Contemporary Agriculture in Israeli Art. Curator: Tali Tamir 19.2.2015 - 13.6.2015

Noa Raz Melamed created a moving “shadow theater” which rotates as a perpetuum mobile, hanging in the air, resting on hovering ridges. It is comprised of items from Petach Tikva’s historical archives combined with crumbs of biographical-familial memory. The installation Couch Grass blends the story of the Orthodox Jewish farmers who founded Petach Tikva, with the story of the Jezreel Valley pioneers, leaders of the secular, Socialist revolution, among them the artist’s grandparents (who met in 1917 in a workers’ kitchen in Petach Tikva). These two narratives—which are joined by a third narrative, about Palestinian citrus growing, unfolded in the animated film Fruit-Picking War—are woven around two key images: the root of the couch grass (injil in Arabic) and the orange: reddened like blood, the couch grass transforms into tendons (“To follow it as if you were following a tendon in the body,” poet Esther Raab, native of Petach Tikva, wrote about the injil); whereas the orange, tossed from hand to hand, becomes a symbolical object embodying these conflicted identities. Friezes of white plaster reliefs tie the evolving myth to ancient agrarian civilization, as a quote from Elazar Raab’s The Citrus Grove Diary—“With my own hands I pulled out the couch grass—hovers like a lost motto.
Raz Melamed’s shadow theater inquires about the gap between image and reflection and between reality and illusion. It touches upon the mythology of early agriculture and the beginnings of Zionism, as well as upon the apparatus of photography created from light projected on a surface. Amidst rocks and stones, animals and plows, the spectral silhouettes of A.D. Gordon, Yehoshua Stampfer, Jacob Raz-Rizik, and Sarah Raz-Rizik (the artist’s grandparents) also hover. In Fallow Year, the eponymous Hebrew word Shmita erupts from the chaotic realm of memory, projected in light on the wall. In 2015, a fallow year according to Jewish law, Raz Melamed proposes resignation, letting go of the passion for ownership and mastery.