The Crystal Palace & The Temple of Doom

Curator: Hlia Cohen-Schneiderman 2.7.2015 - 24.10.2015

Maayan Elyakim’s video work Statues also Die (and are Reborn) offers us to look at things through our own eyes. At the age we live and create in, when visual and textual information is more available and accessible than ever before, the feeling that “everything has already been done” haunts us, making us easily bored, or alternatively, anxious that if we are to understand something, we must draw on prior knowledge, and certainly should not trust ourselves. We live in a world mediated by agents, in which the number of apps, experts, consultants, and sources of knowledge, who want to “facilitate” our search by providing us with answers, grows exponentially. The high price we unwittingly pay for this assistance is the loss of curiosity, critical perspective, and the independent outlook on the world.
This state of affairs is expressed in Elyakim’s film with a boy and a girl who come across mysterious objects, which are in fact earlier works by the artist, presented in a new context. The film’s title references the title of Chris Marker's film Statues also Die (Les statues meurent aussi), in which he tackled the Western-colonialist perception of African statues and art. These objects, which were hand crafted for different functions, mostly ritualistic, become sterile and “dead” when they are severed from their rich cultural context and presented as an exotic artifact in the museal space. Elyakim’s film wishes to leave behind the “colonialist” perception, which in this case is the mediating, museal, point of view, the same point of view that the boy and girl decide to forgo at the beginning of the film. Elyakim takes Marker’s film one step further—he declares the death of the statues with the act of appropriation and displacement, but acknowledges that this action also holds the potential for their resurrection and rebirth—through an independent gaze of the artist or a viewer.
Elyakim’s sculptural works strive to preserve their cultural DNA—meaning, if everything has already been done, then now everything can serve as raw material. The first object appearing in the film is an amalgam of a mining candle-holder that was used in America in the 19th century, a Parisian 1970s bracelet, Carrera marble associated with Renaissance Italian sculptures, and blue candles that bring to mind elegant dinners; the vase that bares the image of an octopus derived from the Minoan Greek culture, is placed on a table based on the wood bending technique of the German cabinet maker Michael Thonet, covered by a map made in a marbling technique developed in the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century; whereas the Egyptian hand-mirror held by the boy reflects the image of a structure in a utopian city built in the 1970s in the USA. All these associations coalesce in one artifact that does not distinguish between these cultures and does not arrange them in a hierarchical order. They are linked together by the power of the artist's and the viewer's imagination, even if the viewer is oblivious to their existence.
In this respect, Elyakim’s work is indexical to the entire exhibition, hinting at the hidden and visible connections between the different artists and various artworks, and at the spiral route that they weave, which more than it could be delineated with words, it is better to sense it with the gaze. The museum is also manifested here not only as a knowledge-instilling institution, but also as a site that offers a possibility for a fresh encounter with things and for cultivating an independent perception towards them.
This work was created with the support of Ostrovsky Family Fund