Liberty (leading the people), by Dorit Cypis, borrows elements from her recent installation The Sound of Time, (Optica Gallery, Montreal, Canada, 2003), and extends them to adapt to the current environment of Noga Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Liberty (leading the people), a reflection on Eugene Delacroix’s romantic/classical painting Liberty Leading the People, 1830, is a poetic evocation of longing, loss and mourning…all inner emotions associated with unrequited desire for freedom, a “freedom” seemingly within reach and inevitably beyond our reach. It is a desire which propels human beings no matter what our cultural heritage, no matter what our gender, class and race lines.
At Noga, all the elements placed in the gallery, the architecture and the viewers reference each other. Two images, one still, the other in movement, and a mirror on the floor all share the same proportions. The still image, a photograph cut out from the Los Angeles Times in 2001, has been transformed to destabilize its political intention into one evoking a personal memory of mythological proportions. Whose memory? Whose history? The image in movement, a video projection of curtains caught in a fierce gale negotiating the containment of a window frame, is relentless in its physicality, bodyfull in its movement and motivation to be free. The curtains hang in a hotel room, Tel Aviv, Israel. The mirror, reflecting there where it is not, catches dislocated glances of everything present within the architectural space of the gallery. Glances, which are seen only by the viewer’s moving body, make the viewer complicit in the act of looking.
While in Israel, as compliment to her exhibition at Noga Gallery, Cypis will be spending time observing the conciliation strategies at play in the Palestinian/ Israeli village of Neve Shalom/Wahat-al-Salam. These concurrent activities will inform the future expansion of Liberty (leading the people) for the upcoming exhibition Imagine a Nation, 2004, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Landscape – Place, Non Place.
Hila lulu Lin
The term of “Place” contains an ambiguity. It refers both to the perception of the place and to a representation of it. This can be an actual place or a non-place The works all confront questions of the gaze, the language. It includes painting, photography, and video. The artists carry on a complex mutual relationship with the geographical, cultural, and ideological surroundings.
Touching on local myths, history, and culture, they discuss questions of land and territory, growth and stillness, nature without humankind. At times the gaze examines the surface from close-up, or takes a view from far away, as in aerial photography. At times it is the seemingly simple gaze of direct photography, touching the banal or imagined to describe the obvious, at others, the artists define visual and mental dialectic images from within the layered thought processes that provide a wide range of conceptual meanings.
Gaze Body Earth / Hadas Maor
Meirav Heiman’s new series of photographs was taken over the past year at various places throughout Israel, especially in the Negev and the Jordan Valley. Shivtah, Ramon Crater, Yechiel Hills, Nachal Hed, Tze’elim, Urim, Nachal Chadav; unsettled areas with similar topographic characteristics such as areas of exposed earth, rocky hills, lone trees and different types of scrub. Yet despite the above, the fundamental deciding factor within the framework of the series is different, and is expressed through the repeated presence of a woman’s figure that appears in each and everyone of the photographs.
During her work on the series, Heiman traveled to different places throughout the country (1), placed the camera, set the frame, and positioned herself wearing a leotard in front of it, her legs spread wide facing the camera and her back to the open view.
Heiman’s decision to thus poistion herself in relation to the landscape creates a basic situation where she dominates the environment through the presence of her body, through her pose, and through the foreign colorfulness that she brings with her. But at the same time, the specific pose she has chosen places her in the landscape horizontally, spread out, present but also stuck. As it is not a simple position, and it does not allow any movement, it transforms her, to a point, from being an active subject dominating the landscape into a passive object located in it.
And thus, more than Heiman casts her gaze and photographs over the landscape, she turns her gaze directly toward the camera and photographs herself. Her presence becomes a central element within the photographed frame, in terms of the composition as she traverses the frame, in terms of the strong coloring of her leotards, and many cases, because of her defiant gaze that insists on interaction with the spectator by delaying the option of passing his/her gaze onto observing the landscape itself.
Heiman’s work combines two or even three different disciplines of action. On the one hand, she works within the framework of one of the oldest photographic genres, the genre of photography documenting distant sites and/or unique places, by relying on the unique characteristics of the photographic medium that Roland Barthes so adequately defined in the context of the concept “it was there” (or alternatively, “I was there” (2)). This photographic praxis possesses an obvious dimension of perpetuation and makes use of the photograph as witness.
However, if the sites or figures photographed in this framework, from the dawn of photography to this day, had a clear photographic and existential purpose (by being part of the lifestyle and culture of some place, or alternatively, by being external visitors who succeeded in getting there (3)), then Heiman’s presence in the frame of these photographed landscapes, at first glance, is indecipherable and puzzling.
On the other hand, her work does not settle comfortably into the photographic genre that places women in landscapes through reliance on familiar associative and archetypal connections, primarily the idea of connection between nature and femininity or the formal comparison between the topography and textures of landscapes and the physical forms of the female body.
The central reason for discomfort comes from the fact that Heiman combines contemporary notions linked to the praxis of staged self-photography. A photographic praxis that is linked to and demands taking a position in the public space and an autonomous positioning in the stratified sphere of the politics of identity.
In this regard it is interesting to note that the element of the spread-legs position, which appeared in Heiman’s early work, has been interpreted and given a clearer meaning in the framework of her present work – a meaning that breaks through the borders of the feminine/erotic/pornographic/gender discourse (4). Amongst other reasons, this meaning also springs from the essential difference between a standard spreading of the legs and the issue of physical ability to perform a split, as is appears in this series, for the split position is an achievement oriented act, that in its very nature asks to be recognized and valued not only in the cultural sense.
The parallel between the element of the physical stretch and the element of territorial conquest in the work connects to the dimension of alienation that Heiman’s presence creates in the landscape. This strengthens the dialectic sense of strangeness/belonging raised by the work.
Heiman – daughter of a rooted Zionist family, whose grandfather was one of the settlers of the 1940s and ’50s and was active in the Jewish Agency – deals in this series withthe problematics of her physical and ideological relations to concepts such as belonging, land, territory, and state, amongst other things; she pours into her photographic praxis a contemporary political dimension in both nationalist and gender terms.
There is no doubt that the preoccupation with local landscape, urban or natural, has become central to Israeli photography since the mid-nineties of the twentieth century (5). Most of the photography created in this context in the last few years has relied on the principles of typological photography, as formulated in the footsteps of and in relation to the German school of photography, and through a worldview that sees photography as a natural option for realizing analytical, reflexive, and discursive processes.
It can be said that the turning of the gaze to the local landscape has become a contemporary act, in some ways, even a characteristic one of building mutual relations with the local geographic, cultural, and ideological surroundings. Taken to an extreme, and it can be said that for those who grew up in Israel against the background of the Yom Kippur War, for those who matured and formed their adult identity in the presence of the Lebanon War, the Intifada and the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the action of operating a contemporary photographic gaze – adhering or critical – is an alternative and new option, perhaps the only one, that permits the questioning of place, of Israeliness and of identity without settling into a pre-constructed mode of nationalism; an option of constructing a relation with the place, but doing so without sanctifying it.
But it is specifically against the clear typological orientation of the local praxis that the unusualness of Heiman’s work stands out. Despite the fact that the series was photographed with a medium format camera, which permits, in principle, a potential for organizing the photographic field and achieving high-quality prints, yet it does not fit into the fundamental formalistic definition of typological landscape photography. In this way, for example, Heiman often places the camera opposite the sun, leaving areas in total shade, does not necessarily take care to line-up the perspective or sharpen the depth of field, etc.. While doing so, she provides an alternative to both the severity of the typological photographic gaze and to the imagined objectivity it is supposed to create.
And thus, the stratified dialectic formed through her work process touches photographic, political, and gender aspects simultaneously. Her work is saturated with sensuality but also with irony, with criticism, but also with childishness. She touches political charged and complex issues of conqueror/conquered, but does so without placing herself in any familiar dichotomy (man/woman, religious/secular, Jewish/Arab, etc.), to the point that it seems as if the dimension of extremity existing in her work permits her to emphasize these opposing aspects, to touch the perversion but also the absurd, and to build within them a harmonious, unique and strange situation.
(1) Meirav Heiman’s journeys to different photo sites were made in collaboration with Roi Kuper, friend and well-known artist, who helped her execute the photographs.
The issue of utilizing various professionals in the artistic framework, and even more so, the issue of possible collaboration between different artists, is in itself deserving of an extensive and in-depth discussion, but this is not the place to expand on it.
(2) Beyond stating the concept “it was there” Barthes expands and claims that the art of photography can never deny that the thing was there, and that the essence of the photograph was to confirm the existence of that which it represents. See Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections of Photography (Noonday Press, 1982).
(3) For example, in Falu Zivlin’s work “Women in the Rishon Lezion Sand-Dunes”, c. 1927 or Elia Kahvedjian’s “By the Well”, 1935, and also Michal Heiman’s manipulation of existing photographs in the framework of her work “Michal Heiman Test (M.H.T.) No. 2”, 1998.
(4) In this context it is important to note work by artists such as Sarah Lucas (“Self Portrait with Skull”, 1997) or Tracey Emin (“I’ve Got it All”, 2000), for example, who made conscious and intended use of the spread-legs position directly in front of the camera lens in their works.
(5) During the second half of the 1980s the principle local photographic emphasis was on what was called at the time “personal photography” or “manipulated photography”, on the one hand, or magazine photography on the other. In both cases the praxis existed under the shadow of the struggle for the legitimization of the photographic medium in the wider artistic field. In contrast, in the second half of the 1990s, it is possible to identify the full-scale and definite return to direct photography in fashion, advertising, journalism, and in art.
Mirrors, the Garden/ Anamorphoses
Shuki Borkovsky exhibits works from the past two years: a series of photographs from the cycle : “Mirrors, The Garden / Anamorphoses “ and paintings from the cycle : “Echo and Narcissus”. In the cycle : “Mirrors, The Garden / Anamorphoses” the artist makes new and surprising use of the photographic medium in order to focus the viewer’s attention on questions of vision and doubt, central to his work of the past two decades. Those works consisted of phantasmagoric images such as the silhouettes of sailing ships and the cartographic images in his paintings of the early 1990s and, later, the images of crystal chandeliers reflected in mirrors. These paintings demanded the active presence of the viewer, a concentrated observation that led him, paradoxically, to question seeing and to doubt the truth in what was reflected.
In his anamorphic photographs of gardens, the artist deals with similar questions. The original photograph is distorted to unsettle the viewer’s certainty of seeing the thing represented thereby. An additional distortion of the photograph utilizes the moir? effect that creates a “spiraling” and “whirlpool” effect in the image. (In standard, correct, prints the moir? effect is regarded as a fault, while Borkovsky makes this distortion a fundamental value of the image.) An enigmatic photographic image is attained, which suspends the gaze while questioning “correctness” of vision and, particularly, photography as representation. “Truth” will be revealed, magically, only by correction of the representational fault through its reflection in a curved mirror: paradoxically, “truth” appears as a reflection, as likeness and illusion. The artist, the “salt merchant”, re-turns himself and the viewer to a state of doubt.
The diptychs from the “Echo and Narcissus” cycle (oil paint and gold leaf on canvas) maximize abstraction, concentration and reduction that characterize Borkovsky’s work. As told by its name, the cycle is encoded with figurative images. The most abstract state is also the most figurative. Narcissus reaches awareness only through his reflection, and Echo is present in the world as a reverberation, a repetition. The viewer is in position to play a major role in charging these paintings with symbolic couples of all times and with further reflections. The viewer can be either Echo or Narcissus, or both at the same time.
The technique of distorting an image in such a way that it can be viewed in its correct form from a particular point or through its reflection in a curved mirror. When seen directly it appears abstract and incomprehensible. The system of central perspective not only rationalizes a relationship between objects within a picture, but also establishes a relationship between the viewer and the represented images. Anamorphoses are an extreme example of this subjectivization of the viewing process. The observer is first deceived by a barely recognizable image, and is then directed to a viewpoint dictated by the formal construction of the painting. Indeed, etymological origin of the word – from the Greek ana(again), morph(shape) – indicates that the spectator must play a part and re-form the picture himself. The image that appears, as if by magic, attracted artists, philosophers and poets for centuries. Durer, Leonardo da Vinci and Holbein (“The Ambassadors”) all created anamorphic images. Jean Cocteau writes of the anamorphic image as that ‘No man’s Land’ where poetry and science meet. Anamorphic images, were considered ‘wonders’ and miracles of art imbued with mystical, theological and philosophical significance. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the golden age of anamorphosis.
A bedroom as a representative of the most intimate part of “a home”.
A good browse at one’s home is a legitimate act, but looking into one’s bedroom will consider peeping.
Peeing involves an act of a stolen glance, as of invading private territory, an intimate territory with oneself and with the other.
Territory in which one finds oneself between sleep and awakens, between conscious and unconscious, dearmworld and realty.
In this series of bedroom paintings, exposure and disguise play almost an equal role. As light falls, it reveals not necessarily our glamour’s moments but captures those who are banal, taken out of the erotic context.As if were scenes out of a movie they might end on the editor’s floor.
The relationship of the viewer – painter is ambivalent. At times the viewer like the painter immersed in the scene neglected of the peeping standpoint. It’s a relationship of a close intimacy. At other times, it can be of distance and alienation. We are always reminded of this dual relationship of temptation and rejection.
Roi Kuper’s new series of color photographs was created over the past year in Switzerland, France, and Israel. A big storm in the Alps, clinging stillness in Provence, a drying lake surrounded by mountains, a vineyard encompassed by fields of thorns, a barren desert, a rock pool, mist swirling around the Alps, and all of it – like synchronized breaths, an echo of loneliness, a local hallucination.
These are complex and charged landscapes that divide into two under the clear, bright sky. This division draws toward the warmth of initial inspiration opposite a landscape pretending to be dead and forms of alertness and strength, of emotional release from the tension. Eternal passion.
The works examine a world that seems to desire nothing, to be involved only with itself, a world shrouded by contradictions where one has to act with total silence, where there is no place for a wish, where there is a state of static hallucination, total silence. The desire is outside the internal labor that, through the knowledge of selective memory, guides the observation to a supposition of the heart and from there to understanding, to the domain of contemplation.
An initial mapping of Mosh Kashi’s new works reveal a preoccupation with two principal groups of paintings. The first, lacking any painterly point of gravity creates a sort of symmetrical construction – a division of space in the direction of abstract dealing with the sublime. (The Fields, and The Sky of Darkness and Light) The second group refines the subject of painting to an essence that creates a clear and absolute point of gravity, sometimes autonomous without space or specific place. (The Horns, The Thicket, and the Embalmed Series).
The works from the Fields series detour the concrete place and time. More than they reveal the landscape, they create “Gestures of Landscapes” or essences of landscapes that rely on landscape and reality. The barren fields with the coloring of camouflaged animal furs expose the illusion created by the multiplication of the dense plants, stretching out with no landmarks, like a soft fur spread from here to there. The fields appear like a meta-spatial and meta-temporal fractal.
On the line of the horizon – skies thick and saturated as if stopped by a thread of hair that barely holds back the meeting of sky and earth. This charging of a meeting between living plants that confront the lifeless empty sky that is as heavy as lead reveals the fundamental duality at the base of this painting that contains sensual strata that vary between one life environment to another.
In the series The Sky of Darkness and Light the mass of darkness, thick and opaque heavily lies across most of the painting and only a vague line creates a hallucinary border between darkness and light. A sort of image of the creation of the division of sky and land, water and sky. This series creates an affinity to photography. At the different stages of the development of photography, at the moment when the image appears through the liquid, the critical moment is revealed that inscribes the meeting of light and darkness. This moment is the heart of the painting, creating a specific-mental weight that cannot be measured. This is created through knowledge, intuition, from the image of division between two air materials. The one, light and soft, and the other thick and dense.
The series of trees in The Embalmed on green boards echo the flattened appearance of plants that have been pressed between pages of books in an attempt to save them. The plant’s physiognomy necessary for passing on the truth is completely destroyed even though the morphological characters still remain. These trees bestow the sense that they have been embalmed in the silence, in a green darkness. Floating in dark forest-green as if it was their preserving fluid or at least a memory of their color. These trees are naked of any green leaves or sign of life, they create a sort of gentle colorful etching of a dry skeleton, a sort of dumb ornamentation.
And opposite them, the Thicket works, which invade the sides of the painting from every place and to every place. They create their own dynamic abstract and depth. The ball of thicket cannot be disentangled. The thicket blocks the viewer’s gaze. Using their sharp focus these works confront the abstractions of fields and skies and sharpen the concept of “private proportions,” the autonomy of every work.
From series to series the possibilities are articulated. The attempt to refine, to purify, to leave traces. The memory of density and the great charge that is discharged and turned into the abstract, to no where and no time. Apparently.