Etti Abergel (Israel), Nelly Agassi (Israel), Erez Golan (Israel),
Gal Weinstein (Israel), Masha Yosefpolski (Israel), Michal Na'aman (Israel), Ernesto
Neto (Brazil), Ghada Amer (Egypt/USA), Alice Klingman (Israel), Chiharu Shiota
The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
June 2004 – October 2004
“Saying that aspects of what we consider to be radically postmodern have always existed within modernism is not to say that there is no such thing as postmodernism or that history itself has no meaning […]. It is rather to recognize the complexity and density of history's ‘taking place', always referring itself (performatively) to its previous incarnations […] in order to proclaim itself as new, but, in so doing, emphasizing its dependence on the old.”
-- Amelia Jones, 1988
Embroidered Action is a thematic group exhibition that explores various works of art based on the use of “soft” materials (thread, wool, fabric), synthetic materials (lycra, latex) and other “alternative” materials (paper, masking tape, steel wool) vis- à -vis “rigid” artistic contexts derived from the rudiments of the modernist perception as defined and established since the mid-20 th century. The exhibition features the works of ten prominent contemporary artists, local and international, created in diverse media, including sculpture, photography, video, sound, installation and performance. The majority of the works on display were created especially for the show.
One may generally mark the beginning of the use of soft and/or alternative materials in the context of the western art world during the second half of the 20 th century, as part of a broad cultural atmosphere that led to a sequence of attempts to breech and expand the familiar boundaries of art by means of diverse conceptual and physical actions. Within this frame, various artists during the 1960s and 1970s, in different places in the world simultaneously, began rethinking the materials of art on the one hand, and the structural array of its known institutions on the other. Many artists turned to new and alternative channels, among them conceptual art, earth art, body art, video art, etc., often yielding the very existence of the artistic object or its preservation in favor of the presence of the body or the abstract idea. The deviation from the bounds of conventional practices such as drawing, painting and sculpture, the use of unusual materials and the introduction of the moment of action were, thus, an integral part of the occurrences of the period.
Concurrently the use of soft and/or alternative materials began to surface. It is, however, important to indicate, if only on the most basic level, a certain split with regard to the use of these materials, and mainly with regard to the web of contexts deriving from it.
On the one hand, one may note the use of materials such as wool, fabric, various types of rubber, etc., in the quintessential context of the modernist western art world. Standing out among the first artists to consciously employ alternative materials in their work is Eva Hesse, who as early as 1967 began using latex with the professed intention to expand and redefine the boundaries of her art and the concept of art in general. A major axis in Hesse's work process, as described by curator Elisabeth Sussman in the catalogue of the artist's comprehensive exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2002, 2 was the attempt to transcend the notion of the sculptural object into what she called “non-art.” She sought to obtain this mainly through the choice of unconventional materials and the crucial combination of planning and chance, knowledge and a dimension of surprise and revelation.
Hesse began her artistic career with drawing and painting, after which she shifted to collage. Around 1965 she started creating reliefs, and about a year later began producing diverse objects, while moving on to work with materials such as papier-m â ch é , rope, latex, and fiberglass. The objects she created during that period were not traditional sculptures; they were more like obscure, rounded amorphous forms from which various extensions erupted, extending into the space. The minimalist simplicity of these works was closely linked with American conceptual minimalism, but the distinctive personal touch discernible in them and the implied sexual dimension they emanated challenged the familiar minimalist neutrality, and led to the formulation of a new, alternative language.
On the other hand, the above-mentioned materials were used as part of corresponding work procedures (thread/sewing, wool/knitting, and so on), thus emphasizing a traditional female context, whether essential or cultural, or alternatively a tendency toward a dialogue with different cultures, historically ancient and geographically remote, in an attempt to undermine not only the basic definitions of western art, but also, mainly, the elitist, arrogant male tone that typified that practice and its discussion. Practice in this context ranged from essentialist-feminist female art based on the fundamental assumption regarding the existence of a separate, independent “female sensibility” (an assumption that surfaced during the 18 th century, became established in the Romantic and Victorian period, and remained unresolved in terms of the feminist discussion to this day) and cultural-feminist female art that led the struggle for the legitimization of traditional female crafts. Typical examples of such a frame of thought can be found in the work of Harmony Hammond, Miriam Shapiro, or Judy Chicago, for instance.
The Dinner Party , Chicago's pivotal work created between 1974 and 1979, first presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
in 1979, encapsulated all the above-mentioned elements. Its major part consisted of a large table shaped as an equilateral triangle, with thirty-nine unique place settings dedicated to thirty-nine significant women from various periods and cultures, from Antiquity to the time in which the work was created. The names of 999 additional significant women were inscribed on the raised surface on which the table rests, in addition to several background panels elaborating on the theme by providing general texts and detailed descriptions of many other women who contributed to shaping the face of society. Each of the unique place settings on the table consisted of a personal, embroidered napkin bearing the name of the chosen figure and a sculpted dining set akin to a metaphorical portrait. The imagery and the visual language distinguishing Chicago's work were based on diverse variations on round and feminine, organic and anatomical forms, while focusing on themes such as fertility and cyclicality, and on the use of a wide range of traditional craft techniques, such as needlework and weaving. Chicago's work mode blended high and low art, concept and decoration, and introduced a clear statement regarding women's exclusion and writing out throughout history and the legitimization of the diverse work techniques and visual codes on which their work relied.
In a conversation with the renowned art critic and scholar Lucy Lippard, Chicago describes her ambition to transform needlework – namely, embroidery – into high art, 3 an aspiration which was clearly realized and is manifested in many art works presented in recent decades. Yet, the context issue of all these works has remained unsolved.
This aspect of engagement with the material led, inter alia , to the evolution of artistic trends based on the choice of a specific material or given practice, such as fiber art or textile art. In these cases the material or operational dimension were not only a part of the process of creation, but also a central axis in structuring its meaning. This current habitually relied on the basic assumption that material as such possesses a given immanent meaning, and hence – that the very choice of a specific material, and certainly its use vis- à -vis an old tradition, embody a profound political and cultural meaning. Leading artists who operated along these lines are Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks, for example.
Sheila Hicks, an American artist born in 1934, considered one of the forerunners of fiber art which she still practices, distinctively employs soft materials such as wool, cotton and silk in her work. Upon graduating from Yale, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to Chile, where she first became acquainted with the traditional materials and work techniques of fiber art. Her early works were relatively small in scale and relied directly on traditional weaving procedures. At an early stage, however, she started combining traditional, Native American and other techniques with conceptual and formal elements derived from Western culture. Hicks's later work grew larger, and explored a variety of spatial concerns by breaking away from the normative thought patterns associated with her chosen materials and methods.
The artists participating in Embroidered Action are characterized by their conscious use of a wide scope of materials that does not settle into the structured array of existing contexts. Despite the distinctive use of soft and/or alternative materials, the exhibited works deviate from the relatively small-scale typical of traditional “female art” (the so-called lap work), and the stereotypical range of themes that has been tied to the use of materials such as thread, wool, fabric etc. over the years, a narrative thematic range of themes that generally touched upon “female,” domestic or cultural issues.
Unraveling the categorical identification pertaining to the use of these materials and procedures of operation, such as embroidery, sewing, knitting, wrapping, tying or gluing, allows the participating artists not only to criticize, expand and develop the potential of meaning ostensibly embodied in them a-priori, as done by many feminist artists over the years, but also, mainly, to depart from it and formulate a new range of meanings that endeavors to bind different formal, material and conceptual values, while intersecting diverse, at times antithetical fields of discourse and activity. On the other hand, and despite the use of “soft” materials, the works in the show converse with the “rigid” principles of modernism, albeit in a manner that does not relate to them comfortably, simply, or directly.
Thus, for example, one may discern that the structure of the grid, in its diverse manifestations, recurs in many of the works in the show, albeit in a manner that thwarts a direct link to the principles of modernism and minimalism of the previous century. These principles deflected artistic practice toward the abstract and constituted a creation/display code that was based on the aspiration for objectivity, neutral anonymity, lack of narrative, and a continual rejection of expressive and decorative elements. Many works from the minimalist period were based on quasi-pure geometric forms or fixed grid patterns, not only as structural bases, but as elements that articulated the very essence of the representational and utopian affinity between nature and culture most clearly and succinctly.
In the current show, on the other hand, the grid emerges in disrupted form, materially processed and conceptually channeled, serving as a vehicle in the formation of a specific essence or meaning, rather than as a utopian reflection of the ostensibly natural one.
In Gal Weinstein's work the grid emerges in the most explicit manner in the faux brick wall pattern; in Michal Na'aman's work the grid transpires in the crisscross pattern of masking tape strips that at once block and generate the painting/sculpture works; in Alice Klingman's work the grid emerges in various, varying modes through the red seam stitching the light-colored pieces of fabric together; whereas in Nelly Agassi's work it appears both naturally-implicitly in the texture of the knit from which her work is made, and intentionally-explicitly in the adjoining of the knitted fragments to form the structure of the work as a whole.
Another difference with regard to typical modernist works, which focused on the object itself and on its link with the world of ideas, is that all the works in the current show are based on the transition from the material, through the dimension of action, to the context of display. To wit, the participating artists focus on the dimension of action as one that binds the abstract concept, the creative act, and the exhibition space together, thus generating a situation where the physical dimension is present even when they are not personally present in the exhibition space.
In the second chapter of Body Art / Performing the Subject , Amelia Jones defines the concept of the “performative subject” based on Jackson Pollock's case study as a subject who not only “creates” his work of art, but also, mainly, “performs” it. 5 Within this frame she indicates an essential transformation in the self-perception and the attitude of that performative subject to himself, the work of art, and the audience viewing it; she discusses him as one who created the most significant shift from the fixed artistic object that possessed a built-in, given meaning toward the artistic object whose meaning is suspended, changing and determined, to a large extent, by the viewer and the context of display.
Based on this definition, one can doubtlessly refer to the artists participating in the current show as performative subjects, where the material representation attests to the existence of the physical, and the works function as a trace of an action that was performed. This aspect is introduced explicitly by Chiharu Shiota who “operated” her work during the opening night and “presented” herself and her body as an integral part of the work's structure, but it is also manifested, in a less explicit yet equally acute manner, in the works of Ghada Amer and Etti Abergel . In this respect, the works in the current show are physical in terms of their process of formation and abstract in terms of the concepts they embody.
The artists participating in the show explore questions of space and context of display, matter and experience, while the perception of art as an extended act and not only as a delineated move of processing material or creating form, is an important element in the understanding of their work. In many instances, the choice of specific materials and work procedures, alongside the attempt to infuse them with stratified contexts, also leads to an attempt to generate voluminous structures through them, ostensibly antithetical to the basic qualities of the selected materials. Moreover, it is interesting to note that many of the works in the show are based on the use of white, red and black, three colors with stratified coding, both (female) archetypal and (male) modernist, while playing with the gaps and contexts spawned by these different codes.
Thus, the works in the show maintain a fine, yet acute, tension between a quintessentially conceptual infrastructure and a refined expressive tone that is not pushed outside the frame of work. The severe control of the means of expression on the one hand, and the incorporation of time and movement on the other, generate a situation where the expressive penetrates the conceptual, the physical invades the abstract, and the personal is blended with the principal; a situation where different discursive fields and contexts blend, allowing for the emergence of an independent, local-specific, private, universal and timeless existence.
1. Amelia Jones, Body Art / Performing the Subject ( Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1998), p. 62 .
2. Elisabeth Sussman, ed., Eva Hesse , exh. cat. (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 17-39 .
3. “Entering the Culture, Judy Chicago talking with Lucy Lippard,” in Elizabeth A. Sackler, ed., Judy Chicago , exh. cat., (Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of Women in Art, 2003), pp. 11-21
4. Amelia Jones, “The Pollockian Performative and the Revision of the Modernist Subject,” in Jones, see n. 1, pp. 53-62.
(Fragments) From the Tin Man's Memory , 2004
Etti Abergel's installation consists of various objects made of paper, cloth, pencils, readily available work materials or scraps, some wrapped in masking-tape, aluminum foil or raw fabric; others are cast in plaster, suspended from the ceiling, or grouped on the floor, floating and flooding the space. The installation is characterized by deliberate structurality on the one hand, and by amorphous organicity on the other, combining various formal structures – raw, round, sharp, heart-rending, gentle and violent; structures whose installation in the space ranges between airiness and heaviness, generating a sense of transience, nomadism, halted movement. The result is a vague archaeological setting, a setting that is marked by a human presence, albeit one that is, in effect, absent from it. The demarcation of the absent body in the space is obtained by various types of supports, from the metal railing, through the pair of suspended rings to various shoes or soles left as emptied, eternal traces.
From this setting emerges the sound work that dictates a fixed rhythm in the space, a rhythm at once mechanical and delicate, repetitive, luring and at the same time disturbing; a rhythm that complements the material installation, wrapping the viewer's progression in the space, and seemingly prompting him mentally out of the work, toward distant realms, and back inside, into its heart.
The objects' suspension from the ceiling of the space by means of thin ropes may recall Eva Hesse's works from 1969-1970, with the scope of psychological contexts they invoked. However, in terms of the associative feeling emerging from Abergel's piece, it seems more logical to contemplate the motif of nomadism central to Joseph Beuys's work, or the breached materiality that typified Louise Bourgeois's later work.
Etti Abergel was born in Tivon, Israel, 1960. She lives and works in Jerusalem.
Whispers , 2004
Consultation, cut, and sewing: Ronen Raz
Knitting and textile design: Doron Ze'evi
In October 1999 Nelly Agassi staged a double exhibition entitled No Stepping Outside the Lines and No Touching the Floor , simultaneously featured at the Camera Obscura Gallery and Borochov Gallery, Tel Aviv. At Camera Obscura she installed a series of large-scale objects that circumscribed the space: cascades of red wool that emanated from the wall and draped downward to the floor: monumental, total, flowing. The use of red wool, the creation of a state of excess and the flow of the material into the exhibition space referred at the time, inter alia , to a situation of loss, metaphorizing an open, bleeding wound.
Agassi's current dress piece, Whispers , seems to complete a circle with regard to the aforementioned, earlier work and complement it. Executed via dense, dynamic and thick knitting, the upper part of the dress is made to fit Agassi's dimensions, whereas its lower part stretches circularly and extends in the space, in similar manner to Agassi's structural dress works from recent years. Since the knitted wool is not uniform, the unfolding surface creates a mass of matter, color, form, thus eliciting an organic, topographical sense, a sense of a voyage through a landscape that may appear like a lake of blood, on the one hand, or like an open route containing infinite different paths of movement: mountains, valleys and creeks, on the other.
It seems that as years go by, the landscape unfolding in Agassi's work is not only an inner, private, urgent or radical landscape, but also a landscape that strives to expand the boundaries of its possibility toward new realms, a geological, tectonic landscape, attesting, through its very essence, to the element of temporality underlying its existence. Indeed, Whispers , like other dress pieces by Agassi, began in a performance situation, during which Agassi filled the volume of the dress; upon its conclusion, however, the dress remained hanging as a redundant cover, a skin that had been shed, a slough through which the body had grown.
Nelly Agassi was born in Tel Aviv, 1973. She lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Thanks to Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv, for supporting the production of the work.
Adidas , 2003
Dinning Hall , 2003
Erez Golan's works are digital enlargements on photographic paper, containing images of adhesive sheets to which dust, hair, threads, wool, etc. have clung. The two works exhibited in the show are a part of a larger series entitled Dust. In each part of the series these negligible waste materials have been collected from different domestic sites, stuck to the adhesive sheets, scanned and enlarged into giant images.
The incidental raw materials, like the hairs, threads, fluff and dust, function as Golan's initial work materials, yet their conversion and translation as part of the images' enlargement generates a flattening of the real three-dimensional object on the one hand, and a magnification beyond its actual scale on the other. Thus the various materials lose the initial scope of meanings associated with their marginal, negligible classification in reality, acquiring a new status, formal, rhythmical and pictorial. While the presence of the human body is not visible in the works, it is only through the body's traces and patterns of progress in the space that they were generated in the first place. Thus, despite the divergent genealogies of their formation processes and the different ideological positions underlying them, the works' enlargement produces images formalistically reminiscent of the dynamics of the American Abstract Expressionists in general, and of Jackson Pollock's Action Paintings in particular.
Erez Golan was born in Rehovot, Israel, 1972. He lives and works in San Francisco, USA.
Thanks to Mrs. Galila Barzilay-Hollander and Nelly Aman Gallery for the
loan of works.
Untitled , 2004
Huliot , 2004
Gal Weinstein's work generates an appearance of a reddish brick wall within the white museum space. It combines the structure of the repetitive, rigid rectangular grid with the arched and softened structure of the actual wall in the exhibition space, thus toying with the basic geometrical opposition between square and circular. Weinstein thus makes an educated conceptual use of the immanent gap between surface and essence, as appearance becomes void, drawing the entire work toward Baudrillard's concept of simulacra. In his essay “The Precession of Simulacra” Baudrillard maintains that simulation substitutes the signs of the real for the real; it threatens the difference between ‘true' and ‘false,' between ‘real' and ‘imaginary', and ultimately, when changing to a simulacrum, not only masks the absence of a profound reality, but has no relation to any reality whatsoever. The simulacrum is, thus, a simulation that has lost all contact with its origin, and therefore functions as a copy without original.
Thus, Weinstein's ‘authentic' or ‘natural' use of the known qualities of his work materials (like the oxidation of steel wool) is not channeled toward the utopian, but rather functions as another stage in constructing the illusion between matter and form, an illusion that has been manifested in other works of his, such as Valley of Jezreel (Herzliya Museum of Art, 2002).
Situated at the center of the space, extending from floor to ceiling, Huliot continues the dialectic progression of Weinstein's work, generating a cross between a sewage pipe and a lace table cloth. The work oscillates freely on the broad register between the aesthetic and the ironic, the purposeful and the far-fetched, serving as yet another example for the challenging of boundaries of possibility, which habitually dissolve in his work throughout the years.
Gal Weinstein was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, 1970. He lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Jean Baudrillard, The Procession of Simulacra , trans. Paul Foss and Paul Patton in Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation , e d. Brian Wallis ( New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art & David R. Godine, 1984).
april 1964 , 2004
In Masha Yozefpolsky's video work the artist is seen stretching and peeling from her face a layer of a fine, transparent substance slowly and with the utmost concentration, in an action that appears endless. At first sight it seems that the peeling of the thin latex layer from the artist's face is akin to an attempt to shed a skin or remove a mask, to dare open one's eye, to bluntly look ahead. However, since the act is stopped abruptly, returning to its starting point, it is, in fact, detached from its end, becoming an essence in and of itself. Over the years the use of latex in the art world has relied on the tension between its being a fluid material, devoid of basic form, and the inevitable change in its character, color and form upon its final consolidation. Due to these qualities, latex, by its very essence, embodies some of the major dichotomies with which artists have been concerned over the past decades, such as soft/hard, transparent/opaque, formless/formed.
In Yozefpolsky's work the material does not acquire an actual voluminous form; it is nearly anti-form, just as the demarcation of the artist's face is at once private and principal. The accompanying sound work engulfs the viewer, splitting in the space, both in the audio-physical dimension of its playing and in the linguistic dimension constituting it, for it is structured as a dual work playing an identical textual sequence in Russian and Hebrew concurrently.
Masha Yozefpolsky was born in Leningrad, FSU, 1964. She lives and works in Tel Aviv.
say say, 2004
yes yes, 2004
Michal Na'aman's works are ostensibly painterly works, yet it is painting comprised of layers of camouflage nets, at once conceptual, formal and material. Made of a crisscross net of long masking tape strips, their infrastructure transforms into their surface during the work process, hence into a cover of sorts or an envelope that produces the painting, but at the same time prevents it from breaking forth and becoming visible. Due to this quality, the works create a structural illusion of depth, where the painterly figures are only suggested, while the forefront of the works is populated by the text that channels their mode of reading.
As in other works in the series, the texts in say say and yes yes are based on phonetic, semantic and contextual juggling with an inner cyclicality and intrinsic rhythm. The works touch upon questions of symmetry and duplication, generating states of inversion, substitution, at times even reconciliation between positive and negative, cynicism and hope, sublime and earthly, inside and outside, appearance and essence.
The dimension of action is signified in the works by the dating of various masking-tape strips, as well as by pointing at additional potential states of the work: before and after, visible and invisible, glued and peeled, existent and annulled. In fact, one may perceive Na'aman's works as a type of fine sculpture, a sculpture that employs concept, material, form, color, word – all at once.
Michal Na'aman was born in Kvutzat Kinneret, Israel, 1951. She lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Pendant Sky , 1999
Pendant Sky is a soft sculptural work, made of synthetic lycra tulle and natural pigment powder, operating by clear reliance on the laws of gravity that structure and preserve its contour. It is constructed on the tension between the refinement and transience of the materials, the thinness of the fabric and the volatility of the pigment powder on the one hand, and the sense of timelessness typifying the entire image which they generate, on the other.
Generally speaking, Ernesto Neto's work is characterized by the formation of large-scale sculptural objects from translucent, soft elastic materials, while creating sensual and tactile settings in the exhibition spaces, into which the viewer is often allowed to enter and influence their formation. Neto's works do not attempt to simulate specific organic forms; rather they enable the existence of organic relations within and through them, by an ongoing preoccupation with gravitation in particular and with physical tensions between the various elements in the space in general.
In this context, it is interesting to mention the early work of Senga Nengudi, an African-American artist who employed similar materials and work techniques in her series R.S.V.P. created between 1975 and 1977, albeit within an entirely different contextual scope. But while in the late 1970s, the process of creating the soft anthropomorphic structures and the use of fine fabric was accompanied by an encoded interpretation that tied Nengudi's work to the radical politics of the time and the feminist meanings of her work materials and formations, in the beginning of the third millennium Neto's work is free to seek a multi-cultural, timeless, universal expression and focus on the experiential aspect.
Ernesto Neto was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1964. He lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.
Thanks to the Anthony T. Podesta Collection, Washington for the loan of the work.
Special thanks to By Art Projects for the assistance in actualizing the loan.
Dégrade , 1999
Ghada Amer's work consists of embroidery on canvas depicting a pornographic image of a nude female figure in a seductive sexual pose, an image that recurs, line after line, across its breadth in a fixed repetitive pattern. Amer's work combines the traditional female act of embroidery with an explicit critique regarding the status of the public female body. The element of fixed, mechanical repetition of a given image occurs in many of her works, alluding to the effacement of the female subject's private identity and the prevalent reference to the female body as an object.
Unlike Judy Chicago, who endeavored at the time to touch upon the question of female essentialism through the dimension of material action, Amer strives to address the place and status of the female image in contemporary culture. She does not wish to focus on the act of embroidery itself, like Francesco Vezzoli who duplicates and magnifies traditional female handiwork, but rather to extract her critical stand from and through it.
The conscious, ironic use of the ends of the remaining threads as a formalist element that lends the work a more liberated, dynamic feel, generates a cross between the element of formal temptation visible on the surface, and the dimension of content and critical stands concealed within the work.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo, Egypt, 1963. She lives and works in New York.
Thanks to the Brandes Family Art Collection, Tel Aviv, for the loan of the work.
Splinters , 2004
Alice Klingman's series of photographs depicts pieces of natural, raw fabric randomly cut and re-stitched with red thread, creating a dynamic, disrupted, private grid. Klingman's work process is twofold: in the first phase she works with the material itself, processing and sculpting it; in the second phase she delineates its materiality, as it were, regulating its evolution by means of the photographic act; An act that paradoxically reveals and conceals the qualities of the material, its organicity, and the natural tactility of the textile and the red stitch-lines at one and the same time; an act that replaces the material with an image, the dimension of the physical act with a testimony, a trace.
In 1969 Eva Hesse created a work entitled Contingent , consisting of eight panels made of rubberized cheesecloth and fiberglass, suspended from the ceiling. Each of the eight panels of the work was different by definition, albeit created as part of a similar procedure. Hesse's work relied on elements of modularity and repetition, striving to prove that (even) from a given frame of action, arbitrary and ostensibly fixed, a different, new essence emerges each time.
In the same manner, Klingman's work is comprised of six similar yet different photographs of the cut/sewn fabrics, alongside another large photograph portraying a standing figure, entirely wrapped in the sewn material. All six photographs in the series are based on a fixed pattern of operation consisting of sewing, cutting, photographing, and printing, yet they produce a grid image which is at once constant and variable; unique, expressive, and at the same time conceptual.
Alice Klingman was born in Kiryat Gat, Israel, 1963. She lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Angst vor…, 2004
Chiharu Shiota's installation consists of black wool strands and a bed, and generates a space that is exposed to the gaze, yet remains physically inaccessible ; a space at once intimate and clinical. The black wool extends and intersects from floor to ceiling, intertwining to create a dense web, delineating the area of the bed on which the artist sat during the opening night, nude and still, with her back to the audience. Sitting motionless hour upon hour, the artist created a situation where her presence as part of the performance was perceived by the viewer as a static image rather then a dynamic act, thus generating tension, expectation, and a type of anxiety with regard to the purpose and point of her physical presence in the space. Shiota's work creates a demarcated private space within the public exhibition space. It is a metaphorical, contemplative, real site that maintains intricate, dual interrelations with the title of the work, Angst vor… 1 .
The bed as a symbol of life, passion, horror, dream, sleep and death appeared in the work of numerous artists in recent decades, among them Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, Richard Hamilton, and Tracey Emin. But unlike Tracey Emin's bed installations 2 , for example, Shiota's bed is not private in the biographical sense, nor is it intended to mediate her intimate life to the public. It is a hospital bed, one intended for the private body to be examined and monitored by the public eye. The supervision in Shiota's case, however, is not professional-clinical, but rather one that wishes to challenge the demarcation lines between the private and the public, the artistic and the medical, the contingent and the museal. In this critical context one may recall Marcel Duchamp's relatively early piece, Sixteen Miles of String , 1942, featured as part of the exhibition First Papers of Surrealism that was organized by Andr? Breton and Duchamp himself on the premises of the Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies in New York. Duchamp's work was comprised of a tangled web of string he had woven between the various art works in the exhibition space (the total length of string eventually used for the show came to only one mile, and in some places the work indeed appears under the title One Mile of String, 1942).
In his book The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp 3 , Arturo Schwarz refers to Duchamp's repeated use of a disruptive tactic and the distancing of the possibility of seeing, proposing to view the work as a type of ironic metaphor for the difficulty in understanding modern art. Shiota's work indeed seems to pose a question about modern art and the notion of the white cube, but at the same time, it endeavors to introduce the very possibility of communication and dialogue through the work of art. Creating a hybrid, indefinite space, she sets out to explore mental and psychic issues, to touch upon the borderline, by addressing body, material and space at the same time.
Chiharu Shiota was born in Osaka, Japan, 1972. She lives and works in Berlin.
Thanks to the Abarbanel Mental Health Center for the loan of the bed.
1.In his essay Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiety , Freud describes anxiety as the self's reaction to perceived danger, maintaining that anxiety is generated by the self and takes place within the self, in an attempt to prevent danger by reducing it to a signal or an implication. Furthermore, anxiety is endowed with an element of expectation, anxiety of something indefinite whether verbally or formally.
Sigmund Freud, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety ( 1926), In J. Strachey ed.), Standard Edition, vol. XX (London: Hogarth Press,1959).
2. Tracy Emin's My Bed was first featured in 1998 as part of the 1999 Turner Prize exhibition. Viewers were invited to take an active part in the installation and get into the bed situated at the center of the space. In an exhibition held at Lehman Maupin Gallery, New York in 2002 Emin once again installed a bed at the center of the space, but this time the emphasis was on the embroidery and text works that appeared on the bedcovers and blanket, as well as on the walls of the exhibition space as part of other works.
3. Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969), p. 515