Territorial art

A Jewish Museum exhibit in New York reflects Israel as a land often divided against itself.

March 12, 2007 10:05
3 minute read.
landsl art 88 298

landsl art 88 298. (photo credit: )


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Beginning with 16 colors and thousands of color cells, a map gradually transforms in Israeli artist Shirley Shor's new work. The blinking color cells conquer neighboring areas until only two colors occupy the whole stage. Sound familiar? Shor compares her latest installation project "Landslide", a colorful animation of a shape shifting map, which will be presented in conjunction with a new exhibit of Israeli photography and video art at the Jewish Museum in New York, to the game of Risk, where the goal is to have your army control all the territories on the map. The real-time animation of a shape shifting map projected on a sandbox, is at once a project about formalistic lines and shapes, the artists said, as it is a metaphor for territorial conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. The project operates on an infinite loop in which each cycle produces a different map and a different visual experience, to reflect how easily borders change. When two colors ultimately dominate the grid, the program suspends and resumes from scratch. The sandbox refers both to the Middle Eastern landscape and the place where "conflict first begins," said Shor, who watched her 3-year-old son fighting over shovels with another boy in the sandbox. But the project, which combines custom software, video projection and sculptural element, aims to make clear how easily borders shift. "Here the map is created and recreated while you watch it," said Shor. "We are all competing over the sandbox, one space, but the lines can shift." In her recent work Shor said she is "shifting from the idea of line as a limit, and from the act of transgression to the idea of liquid architecture that consists of lines in motion." This concept can also be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where borders are at the crux, according to Shor: "Coexistence can happen if you move the lines all the time." Shor's installation will be presented as part of the exhibit "Dateline Israel: New Photography and Video Art," on view at the Jewish Museum from March 10-August 5, which will show work from nearly two dozen artists who view Israel as a "society that has outgrown the utopian model of its settlements and statehood," according to exhibit curators. Contested land, religious ideology, and the rights and needs of Israelis and Palestinians are some of the subjects negotiated in the various works, and many reflect a nation often divided against itself. National identity and geographical conflict are explored in the work of Amit Goren, Miki Kratsman, Boaz Arad, and Yaron Leshem. The land itself-its sacred sites and contested zones-are embedded in the landscape photography of Wim Wenders, Sharon Ya'ari and Ori Gersht, all focus on how human intervention has changed the landscape. In Motti Mizrachi's photograph "Blinking", a large selection of news clips are manipulated on the computer, such that the result is a complete abstraction. But on closer look it becomes possible to identify images through the abstraction such as an Israeli flag, and a swastika. His message, a critique of the media, according to exhibit curator Susan Tumarkin Goodman, is "the overload of news which overwhelms us all." The exhibit is only the latest in a string of exhibits on Israeli art at the Jewish Museum. Three earlier exhibits, presented at 10 year intervals, serve as precursors to the current "Dateline Israel". The current exhibit reflects a shift in medium and message and the emergence of Israeli artists on an international arena. Sixteen of the artists are Israeli, and seven are from other parts of the world. Though the exhibit in no way avoids politics, the work is varied and speaks to the multitude of experiences that Israel as a country invokes. "Each work has so many underlying messages, you really can't say the political is dominant," said Goodman. Goodman pointed to a landscape photograph by Sharon Ya'ari which focuses on the trees used to build Noah's ark, and at the same time suggests the invasive nature of a pipe that cuts through a landscape. "We try very hard to be sensitive and our agenda is not to represent any political agenda," said Goodman. "But artists are always going to have strong feelings about local issues, and they express them in order to better the situation, which I think is something to keep in mind."

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