The current group of exhibitions at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art features nine solo exhibitions of artists who combine photography and sculptural installation in various ways, to deliver such examples of the scene of events to our consciousness – not as a current news report, but as thoughtful representations, whose real impact is the product of the artists’ extended observation, prolonged stay, and actions at the site in question.
Oded Balilty: Front – Curator: Aya Lurie
After years of intensive work as a press photographer in the service of Associated Press (AP), which documents arenas of uprising, armed struggles, demonstrations and conflicts on a daily basis – for which he also won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2007 – Oded Balilty (b. 1979) found himself in the grip of a vague emotional block that prevented him from returning to these places.
Balilty returns to specific places where he had previously covered news events as a press photographer and suspends at the site itself a white backdrop of the type used in photography studios, thereby isolating the element photographed from its surroundings. Balilty invokes the specter of memory by manifesting a defense mechanism that works by detachment and erasure.
Nurit Yarden: Homeland – Curator: Aya Lurie
Nurit Yarden’s Homeland body of work traces her wandering through the Israeli public sphere. At the heart of these works is a prolonged observation of a particular place or object that stands for a charged event or social or political phenomenon, presented as an allegorical moral tale. Incendiary issues are treated by the photographer with an intimacy that enables a direct gaze and promotes awareness.
Eldad Rafaeli: On the Scene – Curator: Aya Lurie
Eldad Rafaeli, one of Israel’s leading press photographers, has returned to scenes of events that he has been documenting for more than two decades in the Occupied Territories, Gaza, and the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. These are images of devastated landscapes, abandoned and scorched. Rafaeli returns to the scene of events as though it were a battlefield, from which he must collect anyone that was left behind – following the trail of signs etched in the ground, evidence of a tragic story that repeats itself again and again, in an endless and predetermined cycle.
Hadar Saifan: Motel – Curator: Aya Lurie
In this, her first solo museum exhibition, Hadar Saifan presents an installation comprising a surface made up of inflatable air mattresses, covered with silver-backed thermal blankets, and images modeled on actual maps used for evacuating civilians to bomb shelters in times of emergency. These serve her to highlight the absurdity of what is perceived to be normal routine in Israel, where the reality of life under perennial threat is accepted as a matter of course.
Micha Ullman: Semi-Detached – Curator: Aya Lurie
Micha Ullman, one of Israel’s greatest artists and an Israel Prize laureate, has created an original, exciting project, especially for the Herzliya Museum. At the heart of the installation lies an architectural drawing of the ground floor of the artist’s house – a functional two-family semi-detached house – traced with shallow berms of red Hamra soil. The house, a vulnerable organic unit whose relationship to its neighbor is governed by the connected vessels law, becomes allegorical both to the human body and to the political narrative of the land where we live. Consequently, the work points to the need to maintain good neighborly relations. Visitors are invited to enter the house and spend time in it, determining their own route as they walk in and around the rooms.
Sharon Poliakine: Route 531 – Curator: Aya Lurie
On the museum’s concrete wall Sharon Poliakine presents treated rebar iron which she collected from the building site of the paving of Route 531 – one of the largest ever in the Greater Tel Aviv region, which wrought a dramatic and sudden change upon the Sharon region landscape. Poliakine monitored the transformation and documented it in hundreds of photographs and dozens of sketches. These rebar works render present a process – manifested in the signs of life left behind by the construction workers in the field, as well as by the artist’s actions in the studio before they froze and turned into objects.
Haimi Fenichel: Mound – Curator: Aya Lurie
Fenichel produces a space that resembles a building site, with an overwhelming sense of impending ruin. He plays with materials, swapping them around to create new combinations of image and substance, to produce hybrids that are at once familiar and alien. His works at the exhibition draw on two types of site, each steeped in Zionist-Israeli symbolism: a construction site and an archeological dig, linking the distant past with the present and future. Fenichel – and the viewers with him – are fated to gaze upon Israeli reality well after the pathos of its values of labor and heroism had evaporated and grown weary, and all that remains is a vision made up of fragments of quotations, remnants, and tributes to a culture that had sunk into the dust.
Inward Gaze – Avraham Hay: New Wing, 1997–1999 – Curator: Aya Lurie
This exhibition is part of the “Inward Gaze” series of shows, aimed at an exploration of the Herzliya Museum itself, its heritage and unique architecture. The photographs show the process of construction of the museum’s new wing in 1998–1999. Throughout the museum’s renovation and expansion, Hay would show up on a regular basis, set up his tripod, and take pictures from precisely the same viewpoints. This documentation offers a time capsule that combines the appearance of a construction site with the image of ruins. In the process, it points to the museum’s symbolic site, which is aimed at the commemoration, as a recurring cycle of destruction and creation.
Gaston Zvi Ickowicz: Whirlwind – Curator: Gilad Reich
The “Whirlwind” project by Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, comprised of photography and video works, was created in a series of visits by the artist to the northern part of the “Gaza Envelope” area over the past few months. The works on view document lands that had been set on fire by “burning kites” near the kibbutzim Or Haner and Gvar’am, and the ruins of the Palestinian villages of Simsim, Najd and Al-Mansurah on these lands. Ickowicz’s unique photography, informed by a combination of emotional ambivalence and critical distance, presents the land as an archeological mound and renders present the invisible forces at work in the local arena.