Stop Motion

Participating Artists:

Lihi Turgeman  /   Tal Frank  /   Ran Zagursky  /   Orly Hummel  /   Hinda Weiss  /   Dana Levy  /   Boaz Aharonovitch

The works featured in the exhibition Stop Motion are all concerned with arrested movement and with capturing moments that mark a process of change, dissolution or disappearance. Frozen motion appears, in these works, as a formal element that attests to a certain mood or emotional state; a charged moment embodying a fragile equilibrium between movement and stasis, between vitality and danger, and between playfulness and pleasure and threatening, painful experiences. Most of these works are concerned with nature or with the human body, and examine the tension between life and death. Yet although they examine the freezing of climactic moments charged with various kinds of tensions and contradictions, they are characterized by a lack of pathos, and are not overtly expressive. Taken together, these qualities seem to allude to a particular cultural and historical mood, which is tied to a specific place.  

A number of these works are concerned with preserving traces that allude to the presence of the body, or which challenge its physical limits and the laws of gravity. So, for instance, the body absent from Orly Hummel's image of an empty swing frozen in motion suggests a child's fall. In this manner, the work blurs the distinction between playfulness and enjoyment and between pain and injury. The figures in the works ofHinda Weiss and Lihi Turgeman seem to be celebrating the human body's range of movement and its temporary triumph over the force of gravity. At the same time, they bespeak a state of physical strain bordering on disintegration. In Turgeman's painting, it is difficult to determine whether the figure is soaring upwards or falling down. The expressive painterly language, which is characterized by blurred brushstrokes, underscores the figure's charged emotional state, and endows it with the appearance of a fleeting phantom. In Weiss' photograph, which is set on the roof of an old apartment building in Tel Aviv, a young man is seen performing a handstand atop a fragile construction, which is composed of a stool placed upon a chair. This work seems to address a dynamic, motion-filled urban lifestyle that is constantly teetering on the edge. It seems as if the body hoisted into the air will soon lose its balance, resulting in a fall or an even worse disaster, or at the very least with a return to a desolate urban existence among peeling rooftops. Another photograph by Weiss is concerned with the frozen motion of a body calling for help in the dark. This scene seems to similarly unfold in a typical Tel Aviv location: a non-descript rented room. Standing in this dark space, Weiss used "slow exposure" – a technique usually employed in order to blur motion – while using a flashlight to spell out the word "help" on one of the walls. The unmade bed in the background is still imprinted with the memory of the human body tossing and turning in it a moment earlier and of its hurried departure, which stands out in contrast to the slow hand movement tracing the desperate call for help. Boaz Aharonovitch is similarly concerned with the frozen motion of the human body – in this case, the movement of a couple making love. The slow exposure transforms the dynamic movement into an almost sculptural relief, lending the bodies a dense and static appearance. Here too, pleasure and pain, life and death, seem to be fused together at the moment of sexual climax, as the two figures desperately cling to one another.

Another group of works bespeaks the tension between life and death as it is expressed in nature – most often in environments marked by some form of human intervention. Here too, as in some of the previously discussed works, one may detect the traces of an absent human presence. Ran Zagursky used different parts of a base drum and a collection of dead butterflies to create an object that fuses together ephemeral beauty and pain: the tip of the drumstick, which is attached to the pedal, is surrounded by an arrangement of inert butterflies whose wings resemble petals, so that they appear like a cluster of flowers. The act of pressing down on the pedal, an energetic act emblematic of an experience of catharsis and power, was frozen just prior to the inevitable destruction of this fragile assemblage. The motionless, decontextualized pedal, moreover, alludes to the absence of the human body necessary to its activation. Tal Frank's sculptural installation similarly fuses together life and death in an allegorical scene that combines an image from the natural world and human artifice, and calls to mind contemporary ecological concerns. A white origami swan floats on a stream of black liquid, which is slowly disappearing as it drips out of an iron trough. The installation freezes the dripping liquid and the expansion of the puddle formed by the fallen drops, while alluding to the imminent disappearance of the stream. This work playfully alludes to an existential state of dissolution; its beauty and sensual quality are combined with a streamlined, cool graphic language that produces a sense of conceptual distancing. The material transformation of liquid into solid, and of a live swan into an origami still-life, creates a double experience of estrangement that precludes any form of pathos. Dana Levy's video work similarly fuses life and death, and confronts the natural world with the human thrust to order it. The deathlike silence of mounted animals, encased in glass dioramas in a natural history museum, is ruptured by a flock of white pigeons invading the museum. In this manner, the work creates a sense of tension between the birds in flight, which represent nature, and between the lifeless exhibits, which reflect man's concern with ordering and categorizing knowledge – a human pursuit that involves sterilization and death.

As noted above, the defining tone of most of the works featured in this exhibition is introverted and restrained, so that the arrested appears to be related to a state of emotional numbness. The drama remains imprisoned internally. In this sense, this group of works seems to represent a specific zeitgeist, which may be understood in the context of earlier art historical instances of frozen motion. In ancient Grecian Art, for instance, arrested motion served to glorify the human body or to capture heroic and mythical events. During the Renaissance, frozen movement was used to underscore moments of religious and visionary ecstasy, while during the Baroque period such instances of arrested motion sometimes had an erotic and highly emotional resonance. In the twentieth century, Futurism centered on the representation of movement as emblematic of the dynamism of the modern age. One may also note the expressionist interest in freezing charged bodily gestures, which bespeak desire and a modern form of existential angst. Action painting and abstract art are similarly concerned with the static preservation of dynamic motion. In the domain of photography, the 1950s saw the rise of the term "the decisive moment," which refers to the photographer's concern with freezing a moment of critical importance. During the 1960s and 1970s, Body Art and Performance Art were concerned, in an often subversive manner, with capturing traces of bodily presence and movement. In each of these instances, the interest in arrested motion may all be related to a specific world view, or zeitgeist.  

The current exhibition similarly points, through the presentation of a small group of works, to a contemporary local zeitgeist centered on a sense of quiet skepticism. The collision of contradictory forces embodied in these works, for the most part, in the private sphere; nevertheless, the figures they capture lose their individual traits, and come to serve as more general, symbolic representations. Even when a specific social concern – such as the ecology or the estrangement characteristic of urban life – is hinted at, it remains an encoded allusion, which centers on an experience of absence. In the context of a fragile reality that seems to be teetering on the verge of collapse, this exhibition bespeaks an elusive, dual stance, devoid of pathos and sentimentality.  

 

Ravit Harari

13/01/2011 - 11/02/2011