Every time you go to the airport, they ask the same question: “Did you pack alone?” Multimedia artist David Tartakover, winner of the Israel Prize for design, answers this question at the exhibition of his latest collection, “I Packed Alone.”
“Everybody carries his own suitcase, and you are the only one who knows what is in the suitcase. It could be love, it could be hate, it could be exploring places and all kinds of relationships with people,” says Tartakover.
The multimedia exhibition, on display at the Contemporary by Golconda art gallery in Tel Aviv until February 23, is a combination of three collections of Tartakover’s work compiled from three different decades.
Communication designer, graphic designer and lecturer at Bezalel Academy are just a few of the titles Tartakover puts before his name, and each of these areas of expertise shines brightly in “I Packed Alone.”
The exhibition consists of a series of multimedia works, including 12 identical photographs of a suitcase, each altered with a different medium.
One with part of a world map, one covered in stamps from around the world, some embellished with masking tape.
Personal baggage is something most people do not want opened, risking a confrontation with the pieces of the past. The suitcases may be aesthetically pleasing, but the real mystery is what is inside, the artist says. “Everything you imagine. Maybe your old love or disappointment, maybe unfulfilled dreams, wounds, scars, hopes, desires.”
No suitcase in the collection is entirely covered with Tartakover’s enhancements; each has some bare leather visible, illustrating the tension between what people conceal and what they expose to those around them.
He says the photographs represent more than individuality. They also symbolize his connection to the Jews “as a people that travels though a world of vast alienation.”
A more personal representation of the idea of alienation is a self-portrait, in which Tartakover’s face is wrapped in masking tape, with tiny slits that his eyes peek through. “Just like you don’t see the whole suitcase because of some of the stamps, here I hide myself.
Everything is hidden by different ways of treating the surface,“ he explains.
During the process of developing this idea, he says he nearly choked himself trying to cover his face in tape. “In the end, I decided to get a friend to help me with it,” he laughs.
Each part of the exhibition is connected to one another conceptually, which was why he included a group of digitally edited photographs of graphic wartime street scenes in Israel. “Everyone in these scenes is wearing a vest that says their job: police, paramedic…My vest says ‘artist,’” he says, pointing to the digitally installed version of himself. He selected the photos from the archives of various photojournalists and Photoshopped himself into the images. The collection was exhibited worldwide in 2005. His intentions were to show empathy with the victims and to illustrate the idea that everyone sees a situation differently, and it becomes part of their personal baggage, or suitcase.
Each photograph has a green banner across with text stating the date and location of the scene and the words “I’m here.” He says the green line symbolizes police tape warning civilians away from a crime scene and the border between Israel and Palestine from 1949 until 1967.
Being an Israeli has a lot to do with Tartakover’s inspiration. The final segment of the exhibition is a video projected onto the floor. The simple but powerful film is a looped recording of him flipping through the pages of an illustrative book he created. The wordless book demonstrates his reaction to the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, where many soldiers were killed. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day War.
“Many people died, and these were my reactions and feelings. No words are necessary. The images speak for themselves,” he says.
It is projected beneath the feet of gallery patrons because he wanted people to see the book the way he did when he created it, thus giving it a more personal perspective and experience.
All in all, Tartakover’s work is a statement of individuality and personal impression. In his attempt to capture an image of human nature, his collection is his compelling account of what it means to be an artist and an Israeli Jew.
“I represent Israel as a humanistic place, as a place where there is freedom of speech. I represent myself as an artist, as an individual and as a person,” he says.
His narrative collection tells the story of what it is to be a person, and there is nothing more personal than opening up someone’s suitcase and taking a peek inside.
“I Packed Alone” is on display at the Contemporary by Golconda art gallery, 117 Herzl Street, Tel Aviv, until February 23.