- Duration of Activity: 2/07/2022
A white cone of cotton yarn, hand-spun in a traditional Ethiopian technique. In Ethiopia, weaving was kept for men while spinning was entrusted to women. This knowledge was passed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter, through observation and practice, through the body, through the senses. In Israel, this useful knowledge became redundant. Women are no longer spinning yarn. Men are no longer weaving. I hold the soft, white cone in my hand. It vibrates with the motion concealed within it – the alert movement of a skilled hand, a circle of spinning women constructing and deconstructing their every day through conversation.
Which traces of movement are branded into matter? How can the movement’s story be extracted from the space it no longer occupies? What gestures are created by the encounter of movement and constraint? These questions are the starting point of “Move Along,” an exhibition searching for the marks and traces imprinted by movement in space, matter, and experience.
Movement and its traces are central to all the works in this exhibition and thus act as its leitmotif. The exhibition invites the audience to observe the world through a kinetic lens generated by movement – of people, knowledge, tradition – and use it to understand the different works and the relationships between them.
In this exhibition, the movement has a specific context: the traces and marks belong to a human movement, a tangible body, human knowledge, and social manifestation in matter and space. The spaces hold the remains of matter (real or imagined) left behind after they were cleared of any human presence. The leftovers recount the stories of the people who roamed these spaces. However, this emptiness is neither final nor absolute; occasionally, it’s fleeting – a pause between one movement and the next.
The works also share another fundamental feature: they are all located in liminality. Some explore geographical boarders, others reside on the limit between different media, while others represent a social boundary or several layers of liminality in the local context. More than just a territory’s edge or a transition zone between One power’s control to that of another, a border is also a space of collision and potential. Residing in border zones may be accompanied by violence and duress; however, the border also lends an opportunity for encounters and interactions that cannot be accomplished in the stable center. Such existence is in an intermediary mode, an undetermined moment, which demands patience and occasional alertness.
Much has been written about the liminal essence of the trace: marking that which has been and that which is no more. The traces of movement in the exhibition proliferate the liminal space – they exist on different borders and are themselves liminal: they expose the different forces affecting the space, overt and covert powers that dictate the movement paths and what’s permitted and prohibited within it. Yet, this is not only a story about hierarchical power relations – who banished whom, who defeated whom – it’s also a story of an encounter, its material imprint, and the movement within it. Sometimes, the traces express an encounter between a few contrasting, contradicting, and complimenting movements or portray a place’s history, the people who passed through it, and the material, social, and economic conditions they had experienced.
The video Five studies by May Zarhi explores movement directly and explicitly. It joins dance, video, and animation in a multidisciplinary liminal space, in which the perspectives constantly change, alternating between echoing the viewing experience and that of performing. The work, which comprises five short visual studies or sketches of an encounter between a body, a camera, and a line, explores movement: the movement of one body – the body of a dancer moving in space, a skilled and trained body, well versed in the language of dance; the movement of the camera with the cameraman behind it as it relates to the dancer’s movement; the movement of the line, drawn by hand, frame by frame, in a painstaking technique called Rotoscoping, gradually transforming the accumulation of illustrated frames into flux. The adjoining of these three types of movement makes up the choreography of the piece.
In Tamar Getter’s video Our Stiffs, different media also converge into a repetitive movement. The source materials are films, paintings, photographs, and graphic works, brought to life using primitive animation. The materials are rejoined in new pseudo-motion sequences, accelerated until the picture flickers, or slowed down to a freeze-frame image. These fast and slow reassembled sequences are made to be perceived in a blink of an eye and are easily recognized, like highway billboards. This readability of the images is clashed head-on by sentences and words designed into them. You either see the images and cannot read the text, or you read the text but cannot see the image. The work occurs in this gap between the legible and the illegible. Getter’s choreography of the seven sequences charges each with a new meaning, and together they create a liminal space in which the objects move as if by centrifugal force, with the minor interventions of a non-advancing, non-progressing motion.
Nardeen Srouji’s sculpture, Titled, brings to the exhibition a suspended movement. The chapel-like object occupied by a figure with spread arms suffuses the Christian symbolism with secular meanings. At first glance, it alludes to the crucified Jesus, but a closer look reveals that it is, in fact, the skilled body of a swimmer as she takes off to begin the butterfly stroke. The frozen movement is charged by a flickering digital screening trapped inside the white chapel. Srouji was a professional swimmer who, with her father, co-founded a swimming school. Her family’s expectation of her to continue running the joint business collided with her own ambitions, creating an uncommon, complicated conflict within her. Like the image – hung between heaven and earth, between the sacred and the profane – Srouji’s position is ambivalent, loaded with the tensions and conflicting forces that many women face every day.
An interrupted flow creates different types of gestures. The rapture reveals the elements that make up the movement, inviting the viewers to rethink the familiar, and entertain new possibilities. Ala Haytham’s drawing series Inner Emotion suggest that a rapture doesn’t have to be violent. The Palestinian dance Dabke (not to be confused with Debka, a form of dance developed in kibbutzim during the 1940s) is deconstructed in her drawings into its elemental gestures. The traces of the dance are echoed in the still drawing; the dancers’ movement and the movement of the drawing hand assimilate into the delicate line sketched on a small piece of paper. During the last decades, Dabke has undergone a process of codification, from folk dance to a national symbol: from a dance performed by participants in familial gatherings to a dance with rules and prescribed choreography performed on stage by professional dance groups. The drawing series reacts to this process by presenting a type of movement notation. However, the code itself – the regulated drawings of each gesture – is represented by figures and moments reminiscent of its folk-dance origins and deep connection to the fabric of life it was born into. Dabke’s existence as a series of still images addresses the vanishing presence in the public space of the culture, language, and narrative for which it became a prominent signifier.
The interrupted movement is also represented in Yoram Blumenkrantz’s two Moses’ Arks. The arks were constructed from fencing material collected at the abandoned areas of the Tel Aviv neighborhoods Tel-Kabir and Kfar-Shalem, whose residents were forced to evacuate their homes after years of institutional neglect and a battle for their rights to the property. The arks, removed from water, invoke a memory of danger and flight, as well as a movement into a safer future. Although the arks’ motion was suspended, they still maintain a tension between the local and the alien, protection and precarity, stagnation and mobility. The work addresses the phenomena of deportation and asylum-seeking experienced by many populations around the world and how they manifest in the small area of the south Tel-Aviv neighborhoods, in which long-time residents, work immigrants, and refugees struggle for the opportunity to live in dignity.
South Tel Aviv is also depicted in Ruderal Communities, Alma Itzhaky’s series of drawings, which documents the Abu-Kabir neighborhood and its open spaces. Until 1948, the Abu Kabir area with its undefined borders was covered in citrus orchards, with Saknat (laborers’ dwellings) and well-houses among them. After 1948, the Saknat were settled by Jewish immigrants whose rights to the land were never legislated. Throughout the years, various public institutions were built in this area – a detention center, an institute for forensic medicine, a school, and a botanical garden. After years of neglect, the authorities began to evacuate the residents in favor of “development” and “green spaces.” Thus, the intermediary area between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, known as Abu-Kabir, became an “empty” zone, a frontier, where many currents are hidden from visitors and passers-by; for them, the space is open and bare. Yet, this is a site of trauma, struggle, and protest for many of its past and present residents.
Before we return to other local liminalities, let us focus on a no less dramatic global movement: tourism. The work Exit, by Dan Robert Lahiani, is a minor gesture to this major movement. A long one-shot video documents the departure of passengers from a ferry in Greece. The ship’s hold is full of people – tourists and locals – yearning to step onto dry land and start their vacation. Once the ship is empty, the camera is turned upside down as the cameraman steps ashore. The disembarking here is an almost trivial gesture, but because it is not a singular performance but a repetitive ritual (more ferries will arrive at the island and disembark yet more people), the drama of the movement is multiplied and intensified.
Two works in the exhibition explore Israel’s geographic border area; however, this is not the only liminality they address. Thalia Hoffman’s video, A Day Becomes, takes place in northeast Golan Heights during the short moments of dawn. Crossing from night to day, Yousef Sweid strolls through the many floors and rooms of a deserted building in Quneitra, where he recalls figures and moments from his life. The building, which used to serve as the Syrian Quneitra District Commander’s headquarters, stands deserted and desolate while Yousef attempts to find within it paths that he hasn’t walked. Yousef saunters back and forth in the big building, dribbling a basketball, walking up and down the stairs. His monologue, which constantly switches between Arabic and Hebrew, exposes other invisible borders that challenge anyone who attempts to stay in these liminal spaces without committing to a given path within them.
Gaston Zvi Ickowicz’s End of Hebron Road project documents the area outside Rachel’s Tomb and checkpoint 300 (Bethlehem), on the border of Jerusalem, in the early morning, while Palestinian workers are waiting for another workday and at the moments after they leave the place. In the past four decades, Israel’s control mechanisms over Palestinian movement in the West Bank and Gaza have become increasingly elaborate. The checkpoints in the occupied territories are an extreme manifestation of these mechanisms, particularly the “passageways” between the territories and Israel proper. Every morning, these passageways, renamed “terminals” to obscure their violent nature, attract tens of thousands of Palestinians attempting to work in Israel. The liminal space beyond the checkpoint also acts as a border loaded with conflicting forces.
For the past three years, Ickowicz has been traveling several times a week to the end of Hebron Road, which used to connect Jerusalem and Bethlehem but is now severed by the Separation Wall. During this time, Ickowicz has developed relationships with workers at the checkpoint. The photographs and accompanying sound work describe the intermediary moment before another workday. The wait is inscribed in the provisional shelters under the trees scattered in the field and in how these shelters change based on the season. The soundtrack describes the daily journey from home to the first pick-up point, the crossing of the inner checkpoint, the long delay outside the main checkpoint, the stress and overcrowding, and finally, the dead time of the wait. This movement is usually invisible to Israeli eyes; the laborers, like the shadows in the installation, build this country while their presence is erased. They waste precious time at the border, and the border moves with them. They are a dangerous embodiment of liminality; their movement might be suddenly perceived as dangerous, triggering a violent reaction towards them. The liminal role of this passageway space/time embodies the potential to dodge the regulating forces controlling the checkpoint and the Israeli public space and allows for different encounters and relationships that resist the segregating forces controlling our space.
Land Slugs, Michal Samama and Noa Dar’s choreography for two performers in the public space, introduces the whole body to the textures and topography of the surface on which we step unwittingly: concrete, asphalt, dirt, vegetation, bugs. Each of the work’s first three chapters was modified for a specific space to which the artists were invited to react: Soncino St. in south Tel Aviv, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Ramat-Aviv neighborhood. In this fourth chapter, Samama and Dar modified the work for the Jessie Cohen neighborhood and the schoolyard-turned-Center for Digital Art, which the neighborhood residents still use as a passageway between the two parts of the neighborhood. The dancers’ skilled bodies absorb the space, deconstructing it to its elements and sharing it with us, the viewers, through movement. Between verticality and horizontality, their body is in constant friction with the space’s physical and symbolic borders, leaving its mark on the concrete. Traces of games, sporting activities, and ceremonies, which have fused into the cracks on the ground, are conjured, returning to the body and beyond.
I return to the white yarn cone, to the act of spinning, which transforms cotton into a taut twine encircling the spindle in a quick, skilled, rotary motion. In 2019, a group of women of Ethiopian descent, residents of the neighborhood, gathered at Max, the Center for Digital Art’s craft lab. In these sessions, the women resurrected the traditional spinning technique they used daily in Ethiopia. A traditional Ethiopian loom was also reconstructed and built as part of this project. Then came the Corona pandemic, and everything stopped. For the exhibition, we invited the spinning gild to revive the act of spinning and create a movement that would inspire the artworks and incite them. During the months of the exhibition, the women will hold teaching sessions in the hope that this ancient and precious knowledge will continue to move and live on.
The members of the spinning gild 2022 are: Dina Mocha, Chakol Angodai, Betua Traki, Pyrnos Tesma, Sephan Yahis, Makonen Angodai, Mukria Achialo, Abra Addisa and Esther Nadau.
Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, Nardeen Srouji, Dan Robert Lahiani, Ala Haytham, Yoram Blumenkrantz, Tamar Getter, Michal Samama and Noa Dar, May Zarhy, Thalia Hoffman, Alma Itzhaky