In the Smokeless Air
Noa Leshem-Gradus offers the viewers a shifting, multi-layered experience of space. Her use of the concrete grid of the museum gallery as elementary coordinates to aid in our orientation in space seemingly compensates for the absence of physical art. The installation, which extends the lines of the gallery itself, grows organically out of the ceiling grid, while the screened works open additional spaces hinting at that which can not be seen, redefining space and time as flexible and inconstant.
The artist opens a virtual window in the museum wall that leads to the past history of the place, and then opens another window in an interior wall that contradicts the first, confusing our sense of place, time, and concrete space.
In the video installation “What Where,” after Samuel Beckett’s minimalist play which deals with the repetitive pattern of interrogator and interrogated as the story of human history, Leshem-Gradus creates another representation of space within space. The works in the background become the text missing from the play, its subconscious meaning or Greek choir.
The exhibition moves between the political/critical and the existential condition of humankind in contemporary reality. The viewers make their way around it within borders that periodically become blurred and spaces that are interwoven and folded into one another. In the course of this experience, our perspective is alternately constructed and deconstructed, fluctuating between memories of the past and the present time, between deceptive imaginary space and reflected space, between states of stability and a sense of déjà vu or disorientation.
By employing the language of the grid, the artist allows us to step confidently into a familiar world, offering us markers to latch onto in order to navigate it with a supposed sense of assuredness. But once we are inside the world she has created for us, the borders become indistinct, new spaces are formed, and places that belong to diverse mental categories become intertwined.
The overriding presence in the exhibition space is absence. There are no objects casting shadows. As we walk through the exhibition, we sense the presence of the refugees of Ein Hawd marching in place to no place at all. The absence of the artistic object in contrast to the power of the audio work (Audio Guide), along with the chaos arising from the masking of the words, obscures the object. Absence and repression are intensely present in the space, defining it, and us, in a disconcerting manner.
This is Leshem-Gradus’s first exhibition in Israel, after eight years during which she lived and studied in New York.
Exhibition Curator: Maya Cohen Levy
Rotem Ritov & Gidi Smilansky
The installation “Phantoms,” the joint work of the artists Gidi Smilanski and Rotem Ritov, consists of a pole adorned with colorful wreaths growing out of a base of soil and cut off by the ceiling of the gallery, along with burnt images on tin of spectral human figures.
The inspiration for the flower-studded pole comes from the maypole of the midsummer holiday in Sweden, where Ritov spent her childhood. In her hands, the festive garlands become a sign of oblivion, death, and bereavement. The circles of flowers resemble the wreaths placed on graves at memorial ceremonies. Their cheerful colors are also deceptive: a closer look reveals the butterfly-shaped blooms to be tiny models of Merkava tanks.
The “tree,” positioned at an angle in the cramped gallery space, stretches between the “earth” and the ceiling, creating a sense of duality. The transition from joy and hope to grief and mourning reflects the collective experience of complex local reality.
Smilanski’s human forms add a universal apocalyptic dimension to the installation. Burning the images on tin, the artist creates a series of figures marching in a mysterious procession. Whether ghosts or vestiges of human beings, they represent fragmentary and enigmatic archeological evidence of a past civilization that has not survived.
“Phantoms” is a site specific installation that delineates a territory in which the local and the universal, flowering and withering, life and death exist side by side.
Exhibition Curator: Rina Genussov
Serbian artist Ljiljana Bursac’s installation is dedicated to the Greek term “logos,” which means word, reason, speech, or study. In Greek philosophy, logos was defined as the logic pervading the universe, and was identified with the divine or with nature. Later, in Christian theology, it became associated with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The installation consists of three shapes: a square and circle that are delimited and constructed meticulously from a calligraphic-like drawing; and a free open form made of gilt leaves decorated with lines that resemble writing. The shapes were glued together by visitors to the exhibition, under the direction of the artist and curator, in a type of “act.”
By using a line reminiscent of repetitive writing created in a meditative act which flows in a constant rhythm, universal geometrical shapes, and a free form constructed from gleaming golden leaves that radiate light, the artist is seeking to move away from the concrete in order to draw closer to the fundamental abstract essence, the “logos,” which is the core and source of everything.
Exhibition Curator: Rina Genussov