Nov 12 – Dec 12, 2015
Saâdane Afif, Yael Bartana, Abigail Hopkins, Hillel Roman, Valerie Snobeck, Lihi Turjeman, Sharon Ya’ari
The group exhibition “TAKE” examines archival issues alongside the construct of the reproduced image and its relation to the ready-made tradition, in the works of Saâdane Afif, Yael Bartana, Abigail Hopkins, Hillel Roman, Valerie Snobeck, Lihi Turjeman and Sharon Ya’ari. Their works, each in its own way, creates a kind of doubled reproduction, whether through formal alternations or content manipulation. In most of the works, the archive element is manifested through a combination between the private and the public, and in this sense is reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s reading of the archive as an eclectic collection of history’s leftovers.
The work of French artist Saâdane Afif’s The Fountain Archives is a project initiated in 2008. Afif collects books featuring Duchamp’s famous Fountain, tears out the page which features the work, scans it so that it can be reproduced multiple times, numbers it and frames it. Alongside his collection of catalogued pages, he also gathers an archive of the torn books. His goal is to reach 1000 references by 2017, when the Fountain will celebrate 100 years. This is in fact a tactical Google search, an archive of ready-mades that document one of the world’s first and most famous ready-mades, which changed the course of art history. Well known terms such as Benjamin’s aura, reproduction and copy are relevant here, but also interesting is the archival context that is created around the documented object – the books – which, when grouped together, allow for a reexamination of art discourse through a very specific prism.
Israeli artist Abigail Hopkins works from within the Duchampian tradition as well. From available, cheap materials she builds unrecognizable objects, whose function is unclear. Placed on the floor, mounted upon makeshift stands and colored carelessly, they seem as neglected props. They create a kind of mundane visual language, which refers to their immediate environment and occasionally to art history. Although they are all made in quite traditional sculpture techniques, they seem to imitate ready-mades, objects taken out from the street to receive the aura of a work of art.
A different ready-made object is the starting point of Israeli photographer Sharon Ya’ari’s Sea of Galilee. This is a reprint of a slide taken in 1969, which was designated for the training of IDF soldiers after the Six Day War. All of the colours with the exception of red faded from the old slide, leaving the Sea of Galilee to be viewed through red lens. This colour filter, together with the strategic viewpoint from the conquered Golan Heights, grants the image a sense of military gaze through warfare optical devices. Here, the reproduction process offers questions regarding land, ownership and national identity, through the lens of passing time.
Another photograph included in the show, Yael Bartana’s Stalag the Photographer, is part of a series of self-portraits of the artist disguised as different historical figures. Here the Israeli artist is seen wearing S.S. officer uniforms. Holding an old-fashion camera, she is referring to the famous German photographer and Nazi propaganda film director Leni Riefenstahl. The German word ‘Stalag’ in the work’s title means ‘prisoner of war’, but is also referring to the forgotten Stalag genre of pornographic comics books, which was published in Israel in the 50-60s. The books mostly featured scenes of sexual abuse between female S.S. officers and war prisoners. This genre, as well the construct of glorified officers portraits, is reproduced here to create a nightmarish mixture of power relations between prisoner and officer, photographer and his photographed subject – all filtered through a performativity play of gender, collective memory and national trauma.
The monochromatic grid of American artist Valerie Snobeck is made through a unique technique, in which an inject print is pressed against a plastic layer in a process of lamination. The plastic is later peeled away, only to extract some of the colours, and is glued to burlap. This process is repeated several times. The production act is regressive, contradictory to the logic of mass production – in this case, poster printing. The works themselves are ironed straight onto the wall, thus the act of peeling repeats itself at the end of each exhibition session. The printed images themselves are nature and landscape photographs that were commissioned originally by the US Environmental Protection Agency in the 70s, when environmental concerns began to feature heavily in public discourse. In the grid exhibited here, extracts from the photographs are enlarged to create monochromatic, abstract images.
The act of peeling is also present in the work of Israeli artist Lihi Turjeman, which seems like a colorful abstract acrylic or oil painting, but is in fact composed of layers of peeled, mold ridden plaster, glued to canvas. In a cum-archeological process, the artist peeled away the texture of a neglected wall in an old tel-avivian house, which served as her studio. In a reversed act from that of Hopkins’ works, Turjeman’s image is a ready-made disguised as a work of crafted art. While Snobeck’s peeling action references national history and reflects the copied image, Turjeman brings to life a unique, private and intimate architecture.
Architecture is also present in Israeli artist Hillel Roman’s charcoal drawings, describing isolated and slight odd objects or architectural surroundings. Futuristic or utopian looking, the drawings are devoid of human presence. Most of them are based on images taken from a different kind of archive – a digital image bank. The three drawings included in the show display a drone (Unmanned (and two structures, one designed by German architect Wassili Luckhardt ) Berg (and the other is an unrealized design by the American architect Bruce Goff ) Cathedral). Roman translates the images through a technique based on a delicate balance between erasing and adding. The result brings about images of three-dimensional quality, which are reminiscent of sculptural elements on one hand, and of three-dimensional simulations on the other.