Shahar Marcus & Jasmine Kainy were talking about their videos presented in the featured screening program of Israeli art videos
– 1,2,3 Herring, 2011, 02:27
“1,2,3,Herring” video work, naming after the famous children game, presents the artist playing in front of three cardboard figure, dressed in a gray uniform, which looks like a uniform of World War II soldier or a pioneer’s uniform. The scene takes place on a reconstruction war site in Israel, of the 1948 war between Egypt and Israel, where flat iron figures of Egyptian soldiers are planted in the battlefield.
Shahar Marcus (Israel 1971) is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily in video, performance and sculpture. In hisworks he relates his body to organic and perishable materials, such as dough, bread, juice or ice. His relationship to the materials examines the position and the role of his body as both human and creator. His choice of perishables likewise highlights the nature of art and life. Marcus had exhibited in many exhibitions around the world including Tate modern in London, The Moscow museum of modern art, The Israel and the Tel Aviv museum in Israel, The Charlottenburg kunsthhalle in Copenhagen, The Hiroshima Moca, The Moscow and Poznan Biennale and other venues in Germany France, Italy, and Usa.
Comes from Outside is a video-poem, based on a poem by the Israeli poet Ido Yoav. The poem was originally written in Hebrew, but the video-poem took the liberty to put the poet’s words in 4 characters’ mouths, each in his/her own mother’s tongue: Yiddish, Bulgarian, Arabic and Georgian. They are in a powerless position, maybe refugees, possibly immigrants. They don’t speak the clerk’s language or each other’s but still they converse. They all ask big philosophical questions, but the clerk’s answers are small, almost petty. And the cycle is endless.
Jasmine Kainy born in San Francisco in 1968, but grew up mostly in Tel Aviv. Worked as a radio and print journalist then moved to California and studied Television in San Francisco. In 1995 moved back to Israel, and have been directing documentary films and television, working with both public and commercial channels. Her film “Magnificent Failure”(2008) was screened in festivals in Europe, South Africa and Israel. In 2010 Ms. Kainy started working with the Israeli poet Ido Yoav in a collaboration which produced 3 video-poems which were published together with his book “E”.
He who is no longer here
The confrontation of the living body with the absence of the missing body. This may be the essence of the search for personal traces and memories. A personal journey of each one of us through pictures of memory, a present-day confrontation with portraits of people whose body language at a specific moment in time is all that is left to remember them by.
An ongoing journey of a body born only 8 years after the end of the atrocities: from the crazy coming to terms of a young boy, born in a free country plagued by wars, looking for evidence of his family’s roots. The journey includes a Sisyphean attempt to understand stories and pictures of history’s incomprehensible brutality. This dramatic undertaking includes a personal dialog expressed through touching objects and images in an attempt to come to terms with materials that were silent observers that absorbed the painful terrors.
The living body learned from all these sources, which allowed it to search for a way to locate the missing one who was present all along – to locate that man. At age 11, on the stage of the National of Theater – Habima, I am cast in the part of a Jewish boy from the Vilna Ghetto in the play “Iztik Wetenberg” (The Ghetto Bird). The boy meets for the first time, one of the young leaders of the Ghetto who was betrayed and executed. Five years later, as part of the final project in the theater school where I studied, I played the part of an old man transported by train to his death. On a subconscious level, I am probably trying to meet with that miserable old man, to feel and to understand something of that atrocity. Since then, I read books on the Holocaust obsessively, read and assimilate, unable to understand but trying to find the meeting point with our lives, with the present.
My father’s book, written in 1987, tells the story of his stay in a work camp in Latvia and only increases my desire to understand and to know. I ask and interview my father, film him on video, and begin a journey of theatrical examination – borderless and total. In my studio in Israel, in an old building from the 1920s with a concrete floor and a high wooden roof that reminding me of the horror houses where the doomed Jews waited for death to come, I hold experimental meetings, which are documented in photography. I am joined by two friends, artistic colleagues – Eitan Vitkon a gifted photographer who strives to study and learn through the lens of his camera, and Michael Lazar who sculpts figures in raw metal and who examines, as a scientist, a geophysicist, the hidden secrets of the earth.
I find myself traveling to the Rumbula forest in Riga where the bodies of my massacred family are buried. Eitan Vitkon takes photos of my naked body in between the trees that keep silent about the atrocities. From this chilling encounter in those woods he creates a living installation and video of people wrapped in white cloth – living, breathing souls that move in madness between the trees. Wondering and questioning. Searching for answers. Afterwards I perform in an underground concrete room located in the gallery where a symposium of Holocaust films is being held. I make the presence of my body known – naked, wrapped in a Talit with photographs of the lost portraits surrounded by the local air and atmosphere.
This year I continue the process of research and the eternal question of how this happened and how a living body feels within the earth. For this long process I was joined by Michael Lazar, my partner in performance, a generation younger than me, also dealing with a photo album of family murdered in Treblinka. We represent two generations of existing and present, existing and absent. Together we bury our bodies in trenches dug in the ground, photograph it and sew the photos to “curtains” of newspapers or remains of bread and matza. We try to paint and stamp the body with words and colors, and fix them to paper creating a document of movement and life from body parts. All the while we ask who was and who is that absent presence. Who is that man that was part of us, that man who may in fact be each one of us? Who was that man who is a symbol of memory and whose traces provide the code and reason for our continuing journey to understand and to remember?
Ariel Yannay, director of the photography department at Camera Obscura, School of Art in Tel-Aviv is the son of Warsaw-born Shmuel “Samek” Yannay, the last commander of the Palyam naval unit, whose family was wiped out in Treblinka. The exhibition “Black-and-White Forest:Two Journeys to Treblinka” contains photographs taken by Ariel Yannay in the forests near the murder sites and a dialogue between Yannay and Chavka Folman-Raban, who had reached Treblinka on a mission as liaison-courier of the Warsaw ghetto’s underground Zionist movement “Dror” to verify rumors about the extermination of Jews there. The exhibition deals with the meaning of the journey and the ability of photography to provide evidence and serve as a channel for memory.
Inscribed in Earth
Inscribed in Earth, Is an interim summary of a process that cumulated with a gift- a family album I received two months ago for my birthday, and the ensuing art book I produced as a result. For The first time, I faced the holocaust from a personal, artistic point of view. My art never dealt with the holocaust. In fact, I never really let it effect me. As a child, I knew that something had happened to my father’s family. Growing up in Israel, we would stand in silence for one minute every year as the sirens sounded in Memory of the 6 million.
But during my 15 years as a professional sculptor, this was one topic that I never tried to deal with.
Although it was always in the back of my head, my art never dealt directly with the holocaust.
And then I met Doron Polak and started to photograph him at work.
Through his performances and research, he would try to examine his position on the holocaust.
At first I just documented him at work – taking pictures of him as he stood naked in a corner. But
Then I started to question. -‐ But Doron why is bread the holocaust? -‐ Because it is -‐
But Doron why are newspapers the holocaust? -‐ Because They are -‐ But Doron why is earth the holocaust? -‐ Don’t you understand? Bread is the earth and newspapers are the earth and earth is the holocaust. So I set out to try and understand -‐ to understand why. This led me on a journey that changed me personally and the art I produced.
I placed myself in the role of victim, digging a hole in the sand and burying myself. Blindfolded, naked and humiliated, I covered myself with newspapers – layers of history, of symbolic earth. Earth and sand were combined with spit, hair and semen – physical traces and memories – to produce “paintings” for an exhibition in Paris; an attempt to immortalize my DNA forever in a work of art.
I meticulously sewed and stitched images of myself and Doron in the ground to large tapestries of
Newspaper – the thread connecting two artists, two different generations removed from the holocaust, In a joint journey. I began to look for ways integrate my science, geophysics – the investigation of the earth, into my art. I measured vibrations in Time Square. The marching of hundreds of people reminding me of the Nazi death marches. I produced images of the Earth’s response to these vibrations. The silent witness to the past atrocities. I found data recorded across tunnels. Tunnels! Tunnels in the Earth used to smuggle, used for food, weapons, people. Survival. These I turned into pleasant sunsets, amazed by the striking irony. But most of all, I strived to leave some sign of those traces, those memories.
Bringing mud from the Dead Sea in Israel to Texas and using local sand, I left two prints onstage. Two generations. Two artists. Back in Israel, as I wondered naked on the set, I used my present – the family album I received not a month before that contained, among other things, images of my family murdered in Treblinka – as a headstone.
A pile of leaves became the grave. A suit hung on the wall and an old painting became traces and memories of those absent. I took a book – nature in Israel – cut out the center. Dug my hole. My trench.
Burned it, filled it with leaves, candle wax, nails, hair. And a sole black and white picture. The journey was complete.
For the last few years now Doron has been examining his memories, searching for the questions to ask to the answers he grew into. He digs deep into his family tree, which was cut off in that Ghetto in Riga and sprouted again in different soil across the sea. I met him while he was trying to fill the void between here and there, his body in a state of submission and trying to tie the ends of that root.
Over the course of a year we worked in his studio. The meetings vacillating between theatrical to purification rituals. The camera followed every move, recording its impressions of every of Doron’s memories or of the one who was absent, yet present in the form of a white, almost transparent, robe hanging in the air, strung up before the solid body of those in the room.
At the end of a year, we took the “Peeling” series to that place in Riga to close the circle in the Rumbala Forest where thousands of Jews were murdered as well as most of Doron’s family. He now stood naked on the spot where the axe came down and severed the source of his roots. A group of volunteers replaced the white robe from the studio that for a year had symbolized the missing, and here, in the forest, became present. Absent-present or present-absent that moves unrelentlessly between those trees and in front of the same camera that tries so hard to burn into solid consciousness.
See also the exhibition of his works, entitled: “Peeling”.