The Crystal Palace & The Temple of Doom
Curator: Hlia Cohen-Schneiderman
In 1936 the Crystal Palace had burned to the ground. It was an exhibition venue built for the first Great Exhibition (the 1851 World Fair) held in London, and designed by the gardener Joseph Paxton. The construction was greenhouse-like in nature and boasted cast-iron frame and plate-glass walls, allowing for easy dismantling and reconstruction. Trees surrounded it but were also planted inside it, the inside and the outside were reflected in one another, flowing into each other, and the structure seemed to merge with its surroundings. As light as its construction was, the palatial Victorian style of the structure betrayed the agenda that stood at the heart of the British Empire, which was then at its height. The construction aimed to be all-encompassing, and serve as a small-scale manifestation of the entire Empire and its accomplishments. As the product of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace was considered a tremendous technological achievement. When it was destroyed by fire, Churchill commented that it was the end of an age. The dawn of the 20th century heralded the Modernist era, which introduced a new type of exhibiting – cube shaped and omniscient. Devoid of decorations and the traces of time, its walls stark white, its angles straight and confident – the white cube unequivocally differentiated the inside from the outside, pushing the outdoors away, and in the process also taking itself out of everything. Since the 1960s, this cube is the focus of a love-hate relationship with institutional critique and with its visitors, due to that detachment from what might be referred to as “reality”, and so it became a doomed but desirable temple. We could say that the exhibition The Crystal Palace and the Temple of Doom navigates between these two models, as the artists featured in the exhibition turn to reality as their point of departure, and use the museal space in order to isolate and examine elements from it. This move aims to maintain a space of temporary autonomy, which at the same time feeds off of the outside world, is rooted in it, and moves away from it only to return to it. This experiment, which started in September 2012, is the product of a shared learning and working process of 11 artists and a curator, who possess intertwining and conflicting passions, and negotiate the design and perception of space. Naturally, such a period of time allows the dynamics between the participants to grow deeper, shifting between holding on and letting go, and summons friction between one artist and another, between artist and object, and between one object and another.
Alona Rodeh exhibits three elements from an ongoing project entitled Safe and Sound. The idiom is comprised of two words that evoke a sonar-auditory connotation, as well as the aspect of protection and regimentation, two recurring leitmotifs in Rodeh’s works. In this case, these aspects are present not only in her work, but in the entire exhibition space. Rodeh connected the three main spaces of the museum to loudspeakers that function as a temporary Public Announcement system. Every 18 minutes, one of four quick yet intensive musical tracks is played, disturbing the relative silence in the space. The musical tracks start as various warning signals, become actual music, and are cut short at their apex. In the main space, Rodeh installed a monumental object—a surrealist homage to Iron Dome defense system, which rises on its legs like a contemporary Hebrew worker at the city square. At the same time, in a secondary location, a warning sign is transmitted and stops on the image of Rachid.
Ariel Caine’s video work Enivrons looks at the surface of the land and that of the photograph, shedding light on the fragility and brittleness of both. Caine draws on a wide range of original and archive photographic materials, predominantly of Jerusalem, in order to point at the link between the image in the Christian pilgrimage world view, and the function of the photographic image in present day messianic Judaism. To a large extent, throughout the years these two images served as a blueprint, influencing and shaping landscape design, architecture, and archeology in Jerusalem, a process that still continues under the auspices of the state. This work also looks at the medium of photography, which through the development of “Point Cloud” technology becomes an architectural space in itself. Caine employs this technology on the archival materials, from which he extracts the original surface that undergoes deconstruction and reassembly. The new file transforms the flattened photographic space into a three-dimensional sculptural space, thus cancelling the existence of a fixed point of view, a single perspective—along with that of the photographer. Perhaps this can also bring about a cancellation of the messianic perspective, so that the space could return to be as it once was.
The hologram Pioneer, an extension of the video, was produced through the holographic printing of a point cloud file. The image is based on an archival stereoscopic photograph of a pioneer, an immigrant from Poland named Debora Rushkin, taken circa 1920 at the women’s agricultural training farm “Borochov”. The treatment of the archive photograph using this technique restores fragments of the physical space that was flattened, and retrieves its three-dimensionality as a body, volume, and a physical presence.
Eden Bannet’s studio is located in south Tel Aviv, surrounded by printing houses, wood, upholstery, and metal workshops. Their leftovers serve as her raw materials and inspiration, which she gathers on her daily routes—home, to the studio, to the high school where she teaches and back again.
Bannet traces “sculptural moments” in the still reality of the city, ones that hint at the events that had taken place there. Spaces and facilities that belong to the public sphere (flagpoles, bridges, a lake, the park), objects that belong to domestic environments (pillows, a chest of drawers, parts of a sofa), as well as objects characteristic of areas of passage and movement (wheels, glass windows, pipes, café tables), are used as the conceptual foundation of sculptural arrangements. In the museum she uses the raw materials and objects to create hybrid compositions; disrupted ghosts of the productive logic.
Usually, Bannet’s works create autonomous installations in the space, but in light of the group’s work dynamics, she chose to focus on the “public” spaces of the exhibition, and examine how her practice and sculptural language can interfere with, echo, and reflect other works in the common space.
Elisheva Levy appropriates artifacts, consumer goods, and artworks that were created by the other participants in the exhibition (and some artists who are not featured in it), re-creating them in her personal style. She places them side by side and one above the other, on a transient and rather fragile structure—a construction with no partitions, rendering the distinction between interior and exterior irrelevant. This allows for the gradual formation of a body of work, which is indexical to the participants in the exhibition, and founded on theft, copying, or recycling. Following the philosopher Hakim Bey, we could say that Levy declares a temporary yet optimistic autonomous zone that has nothing to do with independence, since it is based and depends on everything that exists outside it.
The main logic of Liz Hagag’s sculptural works consists of the juxtaposition of materials into an aesthetic and sensual arrangement. However usually, before they even adjusted to one another, she breaks them into raw materials once again, like words poised for syntax. This cycle reoccurs time after time throughout the installation of the exhibition. These are intuitive, in a sense even survivalist, assembling and disassembling, which are always created in real-time in response to emotional situations or the physical conditions that the space summons.
In this exhibition, while the space in which Hagag exhibits is separate and “independent” from the “public” spaces, she attempted to understand in what way it could still function as an organic part of the group show, as though there were no physical and mental walls between them. The huge foam element that stands in the middle of the room is usually used for acoustic insulation. Now, in its raw, almost savage state, it becomes an object of desire, nothing but an interior
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
Something happened to the wall on the far left-hand side of the main hall. The eye that peeps through the holes in the wall comes across fragments of a black-and-white photograph. On its other side stands a full scale diorama* of an exhibition of captured enemy weapons, “spoils of war”, held in 1957 in this very museum. It turns out that these weapons were stored in the museum’s storeroom mixed with the art collection, coexisting with artworks until the early 2000s. Only a few of them have a full record of how they entered the museum, and how they left it.
The photograph, which was found in the city’s archive, reveals a cramped space where dozens of weapons are exhibited alongside a sign which reads “spoils of war”. Comparison with other photographs allows us to identify the space as “Yad Lebanim Museum” which over time evolved into the Petach Tikva Museum of Art. However, the digital manipulation which BarOr performed on the archival image, had emptied it of the content of the display. There is no honor among thieves.
*A three dimensional model in full or small scale.
Tchelet Ram’s work Land Cover is a site-specific work that relates to the particular space in which it is created, and in that respect we might think of it as a work that follows a “parasitic” logic. It is a sculptural drawing with cement powder and water, inspired by images of squares and plazas in urban spaces. The drawing covers the surface, delineates a territory, and like the squares that inspired it—embodies the discrepancy between the square packed with intensive human activity for limited periods of time, and being a space that is usually abandoned and empty. In ancient Greece, the city square (“Agora”) was bustling with commercial, political, and communal public activity. In contrast, the modern square in Israel remains empty under the inescapable scorching sun. It serves mostly as a point of reference and passage, as a potential
At the same time, Ram’s drawing echoes the celestial hemisphere, the imaginary flat surface that determines the “unified distance” between celestial bodies and the earth. This space allows the creation of constellations by drawing lines from one star to another, and serves as the foundation for the affinity between astronomy and astrology—between science and spirit. The gaze that generates the work is one that moves from the earth to the sky and back, which perceives the ground as a murky mirror map that reflects the sky.
Hila Toony Navok is known predominately as a sculptor and a painter, but she actually started her artistic path in the field of performance art. In a way, her current work is a video-performance, like a collage that brings together these three media. In recent years, Navok has been tracking down the signs of Modernist architecture and aesthetics in public areas in the Israeli periphery. Through these she attempts to decipher the language of “standard” design. Her works engage with the desires and fantasies embodied in the design of cheap commodities, and expose the gaps between what we can afford and who we wish we were.
For the most part, Navok’s works are based on quotidian spaces that undergo a process of abstraction. However, in the work featured in this exhibition the movement between these two realms is reversed, as Navok steps into the intimate space—the homes of the people who inspire her works. Into these private spaces she introduces abstract formal elements which have a monumental presence in the public space, as a graphic ornament on the side of a building or an element in the middle of a fountain. When Navok tries to control a huge blue ball, or stretch a yellow sheet of plastic into a line, another unpredictable variable enters this action—the weather, which creates an arena of struggle between the artist and the Modernist spirit and formalist elements
Photography: Itay Marom / Editing: Eyal Sibi / Music: Gizi Zuckerman / Sound editing: Yossi Ron, Eyal Sibi
Thanks go to: Amsily family, Meili family, Ashdod municipality Spokesperson office, Yoni Raz Portugali, Dan Geva and Itay Gonen. Special thanks to Ian Sternthal and Helen Amsily
*This work was created with the support of Ostrovsky Family Fund.
The production of the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), so I have read, faced many constraints. The budget was small, especially since Germany was in the midst of an economic depression after the First World War. Due to the high cost of electricity, the lighting on the film had to be precise and calculated. In order to overcome the budgetary constraints, set designers decided to paint the light that falls on the set itself: instead of pointing a spotlight—painting. And so the floor, walls, ceilings, and props were all added another layer, a layer of paint.
Most of the common staircases in Tel Aviv buildings have a “Termion”, the old version of an automat, which turns on the light in the passage area for a fixed time—the average length of time required for a tenant or a passerby to enter or exit from one of the apartments in the building. The “Termion” is commonly installed in order to reduce the building’s electricity costs. A staircase in a 4-storey and 12 apartments residential building, for example, is illuminated on average for about a minute and a half. Some staircases are also equipped with large windows, meant to bring some natural light into the gloomy corridor during the day, and save some electricity when it is dark outside.
*This work was created with the support of the Pais Funding Council
A gleaming temple stands on the top of the mountain. Located at the edge of the exhibition, towering and isolated, wishing to erase its presence, and in the process actually achieving the opposite result, like a child who covers his eyes in order to disappear. Alongside a Greek house of worship, Yariv Spivak’s temple also brings to mind the works of the artist Absalon. The latter offers a possibility to limit the self in the white cells that he built, which only fit one person, and with which he distilled something of the Modernist spirit. Spivak’s temple also echoes the fantasy of creating an isolated sanctuary for the individual, but does so with a poignant defiance of its surroundings. Above hovers a paraphrase on the Delphic oracle’s maxim: “Know thyself and know thy place.”