How’s it Hanging?
- Duration of Activity: 08/07/2023 - 30/09/2023
The question “How’s it hanging” is a commonly used greeting among men, expressing concern, empathy, and a desire for male closeness. The tone of this question implies what lies ahead – is this a friendly encounter or a prelude to potential escalation of violence?
Creative energy changes throughout life. In one’s twenties, it is intense and explosive, but with time it transforms into something softer. This group exhibition explores the nature of creative energy, what motivates the drive to create, and how this energy evolves with age. Both curation and creation are personal journeys that originate in the body and return to the body, always from a subjective perspective linked to the artist/curator’s physical and mental processes.
The decision to work exclusively with male artists stems from my personal desire to delve into the mental processes I undergo as a man and investigate whether other artists share similar experiences. The exhibition confronts various manifestations of aggression and violence, which appear inseparable from masculinity. It is not merely a celebration of a pleasant and secure masculine space, but rather, it also delves into its less-desirable aspects: violence, voyeurism, domination, and humiliation. The underlying assumption is that any act of violence affects not only its recipient but also the perpetrator. The masculine realm is imbued with codes passed down from father to son; I learn from my father how to be a man, what role he plays, and how he navigates himself in the world. He is the paternal figure to whom I relate. This father figure roams the exhibition, observing as his growing son carves out a new space for himself.
In recent years, there has been a rise in the practice of men’s circles. These circles provide an intimate space for men to share their thoughts and confront their challenges. They serve as a safe environment for empathy, as well as the deconstruction and reconstruction of values such as friendship, ambition, sexuality, resilience in times of crises, and finding the right way to navigate life as men in the 21st century. The exhibition functions as a metaphorical men’s circle, providing a space for men to be men – embracing all the challenges that come with it. Approaching the exhibition as a men’s circle invites the viewer to peer into the complex world of contemporary masculinity. Rather than longing for a bygone era of masculinity or attempting to aggressively appropriate or reclaim something lost, it represents an understanding that masculinity is seeking a new place under the sun. It aspires to be enlightened, inclusive, and reflective, striving to exceed our preconceived notions of what it can be.
The artworks in this exhibition can be seen as cryptic writings, offering insights into this elusive and evolving notion of masculinity throughout life. The age range represented in this exhibition is extensive, ranging from artists in their twenties to those who are no longer with us. The exhibited artworks were created during different periods, with the earliest works dating back to the late 1990s, and the latest specifically commissioned for this exhibition.
In The human canon ball, a three-projector installation, Søren Dehlgaard (b. 1973) presents video documentation of a performative act featuring a human cannonball. In this act, a man is shot from a cannon while his clothes are soaked in fresh paint, effectively becoming a living paintbrush. The work echoes the Action Painting movement of the 1950s, whose prominent representative is Jackson Pollock, the American artist known for his drip painting. In contrast to Pollock’s dripping paint, the erect cannon forcefully propels the stunt artist as if it were ejaculating semen. However, while the sexual act aims to create new life, this act aims to create an artwork.
Shibetz Cohen’s (b. 1970) work, Documentation of the preparation process for an installation, consists of a documentary photograph and a readymade object. The photograph documents an action performed by Cohen in HaMidrasha Gallery, in 1999, as part of his second solo exhibition. It depicts him skating on rollerblades in the oval exhibition space, drawing with graphite on the plywood-covered gallery walls. After dismantling the exhibition, Cohen recycled the illustrated plywood boards. He used one of them, along with a plywood board from another source, to create an improvised skateboard ramp. Over time, the prolonged use of the ramp served as a makeshift pictogram technique, resulting in the graphite art from the original exhibition board being imprinted onto the other board. This newly imprinted plywood board is displayed alongside the photograph. While the original installation invited the viewer into a space illustrated with the explosive force of a young man drawing restlessly on the gallery walls, repeatedly marking and asserting his territory, the displayed plywood board now serves as a mere echo of that eruptive force, representing young masculinity’s desire to carve out a place in the world.
Avner Pinchover (b. 1980) introduces a different energy into the realm of action, characterized not by eruption and bursting but rather by culmination and death. In his site-specific installation, Mosquitos, Pinchover releases 2,000 mosquitos into the exhibition space and then patiently awaits as they bite him and feast on his blood. Subsequently, he kills them by smashing them against the gallery walls. The walls become adorned with smears of the blood-filled mosquitos, transforming them into murals. The entire action is documented and screened alongside these murals. Pinchover paints using his masculine body as an instrument of violence and death. He tests the body’s resilience in the face of an enemy that persistently attacks it. A war is waged between the exposed body and the hostile insects. Pinchover creates a situation that sustains a state of energetic conflict, fighting relentlessly until the end, refusing to yield. On the battlefield, a man must emerge victorious, losing is not an option.
A different allusion to war is found in Uri Lifschitz’s (1936-2011) Abu Ghraib, a series of three paintings created in 2004 and exhibited here for the first time. Lifschitz, with his expressive style, used mixed media techniques to paint scenes based on photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which was taken over by the American forces during the Second Gulf War and brought to public attention due to a series of photographs that were taken there and leaked to the media in 2004. The photographs, which caused international outrage, show American prison guards torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the facility. Lifschitz’s paintings depict the abused and humiliated masculine body, a body devoid of agency, available to all.
In the video installation, Is this item available, Jonathan Ron (b. 1987) utilizes five screens to display obsessive surveillance footage capturing random individuals picking up a pink ribbon spool placed by Ron in the middle of the street. Unbeknownst to them, each person becomes the subject of relentless observation. The work raises moral dilemmas: What is the purpose of the surveillance? Is tracking the movements of those who have taken the spool justifiable? The abundance of aimless pursuits directs our attention to the obsession itself, while the significance of the pink spool becomes secondary. Consequently, the obsession becomes disassociated from the object that seemingly triggered it, revealing it to be nothing more than an excuse.
Guy Bernard Reichmann’s (b. 1983) installation, Touch Grass, offers a glimpse into the habitat of a gamer. The installation revolves around the gaming desk, typically a large computer desk overflowing with candy wrappers, empty chip bags, fast food leftovers, and the occasional superhero action figure. The installation addresses the darker aspects of the gaming subculture, corresponding specifically to the infamous Gamergate incident of 2014. Gamergate was a misogynistic and loosely organized harassment campaign that targeted women within the video game community. It solidified the stereotype of gamers as socially inept men who channel their sexual frustration into hostility toward women. At the extreme end of this phenomenon lies the incel (involuntary celibate) online subculture, comprising men who define themselves as unable to form romantic or sexual relationships despite desiring them. Many of them are drawn to the anonymity of the internet, which allows them to hide behind aliases and express rage, hatred, and violence toward women. Reichmann’s installation seeks to expose them. It features a computer screen placed on a large desk, displaying a violent video game. Scattered on the desk alongside the screen are gamer/incel action figures portraying mundane, everyday situations.
Gabi Kricheli (b. 1979) presents two works, one inside the gallery and one in the yard. Inside the gallery is Cucumber, a wooden sculpture resembling a totem. However, unlike an erect totem, the sculpture lies almost horizontally on the ground, with a support raising one end slightly. Adjacent to it is a cast of the head of renowned Israeli artist Igael Tumarkin (1933-1954), physically cast on Macht Arbeit Frei? (1992), one of Tumarkin’s sculptures in the Ben Zvi Road, Tel Aviv sculpture garden. Tumarkin’s presence in the work is like that of a ghost, while the totem acts as a conduit connecting us to this ancestor. In the yard, Kricheli presents Dot, an action centered around an injured poplar tree. In Native American tribes, when a tree is wounded, the tribe members remove the damaged bark from the afflicted area to encourage healing and regeneration. Taking on the role of the shaman, Kricheli engages in ceremonial tree scraping, invoking the healing spirit of the father.
Tamir Tzadok (b. 1979) also explores the legacy of one of the forefathers of Israeli art, Menashe Kadishman (1932-2015), specifically his seminal sculpture, Uprise (1974). The three large steel circles arranged diagonally on top of each other in Habima Square have become a symbol of the White City. In Tzadok’s video, Untitled, the circles are dismantled: they are buried in the sand and transported on a shopping cart as if they were mere metal scraps for recycling. The sculpture/man is deconstructed to its fundamental element, reduced to matter devoid of spirituality and elation; it is a pure action of a body working and moving in space.
In the eyes of their children, fathers are seen as superheroes, almost superhuman. But what remains of the dominant, all-powerful male erection? Where is the father who used to have a broad perspective and oversee everything? What remains is a laboring worker striving to make a living. In his video titled Superman, Ziv Ben Dov (b. 1968), dressed up as the famous superhero, is trapped in a plaster wall, unable to break free. This absurd action reduces masculinity to its most infantile dimension. The father, no longer strong, is unable to help anyone with anything; instead, he needs someone to save him from the embarrassing situation he is stuck in.
In the video, Davida, Lior Shvil (b. 1971) adorns nothing but a white corset as he lies on a wooden structure that is part torture device, part crossbow, like an arrow ready to be launched. Each time Shvil pulls the lever, the mechanism lifts him up to be spanked. Shvil has constructed a disciplinary device to punish himself for his desire to venture into the world, but for him, the punishment becomes a space of pleasure. The work alludes to the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the ancient king who attempted to deceive the gods and was consequently punished by Zeus to endlessly roll a heavy boulder to the top of a hill in Hades, where every time he neared the summit, the boulder would roll back down to its original position. Sisyphus was condemned to perpetually engage in a futile task, experiencing eternal despair. In contrast to Sisyphus, Shvil derives pleasure from his punishment. If to be condemned to a Sisyphean action, it is preferable to perform it within a space of pleasure.