The Blind Explorer // Smadar Sheffi
Processes of probing, infiltration and attempts to map the new world connect the works in the group show “Explorer”, which features some excellent works
Smadar Shefi, Haaretz, 14.9.2012
“Explorer” is one of those exhibitions which are like a big knot that needs to be unravelled slowly. There is a thread, at first hidden, that connects the works, and once it is revealed – like a jigsaw puzzle starting to take shape – the exhibition becomes an accessible visual text.
Angela Klein’s two works, “Golden October” and “Realist Chanson”, look like a somewhat macabre homage to American Pop Art: iron dots protruding from the wall seemingly create a word written in Braille, designed for the blind and not legible to those who have not learned it. The works’ titles remain enigmatic, and a close look reveals that the dots, with their perfect finish, lose what from afar seems like a meaningful structure.
Questions of structure, orientation and probing stand at the heart of the exhibition “Explorer”, whose name echoes that of the popular internet browser and could have also echoed the name of the space shuttle, but is taken, as the show’s curator Iris Mendel writes, from the work “Explorer” by Haran Mendel. This work consists of an inflatable boat reminiscent of lifeboats, and a structure made of wooden planks. There is something absurd in the combination of the ship and the wooden structure – on the one hand rescue and on the other hand nature and isolation – and the vague intention is reinforced by a lit red bulb that turns in this context into a kind of longing for a lighthouse, for some absent guidance.
Ra’anan Harlap’s works are rough objects teeming with the memory of the past. Some of them look like a continuation of the genealogy of “The Want of Matter”, especially the works “Door” and “Window” (as well as Gilead Keydar’s Paintings on wooden loading boards).
The 2011 work “Pit” is also linked to this chapter in the history of local art (no less than to the Italian Arte Povera), but here Harlap goes further. In a spiral of coarse wood he creates an almost sucking movement, which creates a troubling imbalance. The work’s title relates to various pits, from the one Joseph was thrown into by his brothers to mass graves, and in general to anything that is hidden, that provokes fears.
Tomer Azulay shows photographs that feature objects in an intermediary state between 3D and 2D, between the real and the model, recalling architectural drawings, which make you intrigued to see more of his work.
Embalming the studio
Gili Avissar’s two video works are excellent and continue to establish his status as one of the interesting artists, with their own distinct language, that have been operating here in recent years. “Action in Sculpture (House)”, shown on the lower floor, creates a sense of grotesqueness when the artist, in absurd costumes, builds houses that collapse, disappear and return, with the logic of a nightmare. We can certainly think in the context of this work of the video pioneer Martha Rosler or of the contemporary artist Paul McCarthy.
And if this work by Avissar takes a different direction from the one that has characterized him in the past, then “Action in Sculpture (Face)”, in which rich textiles are revealed as an image of changing faces, follows in the footsteps of previous works. Avissar succeeds in making palpable a material richness of textiles and with it the role they fill beyond the physical needs of clothing: protection, snuggling, concealment and decoration, a broad range of emotions, hopes and anxieties.
Peter Jacob Maltz’s wall relief “Meeting the Demons” is like a three-dimensional map of the seen and the unseen. The work consists of plaster casts of objects, including a fan, drawers, cupboards, and part of the pipe system in the artist’s studio (according to the accompanying text). The materiality gives the feeling of being in the middle of a process, of what is supposed to be cast in a more noble material. In this work, despite the hints at Pop (especially Rauschenberg), there is a tragic feeling, that recalls one of Borges’ famous stories, “On Rigour in Science”, which tells of a kingdom in which the science of cartography (mapping) becomes so developed that the cartographers create a map on the same scale as the reality, which then replaces the reality and covers it. Maltz covers-replaces the studio, embalming it and making it foreign, just a sign.
Lihi Chen, known for her complex and intelligent installations, has created a work that features an equal measure of humour and poeticism. She has built what looks like an entryway into a secret space behind a bookcase, the kind of detail that expresses sophistication in old thriller books and films. Today the idea seems almost naïve: in the wall of the gallery, just behind the curtain, hides the back room, in which the secret deals are made. In Chen’s case it is tinged with a considerable irony.
Chen’s work, like Malts’ and Haran Mendel’s, hints at changes, at options of transition. In current affairs contexts it is hard not to think of the infiltrators, those refugees and migrant workers, who for several decades have been part of extensive migratory movements in Europe, and have started to be felt in Israel in the last decade. This migration is not like the Israeli “Aliyah” which was perceived as the realization of the vision of generations, even if those waves of immigration have encountered the same problems that characterize all immigrant societies.
The flows of immigration, whether they encounter resistance – as in most cases – or are received with sympathy, change the way in which we perceive the world. Suffice it to remember countries such as England or France who have in the recent decades become multicultural. The groping implied in Angela Klein’s work, the attempt to read a different language while activating a sensory system in an unfamiliar manner, is also connected to the attempt to remap the world.