Literally, spreading out means to open, extend over a large area, or unfold. The supposedly generous gesture of laying open, exposing material or ideational spaces is in many cases no more than a functional semblance, which results in visual as well as cultural and political flatness. Thus, for example, in a common and well-known practice such as mapping, graphic means and technological aids are used to create a purportedly realistic spatial representation. However, in this instance, although the extraction of a three-dimensional image from a two-dimensional abstract surface lends the latter a seemingly scientific-objective actuality, more often than not it serves heteronymous purposes.
Orit Adar Bechar
In a practice simulating relief printing, Orit Adar Bechar spreads out on plywood sheets excerpts of the transcribed interviews from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah: The Complete Text of the Acclaimed Holocaust Film.
The minimalist documentary inventory – sites, voices, and closeups of facial expressions – used by Lanzmann in his film to reconstruct past events and the industrial-like procedures of the Nazi apparatus, is further minimized once the cinematic image disappears; as a mere text, the interview is reduced to a technical inquiry about the where, how many, and who was first. The book’s pages serve Adar Bechar as a super-image. In her work, she erases most of the text leaving mainly questions and only some of the answers. The questions set in relief print and the answers sealed with mortar engender a paradoxical hybrid of a relief map, or knowledge-producing tool for spatial orientation, and a silent map, which is supposed to test that knowledge, or elicit an answer based on another sphere of knowledge. The questions’ erasure not only blurs the film’s time- and location-based spreading out, but also flattens it, reducing it to a continuous present, leaving the questions unanswered also for those confronting them now.
In a bricolage-like process, Eden Bannet spreads out an assortment of images, forms, symbols and signs on the display space’s walls. It’s by chance that she had happened upon the tools and materials for their realization, most of which are designated for quintessentially mundane usages rather than for artmaking. On the continuum between randomly found street raw materials and contents that are deciphered only in retrospect, she somewhat disciplines chance by using these images and materials as well as constructs a dialectical sculptural environment, contrasting flatness with bulkiness, looseness with tightness, freedom with restraint, slackness with elegance, fixation with motion.
Like an autarkic, self-sustained system, Bannet sometimes transfers objects from one exhibition to the other. Her treatment of the gaze and the motion therefore begins with the passage from one space to another and continues with dynamic spreading out, which constantly offers new readings.
In his 2017 installation The Studio, Dorian Gottlieb seeks to represent artist Amédéé Ozenfant’s studio designed by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier in 1922. According to him, by reconstructing a detail from Ozenfant’s studio window in 1:1 scale, he has attempted to express the contemporary yearning for the ideal “perfect studio,” to examine the problematics of the translocation of modern architecture, and to reflect on the perceptions of original-copy relationship in modernist and post-modernist discourses. In this installation, Gottlieb expands his treatment of architectural images by exchanging the formalist visual language of his opaque, vision-blocking photographic works for architectural spreading out, whose perspective invites one’s gaze in and restores the image’s material aspect.
In his 1974 work Druksland, Michael Druks transferred the features of Israel’s topographical map onto his own face, intertwining the biographical and the political. The charting of his face with topographical elevations lends it a three-dimensional aspect and by spreading it out on a sheet of paper it becomes a schematic surface. Across his forehead, the artist inscribed “OCCUPIED TERRITORY,” as if it was an indelible mark of Cain, suggesting perhaps a geographical area, whose occupation is physical, but its appropriation is mental-ideological as well as implying a concealed political-economic connection between the control over mapping mechanisms and the control over the sources of knowledge.
Michal Tobias’s Sabil Abu Nabbut (towards reconstruction) is the first action in her research of the structure of the sabil (public water fountain) as a silenced object, severed from its original function.
Originally, the sabil provided potable water for travelers in periods and areas where water was scarce. Sabil Abu Nabbut on Derech Ben Tsvi in Tel Aviv is an Ottoman structure built by the Governor of Jaffa Muhammad Aga a-Shami (nicknamed “Abu Nabbut” – the master of the bludgeon) in 1815 on the main road from Jaffa to Lydda and Jerusalem, a location that made it an important meeting point of wayfarers. In the course of the years, and especially after 1948, the sabil was continuously vandalized by public authorities and private individuals: its windows were sealed with cement and latter-day stones, its faucets were ripped, the jars and crescents which decorated its domes were looted, and it was the object of other actions that damaged it structurally and aesthetically. As if in an act of restoration, Tobias used the archaeological technique of numbering stones and re-mapped the sabil’s blind façade to emphasize its silencing.
On the gallery’s white wall, Orly Sever spread out a slice of peeled tar as though it was a remainder of a material or an action. She peeled the slice from another wall, which she had covered with layers of tar. The work may be read as a plucked trace of a previous ravishing monumental work, in which she had pitch blackened the entire display space. In that work, the tar retained its conventional functions of opaque industrial sealer impenetrable to light, liquid and air. In the later work, on the other hand, it becomes a kind of organic breathing slough, inscribed with the signs of the wall from which it was stripped.
In Implosion, Doron Fishbein presents a cross-like origami net of a black box. Spread on the lower inner facet of this iconic shape, is Édouard Manet’s Dead Toreador. It seems therefore that closing the box would bury the toreador in a black “coffin,” transforming him from a victimizer to a victim.
Another work of Fishbein, 64 Mediterranean Permutations, consists of three cubes rotating around one central axis. The varying positions of the painted vertical facets combine into 64 different images. These images deal with social-cultural Mediterranean/Israeli apparati, whereas their mechanistic visuality alludes to control mechanism.
Similarly to pre-modern practices, which portrayed man as a gridded cartographic space, Ami Raviv imprints body and memory on his invented topographic maps, which he spreads out on the floor. Bearing in mind the early days of mapping, in which the human body was projected onto space, as evinced by human-based units of measure (e.g. a digit and a foot), the seemingly contradiction between a map as a two-dimensional object and a three-dimensional organic body may dissipate. Moreover, a map can never truthfully represent the spatial data of a given geographical area in their entirety, and hence requires subjective or even opportunistic sifting of the available information.
In his “Video Constructions,” Buky Schwartz (1932-2000) redefines the language of local sculpture through his synthesis of the terms space, still life, motion, and perspective.
By using video as a tool that unifies various spatial components and supplements or substitutes the human eye, Schwartz spreads out basic geometric shapes, constructs spatial paradoxes and looks into the hierarchical relationships between the ideational sublime and the illusory sensual wondering how the chaotic can become structured and the abstract – real.
By entwining, plaiting and weaving threads, ribbons and tassels, Ester Schneider built on the wall an architectural assemblage made of basic geometric shapes. Calling it Suprematist Wall, she unifies as well as counterposes the object and its utilitarian value to stripping it of its practical objective. Whether a divider that, instead of hiding, its slits lure one to glimpse at the forbidden, a blackout curtain, or a parochet separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy place, its mere installation on a wall and even more so its anesthetization negates its purpose and contents turning it, according to Kazimir Malevich’s definition, into a pure form.
The awning fabric and zippers, used as raw materials by Yaara Zach in her untitled work from 2011, refer on the one hand to motifs of construction and temporary division and on the other hand allude to the human body’s boundaries and limitations. The zipper is represented in the work as a drawn line, a boundary, or a threshold signifying, if not a call for action, then at least its possibility alongside potential exposure and deconstruction. Closed and succinct as the work appears, the very presence of the zippers suggests possibilities for spreading it out and for imagining interacting with it.