Gilad Ratman: The Workshop

The 55th Venice Biennale

June 1 - November 24, 2013

Exerpt from On Gilad Ratman’s The Workshop: More Notes from the Underground

This five-screen video installation portrays an expedition, a voyage, or, more precisely, an exodus of a group of people out of Israel. In terms of a linear narrative, the group enters a cave on a hillside at Mount Carmel, which overlooks Haifa. The group traverses huge caves and narrow passages, tunnels both flooded and dry. Some carry a basic backpack, but nothing that resembles a survival kit. Their attire—the sloppy, hippy-ish clothing we saw in Alligatoriver—is completely inappropriate for caving. Finally, they arrive at a shaft and begin to climb; at its top, they hammer and drill through the rock. When this yields and light penetrates the shaft, they widen the hole and, one by one, exit the tunnel and enter a man-made space. The long shot that documents this act leaves no doubt about where we are; it takes but a moment to grasp that we have arrived at the Israeli Pavilion in Venice, exactly where we, the viewers, now stand watching this work.

While the physical journey seems to have ended, the personal journey has not. As people emerge from the shaft into the pavilion, they begin to arrange the objects they find there and the things they brought along with them— blocks of clay, microphones, and cables. On the ground floor, they find a large wooden box, which they place atop two trestles. This, it turns out, contains a sound mixer. The newcomers spread throughout the space and begin to work the clay. The pavilion quickly becomes a sculpture workshop. Each ofthe travelers sculpts his or her own portrait. Inserting the microphones into the lumps of clay, they start to make noise, and, hollering into the mics, they sometimes adopt suggestive positions in relation to their clay portraits. The sculpture workshop becomes a vocal workshop; one of the travelers, without directing or even seeing the noise-making people on the floor above, operates the sound mixer on the ground floor. He “sculpts” with sound as his fellow travelers sculpted with clay.

This narrative is presented to the public in a fragmented and erratic way: the first screen shows the soundman sequence, and the last screen, the entrance to the cave at Mount Carmel. Upon entering the space, visitors discover the hole in the ground, surrounded by a pile of debris. The screen next to it—the soundman operating the mixer—shows the same space, but from another angle. This situation, in which the screen mirrors the position of the viewer, is somewhat confusing for the latter. This mirroring and the break-down of the surface (screen) are distinctive of Ratman’s way of treating the formal characteristics of video and embody the spatial ontology typical of his works.

(Text by Sergio Edelsztein, excerpt from the exhibition catalogue)

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Gilad Rtaman, The Workshop, 2013

Gilad Rtaman, The Workshop, 2013

Gilad Ratman, The Workshop, 2013, Mixed media, Multi-channel video installation

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Sunday

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Tue – Thu

Friday

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11:00 – 14:00

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