This is not America

Vadim Fishkin, Magdi Habachi, Erzen Shkololli, Blue Noses Group, Nedko Solakov, Sener Ozmen, Adrian Paci

March 16 - April 28, 2006

This is not America

he reading of art that addresses social or political concerns from different places in the world is usually associated with the ´´same´´ artistic discourse or a similar cultural and political background, often allowing for opposing interpretations of formal or aesthetic art. Social and political themes in art, however, embody different functions in different art communities. A topics deemed attractive for artistic exploration by an artist who lives and works in a liberal democratic country, such as the limits of democracy and their impact on the quality of everyday life in that society, does not hold the same relevance for artists hailing from the newly-´´Europeanized´´ countries attempting to be accepted into the European Union (Europe´s expansion) or from other cultural peripheries, artists who peruse the strategies and influences of contemporary global politics on their countries. The exhibition This is Not America explores the east/west, past/present dichotomies, and the daily reality of artists hailing from or living in the periphery. It offers a peek into the artistic expression of artists from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, in the wake of the political, social and cultural transformations in these regions – after the fall of the ´´Iron Curtain´´, the change of government, the revolutions and wars – changes that have brought about freedom of expression, ethnic independence, migration, and a desperate attempt to assimilate into western culture and its economic systems. The works in the exhibition reflect the artists´ diverse attitudes towards the new reality around them and the transformed political, social and economic systems. Furthermore, they examine changes in the status of the individual and the collective and the relationship between private and public following the transition to a capitalist, democratic regime. The works deal with the formation of an artistic language oscillating between the local discourse and the codes of the international art world, as well as the change of perception resulting from the opening to the western world and the use of new media. Beyond the recurrence of a past-present conflict and the common engagement with everyday existence and the self-evident, contemporary art from Eastern Europe (southeastern Mediterranean basin) and the Balkans is highly pertinent to the Israeli context, addressing similar concerns, such as isolation and communication, center and periphery, east/west relationships, and the multiplicity of ethnic and religious currents. This is Not America features works with ironic overtones that place man at the center, as well as ones depicting a wide range of economic and cultural experiences and transformations undergone by society, through the combination of occurrences unique to the Balkans and Eastern Europe – the sharp transition from a closed society to a culturally-variegated society, from a fixed academic art tradition and nationalist romanticism to practice of installation, video, photography and computer art. It provides an opportunity for acquaintance with several prominent artists, most of whom were never exhibited in Israel heretofore despite the geographical proximity, whose reading of the socio-political art field is applicable to the Israeli art field as well. Adrian Paci´s (b. Albania, 1969; lives and works in Italy) work centers on postmodern conditions. Working in various media, such as painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation, he explores the dichotomy experienced by a man who clings to the here-and-now and the memory of dislocation acquired by people who have experienced immigration, whether for social or political reasons. Turn On portrays a group of men seated on the steps of the city square in Shkode (the second largest city in Albania, and Paci´s hometown), with generators placed at their feet. They sit on the steps in the dark until artificial light illuminated them; bulb after bulb is lit before the sitters´ faces who hold them as if they were lanterns. Erzen Shaklolli´s works deal with regularity, with local traditional rituals that undermine and subvert contemporary symbolism. The ironic piece Albanian Flag on the Moon implies the unstable status of the artist´s homeland – Kosovo, vacillating between a claim for national recognition and national embarrassment, a situation that has prompted the artist to create a playful, or rather absurd, game, hoisting Albania´s flag on the moon. Jakup Ferri from Prishtina, Kosovo, addresses the place and history of an artist who comes from the periphery. In his video piece Save Me, Help Me, he describes the inability and lagging behind experienced by an artist from the ´´sticks,´´ transforming the ´´backwardness´´ of lagging behind into the very tactics of his works. Vadim Fishkin was born in Russia and works in Ljubljana. In Snow Show the visitor is invited to push a button and say his name. Subsequently, once the button is pushed, the viewer´s name is voiced, a bluish light illuminates the space, and artificial snow begins to fall on his head, thus rendering the viewer a collaborator with the spectacle and the illusion. Fishkin´s works explore issues pertaining to language, creating a dialogue between the physical and the metaphysical. The Blue Noses Group will present 25 Short Performances about Globalization, employing the formal language of slapstick set in motion before the camera through minimal means and spontaneous gestures. The Group specializes in the production of short video clips. These are usually edited as performances of this artist collective that strips the Hollywood spectacle of its qualities, presenting a prime low-tech, ´´old schoolboy´´ version in its stead. #35350;ener #35214;zman from Turkey´s Kurdish region presents the work Supermuslim, where he performs ironically dressed in the attire of one of the canonical symbols of popular American culture – Superman – during a Muslim prayer. The Road to Tate Modern by #35350;ener #35214;zman and Erkan #35214;zgen takes a critical position regarding contemporary art´s western inclination. It features Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza, wandering in a mountainous landscape on the back of a horse and a donkey. They ask a wayfarer the way to the Tate Modern, and he answers: ´´Beyond the mountains´´. Where beyond the Kurdish mountains does the west lie, and what path should they take to get there? Nedko Solakov, an artist who works in different media, such as drawing on walls, video, and installation, presents the video The Flying Turtle and Me Reading the Newspapers as a metaphor for the east-west relationship, or the cynical indifference of the strong toward the weak. Magdi Habachi presents three artist books/travelogues combining drawing and collage made of leftovers and wrappers of commodities from Egypt, where western culture is depicted on consumer goods as an affluent culture of promise. Translated from Hebrew: Daria Kasovski

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Sener Ozmen, Supermuslim 2003

Installation

2000

40:00 min.

still from "Klodi", 2005, 40:00 min.

09:10 min.

2003

09:10 min.

2003

12:45 min.

2005

10:10 min.

2003

18x13 cm.

2001

26x18 cm.

2000

05:06 min.

2005

50x70 cm.

2003

03:33 min.

still from "Turn On", 2004, 03:33 min.

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