Spirit of the Place

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The exhibition includes a variety of works that deal with the history and archeology of Israel and neighboring Middle Eastern regions. As part of the process of creating the works, the artists researched the origins of the land by collecting testimonials of native inhabitants, examining official and unofficial documentation of archeological excavations and referring to several texts about the founders of Zionism. Each of the works in the exhibition communicates in a unique way a sense of doubt about official widespread knowledge and conventional narratives. The artists infuse humor, irony or poetry to provoke doubt about the widely accepted attitudes and perspectives on the history and archeology of the land.

The works in the exhibition were installed alongside permanent exhibits from the Museum collection with a colorful title and wall text separating them from the other artworks.

Tamir Zadok’s piece is accompanied by a text. The text documents the “Ibn Yunes Mosaic” which was reportedly discovered during the late 19th century in the ancient Jewish settlement Ibn Yuna, located in the north of the Negev Desert. In the beginning of the 20th century, the mosaic was excavated by a team of German archeologists and has been exhibited in Europe since. Allegedly, this discovery has widely impacted 20th century art and inspired and informed Picasso’s painting “The Young Ladies of Avignon.” The text is in fact a fabrication. The several dates, maps, locations and names of ancient settlements are fictions all made up by the artist. The work points a finger at 19th century colonial superpowers that conducted archeological expeditions in the Middle East. In this piece, Zadok humorously states the sources of influence for the “The Young Ladies of Avignon” Painting, inventing a time period in which the ancient Judeo/Greco/Roman culture influenced modern western art.

Gaston Zvi Ickowicz photographs landscapes that underwent archeological excavations. In this exhibition, Gaston Zvi is presenting photographs from two different bodies of work. The first, “Archeological Findings,” deals with an environmental sculpture by the sculptor Yitzhak Danzinger. Ickowics isolated the archeological elements that Danzinger incorporated into the wall of the sculpture, downsizes them and plants them within a black background. Through this act, Ickowics subverts Danzinger’s action by isolating the elements from an already re-contextialized source. In the second series, Ickowics presents photographs of archeological excavations from three different locations in Israel: Luzit, an excavation site near Kiryat Gat and the Givati parking lot. Ickowics deliberately refrains from photographing canonical relics that have various meanings attached to them. His gaze is focused upon the marginal, the discarded and forgotten, that which appears to have no meaning or value.

In his piece “Humanoid Conglomerate”, Zohar Gotesman created an artificial fossil by carving a skeleton of a man in fetal position with one hand holding three skulls into local indigenous stone. Each of the three skulls appears to originate from one of three different prehistoric periods associated with the early stages of the evolution of the human species. The skulls are actually hundreds of thousands or even millions of years older than the skeleton of the man, a Homo Sapiens of this day and age. The entire sculpture was carved out of one block of chalk stone. The skulls where treated and stained with tea, coffee and other materials to create a smoky darkening effect. The background was given a rough finish to appear like a stone dug up during excavations. The carving technique mimics the way in which the paleontologists excavate a rock in order to expose and extract fossils. This is an impossible 3.2-million-year old conglomerate. In this piece, Gotesman takes on the roles of both the archeologist and the sculptor, yet he fakes archeological integrity. Gotesman observes canonical archeological findings and questions the authority and authenticity of widely accepted mythologized narratives. He does this with irony and humor.

Dor Guez’s video piece is embedded within a 19th century kiln used for soap making. This object is conceptually relevant to the research he conducted in the process of creating the work shown in the exhibition. In this piece, Guez interwove the history of Jaffa with the personal history of the family of his grandmother, a native of the city of Jaffa. The work is titled “Sabir,” a word that originates from the Latin “to know.” This is a linguistic hybrid from the predominant dialects of the Middle Eastern region. The screen displays a still frame from a picturesque scene of a Jaffa beach at sunset, a visual backdrop for the voice of the artist’s grandmother Samira, who dwelled on the Jaffa shore before 1948. Samira is describing her childhood before 1947, the collective fleeing of Jaffa’s Arab population and their lives as refugees in Lod. Throughout the 19-minute duration of the work, the single frame of the sun setting and vanishing into the horizon line seen in parallel to a soundtrack of the waves and Samira’s memories.

Oded Hirsch is exhibiting “The Circle”, a looped 4-minute video piece that is shot from the top of a 70-meter crane. The view presents three yellow bulldozers that are closely aligned to each other and positioned at the center of a field of brown earth. They are digging a circular ditch around themselves. Their mechanized movements are synchronized as if they were choreographed. Oded’s works can be seen as stylized cult rituals that are invented with a unique photographic poetry. Usually they present a group of people that appear to behave in a ritualistic manner in order to achieve an impossible goal. The main subjects addressed in his works include: the land, its powerful impact on the lives of the settlers, collective movement and activity and the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of the collective effort.

The evening of the exhibition opening will include a special performance piece that will take place in the courtyard under the museum. Nofar Hasson Handelman and Rabia Salfiti will be performing an act of excavation into cement. Dressed in white ritualistic garments, the artist duo Nofar and Rabia perform a physical dialogue that investigates the similarities and differences between the two. It is a dialogue about closeness versus distance as well as mutual recognition that brings about the choreography of construction and destruction.