You can decide for yourself how to price such art based on how much you might pay for it. In book stores such booklets can go anywhere from $2 to $20. You’re welcome to either give something based on the hypothetical price you’d made or try to imagine the worth not in terms of money but in other terms that may speak to you depending on your point of view – love, energy, creativity, art, ideology, faith etc.
I’ve decided to give that model a try. If you’re interested the booklets, you’re welcome to order them and either make a paypal donation that’ll help me make more booklets or support a good cause that’s important to you by giving some of your talent/money/time for free. creating these booklets is a true joy to me and I’d like to explore the idea that art is, after all, priceless.
Sketchbooks and journals made out of old record covers
“Facebook Statuses”, a collection of my writings on Facebook. Mailed inclusively via snail mail.
“The Incredible Story of The Magic Bagel”, and “Around The World with The Magic Bagel”, interactive children’s stories that takes place in Beacon NY and feature a special kind of bagel with special powers.
A thank you letter from “Doctors Without Borders”
Part of “Letters, of all sorts” and a free service I offer occasionaly
2 letters from an on going art project, more details at “Letters, of all sorts”, a new snail mail letters collection. . Available through Skype as well. Please contact if you need help in writing a letter and for more details
From “A Jew Killed”, a short picture book memoir by Ori Alon
Work day at Alfassi Books
Coming soon – “Letters, of all sorts”, a collection of letters and artwork by Ori Alon
Alfassi Books products are available by snail mail upon request (you can fill up this form or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Alfassi Books by Ori Alon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at themagicbagel.com.