Visiting an art museum is always a venture into a world of enchantment, but the
Israel Museum’s exhibition “Magic Lantern: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary
Art” takes that enchanting experience a giant step further.
together 18 contemporary works from the museum’s collection that had never been
displayed there before, the exhibition hinges on illusion. Employing such modern
methods as video art and manipulated photography, sometimes accompanied by sound
or light, the pieces coalesce to create a fascinating forum of sheer fantasy.
And what you see is not always what you “get” – at first glance. Be they
landscapes, interiors or objects in a space, the focus is on the aura of
In fact, it was the aura of a burning candle that sparked the
idea for this exhibition in the first place, says curator Susan
British-born artist Jonathan Monk’s piece entitled Candle Film
(2009) is a six-hour and 20-minute film projected onto a white wall that
chronicles the lifespan of a burning candle, from a thick, tall candlestick to a
dwindling mass of melted wax.
The exhibit is comprised of a film
projector, the image on the wall and eight 47-minute reels of 16-mm. film in
sliver containers, which must be changed regularly by a technician to keep the
sequence going to its ultimate conclusion – and then begun again from the start.
By filming a static object as it changes slowly over time, Monk explores such
issues as being and identity in relation to history, as well as the actual
process of creating art.
Inspired by this idea, Landau looked through the
list of the museum’s recent acquisitions to find pieces that would fit into the
theme of dream, fantasy, mystique and illusion.
Before she knew it, she
had come up with the 18 pieces that comprise this beguiling
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As the museum’s text puts it, “What we think we know about
the real world assumes the diffuse contours of something
Another work in film, Per Speculum
(2006), is an eight-minute
35-mm. piece by Albanian-born artist Adrian Paci. In it, we see a group of
children frolicking in a picturesque landscape in England.
understand that we are seeing them through a full-length mirror set up
A boy then aims a slingshot right at us, it looks like, releases
a small stone, and the glass shatters into pieces, along with their
The children then take pieces of the mirror and, sitting in
various parts of a large tree, dazzle us with sparkles of reflected
We no longer see any children at all, only glimmers of flashing
light emanating from a tree. We know what we know – but we see what we see. And
therein lies an essence of illusion.
In the eight-minute film piece on
three screens entitled Going Places Sitting Down
(2004), Japanese-born artist
Hiraki Sawa takes us on a complete flight of fancy – and we never have to leave
the house. Using the interior of an English country home as his setting and
video animation as his technique, Sawa morphs ordinary furnishings into magical
elements that float, fly and sail by on a fluid stream of imagination in this
delightful experience of sheer fantasy.
As for pieces in the exhibition
that don’t move in themselves but move the viewer all the same, Israeli artist
Maya Zack’s piece Living Room
(2009) is a good example. Using computer
visualization on four panels, she recreated the interior of an apartment in
Berlin just before it was abandoned by the owner, who fled to Palestine in
Based on current interviews with him and his description of his
childhood home, Zack constructed four black-andwhite large-scale photographs of
his home in pre-war Germany.
There is no way of knowing what the interior
actually looked like, but the memories of the man and the imagination of the
artist combine to give it a life of its own – before the ensuing onslaught of
death and destruction.
The title itself also speaks volumes. No matter
what may have happened to the apartment during the Holocaust, the man’s
recollections and the artist’s work have perpetuated this place as a “living”
In the piece entitled Tree for Too One, The Keys, Window
Israeli artist Ilit Azoulay worked the other way around. She took thousands of
photographs of various objects from various angles, from which she composed an
integrated whole. At first glance, the two large unframed prints on the walls
look like shelves in a home, filled with a random collection of objects –
scissors, stones, snapshots, souvenirs, a pair of jeans hanging from a
But, of course, nothing was random, and the artist, as the
accompanying description explains, is proposing “a reading of reality in which
multiple layers of being, memory and association exist simultaneously in one
Another reading of reality is experienced in German-born
artist Ulla von Brandenburg’s work entitled Five Folded Curtains
(2008). In this
installation that consists of wooden floorboards and a series of five thick,
rich red drapes, the viewer is free to walk amid the maze of curtains. But with
every step, is he behind the curtain or entering center stage? Is he in the
wings or in the spotlight? A stagehand, a star or a bit player? If all the
world’s a stage, then we are at some point any and all of them. So at every
given moment, we’d better mind our actions because you never know who’s
And speaking of watching, as you meander through the exhibition
watch out for USborn Tony Matelli’s bronze sculpture entitled Abandon (Double
(2008). Part of an ongoing project called “Weeds,” this intrepid
little hand-painted plant looks so real, it seems to be growing out of a corner
of the floor.
These and other fascinating pieces comprise the Israel
Museum’s “Magic Lantern” exhibition. While a picture may be worth a thousand
words, experiencing these works of wonder firsthand is worth far more than a
pageful of descriptions.The exhibition is on display at the Israel
Museum, Jerusalem until April 30.
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