IRIS NESHER in The Dark Rooms
bruno david gallery
iris nesher In The Dark Rooms
September 10 - November 6, 2010 Bruno David Gallery 3721 Washington Boulevard Saint Louis, 63108 Missouri, U.S.A. email@example.com www.brunodavidgallery.com Director: Bruno L. David This catalogue was published in conjunction with the exhibition Iris Nesher: In The Dark Rooms Editor: Bruno L. David Text Editor: Felicia Chen Catalogue Designer: Yoko Kiyoi Design Assistant: Claudia R. David Printed in USA All works courtesy of Bruno David Gallery and Iris Nesher Cover image: Iris Nesher. RAIDA ADON: Fragile, 2010 C-print Edition of 6 Copyright ÂŠ 2010 Bruno David Gallery, Inc. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of Bruno David Gallery, Inc.
In the Dark rooms: Confessions Through the Lens by Laura Beckman
A Whole Perfect Inseparable Unit by Meir Aharonson
Into The Light by Yigal Schwartz Afterword by Bruno L. David
Checklist of the Exhibition
In the Dark rooms: Confessions Through the Lens 2
he title of this exhibition, In the Dark Rooms offers multiple layers of meaning. It refers not only to the traditional process of develop-
ing film in which images seem to magically materialize out of oblivion, but also to the secret, forbidden corners of the human psyche, the ‘darkrooms’ of the mind. It is easy to forget that these portraits are posed, for they seem almost voyeuristic, like windows into the spaces of intimate moments not meant for the public eye. To Nesher, the body is not merely a functional organism - it is a canvas upon which the longings and tremors of the soul express themselves. She began her artistic career as a figurative sculptor, and retains an unshakable faith in the power of the human figure to convey a remarkable array of hopes, sorrows, desires, and regrets. A Yiddish proverb states that, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul,” but according to Nesher, the eyes are just the beginning. Every furrow in the brow, every palpitation of the chest, every movement of the hand, and every contraction of muscle betrays some ounce of truth about our most private selves. She photographs her subjects against a blanket of velvety darkness, using a single spotlight to lend form to their bodies and illuminate their faces. She draws inspiration from the classical painters Rembrandt and Caravaggio, who used dramatic lighting to animate their subjects with new life. Nesher’s interest in female artists and novelists reveals a unique fixation with the chaos of the creative process. She has a gift for capturing the essence of these remarkable women by encouraging them to let down their defenses and uncover their most vulnerable selves. For In the Dark Rooms, she asked them to choose a word or phrase that defines their identities in some way. Many chose words from their own poems and novels, while some quoted other writers and ancient lore. Their mantras sparked thoughts and images in Nesher’s mind, which in turn inspired the poses and settings of the images. I was surprised to discover that the portrait of Polish-Jewish novelist Yehudit Hendel, entitled The Other Power, refers not to a divine entity but to the power of the creative process. I asked Nesher if she feared that the Hebrew text in these pieces, which were originally exhibited in Israel, would get lost in translation for an American audience. She asserted that while the essential meaning, the visceral emotion behind the words, remained the same in any language, these words had certain associations in Hebrew - not just a sound, but a rich flavor and smell - that cannot be mirrored in English. A word, in a sense, has an identity as singular as that of a human being, which can never be perfectly reproduced or replicated. In Jewish legend, it is possible to give life, animating a shapeless pile of dust and mud by inscribing it with Hebrew words, thereby lending form to an anthropomorphic being called a ‘golem’.
In the photograph No More Lying, novelist Sahra Blau mimics one method of activating a golem by pressing these three words against her tongue, while fully aware that they will not last. She believes that lying is not only a part of life, but a necessary one, without which the universe would probably collapse under an avalanche of brutal honesty. Some of Nesher’s photographs, like Blau’s portrait, are whimsical, while others are gravely serious. In the piece, I Have Only Known How to Tell of Myself, novelist and Holocaust survivor Miriam Akavia boldly displays this declaration beside the numbers branded on her forearm. After a lifetime of concealing this painful reminder of the past with long sleeves in summer heat, she resolves to tell us her story so that we may learn from it, and she may be freed of its grasp. Although Nesher’s photographs raise questions about the issues of women’s rights, femininity, and religious doctrine, her artwork is not political by nature. It is much more private, more personal, and more nuanced. She is not concerned with documenting the obvious, but prefers to study the “undercurrents” that flow beneath the surface of the everyday. She told me that the words of the novelist Yehudit Hendel, who is featured in the photograph The Other Power, capture the essence of her artistic mission: “As contradictory as it might seem, there are volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean floor.” Contradiction is inherent to human nature; it is one of the characteristics that makes us so rich and compelling. Rather than constrain her subjects to fit a rigid mold, Nesher celebrates the subtle inconsistencies and constant modulations that make feminine creativity so fascinating. —Laura Beckman Laura Beckman is a writer and painter. She lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri. This essay is one in a series of the gallery’s exhibitions written by fellow gallery artists and friends.
A Whole Perfect Inseparable Unit by Meir Aharonson
ris Nesher takes the women she photographed on a journey into a virtual agora, the very same agora of ancient Greece where philoso-
phers would assemble and exchange ideas; ideas about the world and life; ideas with no practical purpose; ideas that are meant to create freedom and build a future; ideas that in their entirety are an attempt to clarify a mental and metaphysical state. Miraculously, a two-fold story has been written here about femininity and culture. It does not really matter what set Iris Nesher on this journey and the reason for her embarkment will probably never be understood in a singular sense. However, the resulting work, In the Dark Rooms is a fascinating work of art that captures in each photograph a situation that is at once set in time and is timeless. In naming this project In the Dark Rooms Iris Nesher encompasses all the post-production work of a photographer after the photograph has been taken. The darkroom is the photographerâ€™s self-imposed prison where all images are developed and printed - at least it was in the pre-computer era. But darkrooms are the very places that Iris Nesher tries to illuminate in her work; darkrooms of enlightened people. Only in the darkroom, which has been transformed in time from a physical place to a concept, is the photographed image revealed in front of the photographer. There, an image is born; it emerges from the darkness revealing itself for the first time since it was seen through the camera lens. In the darkroom the photographed image is transformed from negative to positive; from an unclear entity to one which is certain and absolute. Only in the darkroom does the image become a reality; and there, in the darkness, the truth is revealed. When I first saw Iris Nesherâ€™s photographs, I knew I wanted to exhibit them in our museum. I knew that these sensitive photographs summarized the magical journey of Iris and her photographed women, even before I read the accompanying texts. Iris presents the journey of an observer who sees with a sensitive eye all the things that are invisible, but laid out for all to see. I wanted them for the spellbinding elements of texts and photographs within the portfolio. In a solo single-second brainstorm, I realized that these photographs reveal inconceivable wisdom and sadness. I saw how in the photograph of each and every female author and poet a much greater a story lay hidden; a story that cannot be written by a male author or poet; a story that for me is a kind of enlightenment that I am hoping to share with the exhibit visitors.
The preoccupation with photographing women is not new to Iris Nesher. In previous exhibitions, Nesher engaged in examining the female body, where traumas and sexuality take place and are concealed. Here, her images portray another self, in which the female body is expressed in both visible and hidden ways, revealing her own private feminine state in a society that pretends to be free and liberal. The previous use that she made of bindings and images, of compliance and submission, disappeared in the current series of photographs, where she embarks on her new journey, liberated from the old world. Hence, these photographs shown in the exhibition and book look, at first glance, as if they belong to a genre of illustrative photojournalism; photography that attempts to demonstrate the essence of a major story, to exteriorize the character of the photographed person and capture a moment that accompanies a journalistic interview. Iris Nesher’s challenge is in following the role model to eminence achieved by Micha Kirshner when he established himself in the early Israeli national consciousness through illustrative photojournalism. Given the nature of her specialization, Iris set herself a far higher hurdle to success than Micha Kirshner with his trademark photograph of Aba Eben wearing a kibutznik hat and holding a prickly pear. Nesher’s photographs here do not constitute illustrative photojournalism, rather they attempt to unveil the truth from the bottom of the soul, no matter how deep it tries to hide. Iris Nesher’s photography reaches for history rather than the current. While Micha Kirshner, through positioning and cues, poses his subjects in a way that conveys his opinion to the viewer and their opinion of themselves at the moment the photograph is taken, Iris Nesher, using a brilliant strategy, photographs the women who engage themselves in the written word in a setting whose essence is the word as well as the writer’s body. This is the perfect manifestation of feminine photography and a stunning display of naked intellectual candor. But it is more than that. The photographs displayed in the exhibition and book lead the viewer and the reader to look for more than is visible. The viewer becomes a reader. They connect to the text in the photograph as part of the engagement process. In fact, this is a curatorial dream come true, where the viewer is requested not only to watch the exhibit laid out, but also to read it. To read it as an article and discuss the theme conveyed in the photograph. In this case, the final photograph instantly becomes the beginning of an additional journey that travels between the visible and the invisible. The words of the women photographed in the texts selected by themselves to accompany the photograph are words that could have never been expressed – whether orally or in writing – by men. These are sentences, ideas and metaphors that are taken from the feminine experience that is incomprehensible to men.
These photographs are kinds of factual summaries which refuse to be ignored through the very powerful combination of photography and words. The photographed women were positioned in an unmistakable and rather provoking pose; that was jointly chosen by the photographer and the women. Most of Iris Nesherâ€™s photographed women chose to place their femininity in the center rather than have it ignored, with their body becoming the platform upon which the words are written and expressed, like a vessel which holds an essence whose scent is revealed through its vapor. However, this is a feminine pose that is neither provoking nor provocative, but one that connects the intellect and body to a whole perfect inseparable unit. â€”Meir Aharonson
Into The Light by Yigal Schwartz
t some point during the 1980’s, the course of Israeli literature changed dramatically. After centuries of a loving but turbulent relation-
ship between the Hebrew language and its most eloquent adherents,inevitably authoritative men – prophets, lyricists, preachers, rabbis, philosophers, poets and authors – the Hebrew language found a new love. Its centuries-old lovers were cast aside in favor of the seductive embrace of women: authors, poets, playwrights and scriptwriters; irrespective of religion, race, country of origin or status: Jewish, Arab, secular, religious, Ashkenazi-, Sephardic- and orientaldescendent Jews, Israeli-born, Arab-country-born, ex-USSR-country-born, Ethiopian-born, etc. No doubt, Israeli literature has always been blessed with female authors and poets, but they were hidden in the outer folds of Israeli culture, behind the scenes, in the dim background. Upfront, in the public limelight, men dominated the stage and to be more precise – a group of men, and, yes, a woman, always just one woman, who was presented constantly as someone who belongs but does not really belong, a part of, but also not a part of a literary generation or group. Such a position was reserved for Rachel the poet in the second wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine, Leah Goldberg in the group of the weekly Ketuvim (Writings) and the magazine Turim (Columns), Amalya Kahana-Carmon in the Statehood Generation prose, Dahlia Rabikovitch in the Statehood Generation poetry,and Yona Wallach in the group of Meir Vizeltir and Yair Horovitz; always a solitary woman among numerous men. This social-artistic pattern, a group of several men and one woman – headed “of course by a man”, “a powerful author” or “a powerful poet” – had been maintained and fostered even when the public arena was blessed by a number of outstanding female writers, for example, Amalya Kahana-Carmon, Yehudit Hendel and Ruth Almog. These were the rules of the game and it was a man’s game but in the 1980’s the rules changed and women assumed a more significant role. Iris Nesher’s In the Dark Rooms beautifully reflects this literary-cultural revolution. The viewer is compelled to feel the powerful intensity of her photography and the accompanying texts. Indeed, even in her unique and distinctly female point of view, there is still, within the images, a part of the male-dominant culture that shows women as sexual objects of desire. Still noticeable are the traces of the domineering presence of the biological time that the writers and the photographer sense with a subtle sensitivity. There is the tyranny of the passive voice which Nidaa Khoury uses in her poem with a particularly severe expression, as well as the marking and burning on the skin, in Hebrew,in Arabic, and in Russian, that the photographed women, if I may presume, willingly took upon themselves; However one cannot ignore the analogy made from these markings on the skin that is taken from different, subversive contexts. Nevertheless – and this is the major issue of this
fascinating work of art â€“ all the enslavement, appropriation, discrimination and humiliation seem to be swept away in a spectacular creative flow, at times gushing and at times restrained and reserved. Everything that was hidden for many years in dark rooms finally explodes into the light: the physical rawness abounding in these pages and the unabashed sexuality that is non-existent in the male body of Hebrew prose and poetry, the honest discussion of time passing, the babushka-like existence of a woman within a woman within a woman, the delight and abundant pleasure of the freedom of language and thought, and love, and indeed, the abundance of love. â€” Yigal Schwartz
Afterword by Bruno L. David
am pleased to present an introductory exhibit of the photographs by Italian-born, Israel-based artist Iris Nesher at the Bruno David
Gallery. In the Dark Rooms is a series of photographs that investigates the very essence of female creativity. Support for the creation of significant new works of art has been the core to the mission and program of the Bruno David Gallery since its founding. Iris Nesher’s remarkable and compelling photographs make her one the most impressive artists of the gallery. Nesher produces provocative, hauntingly beautiful photographs of a selection of female writers, poets, and playwrights of various cultural and religious backgrounds. The powerful insight into the subject’s psyche provided by Nesher’s skilled lens is bolstered by the inclusion of a passage written or chosen by the subject herself. While some choose to display the words in the setting around them, others have literally written their thoughts on their bodies, as a testament to the power of language to convey the innermost corners of the mind, in all of its richness and complexity. By defying convention, these women have marked themselves and their environments, taking back the power of the language and using it to express themselves, rather than allowing others to speak for them. Nesher attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and later on California Art Institute of Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in exhibits both in the United States and in Europe. This past year, her work was the subject of a one-person exhibition at Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary Art. —Bruno L. David
Checklist & Images of the Exhibition
When I was in the eleventh grade, in our literature class, we studied David Zaritsky’s Above the Sun, a book that depicts the ways of life at the Novardok yeshiva (a Rabbinical School that operated in Eastern Europe from the end of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century). At first, I abhorred the depictions. I felt as though there was nothing more remote from me, a young, life-loving sixteen-year-old, than this ascetic method that demanded of its students almost absolute abstention from worldly pleasures. However, a few lessons later, after I became acquainted with Novardok’s strange exercises for Tikkun Midot (repairing one’s soul), I began feeling as though this method was actually made especially for me. The exercises, which were meant to make the young yeshiva boys immune to hostile public opinion, included performing unusual and outrageous acts; the young boys were sent to busy shops to ask the shopkeepers for products they did not keep: a nail at the grocery store, a shirt at the tavern, a chicken at the carpenter’s, milk at the poultry keeper’s, and radish at the pharmacy. The words “to procure radish at a pharmacy” enchanted me. I realized that they could be my way out, that I could use them to become a free person. Because even then, and despite my young age, I knew for certain that the orthodox-religious world was not for me and that I would have to leave it. I had no doubts about the act of leaving itself, but I knew there was one thing standing between me and the freedom I longed for: the need to be loved and liked, to be part of society. Thus, the Novardok exercises became a constitutive method in my life and I practiced them every time I planned to do something that would be considered irregular and unusual in orthodox-religious society. Sometimes, when a certain act brought about especially severe reactions, I would withstand the denunciating looks and quietly whisper to myself: to procure radish at a pharmacy, to procure radish at a pharmacy, to procure radish at a pharmacy.
YOCHI BRANDES To Procure Radish at Pharmacy, 2010 C-print 34 x 34 inches (86.36 x 86.36 cm) Edition of 6 18
We all overrate the value of truth. “He is a man of truth,” we say about one who is too lazy, or too rude, to coat the harsh reality with a good and benefiting lie. And the lie itself? It is of course unjustifiably slandered. And here it is, the lie that makes the world go around! A Jewish proverb claims that if people were to speak only truth for one whole day, the world will be in ruins by the end of that day. And no wonder. The lie is the glue which binds life’s fragments, it is what heals the unsightly wounds gaped by the truth. And indeed, even in the Ten Commandments, the forbiddance of the lie is strange and evasive: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” it reads. It was well understood that humanity would not be able to endure a sweeping “Thou shall not lie”. And what else is written there? “Thy neighbor” they emphasize, as the biggest lies are told to our most beloved persons. And the bigger the love, the bigger the lie. I am currently at a point in my life where the person closest to me demands of me not to lie to him. Ever. When he asked that of me I promised him I will try, and he hugged me and called me “darling”. Two minutes later I found myself lying to him, shamelessly, with a kind smile, just the way he likes it. I have no doubt that, contrary to what is accepted, we pay a much greater price for telling the truth than for telling lies. I do not see any reason to stop lying, but I have no problem re-promising it to one who asks nicely.
SAHRA BLAU No More Lying, 2010
C-print 34 x 33 inches (86.36 x 83.82 cm) Edition of 6 20
Conquered Imprisoned Forgotten Possessed Ostracized Denied Coerced Repossessed Accused Deprived Excluded Isolated Repressed Exiled Hated Murdered
NIDAA KHOURY Spine, 2010
C-print 34 x 26-1/2 inches (86.36 x 67.31 cm) Edition of 6 22
Shedding my Shame The Shame that wrapped me sinceâ€Ś Childhood Clinging to my body, my soul, my mind Befitting me like a second skin Made to measure Till I thought it to be me And I was ashamed of my very Existence. But Shame was also My shield. My wall.
Years passed, I grew But Shame remained In its measurements With me inside Slightly hunched Closed And my soul whispers That it is not I After all It is the Shame Due to It I cannot truly Be Shedding my Shame To be born again
HADAR GALRON Shedding My Shame, 2010
C-print 34 x 34 inches (86.36 x 86.36 cm) Edition of 6 24
What the hell are we doing here in the boiling Middle East, when we could have been living peacefully for the last 180 years in our own cool state, IsraIsland, near Niagara Falls in America? No wars, no bloodshed, no Arab-Israeli conflict… We could have “dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree”, as the Bible says. Such a state was indeed once a reality at hand. On September 15, 1825, seventy years before Herzl envisioned a Jewish State in Palestine, Mordechai Manuel Noah, a famous Jewish diplomat, journalist and playwright, inaugurated his American-Jewish safe haven on an Indian island in the Niagara River. Its “Independence Day” is also my birthday. The date is what drew my attention to this forgotten historical episode to begin with. In the novel, IsraIsland (Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel, 2005), I recreated an alternative State for the Jewish people, envisioning a “What If ” fantasy. What if the Jewish leaders in Europe had not rejected Noah’s breakthrough plan? Would there have been a Zionist movement at all? Could the Holocaust have been prevented? Would Israel have come into existence? And the Hebrew language - this ancient tongue that I am so crazy about and in which I write - would it have been revived at all? IsraIsland is not a mere fantasy for me and the “What If ” question is at the core of my biography, for I could have easily been an American. My family was split in 1920 when my grandfather Gabriel Hertzig emigrated from Europe to The Promised Land across the Atlantic, abandoning his wife and small baby. In New York Gabriel became a successful broker, led an alternate life with another woman, and our family was torn apart. Back in Europe, the abandoned baby - my father, Itzhak Artzi, rescued my grandmother from the death transports and then devoted his entire life to the Zionist cause, in total contrast to his estranged father, for whom the Land of Israel had never been an option and the Jewish prayer for “Next year in Jerusalem” was but a hollow utterance. When I was five years old Grandpa suddenly arrived in Israel, an American stranger in an elegant suit and silk tie, the likes of whom were rarely seen in our locale. In Becoming Gershona (Viking Penguin, 1990) I wrote, “And I didn’t even know I had a grandfather.” The reason he was seeking refuge in the bosom of the family he had deserted years ago was that his mistress in New York left him when he became blind. Some might call it “poetic justice”. This family reunion was far from a Hollywood-style happy ending. On the contrary. The old scars were bleeding again, creating a clash of identities in our fragile Israeli household. As I walked the streets of Tel Aviv with my blind grandfather, describing in detail every new building and every new tree planted in the sand, he could not stop talking about Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building that reach the sky. Picture us: a patriotic young girl, a “built in” Zionist, arguing feverishly with an old blind man in Yinglish mixed with Hebrew, trying to prove to the foreigner from the Diaspora that Israel is the one and only place for us. During our daily strolls, I used his blindness to create a totally different version of Tel Aviv - made just for him. I owe my grandfather the first tutorials in inventing an alternative reality and becoming an author. My imaginary Tel Aviv was so much more glamorous than the real one. I went out of my way to compete with his much-admired New York. When I myself came to live in New York in the late 1980s, accompanying my husband Noam, who had become the Israeli Consul for Cultural Affairs in the US, I went straight to the Lower East Side to look for my grandfather’s house on Norfolk Street. His synagogue was still there but the old Jewish neighborhood was totally changed. Strangely enough, I felt at home in New York. Grandpa’s vivid stories made it so familiar as if I had lived there all my life. Later, in New York Hospital on the East River, my twins were born - two American citizens - Gabriel’s dream come true. I even named my newborn baby after him: “Neemdor-Gabriel.” As much as I love New York, the sun-scorched island in the Middle East is forever engraved on the map of my soul in Hebrew letters. In IsraIsland, I obliterated the Hebrew, making it a forgotten tongue, tucked somewhere in the linguistic department for extinct languages. What a paradox! For me Hebrew is and always was my true homeland. It molded my identity and made me who I am. Only in this ancient language can my true self fully bloom, in either its beauty or its ugliness. One evening Noam and I were invited to an event on Broadway in honor of Yiddish. Some of America’s most distinguished actors, mostly non-Jews, were praising the old language, which for them symbolized the peak of Jewish culture. Unlike the applauding audience, I was sitting in the dark, sad and miserable. I spent the entire night writing a letter to Joe Papp, the legendary producer-director who had organized the event. I told him that if he lived in Israel he would have been producing Shakespeare in the Park on the banks of the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv… Hebrew, not Yiddish, is the language of the Jewish people, I declared, and its awakening after a long coma is the most exciting event in contemporary Jewish culture. It was as if I was continuing the old debate with my grandfather’s ghost. The final words of my letter ignited IsraIsland. To the man who was born with the name Yoseph Papirofsky and whose parents, like my own grandfather, chose America as their promised land, I had written: We Fuck in Hebrew – We Die in Hebrew!
NAVA SEMEL We Fuck in Hebrew, We Die in Hebrew, 2010 C-print 34 x 33-1/2 inches (86.36 x 85.09 cm) Edition of 6 26
Many years ago, in a land cold and far away, in a beautiful ancient city, there was a house. There, each and every day, walked a little girl, meticulously dressed in a dark-blue apron adorned with a white collar, from her home in the modern quarter of the city, through bustling streets and magical public gardens, to the school, named after a Polish poet: Theopil Lenartovich. A teacher with a scowling expression would greet her and a class of gentile girls stood there – with their arms crossed, their thumbs cross-shaped – praying loudly: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The little girl, her arms at the sides of her body, stood somewhat sheepishly, comprehending the other girls’ stares as directed at her as she stood in silence and thoughts ran through her head. On Saturdays the girl does not attend school. On Saturdays and on Jewish holidays a special air permeates her home: in the morning, Dad is covered in a prayer shawl, and during the day, he is serene and appeased. He is jesting, as if he does not have a care in the world. Mom is dreamy and she hums known melodies. She puts on her most beautiful clothes and walks by foot – so as not to violate the sanctity of Shabath – to visit her parents and the rest of the family. The girl accompanies her. They saunter alongside the Vistula River, next to a large beautiful palace, the residency of kings of Poland for generations. At the feet of the palace live the grandparents, in the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Mom explains that the quarter is named after king Kazimierz, who was kind to the Jewish people, protected them from the riotous mob, and granted them with rights. The girl listens and keeps quiet - and thoughts run through her head. Grandpa sits at grandma’s house, blue eyed and silver-bearded. He speaks to them in Yiddish and the girl does not understand a single word. The uncles and aunts converse and argue with one another. Here there are religious and non-religious, Zionists and non-Zionists. But above all, they are cosmopolitans. The girl senses contradictions in the adults’ conversations: Cosmopolitans or outsiders? The girl ponders what she hears – and thoughts run through her head. And then, like a thousand earthshaking thunders, a single dreadful word penetrates the consciousness: War! And it is too late to flee, the childhood world collapses, crumbles, never to be the same again. Bombardments, fatal and wounded casualties… and already the Germans march in the city streets and transform it into the capital of the occupied territory. Now, the most common derogatory word is “juden”, the second accompanying word is “verboten”, and all is forbidden for the Jews. The girl no longer studies. She is expelled from school. Now she stands in long queues for some food. She must encourage her broken and degraded parents. Their property had been plundered. They were removed from their apartment. The uncles and aunts have dispersed. The atrocious hand of the assassins got hold of everyone. They are placed in the ghetto. How could the ghetto walls grow in this beautiful civilized city, the girl ponders. And in the ghetto – famine, typhus, plague, and lice. People are sent to the unknown and do not return. Their children are left, afflicted and deserted. The girl, rapidly grown, gathers the little ones and cares for them in the ghetto, but not for long. She does not succeed in rescuing them. Soon she is separated from the children, and before her eyes the children are executed. The young girl is left by herself in the ghetto, but the ghetto is being terminated, men and women are being separated. The route is set: they are sent to a torture camp, then to Auschwitz, to the selections, to the gas. Here there is no god. That term is bankrupt. All of humanity is bankrupt. In a horrid death march to Germany the mother and sister drop next to her, and she does not have the strength to support them. In Bergen-Belsen, Mom dies before her eyes. At the same time, Dad is killed in the horror camp of Mauthausen. And then the British enter the camp, and someone says in a sorrowful voice: “The war is over”. Thus. Now comes the hardest moment. How to reconnect to the world, which – contrary to every expectation – did not stand still. How to get back to life? The girl is sevenfold dead and that bag of bones needs to be reborn. “I have only known how to tell of myself ” – by Rachel the poetess
MIRIAM AKAVIA I Have Only Known How To Tell of Myself, 2010 C-print 34 x 30-1/2 inches (86.36 x 77.47 cm) Edition of 6 28
On one of the recent Saturdays, I was spending time at the pool with Noa, my nine year old daughter. In the showers, on a white bench as in the photograph, sat an elderly woman of seventy or seventy-five, leaning over her bare white belly. A greenish bathing cap, already dry, as if long forgotten after swimming, was stretched negligently over her head. An olive colored T-shirt covered her breasts, which were resting on the swollen belly. Her underpants were rolled down her thighs, next to the knees, revealing sparse pubic hair, and her shins, with the veins and the indentations, looked like two rolls of raw meat. So she sat, her chin stuck to her chest, her lips pulled downwards with extreme concentration, and with her slender fingers she dug her navel, and gently cleaned it for a long while, as if no one is watching her, as if she is in the privacy of her own room. Noa was combing her hair in front of the mirror, after dressing up in one of the designated booths. I searched her gaze to see if she too had noticed the woman through the mirror, and if the thought that some day she might look like that, frightens her. My daughter seemed focused on her beautiful face, made slightly pink by the sun, and on her slender upright body in the mauve top. I calculated the age difference between my daughter and me, in comparison with the difference between the woman and me, and realized that I am closer to the woman. In body as well. When we exited I asked Noa what she thought of the older women dressing in the showers. “I think they are in a girl environment, and feel comfortable to do what they need to.” “And the older women, with the fallen belly and veins in the legs, do you pity them, or does that seem natural to you?” “It’s natural, because their time has passed.” “And can it be that at some point, in many, many years to come, you too will look like that?” “Maybe so,” she said pensively, “but I’d still be ashamed.” I thought of the relations among body, time, and shame, and of the constant movement of each of us women on that triangle, how it always interests us in other women. Today I know what I could not understand when I was at my daughter’s age, and I looked with fright at those women of the showers: Body and time cannot be fought, but shame can be dispensed of. It is in fact the only freedom, the only strength, the only possible revolt. And perhaps that is why I write about it, about the body.
JUDITH KATZIR The Woman in the Showers, 2010 C-print 22 x 34-1/2 inches (55.88 x 87.63 cm) Edition of 6 30
Tongue is the vehicle through which I move about in the world, sometimes hesitantly, sometimes assuredly, but always adjoined to it, as if without it the possibility of deciphering one’s being, dividing it into its constituting elements, structuring and deconstructing their interactions, will be lost. Then all that is outside of me, and perhaps even I, will turn into a single surface of myself, ancient and primal. Everything will transform into an absolute omniscient one. And that one impartible truth, that godly presence, I will dissect into a human reading, rip by rip, and each will have a name. Among them will be an incessant movement of words over words, and behind them, tall buildings, obscure from eyesight, laws and sub-laws and everything combined creates a compound molecule which enables me to understand the world, to communicate with it, and to travel within it with the assurance of one who knows what is about to happen, what will be done, how it will shape its reality. Tongue is simultaneously my prison, my warden, my liberation. I imagine myself a favored citizen, privileged on account of my pursuit of words and its combinations. Naturally, all this is illusory. Tongue governs all humans, grips all of us to an equal extent. Before it we are alike as before God itself. And precisely like God itself here is a mysterious and ingenious construction created by Homo-sapiens. Utterly abstracted yet fiercely potent, tangible, earthly and as indispensable as one of the senses at the very least. Vision perhaps? Touch? Its presence in our life is so essential that without it, existence is no more than that of an animal or of an imaginative conduct of an invalid in a muffled and dark world. As benefiting and useful as possibly conceived, it is my bridge to the outside. With its aid I report myself, mediate myself, unfurl my inner presence to the eyes of my partner in dialogue. At the same time it is also the wall partitioning myself and nameless subtleties, myself and silences packed with meaning, myself and a metaphysical state of being in which tongue has no use. But what cannot be spoken in words is not worthy of words, is that not so? As abstract as God itself, it governs even those who choose silence, monks, mutes, lunatics. About thirty letters of the alphabet are thrown into the wonder machine that transforms them into that witchcraft which enables us to convey to one another our internal experiences, be they the most complex or intricate. Tongue is the marvel of the human world, the invention that makes us bow our heads in face of man’s gift of imagination. Musing over it will carry us to spheres of mystery and wonder, comparable only to an intrinsically pious experience, but here – lo and behold – all of it is unruly profaneness, visionary, unreservedly human. Tongue is my instrument. A private playroom I have fenced for myself. Dungeons and dragons, merry-go-rounds and decks of cards, snakes and ladders. Tongue is my arena, the mirror room, the majestic maze of amusement. I move within its valleys, entangling, savoring, tripping, and jubilating; at times stumbling. But mostly I conduct myself within it with a hidden sense of proprietorship, act as within my own, a little impudent lady who has found an estate to inhabit. Tongue is inseparable from me as an old habit or a limb. Even when I sleep a black dreamless sleep it is always there. Sometimes it is as trivial as an old cutting board, sometimes it glitters with the festivity of festal patent-leather shoes. At times I forget it. Let it be by my side, mundane, taken for granted, but when I recall it I charge it with all my might, with the ostentatiousness of a beggar burrowing through his chest of gold coins – all this is mine, mine, mine. I will do as I wish with my treasures! Tongue is my astral body, the “A” of my noetic existence, the metronome beat of my consciousness. Fin
ALONA KIMHI Tongue, 2010
C-print 22 x 30 inches (55.88 x 76.20 cm) Edition of 6 32
“The father died after learning that the two eldest brothers, Sheiaa and Hetzkel, wanted to declare bankruptcy. He covered himself with the prayer shawl, spoke not a word, folded his arms, grew very pale, lied down in bed, fell asleep and died. Tzvi dreamt of him every night for years. Later on, in his room on the roof, in Haifa, he painted him, on a board, in the middle of the night. The father was never photographed, and the painting, drawn out of a dream, is incredibly precise. Tzvi always said that dad carried himself like a person with a sack of salt on his back. In the dream the father seemed different. There he died in the prayer shawl and remained in a standing prayer. As large as he was, he fitted himself in a narrow bed in the kitchen, and got up in the dark, went straight from slumber into prayer. But Tzvi, with a head fair from light and skin pale in the morning, would get up, straight from slumber into the plain fear of the day and of the end. As he hastily put on his clothes and slammed the door, he ran, day by day, in the heat as he would in the pouring rain, to the nearest coffeehouse on the adjacent street. No one knew that in the morning he could not be spoken to; in the morning he does not belong, not even to himself. Tzvi, I say, perhaps you can wait the rain out. But that cannot be done. In the morning it cannot be done. He is in such a rush that he forgets his coat. He has no umbrella and he will get soaked. He is even unable to hide for a moment underneath the awning. A mountain collapses on him in the morning and he runs down Balfour Street.” From “The Other Power” (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad) I began writing at a very young age, while in the school for employees’ children at Nesher. I wrote short stories instead of essays, stories that the teacher read aloud in class. Once I wrote a story of an old man, who at night, in the dark, is looking for his slippers and fears he might die without the slippers. The teacher read the story in class and the children, naturally, sneered a little at me. But I had a good female friend who told me: Yudinke, you mustn’t listen to them, write stories, write stories, and to this day I write stories. In my latest book, The Empty Place, there is a story entitled “The Garden of Loneliness”. The story tells of the garden in front of where I now live, and of the lonely elderly who always move about there, escorted by Filipinos, and how it tears one’s heart apart to see them so lonely. Truth be told, I have been writing in all these years about people’s loneliness, as loneliness is a topic which occupied me and troubled me all years long, since my childhood. After the passing away of my beloved Tzvi, I moved about in the house as within a ghost world. The paintings were on the wall, beautiful, fresh, as if painted just now, and he was in the ground. And then I began thinking of the power of the spirit, which is immeasurably fiercer and eternal compared to human life, short and harsh. I felt thus then as there is not a single moment in the world in which Beethoven is not being played or Kafka being read, and they have died so many years ago. But their creation remains and will outlast them for generations to come. And that perhaps is the power of the human spirit. I choose to have my picture taken alongside a text from The Other Power, a very thin book I wrote for seven years, and it was grueling writing. I am photographed next to a portrait of mine painted by my beloved Tzvi, when I was sitting on the straw chair on the balcony next to his atelier, a balcony which faced the sea. And I looked at the sea and I thought how eternal the sea is, and human life is so brief and finite.
YEHUDIT HENDEL The Other Power, 2010
C-print 34 x 33 inches (86.36 x 83.82 cm) Edition of 6 34
There, within me, dwells a woman, a woman I have carried for many years on my back. And bit by bit she turned the inside of me into a corpse. Yes, I once believed the woman’s spirit could fly out of her black dress, and that a day will come and I will have a meeting with her spirit outside her dress, and there I will be able to enter her world and forget myself and chase her like a little girl. I even believed that a day will come and the wind will blow and carry us both on a white horse and break the silence that was born around and within us. I wished, if only for a single moment, to hear your voice. But the silence always lingered there. As if, you are hiding a secret under your dress… I admit I am pregnant with you. You are the only thing growing within me, and I still fail to understand how you could survive inside of me in spite of all the changes I am going through, all the emotions. And you are still there… You have transformed into an odorless body, and an odorless body is the same as a mute body. To that, my culture wished to transform me, to an odorless body. You know, sometimes I ask myself, how old is your silence? It took me a long time to realize that the secret that was between us is the silence, and that the woman who dwells within me is I, my little spirit, that we both are the same woman, that we are inseparable. And when I realized, I had lost my voice…only then did I respect your monastery of silence.
RAIDA ADON Fragile, 2010
C-print 34 x 37 inches (86.36 x 93.98 cm) Edition of 6 36
I first heard of “and then” on a ride from New York to Philadelphia in a rented car, many years ago. A filmmaker friend told me about it for most of our way there and it seems that on our way back as well. And then is the title of a Japanese film she had seen, by a director whose name I forgot. My filmmaker friend said repeatedly that it is the most beautiful film she had ever seen. The most beautiful. Her eyes sparkled with a peculiar and overwhelming luster when she talked about the film, and in her voice were unmistakable craving and longing. For years to follow, these cravings were latent within me. The yearning, the longing, and the peculiar sparkle in her eyes in the dark of the car. I do not remember a thing of what she told me of the film. Nor did I ever watch it. That title, “And then”, resided within me like an unfulfilled promised and perhaps it ought not to be fulfilled, like an IOU which at some point I might need to and wish to redeem. The phrase, “and then,” links the infinitude of stories preceding it to the infinitude of stories following it. It is gaped at space, at the future, at the undetermined fate. The phrase, “and then,” is in fact a mouth wide open. For years I had a mind and desire to write a book entitled “And then.” Once or twice I attempted pasting “and then” onto my writings. It did not do. Friends laughed at me: What kind of a title is “And then?” Smallish, almost invisible, transparent…what kind of a title is that? In a very profound, most private, most intimate manner, it seems to me I should be judged by my non-writings, not by my writings. “And then” belongs to that sphere, of wishes, passions, imagination, the unwritten stories… Why “and then” nonetheless? Perhaps due to that childish fallacy, of me hearing something unheard by others, seeing something which appears to others as casual and devoid of meaning, like the “and then”. It may be that this childish fallacy folds a matter of significance, not of the essence of writing but of its generator. Perhaps that is why, “and then.”
RONIT MATALON And Then, 2010
C-print 22 x 33-1/2 inches (55.88 x 85.09 cm) Edition of 6 38
“Yes. It is true what mom says of me – I am truly weird, and now, in boot camp, I realize that. Realize how important it is for me to be free differently. In my way. The estranged.” From: The novel “Rose of Lebanon” (Kinneret Zmora Bitan) This otherness of mine, which is a blessing I have been cursed with, or a curse I have been blessed with, constitutes me from childhood until this day. For years, I did not believe in it, though it had believed in me. Had chosen me. A dad who is a Holocaust survivor and an immigrant by law who never stopped fighting for survival, and a mom shaped like a human mist, have granted me a childhood of infancy within another family, then onwards to an abnormal adolescence which endeavored differently even further – to the journey of literature… Writing manners change, play, intersect and battle one another; each book different from its predecessor. After each book my otherness is further exposed. And it is not an otherness inclusive of haughtiness or wretchedness. It is a garden-bed life that has hidden me in, and of it I grew to be ever aloof. Alone. But free. …taking nothing for granted. Defying and shouting even out of shyness (which has diminished) and innocence (which remains). And not fearing the word, no. On the contrary, utterly believing in it. Because highly wishing it would be different, better for instance, and with much more liberty and responsibility. And no matter how much more effort is required… “There are still possibilities for me, surely, but under which rock do they lie,” wrote Kafka. That became my way of life. Way of writing. Then I open a fresh screen. I create another tale, another world. A different world. Estranged and strange to myself primarily. Otherwise I am without existence.
LEA AINI Different, 2010
C-print 34 x 30-1/2 inches (86.36 x 77.47 cm) Edition of 6 40
“Sexual intercourse is not intrinsically banal, though pop-culture magazines like Cosmopolitan suggest that it is. It is intense, often desperate. The internal landscape is violent upheaval, a wild and ultimately cruel disregard of human individuality, a brazen, high-strung wanting that is absolute and imperishable, not attached to personality, no respecter of boundaries. It ends not in sexual climax but in a human tragedy of failed relationships, vengeful bitterness in an aftermath of sexual heat, personality corroded by too much endurance of undesired, habitual intercourse, conflict, a wearing away of vitality in the numbness finally of habit or compulsion or the loneliness of separation. The experience of fucking changes people, so that they are often lost to each other and slowly they are lost to human hope. The pain of having been exposed, so naked, leads to hiding, self-protection, building barricades, emotional and physical alienation or violent retaliation against anyone who gets too close…” From: Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin I have read somewhere that Andrea Dworkin is a feminist, that feminists everywhere are ashamed to be called feminists because of her. Whereas I, when first ran across her book Intercourse, knew I have never read any text which spoke to me to such an extent, moved me so, and I dare say “awakened” me. Perhaps it is ungenial to say so, but no masterpiece had appealed to me as this book did. The book Intercourse made me reconsider private experiences in my past, and to be aware of the more complex aspects of exploitation that are every woman’s share. In the western world, the masculine taming of women is cleverly disguised so much that the exploited woman is certain that she is in control of her emotional-sexual life up to a point of an imaginary role reversal, which is the most perilous.
NANO SHABTAI Intercourse, 2010
C-print 34 x 34 inches (86.36 x 86.36 cm) Edition of 6 42
I am the daughter of a captive. A while ago, I said so to a taxi driver. It was the morning of the day of when the abductees were returned from Lebanon, a day that brought agony, tension, hope, and finally dismay upon an entire country. When I told the driver that morning that I am the daughter of a captive, in an attempt to unload some of the tension on my way to functioning at work, he turned around and asked, “Which one of them?” Only after he asked did I realize that I neglected to add: “Former.” I am the daughter of a former captive. It may be that captivity is a matter that remains with you for life, even when you are in the second circle, that is, when you were not a captive yourself but was merely born to a captive. I was born a fortnight after my father returned from the Egyptian captivity. My father, Dr. Nahum Werbin, was the doctor of Fort Pier in the Yom Kippur War. Fort Pier was one of the only posts that survived the Egyptian attack on Bar-Lev Line. After a week of fighting, when almost everyone in the post were already wounded, one of them severely, and my father ran out of medications, headquarters said over the radio to try and hang in there but no aid arrived – my father requested to surrender. The radio-name of his post was Ranen. When I grew up, I read the correspondence between Ranen and the headquarters on those final days. The headquarters wanted Fort Pier to set an example, to be the second Mezadah. My father wanted to save his wounded from certain death. Finally the army’s head commanders said to the dozens of young soldiers at the fort: Ranen, it is up to you. It was not an easy decision. When my father returned from captivity after a month and a half, with all of his wounded living, he was transferred to an interrogation facility in Zichron Ya’akov. I waited. I had already spent nine long months in my mother’s belly, who was at home in pregnancy bed rest (anxieties and tensions are not so recommended during pre-labor), and yet I waited. I waited for him to pass the interrogations and come back home, and then I was born, on the tenth month. When I grew up, I found a yellowing paper clipping in one of the albums. Next to a photo of my parents embracing me in the hospital, it read: The eldest daughter of the Fort Pier Doctor and his wife, a Cameri Theatre actress, is named after the post’s radio-name, Rana. So that captivity, in my case, granted me my name, the name given to me by my father. An unusual name, which its meaning I have been asked to explain over and over throughout the years, on every first day of school, on every first encounter. Captivity, in my case, remained and will remain with me for life. And yet, in our house captivity was no story. That is, we all knew that father was a captive, but we almost never talked of it. Perhaps unlike other families of captives, with us it was clear and definite – captivity did not traumatize my father. He is not post-traumatic, he has no nightmares, he does not receive compensation from the state, he is not interested in talking of the topic in classes of battle heritage, and he hardly tells some child-appropriate anecdotes when children ask him to (even when the children are thirty year olds). As years went by I became distressed. If captivity is not trauma material, if there is no need to tell the story of captivity – what does constitute a worthy story? What is worth recalling? What can be cried over? What is worth agonizing over? What is a permissible cause for waking up in the middle of the night? What can be barely recovered from, when in front of you is a living example of a person fully recovered from an event unparalleled in the daily life of the average person? As years went by a realization crystallized in me – my father sets high standards for resilience of spirit. How does he accomplish that? I have not a clue. Towards the photoshoot, I checked for the first time in my life the lexical meaning of my name. I was surprised to learn that “Rana” means not only sang and expressed joy but also cried and overcame by grief. That is the second meaning, the less familiar, of the name my father gave me. The hidden meaning. The people of my generation, it seems to me, are brought up to externalize: To express every emotion, to unload frustrations, to share; to demand collective responsibility, to underestimate personal responsibility, almost every matter is because of the parents, under the responsibility of the state, society’s fault, the establishment, other people. But sometime hell is in fact the self. And in front of this self there is only you, who can or cannot cope. How can the spirit be trained to endure such a challenge? I realize now – my father gave me a name symbolizing the triumph of the strength of the human spirit. In this land we live in, one can only hope that the future will not summon harder challenges than that. Whatever those may be, I hope that I too will be able, as my father, to be one of the strong spirits, one that overcomes.
RANA WERBIN Rana: Verb, 2010
C-print 34 x 37 inches (86.36 x 93.98 cm) Edition of 6 44
Lobes of pansy sway in the wind Unlike the trees in still In and outside themselves this eve The land deserted us And soon its wail will break from the houseâ€™s back Of the icy load of the armchair, the piano If not for the trees, the sand dune would dissipate If not for the childhood tree I would have drifted long ago as well Face is what you present as you step outside. But behind the face lies another face, the face which leads a complex relation with you. In fact, the unseen face. As the face which you carry on your body is not the face which you take outside with you or see in the mirror, where does it come from? From the gaze of the other, from memory, or image. From the thought which in fact is ever conducted behind the facial curtain. Therefore photography composes information which you can never grant yourself with, as by being your own reflection they are a reflection of the other gazing at you. Even of you gazing at yourself, as the observer is the other you within yourself. Who am I is the question which face hides and reveals at the same time. The pending unresolved question is what the meaning of the term the true face is.
NURIT ZARCHI If Not, 2010
C-print 22 x 33-1/2 inches (55.88 x 85.09 cm) Edition of 6 46
“Sleepless Jew rolls over in doubt: A sea bream – a salmon – a trout –” From: “A vocal piece for a Jew, a fish and a choir” Since the release of my book, “A vocal piece for a Jew, a fish and a choir” (including, among others, a poem of that title), many people ask me, “What’s your deal with fish?” And indeed, fishes are mentioned in many of my poems, a fish surfaces on the book’s title and on its cover, a giant tuna is missing her prophet in the poem, “Jonah’s travel”. Tuna, St. Peter’s fish, catfish, hake, eel, trout, salmon, Nile perch, carp, sardine – all have visited my poems, and I must have neglected someone. No, I was not born a Pisces. The explanation, as explanations to such queries often are, parts into several minor accounts. 1. Firstly, already from the days of Jonah the prophet himself the fish accompanies the Jew, even when the latter abuses him and grinds him into a ludicrous fish cake with a carrot stuck in it. Secondly, the fish is reminiscent of the Greek world, the Mediterranean, of paddling amidst the islands while absent-mindedly giving birth to a grand culture. Thirdly, the fish comprised an important symbol in early Christianity, before the cross did away with all pagan symbols. Between the animated fish to the even more vivacious man resurrected by the Humanists, the already-abstracted silhouette of the cross (and in fact not “already”, but abstract to begin with, as the Romans used to crucify over a T) was, it would seem, necessitated, like the remnant of a skeleton which was passed on to the progressive vertebrate by his gentle and ancient finned second-great-grandfather. Fourthly (a reason stemming from all previous ones), the fish is the most important animal in the poetry of Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996), one of my favorite and most influential poets. In fact, this list of refuted reasons is remarkably suggestive of Brodsky’s list of reasons for arriving in Istanbul (in the mass “Escape from Istanbul”), only his reasons are more elegant than my own. Well, I’ll go on. Fifthly, fish taste really, really good. Sixthly, and chiefly: I was born in Lithuania. Lithuania is a state of many lakes, rivers, streams, and it also has a sea (the Baltic). Therefore, fishing (along with basketball) is the national Lithuanian sport, a vital part of its folk culture. The question whether the fisherman loves fish is indeed problematic – the next time you pay a visit to the other side, ask my favorite pianist, Glenn Gould (1932-1982), who used to row in the lake in midsummer wearing a massive coat, woolen hat and gloves, talking the swimsuit wearing fishermen into abandoning fishing, almost like how Jesus did, though for different reasons. Still the rank of fishermen in Lithuania is so high, that perhaps Gould would forgive us. Like most men in Lithuania, my father was a highly dedicated amateur fisherman. God knows how he lived close to twenty years after he immigrated to Israel without his favorite pastime. Someday I will ask him, perhaps on the twentieth anniversary. Honestly? God knows how we all live within this faulty geography, which has robbed us of the healthful flux between childhood and maturity. All of my fish reside, therefore, in my secret childhood basket. One day I’ll swim after them.
SIVAN BESKIN My Life with Fish, 2010
C-print 34 x 28 inches (86.36 x 71.12 cm) Edition of 6 48
The air stood in the corridor, all exited to the land. Leaning over the veranda you queried What else must one endure / Last summer On that in nominate lane, You spoke your dream of youth which are no sin â€œ Do you know what follows death? â€œ And I know too what follows me. / It is hard to prove the precision of sorrow When knowing what is best, When not swung By no woman Gazing At her old age.
VAAN NGUYEN The Air Stood in the Corridor, 2010 C-print 34 x 38-1/2inches (86.36 x 97.79 cm) Edition of 6 50
When I was little I would shut my eyes and pray I would succeed, if only for a moment, to be opened within someone else’s eyes, to enter his consciousness and observe the world from his point of view. That seemed to me as the ultimate, the finest of all wishes – to transcend the perspective that is always exclusive to a given moment, always limited. I was shocked to learn (at the age of three?) that when you look into the other’s pupil, you find yourself there. Every encounter with another person is for me always accompanied by the question – “What does he see now?” Writing is an attempt to find an answer to this question. “I always want eyes” I too always wanted eyes. And if possible, let they be of others. This sentence is ambiguous as it depends on the direction of the gaze. Did I want eyes to look at me? Or else did I want another person’s eyes for me to look through? I think I always wanted both possibilities, but for years I thought them contradictory. That it is necessary to choose between being the observer and being the subject of the gaze. Writing is an intimate matter but it also a communicative one. As years passed, I found that the right definition for me is that I want to be observed when looking, want to show what I see. “I always want eyes” Perach, the heroine of my book “Mud”, has one glass eye which remains always open. In the course of my research for the book, I met with teen boys and girls who grew up with no home. When asked “How does one sleep on the street?” one of the girls replied “Always with one eye open.” Writing is always with one eye open outwards and one eye open inwards. Always a combination of vigilance and dream, of edgy readiness and absolute emancipation. And if to return to Nathan Zach “I always want eyes to see The beauty of the world and to praise this beauty of Marvel with no deformity and to praise He who made it beautiful to praise And full, so full, beauty…”
SHIRI ARTZI Eyes, 2010
C-print 22 x 33-1/2 inches (55.88 x 85.09 cm) Edition of 6 52
Stage direction. Written in small letters under the complete lines that enable the actor to choose a path, to weep, to seek; like a see-through scaffold, the stage direction is fixed, determining. Dictating action. Everyone exit. Hamlet is left alone. What is meant by “exit” is towards backstage, and not to sunny open fields, but exit to the back of the arena where magic occurs, awaiting the stage direction to return. Polonius, the Queen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sipping tea while Hamlet is left alone with a drowsy crowd, cursing his mother’s new husband. The trumpets’ sound awakens the snoring man on row fifty. His dream had been interrupted. He looks at the disguised people on stage, trying to realize to which act he awoke to, and what had happened. Stage direction instructs him to feel his pocket, the cell phone lights the time, five minutes to intermission. He looks at his wife looking through the binoculars, seeking a direction for his arm, which will be wrapped around her shoulder, and she, engrossed in Hamlet’s face. Discerning the glue gluing his beard to his face, the glue gluing her life to the life of her chosen man, hardening between them layer over layer. The trumpets’ sound brings everyone back on stage. Hamlet is no longer alone. It is hard for her to capture him with the binoculars; she loses sight of him and is drawn into memory: Once, when she studied acting, the teacher paired them and gave scenes from Hamlet. She got the scene in which Hamlet reprimands his mother. Her Hamlet was great sized, and when they went on stage he reproached her and she thought all the while how could it be that out of her belly came such a giant Hamlet. She bursts out laughing. Her husband asks her if something ridiculous happened on stage, an actor forgot a word, a light fell onto the set, something of the sort, which can be grasped. She returns to the binoculars, turning and turning until a frame sharpens. Polonius is dead. Stabbed behind a sheet. The actor will not stay for the bowing down. His cousin is getting married tonight. Trumpets’ sound awakes her husband. Intermission. He would want to leave, and she to stay. It has been like this for many years. They are subscribed.
SHIRA GEFFEN Trumpet’ Sound. Everyone Exit. Except Hamlet, 2010 C-print 22 x 33-1/2 inches (55.88 x 85.09 cm) Edition of 6 54
ARTISTS Margaret Adams Dickson Beall Laura Beard Elaine Blatt Martin Brief Lisa K. Blatt Shawn Burkard Bunny Burson Carmon Colangelo Alex Couwenberg Jill Downen Yvette Drury Dubinsky Corey Escoto Beverly Fishman
Damon Freed William Griffin Joan Hall Takashi Horisaki Kim Humphries Kelley Johnson Howard Jones (Estate) Chris Kahler Bill Kohn (Estate) Leslie Laskey Sandra Marchewa Peter Marcus Genell Miller Patricia Olynyk
Gary Passanise Robert Pettus Daniel Raedeke Chris Rubin de la Borbolla Frank Schwaiger Charles Schwall Christina Shmigel Thomas Sleet Buzz Spector Lindsey Stouffer Cindy Tower Mario Trejo Ken Worley