Review of Noam Edry’s solo show and performance ‘The Silver Salver’ at the Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, which marked the end of 2011 and the inauguration of the new Miron Sima Auditorium
Photo: Guy Barkan
We love the pink low-calorie lychee these days, its sweet and perfumy flesh makes a fabulous cocktail and it is the perfect smoothie ingredient with its high levels of Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. There are, however, good lychees and bad lychees, so make sure to buy the right one. If two legs are embracing the pit of the moaning, groaning and sighing lychee, moving from hysteria to orgasm and back again, you might have encountered an Israeli lychee. There are also bad dates and oranges which will bleed, moan, shit and cry.
The silver coated floor of The Ein Harod Museum of Art was stained by an uncontrollable flow of blood during the opening of Noam Edry’s solo museum show The Silver Salver and the coinciding inauguration of the new Miron Sima Auditorium, which was celebrated with the unveiling of a gigantic rock’n’roll war machine chickpea. Women, men and children in the audience searched for pieces of tissue to give the bleeding orange a helping hand, when a screaming woman suddenly shot through the crowd. The first part of the shocking performance lasted 90 minutes, during which the lychee, the date and the bleeding orange were rattling and shaking on the silver floor (the silver platter), moving around and between the spectators and wreaking havoc across the entire museum.
Photo: Guy Barkan
Photo: Guy Barkan
The emotional reality of the helplessness experienced in a country with mandatory military service and where people blow themselves up to kill others is only one aspect of the multi-layered silver platter. By using elements deeply embedded in the language of performance art, Edry invites the audience to reflect upon values as well as the lack of values, both on a personal and a political level. Edry’s combination of performance art and sculpture allows her to oversee the extravaganza like the director of a chaotic circus.
In the artist’s own words, “‘The Silver Salver‘ examines the real “fruits” exported by Israeli society; what is the price of being Israeli, what part does the individual play in it? From a feminist point of view, it is about the forced sacrifices of Israeli women and in many ways, all women. We sacrifice our womanhood in this society and in every society; served on silver platters like exotic fruits. You want exotic fruits? Here, you can have them. They are going to scream, yell, faint, puke, bleed, get wet and get dry and all that. You want a woman – you get a woman.”
Photo: Omer Ben Zvi
In this work, the woman is reduced to an equation of her circumstances, random coincidences of life and controlling structures of political, biological and social systems. From this point of view womanhood is not a pretty sight and the collective illusion, i.e. our shared beliefs about what the real, successful and complete woman is like, are torn to pieces because of the undeniably human element of the liquids and sounds coming out of the sculptures’ bodies. Edry’s position is still critical towards current frames of thought and it might be suggested that she is asking her fellow women to get a grip and to stop victimizing themselves despite the inherited burdens; they will not ”go away”, action is required. Her recent shows have made both women and men cry, because this is a struggle all conscious human beings will recognize; it is a fight for individual freedom within society.
After the surprisingly wide-spanning, coherent and powerful MFA graduation show Conversation Pieces – Scenes of Unfashionable Life at Goldsmiths in London (July 2011), Edry received the commission from Dr Galia Bar Or, Curator and Director of The Museum of Art, Ein Harod. The main inspiration for the show was the poem The Silver Salver, written in 1947 by Nathan Alterman. The poem is based on the saying “The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter”, attributed to Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann. The dream of an equal and functional two state solution lives on among both Arabs and Jews, but the conflict persists. The hysterical date and the sexually repressed lychee can be understood as symbols of the Israeli people’s moaning and groaning about the situation. The political dimension of the work is a double-edged sword, where Edry is communicating the national sacrifice as well as the responsibility of each individual citizen to face reality and to put their shoulder to the wheel. “We sacrifice the possibility of contributing to the world, because we are being boycotted and barred from academies. Are we going to continue this stale mate?” the artist continues. “Are my children going to have to go to the army? We think we are in control, but life is dictated to us by men in positions of power.”
Photo: Reut Kersz
Photo: Guy Barkan
The inauguration itself was the grand finale of the performance in which the giant chickpea monument covered in royal blue satin with a golden ribbon, was unveiled by Edry and the chief curator. They were both dressed in silver and conducted the ceremony like a couple of space army generals. One of the four crewmen, the armed almighty rock star, appeared on top of the sculpture and started humping his gun aggressively, causing the entire sculpture to rattle in line with a loud bass beat and an increasingly mad harmonica melody coming from inside of the sculpture. Two adjacent larger-than-life wall projections transmitted what was going on inside and outside the chickpea, culminating in a beautifully grotesque image of the hero’s naked bottom wobbling uncontrollably. Smoke and strobe lights created an urgent feeling of rock’n’roll war á la Hollywood. He was the cool guy, wasn’t he? We have seen him in many film productions. He is the bad guy who gets the pretty woman and he is the face of Israel. Was it a coincidence that the chickpea resembled an obese bottom or a giant pair of testicles, rattling and shaking like fat? The man in control made love to the weapon until he finally reached a climax and shot hundreds of boiled chickpeas towards the audience.
Edry explains, “I wanted to make people understand that this is what we look like from the outside. The spectacle of the female fruits hadn’t changed a thing, because despite their impact, influence and inspiration, we were still stuck with this enormous thing spraying the audience with its seeds of war. It is about our lack of control in this social order.”
Photo: Noam Edry
The Silver Platter, Natan Alterman
And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky slowly dimming over smoking frontiers
As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle
As the ceremony draws near, it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy
When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation
Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly
To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death
Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: “Who are you?”
And they will answer quietly, “We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel
Photo: Noam Edry
After the entertaining chickpea concert, the mass hysteria escalated among the fruits until the end of the show. The floor is now littered with blood and tissues from people that were trying to dry the blood orange. There are buckets of jelly and blood, sculpture-suits lying like corpses in a battlefield and six tiny TV’s are looping the performance of each living sculpture, before the death on the silver platter. The smoke is still rising from the canons and in a tiny hidden room a giant falafel ball is stuck. It is impossible to say how it got in there and how on earth we can get it out without carefully dismantling it while attentively identifying each piece. Only then can we put it together again on the other side.
A sober critical point of view requires subjectivity and subjectivity requires perspective, and to gain perspective we have to step out of our comfort zones. When Edry left Israel to study in London she gained the ability to observe her own society from afar through the eyes of a stranger, but how can she speak objectively when she is also the subject? “To be able to do my work I have to be both male and female. A woman with balls, balls of steel. I had a g-string made of little sparkling silver beads sewn onto my futuristic silver suit with massive shoulder pads like a silver platter, like a man.” It is not surprising that Sigalit Landau, who represented Israel at the Venice Biennale (1997 and 2011), has chosen Edry to feature with her in a special TheMarker Magazine issue for International Women’s Day as one of 20 promising Israeli women.
In an interview with Gerald Matt and Lucas Gehrmann in February 2006, Landau describes what it is like for artists like herself and Edry to expressively examine present-day Israel. “Life in a war zone, post war, pre-terror, keeps you awake, frustrated, exhausted, you have to insist and define your own urgent beliefs – the concept of place is flickering in the air, a feeling there is no place, or not enough place or the place needs to be re-invented … -everyone is screaming – no one listens … so the noise is not “white noise” of globalization but a black hole, wound and salt … and guilt.”
In 2011, when Edry was working on her MFA graduation show, she chose to focus on the fact that she is an individual, not a country, while the feminist voice resonated in the background. Being back in the hood, she can now reflect on the image of her country that was presented to her abroad. “I ask myself and my Israeli audience: ‘How did we get here?’ ‘Why do we only project those kinds of images to the world?’ We do somehow play a part in this game. This show is very self-critical. I couldn’t allow myself to do this in London, because there I felt very threatened and very alienated. My only strategy was to deconstruct myself in a human way to show how human I was, but this time I want to talk about the flaws, the shame, the feeling of guilt. It is only when you love something so much that you can lament it. I talk about the woman’s body in terms of the land. I take the woman’s body as a metaphor for a country; any country.”
As viewers we are bombarded with questions amidst a chorus of moaning sculptures. Noam Edry forces her fellow citizens to take an in-depth look at several aspects of Israel’s heavy socio-political heritage. In Israel they call her a radical leftist, in London she was accused of being right wing, but we can’t speak of left and right when analyzing art with this high level of complexity, ambiguity and poetry, where local sociopolitical issues and ancient philosophical questions are discussed side by side. In fact, this is where its strength lies; it touches us deeply and creates discussions and controversy simply because it is so incredibly open-ended. The art poses questions without providing any answers and the participants of the opening-night performance were engaged to the point of participation, the moment they entered they were automatically accomplices of the work.
Edry is now working on a commission for the Haifa Museum of Art in light of the Haifa Biennale in November 2012. She will conduct an on-going performance every day for 1,5 month. It must be said that although Edry is on the forefront of performance art, it would be a shame if she got too comfortable with the one medium, considering how she masters painting, drawing, dance, poetry, acting and most importantly her ability to weave all disciplines together into one coherent flow under one roof. There is a possibility that Edry will add musicality to her talents with the ongoing poetry project, in which a group of composers and musicians are creating works based on a poetry book that Edry wrote in two lonely nights in London. Whether she is going to perform with the musicians is unknown at this stage, but the planned outcome is a rock concert with videos, reckless performances and a book launch. “The poems are all about love, sex, the men in my life, my childhood, my libido, womanhood, rape and everything I have ever been through.” Edry has the potential of becoming the artworld’s queen of interdisciplinary indecencies and her journey will be well documented, as two documentary film crews are currently following her and one of the film crews is formulating a new cinematic docu-language to capture Edry’s art and lifestyle.
© ContemporaryTalks.com, 26/2/2012
Photo: Omer Ben Zvi
Spice graffiti: “This is my testament (also excrement), this is my atonement”, Noam Edry
[More on Noam Edry]
Interview Series 2011
Feature on Childhood