Text by Miriam Gamburd for Shahar Yahalom exhibition
Noga – Gallery of Contemporary Art
Tel-Aviv. 03.09.09 – 09.10.09
-80°C – the temperature at which bodies are stored while waiting for the future life – an encoded extension to the future – as well as embryos and organs for transplantation. The exhibition space is planned to serve as an experimental lab or a refuge of an alchemist/architect/philosopher, busy with creating a new reality by sorcery and calculation: every sculpture may be translated into a mathematical equation.
Jacques Derrida defined the term ‘deconstruction’ as a method and not a style. An attempt to attribute Shahar Yahalom’s work to any style seems forced, and one should rather focus on her method. The majority of the compositions in the exhibition are based on two poles – one vertical and the other horizontal making together a cross (in the architectural connotation1), an unhesitating static structure. The strong juxtaposition of two intersecting axes lies at the base of architecture since the early ages. Postmodernism has undermined this stability by breaking angles and conventions.
At the center of a human skeleton there is a cross-like bone called sacrum in Latin (‘sacrum’=’sacral’=’sacred’) and ‘krestetz’ in Slavic languages (‘krest’ = ‘cross’). According to the Zohar book, at the time of resurrection the lower part of the sacrum, usually identified with the coccyx (etzem ha-luz), will “expand to four directions to form the body anew”. The sacrum is the Foundation Stone of the human body, responsible for its posture; however, in art as in anatomy the physical stability does not depend on the structure alone but on the flow of life itself. Without it the structure will collapse.
Thus, the center poles are well positioned, and the artist may now begin her dance. She scatters other axes in the space as broken arrows. The small details hang on the axes, holding on to them, while their form becomes less geometrical and more organic.
Does the artist rely here on chance creating a chaotic structure and letting it grow as it pleases? It is indeed and intentional coincidence. In this intelligent way a plant occupies its designated space, feels it and sends its tendrils in every direction.
The exhibition space seems spellbound; otherwise how did the artist set these impossible sculptures? The space is pierced, unraveled, dissected, sliced, drawn with strings, straggling on hooks, alluring with its transparent screen traps. An astute pleasure.
Perhaps there is no magic here, but rather the gravitation laws were changed? The artist created a universe with two moons as in a recurring childhood dream. A heavenly duplicity as opposed to an earthly duplicity – the exhibition is designed according to a principle of multiplying, and from a certain point the view is repeated.
Perhaps the afterlife is here? The bones of fish from the Chernobyl area are curled as tendrils. Will the new world be created as a result of a crisis? In Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two ideograms: one means ‘danger’ and the other ‘new possibilities’.
The artist is fascinated with Gothicism, with the structure of a cathedral and its emptiness as opposed to the sculptural images. Yahalom sticks to daring perpendiculars and diagonals that strive to stretch the boundaries of matter and spirit and to defy the skies. The gothic creatures are not in the exhibition, but their presence is duly felt. Stubbornly they creep into the space leaving behind marks of claws on the glass. They scratch the slides with sharp beaks chucking their excretions here and there and wink from every corner…
Derrida rejects the confrontation of the tradition with the avant-garde. The contemporary age enables the two poles to collaborate – no more rebellion of the avant-garde against the tradition but coexistence. Yahalom is true to this philosophical view, but in her work she does not discard the visual art for philosophy that would have conceptualized the sculpture. She is devoted to her work, reminding of a craftsman sculptor; she does not order but skillfully carries out her own creation.
One literary character used to say: “children and good pipes one should make by himself” – to which I would add – good sculptures as well.