NEOKRAFT

Photographed by Ami Erlich

NEOKRAFT

Dorit Bialer, Yemima Fink, Gabriel S Moses, Lior Wilentzik

With the support of Goethe-Institut, host of the Berlin Dayz events.

Curated by Yham Hameiri

September 7 – October 12, 2013

 

“Europe that so frequently shaped and taught and starved and killed us looks at us today, Jews and Arabs, Sephardic and Ashkenazi, with a chilly detachment. However if we bear its marks Europe as well forcibly bears ours.”, writes Fania Oz-Salzberger in her book Israelis in Berlin.

The Die Asporas, whom which some of its members are participating in the exhibition, are a group of  young Israeli artists currently residing in Berlin, gathered around the shared experience of artists migrating from Israel to Berlin (a prominent phenomenon in the past few years), which acts as a cosmopolitan center. For them the distance from Israel allows an estranged as well as playful observation towards the concept of nationality and its related symbolisms – An alternative to the common way of dealing with the Germany-Israel relationship. Their project emphasizes Germany’s intercultural relations with Zionism and with Israeli art in its stylistic origins.

Besides of being all Israelis, members of the Die Asporas come from different backgrounds, graduating from various academic art schools from Israel, as well as from Europe, all suffering discomfort with the cultural opportunities Israel and its institutions are offering. For the members of this group, emigrating from Israel wasn’t much of a leave for the unknown, but rather a return to a homeland and to European roots.

Oz-Salzberger continues:

“From a helicopter’s eye view over Berlin, one can easily paint with intense colors this new picturesque European manifold [...] the heart of Europe; in a profound sense, the end of Europe. This is where the traces lead us, for this is Europe. Here is where some of the Israelis parents and grandparents came from. From here it is possible to evaluate the weight of the memories and strengths and desires and inclinations that Israelis have which are in fact not from here, nor from this continent.

For Israel in its first years, a warm and poor land of immigrants, Europe was the source of great longing and yearning. However today, as they fade, those longings and yearnings get mixed together: It has become difficult to distinguish between those missing the old Europe, the Beethovian, the Schubertian, the Balzacian, and those hanging in their home or office a picture of a blue lake and the snowy Alps, and sometimes, in the garage,  next to the lake and at the foot of the mountains a blonde woman from far away [...] Out of the map of the world, that continent takes a close look at us, from the side and from above, like a heavy crooked rooftop over the vast Mediterranean Sea.

And yet it seems Berlin creates quite the ambivalence:  on the one hand is the inherent tie with the beginning of Israeli art in the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts and its European traditions, as led by Boris Schatz and E.M Lilien. The latter taught and created art influenced by the Art Nouveau which was popular in the beginning of the century, a decorative style incorporating curved lines with flowers and plants. As for the former, Schatz’s vision was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement led by William Morris in the late 19th century. This design movement reacted against the second industrial revolution occurring at the time in England, which saw rapid industrial development revolving around science-based new technologies, by seeking and reviving the rural handicraft of furniture, textile etc. But none of this lasted much here in Israel. Despite Schatz’s attempts to promote such artistic objects while developing in the students a sense for beauty that would, as he stated, “lift their spirits from the lowliness of ugliness with which its’ absorbed in” – ornamentation and the rich European tradition of truth to material were eventually trampled by the Zionist movement. The artists in the group seem to express their longing for this loss. Furthermore, it is noteworthy to mention that for some of Die Asporas’ members Germany is as a matter of fact not only their artistic homeland but an ethnical one as well, with their parents being born and raised there; On the other hand, we must admit Israelis in Europe are still being treated as foreign, a middle-east Diaspora, which has its occidental reactions.

The exhibition, entitled NEOKRAFT, features what could be called digital craft artworks, in which the participants deal with the handmade while embracing the use of digital technology, utilizing digital tools yet still with the intention to follow the manual technique. The turn to digital is obviously related to the lack of training in the original technique, but this is also due to them being immigrants with a need to create – and so without the possibility to immediately satisfy every need, the laptop, according to Die Asporas‘ member Gabriel S. Moses, becomes the foreign artist’s best friend. What is created are new highly finished works of art, nonetheless while still maintaining a workmanlike presence.

And so, not much more than 100 years after its birth it seems Israeli art has made a hundred eighty degree turn: while just yesterday we were praising the historical return to Israel, today our artists are already halfway out the door. The Die Asporas group members, equipped with this sense of nomadic and a general confusion regarding their identity, create in their practice abstractions of the concept of oneness with artworks that express a perhaps oriental, perchance occidental view regarding the German culture, stemming from the lack of a true sense of belonging.

Confined on a ship, from which there is no escape [...] He has his truth and his homeland only in that fruitless expanse between two countries that cannot belong to him. – Michel Foucault

***

Dorit Bialer recreates an 18thcentury map of Berlin which instead of representing a geographical map, it represents an emotional map of human fears, posing them as an objective statistical information – A pseudoscientific reading of the terrain that on the one hand makes visible the emotional human condition; However on the other hand, at the same time, it is this artificial way of presenting it which is dehumanizing.

Gabriel S. Moses produces highly detailed illustrations with a meticulous technique that leaves the line between handicraft and digital work a blurred one. With chosen topics and a flamboyant execution that allow the viewer the reference to a mixture of well-known artistic styles, ranging from Japanese Manga to the artistic movements of the Fin de Siècle such as the Vienna Secession, the works create the impression of a traditional style while in fact being the product of an elusive digital adaptation.

Lior Wilentzik produces digital collages combining organic elements with geometric shapes based on German symbols, stripping them of their national connotations into formal components – perhaps as a gesture to modernist abstract art, perchance a decorative arrangement, with the intention to conceal their symbolism.

Yemima Fink explores document forging as an artistic practice. Throughout the history of the 20th century the authenticity of the German passport was a matter of life and death, with its kosherness being measured by the stylistic accuracy of the formal components. Fink takes this obsessive masterwork of fabrication to its extremes, turning it to a work of art saturated with abstractions rendering the bureaucratic procedure superfluous.

 

Yham Hameiri, September 2013

Translated by Dean Harel