A solo show of Israeli video artist Eden Auerbach Ofrat opened last week at the ZAZ10TS Gallery in Times Square.
A video-art and installation artist, Auerbach Ofrat deals with cultural archetypes, symbols and contradictory and complementary existential poles, while relying on both literary and mythical sources. Her work is done either through playing with given mythological elements and symbols or by creating her own “myths.”
In her new video work “Project Melissa,” Auerbach Ofrat enters a columbarium cave (a cave used in ancient times for burial ceremonies, as well as for raising pigeons).
Auerbach Ofrat carries wooden logs, metal poles and two bull skeletons, from which she constructs a flying machine. When operated, the skeleton’s ribs turn into mechanical wings upon which thousands of bees are released, an echo of an ancient ritual. The death of the bull (a symbol of masculine aggression) begets the spirit’s ascension in the form of a swarm of bees, symbolizing life being born out of death. In Greek mythology, Melissa was considered a messenger of the gods; in Greek, it means a bee.
“One of these traditions was a sacred bee-making ceremony from the 10th century, with precise instructions that include sealing a house for three weeks with the body of an ox that was killed especially for the ceremony.”Eden Auerbach Ofrat
Source of Auerbach Ofrat's inspiration
A graduate of Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, Auerbach Ofrat also studied at London’s Goldsmith’s College and won an excellence scholarship from the America-Israel Foundation. She was awarded the “Young Artist Award” by Israel’s Culture, Education and Sports Ministry, and her work has been on display in several Israeli museums.
Auerbach Ofrat filmed the work in Israel, near the Beit Guvrin caves. “The initial idea originated from the bee image that I was interested in, which led me to research old traditions,” the artist said.
“One of these traditions was a sacred bee-making ceremony from the 10th century, with precise instructions that include sealing a house for three weeks with the body of an ox that was killed especially for the ceremony.” For the artist, this text connected to the idea of the play between life and death that she dealt with in previous works.
In the video, the artist photographs herself performing the ritual, but not as a priest. She performs it as if it were some kind of military operation. Hence the name – “Project Melissa.” The static, dispersed bones are turned into a new “living” animal, a flying machine that produces movement and creates the bees.
The video work is currently being presented at the ZAZ10TS gallery in Manhattan, next to still photographs from the video, so that passersby in Times Square can see it from the street.
ZAZ10TS is an ongoing cultural initiative that integrates art into the office building at 10 Times Square. Conceived by Tzili Charney, the ZAZ10TS gallery space employs the building’s façade, lobby interior, and immediate environment to bring art and culture to the building’s workers, visitors and passersby.
The solo show at the ZAZ10TS GALLERY runs until December 12.