press release

The artists selected are a burgeoning new force, several of whom have been exhibited in Biennials, Documentas as well as challenging thematic exhibitions. The artists selected for the exhibition include to date: Etty Abergel, Tamar Getter, Uri Katzenstein, Uri Nir, Gilad Ophir, Doron Rabina, Gil Shani and Sharon Yaari.

What unites the work of this considerably diverse group of artists is reflected in the hybridity of the exhibition's title, "Such stuff as dreams are made on." The work of these artists combine muscle, visual drama, an engagement with materials, the "stuff" of everyday life, with a fragility, a sense of the fleeting, the transient, the "dream." Working in a highly charged political environment, where life (and art) meet so frontally with daily headlines, these artists have side-stepped overly determined, didactically positioned art in favor of a practice that internalizes experience to provide metaphors and frames which shift and tilt the way they and the viewer perceive the world.

While the self consciousness or self-reflexivity of Israeli art making is far from the subject of this exhibition, and works of an overtly political nature, works of "reportage" of the local scene, have been avoided, the very nature of an exhibition in the United States dealing with Israeli art begs certain questions and pre-supposes some cultural expectations in its viewers. Is the political impact of the place of origin is so huge that whatever the "subject" it will be viewed as political? Is an art forged outside the Western centers of art production (where history, scale and economic muscle ensure that its vocabulary is international) inevitably trapped in a local context by employing its own signs, imagery and materials? Will the reception of the work be affected by the West's own fundamentally changed socio-political realities (that seem to be ever more resembling the Israeli circumstances) in the face of actual and ever anticipated terrorist attacks and our own involvement in a catastrophic middle-eastern war?

The exhibition does not resolve these questions, but aims, where possible, to keep the process of questing alive in the experience of viewing these rich and varied works. The installations, paintings, photographs and video works individually and collectively raise questions of human limitations and the conditions of art making. It is an art at once acutely aware of international artistic trends, yet forged in a political and cultural hot-house, which, like the country as a whole, meets a violent reality with jouissance, with an exuberance of life, ever conscious of its extinction.

The evocative, archeological assemblages of Etti Abergel's installations profoundly affect one's orientation of space and encounter with the familiar. Her almost monastic, white concrete wrapped or taped covered domestic objects, some fragmented, some hanging in space, suggest a subterranean immersion, as though the ordinary has been transformed by submersion in another medium than breathable air. Abergel sees each of her installations as "a poetic documentation, a kind of visual diary" of her struggle to create a private bridge between the broken heritage of an environment which insists that "art is no place for a girl like you" and the current narratives of contemporary life. She describes the installation in progress for the current exhibition, tentatively titled, "Don't look back," as an effort to ignore autobiographical memory in favor of "a parody of a person who remembers more than the environment wants him to remember."

Uri Nir's installation envelops the viewer in a post–apocalyptic landscape of charred, burn out landforms where all that survives are synthetic remnants of human aspiration. Swarms of white epoxy molded skeletal whale formations hover above and envelop the viewer; piles of sand and shattered glass, echoing the museum's central staircase around which the installation will be placed, invert the architecture of the space and collide present and future in an atmosphere of impending or recent disaster.

The biggest artifice in Gil Shani's work is that of simplicity. The paintings are monochrome and seem cool, detached. His subjects, outlined in white, float alone, unconnected in space. Shani's drawings too seem minimal, throwaway, almost banal, everything paired away except the simplest outlines of identification. The drawings are independent of the paintings but give an insight into Shani's project. Neat suburban houses, tents, animals being tamed, wounded or free in nature, multiple sexual grouping, army training, all the images revolve around issues of control. We are left to our own opinions on the nature of control. Does natural freedom turn to chaos? Is there a brutality of the human that needs to be trained/contained? Or does the machinery of control lead to its own abominations and corruption of the natural? The economy of Shani's images give a sense of restrained or repressed power, a stance of cool as both survival and seduction.

The pared down, meticulous installations of Doron Rabina produce the oxymoronic sense of mystery under a searchlight. Showing a fetishistic concern with surface, he separates that surface from "meaning" or metaphorical reading. Like the mass-produced devotional object, the mundane, Rabina believes, can never be a stand-in for the metaphysical toward which he strives. In both his photography and installation objects, there is the minimum of material that allows the object to hold itself so that the effect is not quite illusionary but more optical than present, a radical conceptualization of sublimated presence that has been described as "lean materiality and extreme optics

Tamar Getter sees herself as less of a painter, than a conduit between imagination and practice, document and memory. A work may start from a text drawn from her prodigious literary mind, a film clip or a photograph, "a readymade remembered, physically remembered." Getter then uses her body to transmit the initial impulse onto large scale wall paintings, seeing herself as machine, repeating and repeating the required gestures until the recreated images are imported, the system worked through to perfection. Getter selects certain physical (self) constraints for each project- no tools for a perspectival drawing, working blindfold in "Slingshot" — perhaps to hinder the ego of perfection, like the deliberate mistake in a Persian rug or to allow the freer flow of imagination's own memory, unhindered by ocular control.

Gilad Ophir's project has involved the indexes of land in Israel. He has photographed the muscle of Tel Aviv architecture, the pastiche of American style strip malls and signs imposed as the city absorbed modernity. He has chronicled the rapid and brutal suburbanization of Israeli landscape as the dream of community gave way to the individual aspirations and the desire for "walls" emerged on both a psychological and material level. In the selection of works for the current exhibition, Ophir has become the photographer of the war zones hinterland. Bleak, wind swept traces of deserted army camps, leave behind a landscape that has been depersonalized and scorched. These, the works suggest, are the new "ruins" of our civilization, with no romantic back glance.

Ephemerality is the basis of all photography, a death of what is no longer present; the photographed subject's past tense inscribed in the very act of picture taking. Sharon Yaari's often "snapshot like" subjects — people paused at leisure, or caught on a path to…, a space in between what was left behind and what is journeyed toward — have the ominous quality of a fairy tale, that "into the woods" sensibility where the safety of the ordinary is no longer guaranteed. There is no obvious narrative of threat, simply a sense of something "wrong," a sense of damage made literal in a series of photographic surfaces that have been injured by over-exposure to light. The subject, be it landscape or human, seems at risk of erasure.

Uri Katzenstein wears many masks: he is a sculptor, a performance artist, a musician and a video artist. Yet all the masks, as all the characters in his hypnotic and hallucinatory films are doubles of the artist as shaman. He wanders through a world of potential danger and menace to heal with lyricism and humor. He takes on the malice of the world, like a Jewish Don Quixote, with a stick of salami. A video program and a seminar are in formation.


only in german

Such stuff as dreams are made on
Contemporary Israeli Art
Kurator: Manon Slome

mit Etti Abergel, Uri Nir, Gil Marco Shani, Doron Rabina, Tamar Getter, Gilad Ophir, Sharon Yaari, Uri Katzenstein

March 11.03.05, 12:00 Fictions of Place: Does place confer meaning?
Diskussion mit Vasif Kortun, Manon Slome, Sarit Shapira, Joshua Neustein