From a Drop of Milk to Drops of Blood
In preparation for the multimedia performance Drop of Milk held at the last Acre Festival, Hila Lulu Lin wrote: “For the first time in my work I hope to tangibly create a tension between materials taken from the physical, public, Israeli reality, and a personal, corporeal, and intimate space.” In this statement Lin has embodied the lines she has crossed, not only in the conversion of the visual language of the plastic arts into a theatrical, staged language, but in expanding her field of vision from the zone of the corporeal, private, enigmatic, and intimate to the expanses of the scorched and conflicted reality that is the external Middle East.
The first time Lin crossed the lines from the private to the public in such an extreme and severe manner was in the triptych In Cold Blood: Song in Three Parts, created specifically for the “Desert Cliche” exhibition shown in the United States. The work was created in 1995, after the assassination of Rabin, and the subsequent rise to power of Benjamin Netanyahu. The skies of the Middle East, like the eyes of the artist, were slabs of exposed and bleeding meat. In Drop of Milk, the weave of hallucinatory events that Lin has created causes just as difficult apocalyptic feelings. It was a spectacular sight that mixed club music, acrobatics, personal erotic texts, Sisyphist choreography, the aesthetics of scout camps, fire ceremonies and Zionist songs of the land saturated with sacrifice and pathos.
Hila Lulu Lin continues to create these fantastic impossible hybridizations in her current exhibition. It seems that the sentence “the personal is political” / “the political is personal” was made especially for her, perhaps now more than ever. On the one hand, there are images with clear affinities to the body, such as the burning heart, the stretched skin, the bleached pupils, or the bleeding fingers. That is to say, the body is still the principle site of her work, a body that is formulated within the discourse of sexuality and erotica, a body that is seemingly experienced from the inside and testifies to the horror of internal complications, to the painful and frightening experience of exposed sexuality, whose nerves have been torn. But on the other hand, the soundtrack of Hebrew songs, familiar to the point of loathing, penetrates the gallery with the Israeli political experience in a surprising and emotional way.
The soundtrack has a central role in this exhibition. It establishes the atmosphere and strengthens the action on the screen. It is the adhesive, the manipulation, the anchor that allows an additional twist of meaning. In the video work Hebrew Blood Saturated to Satiation Lin’s eyes turn white until they are blind, while the words of the chorus echoing in the background suddenly gain an new, hair-raising meaning that emphasizes the stupidity inherent in the infinite blood letting. Yossi Banai’s wonderful and sensuous song My Beauty, played against the background of the artist’s bleeding fingers, gives the words “We knew fire, we knew pain” a difficult and painful symbolic meaning. The licking of the blood makes the pain real, full, and without cynicism. The feeling that there is no longer any division between the private body and the public space also guides the video work My Man where we see a body part stretched and fade into a section of asphalt while in the background can be heard Yoram Gaon’s well-known song, “I see you far away / Like a princess held prisoner in towers.” Here the dividing fence that stretches between the personal and the public, between the beloved and the homeland totally collapses.
Magical hybridizations also existing as objects are spread around the dark space, they light themselves from within. Here Hila Lulu Lin returns to the original sculptural language that she developed at the start of her career and that was already exhibited ten years ago at her first solo exhibition at the Bograshov Gallery. It is a language of fantastical grafts of surrealist, alienated, sterile, fictional, and threatening presence. A wall made of hollowed loaves of bread, a dividing wall made of pink cloth cushions, a cradle padded with egg shells dipped in vibrant red, a miniscule bedroom made of sugar cubes, a lampshade shaped like a skull, sabra [prickly pear cactus] leaves dipped in nail varnish, shells with fingernails, a cage with a house’s remains, balls of red wool and a mound of coarse salt – these are but a few of the objects that characterize the enigmatic and morbid Lulu-Lin aesthetic. The combination of these objects with the video works creates here an atmosphere of extreme physical and corporeal sensations, of beauty, dread and panic.
In my eyes, the key image in this exhibition is the fire writing of the burning heart that appears on the large video screen. The name of the work, Call Me, You Bastard, ridicules the romantic pathos of the burning heart. Against the background of the other works it is no longer possible to know if the heart burns from desire or end it all because it can’t keep going here any more. The lack of satisfaction from the body, from the situation of being within the body, is trapped here with the dissatisfaction of the situation, with existence in this part of the world.
“Crying in Eight Minutes” is an exhibition with a precise combination of emotion and alienation. At first glance it seems to be romantic, but actually it talks of the collapse of romantic images along with the collapse of the calming separation between the interior and the exterior. It reflects a state of great vulnerability, of exposed nerves, of emotional turmoil bursting forth and of the horror of the outside penetrating inwards to the point of yearning, until it is impossible to contain the pain any longer.
© Tami Katz-Freiman, November 2002
Opening Noga Gallery’s new space:
Hilla Lulu Lin
Nati Shamia Opher
A continuum transposition between a sense of “familiar” and “strange” is a central aspect of the works of Gilad Efrat, whether in relation to the gaze examining from up close the surface of a worked stone, or whether in relation to the distant bird’s eye view of aerial photography. The surface reveals a fragility exposed by the existing fissures, and by the arterial lines marking future cracks. The action of this process creates a complex connection between duration and immediacy. These terms, linked to the dimension of time, are two axes that focus, or alternatively, disperse diverse concepts in relation to time.
The existential immediacy of a faded photograph is the first, and most obvious level, which the four works, painted during the past two years, share. They connect landscapes whose sources are photographs from the time of World War I: Landscape I, 2001 and Landscape II, 2002, and photographs of towns taken after World War II: City I, 1999 and City II, 2001. The immediacy of the photograph is seen in contrast to the time that it takes him to complete a painting. For him, these are the starting points from where he can explore views of time, and in relation to them, the ways in which he relates to the concept of “makom” (place or site) in his works. At the foundation is the careful selection of existing images that adjoin space and time with a place seen on the map. This sighting leads to a process connecting the anecdotal (showing a specific place) to the general, without stating a preference for one or the other. Through the precise transferal of photograph to painting he utilizes the distant bird’s eye view of the photograph while simultaneously creating a physical closeness to the subject of the painting: showing a place.
The sensitive treatment of the dimension of time allows for the existence of different layers of time on the same surface. These create loaded connections between periods and various points of view that eventually meet on an oil on canvas painting. The time of the photograph contains within it the place of the photograph: the duration of the single painting, the time of the creation of the paintings as a period – the ability of the painting to exist as an accumulation of compressed information, with its start in the distant gaze of the photograph and its formulation in the deconstructing close gaze of the painter.
The faded photograph is so factual. Fading – as the process of the lose of color marks the course of passing time – lacks an aspect of nostalgia because of Efrat’s precise, detailed, analytic treatment that avoids blurring.
This process started in Efrat’s early archaeological paintings that outline the surface through the use of the system of division of the land into squares, see Gilad Efrat “A non-calculated excavation is bound to turn into a riot” warned the British Archeologist and invented the ‘square system’, 1997, oil on canvas, and continues to this day in the four above mentioned works. This passage of time contains within it much longer periods of time that are still outlined within it: European landscapes, European cities. Images that have built up within the collective memory of Western culture, images of the dismantling of its material holdings. The photograph, and in contrast, the date of the painting seemingly create items that are not lacking in irony. Visions connecting the relationship towards these “surfaces” move, as stated, between the familiar and the strange. However much it seems to be transparent, the earth’s surface is built as an arrangement of areas of light and dark, and however hard we find it to identify the specific place that slips between these patches, they appear to be camouflage markings. Yet, in contrast to the familiar role of camouflage markings, these do not obfuscate, but emphasis the focussed arrangement of opposites expressed through color, the relation of light and shadow, and as stated, mixed sensations of time and place. These same patches that are used as camouflage in one context attract attention in another. This unpredetermined choice of the predetermined duplicities of the layers of the work invites a dialectic reading of the information compressed into the details, in the way that its interpretation is linked to observations about the actual work process.
Efrat’s ability to build into his work such complexity in relation to place and time establishes the issue of “makom”, of place as unique (the photographic moment) and of temporality as general (the angle of view that places on a map, and therefore is the start of generalization). The painting process allows for detailed treatment of this totality in a way that commits to existential mutuality essentially different ways of looking that are complementary parts of the work process. These allow the painting to realize a concrete existential proposal that is deduced from the detail: the stone, the specific place, and from the general: “anywhere”. Time signifies a process measured in equal values (minutes, hours, days, years) although the painting’s subject, as well as the way it has been created, induce time’s ability to constrict and expand (the moment of destruction, the process of building). And yet, even without the violent moment of destruction, the passage of time still exists as a measure of the unavoidable process of extinction, and its cyclical measurement in nature still attaches to it the civilized counting of set and measured periods of time. All these are tightly connected to the work process and gaze of Gilad Efrat.
Vered Zafran Gani, 2002
Landscapes of Israeli seacoast, the north Negev and portraits are the images of Roi Kuper’s new works.
In contrast with earlier black & white photographs these are colored photographs.
Charged with Israeli political, social and personal realities, the photographs are a product of a well conscious process.
Occasionally their expression is direct, usually indirect.
Even though personal aspects the works are not restricted to a subjective state of mind.
Rona Sela* in her article for the catalogue “Citrus Necropolis” says: “The subject matters in Kuper’s works are hard, incisive, painful yet their visually is not offensive or garish, but beautiful, pleasant, gentle. Kuper’s gaze is introverted and the calm surface of his works has to be peeled away to reach the heart of the matter.” There is not a crucial modification in Kuper’s manners of acting, though the appearance seems different.
Kuper state that his main interest is the accurate, detailed observation, starting with observing the landscape then holding of the gaze. The continuity of the act transforms itself to a meditative gaze.
“…As a creator I’m looking for new observations, trying to find how to rupture (break) the normative gaze… photography is at first an observation; looking inside and outside at the same time… the product of photography reveals an instant of delay, an external reality but it is also an image of an inner process.
If, in the works from the series Necropolis Kuper referred to the destructive military presence, damaging the landscape of Israel and in the series Citrus he focused on photographing deserted citrus groves that until recently were the absolute symbol of the Zionist dream and national collective ethos, in the current series Kuper focuses his camera on silent, anonymous, isolated landscape.
Only the rustle of ears (of corn) in the wind or the murmur of the sea waves can be heard. Apparently there is nothing worrying in those views.
The power of the image lies in their muteness.
Kuper says,”what is interest for me is a place empty from people that everything can happens there. Places where there can occur expectation for something to happen, where additional (further) meanings of ideas concerning space and way of looking can appear… the gaze arises thoughts and emotions while standing ahead something to come…”**
The works examine the position of one looking towards the horizon, the endless space provides kind of relief, but only for a moment. The photographs attempt to be point for relaxation, meditation and utopia. But like the hero of the “Quay” by Chris Mrker, we realize that there is no refuge from the past.***
The portrait: a woman, her eyes shut down with a serenity expression, her classic feature disconnected from any background. Fragility is hiding under the perfect lifeless mask.
*”Species of Memory”: Notes on the Works of Roi Kuper, 1990-2001, Citrus Necropolis, Hertzliya Museum of Art, 2001.
**From a conversation between Kuper and Effrat Shalem, Studio Magazine, No. 128 pp. 28-34.
*** From a conversation with Roi Kuper.
THE ENGLISH PAINTINGS
“THESE ENGLISH PAINTINGS STAGE FOR US THE
BASIC PROJECT OF EKPHRATIC HOPE, THE
TRANSFORMATION OF THE DEAD, PASSIVE
IMAGE INTO ALIVING CREATURE”.
“I FIND THESE ENGLISH PAINTINGS’ MESSAGE
IRRESISTABLE AND EXHILERATING, ONE THAT
PROVOKES AN ACT OF RECOGNITION ON THE
SAME ORDER AS VIEWING THE EMPEROR’S