Spinning the pottery wheel

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents Israeli video artist Ben Hagari’s new work, ‘Potter’s Will’

Ben Hagari (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ben Hagari
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s new exhibition, of the work Potter’s Will, 2015-16 by Israeli-born artist Ben Hagari, features an innovative sideby- side video and sculptural installation.
The work, which is on show through July 2 and is concurrently being exhibited at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, has received The 2015 Chami Fruchter Prize for an Emerging Israeli Video Artist from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
“This is the first time a collaboration of this kind has taken place in Israel, with one prize in two places, and it is important for an Israeli artist to get this international exposure” said Fruchter.
The intriguing exhibition displays a rotating pottery studio set that has been extracted from scenes in the adjacent film. In his video, Hagari focuses on the craft of pottery, and references ancient myths pertaining to the birth of the pot, the birth of man, creator and creation.
“In all of his films Hagari enacts various figures that transpire in space in a mechanical, inhuman or near-human manner. The figures perform a set of actions with their eyes shut, a hint at their subconscious, dreamlike, liberated state” said the curator of the exhibition, Anat Danon-Sivan.
Hagari’s trademark focus is especially marked in Potter’s Will, where Hagari emphasizes the relationship between the inanimate world and the animal world by delicately articulating the cyclical process of creation, where man is formed, emerges from the clay and in the end returns to an inanimate state.
The Potter’s Will exhibition space is separated into a film screening and installation, and in the video itself, Hagari forms a symbolic division into two worlds – a metaphoric heaven and hell. The first, the “upper world,” is modern and technical, containing a potter’s studio set, which is also the installation to the viewers’ right. The stage shows props, including a transistor radio, potter’s wheel, clay pots, ladder and the potter-creator (acted by renowned American potter Paul Chaleff).
Presented as a sanctuary, the potter’s studio stage rotates, as the potter molds the clay to create the first pot.
The camera plunges into the darkness of the spinning pot, and emerges to show the primeval “underworld” where the clay pot has been transformed into a human man who moves toward the fiery kiln. The film shows the crackling fire and the physical installation spins.
The rotating set was inspired by Hagari’s visit to Black Maria, the world’s first motion-picture studio, in New Jersey.
Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the kinetograph (the first motion-picture camera) and the kinetoscope (motion-picture viewing device), set up this unique studio in 1893 to shoot his first films. In the absence of sufficient artificial lighting, Edison built a revolving studio with an open roof that rotated on a circular track and moved according to the position of the sun to maximize use of natural light.
“Hagari’s attempt to return to a primal moment, through inversion of the traditional technology of the potter’s wheel, bears great likeness to Edison’s motivation and ingenuity” said Danon-Sivan.
For more info about the exhibit visit www.