Tag art interview

Art quote:: Neal Fox (from Le Gun) on why he celebrates Burroughs, Bacon & Co.

How would you describe the impact these strong personalities have had on your life; did you ever inject bug powder or “sit in your house for days on end staring at the roses in the closet”?

No, not yet. I’ve never stared at the roses in my closet, but maybe I should! I have mainly been inspired by the strong integrity and self-belief in these iconoclasts; they did it their own way, completely untouched by present ideas, restrictions and beliefs. They broke new ground and although there is a small portion of irony in my exhibition of Stained Glass Windows, (a hint towards today’s celebrity culture) I feel that these are the people that deserve praise and honor for the impact they have had on writers, musicians and artists.

From Interview with Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox

Art quote:: DJ Food on the power of Telepathic Fish

Can you give us a detailed description of how the Telepathic Fish parties started?

There is a funny story about Telepathic Fish which is recounted in a couple of books; David Toop’s Ocean of Sound and Simon Reynolds’ Energy Flash. I was 22 and it was a weird point in my life. Having ended a long and very serious relationship I felt completely fresh, new and free, ready to experience everything. I just went along with whatever happened and this was one of those things weird situations that take you down roads.

It started one day at a car boot sale, where I found a keyboard with no power supply or instruction book. I said to the guy ‘Look, I obviously really need that to plug it in and to figure out how it works’. He told me to go to his mate’s house and gave me the number. I really needed the keyboard, so I went to the home of this rasta character with massive dread locks, apparently a dealer, who built his own speakers big as wardrobes. I sat down and took it easy while he was getting along with his routine and then he started talking about how fish was really important in life as a part of Christianity. I was a little white kid who’d only been in London for a couple of years and the situation confused me completely. He started talking about ‘Taking the fish’, meaning that if everyone ‘Took the fish’ it would provide us with a telepathic link which would enable us to understand each other in a profound way. He said ‘Wherever you look, the fish is there. If you look along the lampposts lining the Thames River, there are fish carved into the lampposts. I give the postman a fish.’ When I asked him what he meant, he brought out a bowl of little goldfish and said ‘Stick your tongue out!’ He literally slapped this fish on my tongue and said ‘Just swallow it, don’t chew it. Just swallow it’

So this was the whole thing; if you eat a live fish you have a special connection to everybody. I completely didn’t know what’s going on, but I thought ‘Ok’ and eventually my flat mates wanted to ‘take the fish’ too, so we went back there. The rasta dealer had some good weed and all the rest – it was a cool thing to do back then, when we were all raving and chilling and chilling and raving and raving and chilling and it was just more chilling than raving. We were looking for a good name for a party and decided to call it Telepathic Fish. It didn’t mean anything and it meant everything as well, although I never formed some telepathic link or went on to preach the ‘fish gospel’.

Read full interview DJ Food – From ten to tomorrow

 

Art quote:: DJ Food on the meaning of music

What is the experience that you want to give to your listeners? Do you have a general idea of where you want to send your listeners off to?

I definitely want to send people somewhere and I am always looking for that magical combination of sounds and rhythms that produces something indescribable. That moment, that rush, that magical something in a song where there is a brief pause and then everything goes BAM, or there is a build or a drop or a chord change that just really excites you. I was very into hip hop for many years, but it eventually got very dull  because it was constantly about reality, about ‘Keeping it real’, and ‘It’s all about the game, we’re trying to survive’. It was just too much of it. I know that reality is grim, but let’s not bang on about it. Let’s keep it unreal like Mr. Scruff; that is what this is all about, pure fantasy and pure escapism! The Search Engine exists to take you somewhere outside of your every day and when you put that album on you can escape, even if only for an hour. I love doing quite long tracks sometimes, because they really string out the experience and allow you to immerse yourself in them. It is amazing with groups like Future Sound of London and the Orb who make long proggy sort of albums which allow the listeners to just drift off and dream.

Read full interview DJ Food – From ten to tomorrow

©All rights reserved by Strictly Kev

Art quote:: Noam Edry on what art is capable of communicating

What do you think art is capable of communicating?

Do you know why it is an unfashionable life? Because it is so lo-tech. In Israel we don’t have fashion as readily available as you do here; it is so hard to get your hands on anything like that for many reasons. It’s not such a wealthy place to come from; it’s surrounded by enemy states; so it’s unfashionable. Here it is the opposite; Israel is very fashionable in the UK. It seems to be as big as China, because everyone has something to say about Israel. It is a way of not talking about the poverty in Britain, the homeless people here. It is a way of not talking about many internal problems, like the Irish situation. It is easier to make someone else the front line. So, when I called it unfashionable it was also controversial or with a pinch of salt. Everything in the show could be interpreted in many ways. Everyone thought it was a man that had made the show, with all the phallic symbols; the penises.

So in this way art is able to both reveal the viewer’s prejudices and suggest alternative perspectives and ideas.

Painting ‘The Pussycats’

Women got enraged when they saw The Pussycats (painting), thinking that a man had made it. When they met me it all changed, because it was suddenly a feminist statement on the machoism of society, the machoism of the media world and the art world; it is a man’s world. You have to be a woman with balls to  make it.

Then there was the question ‘Are you Palestinian?’ and the funny thing was that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Goldsmiths came on the private view and got really annoyed. I asked them ‘What is annoying you? What are you enraged about? Is it the work?’ They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t say what, because the work showed nothing that was ‘anti’ in the way they had expected it to. They were upset that I was feeling demonized as an Israeli. ‘How dare you feel demonized as an Israeli?’ ‘I do. You are the people who demonize me in your campaigns.’ So again, after that they just didn’t come. They came with the intention to crash the show or to make a protest, but they came and saw they had nothing to crash.

Read full interview Noam Edry – “I Am the Terrorist”

Detail: Painting ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Oil Stain’

Art quote:: Jeffrey Silverthorne on teaching photography

You have been teaching at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island since 2002, becoming a full Professor in 2011. What methods are you teaching your students to guide them toward, I quote, “to convey the contradictory natures of making things”? (Quote from University website)

It is an interesting place to teach, but teaching photography is both simple and impossible. In the eighties I was teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. At that time I was in frequent contact with the photographer Robert Frank and in one of our phone conversations I told him about one of my students. This young man’s work was sort of mediocre, but he told me about his father who was making weird and kinky films in his garden. I said to him: ‘That sounds great! Why don’t you bring them in and we will show them in class?’ I was discussing with Frank about how the kid brought in this borrowed courage into his own work. I think that people who are starting often need to borrow courage from some place, to be able to understand that they can do that and to start experimenting on their own. What is so great with photography is that on a 35mm roll of film you have 36 opportunities to fail; 36 opportunities to try something that you think you can’t do.

Read full interview – Jeffrey Silverthorne Interview Series Pt 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susan with a light bulb, 2006

Jeffrey Silverthorne Live in London – part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion

6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the Chapel – Photography and Dissolution

© Jeffrey Silverthorne, From Boystown, The Perfume of Desire

 

“The land along the Texas-Mexico border, a borderland, is a place for a psychological or physical passage/transgression.

A Boystown is a group of bars or clubs that gringos and some Mexicans go to for entertainment, and or to have sex with a prostitute, usually a woman, sometimes a female impersonator. I did not see an openly gay or lesbian club, though I saw gays and lesbians. Boystowns are located on the Mexican side of the border, and traditionally are physically and medically much safer than having sex with a prostitute working on the US side.

To understand a Boystown it is necessary to appreciate that in the borderland there are a number of divides; geographic, economic, religious and cultural. In a maquilladoro, a factory on the Mexican side of the border often owned by an international business, a woman might earn eight dollars a day. Working as a prostitute she will earn $40 to $120 for thirty to forty five minutes. The client usually pays $10 to $20 to the club for the rental of the room. Two clients a night seems to be average. For the prostitute there is a performance in doing her job well and conforming to the expectations of the customer. In some clubs if the client does not have an orgasm he can demand his money back for services not successfully rendered. His payment will be refunded.

I began my Boystown work in Nuevo Laredo, and it was there, in various clubs, and in Ciudad Acuna that I made most of these pictures. My motivations for photographing are both specific and vague, honorable and defenseless. On a simplistic and juvenile level, a Boystown is a celebration of life, a candy store of flesh, with any psychological or medical consequences deferred. On an adult level, Boystown is a direct observation of a spiritual poverty and economic failure that both countries and cultures share.

Jeffrey Silverthorne”

(http://agencevu.eu/stories/index.php?id=787&p=213)

_______________________________________________________

Jeffrey Silverthorne Interview Series

Part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion
6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the Chapel – Photography and Dissolution

© Jeffrey Silverthorne, From Boystown, The Perfume of Desire

What was your initial attraction towards the Texas-Mexico border?

I started going there with an older student and I didn’t even know that Boystowns existed; it was suggested to us by a taxi-driver. We were new to the territory and started walking around photographing. Later on the government gave me a grant to photograph prostitution in Mexico. Rather than commenting on the degree of humiliation, I was curious about the energy and the social friction. I was also spending time with the border patrol, who were tracking people and hunting for illegals. The Boystown series consists of many photos from the border control, more than the monograph is suggesting. I remember one of the agents saying: ‘These people leave their homes, travel for long distances with no money, risk their life crossing the river, because they can’t swim, to take jobs in places where people in the USA will not work and they send most of the money back home; and we call them lazy?’

The portrait German Man, 1994, is one of my personal favorites; it is a sort of anti-portrait, in the sense that it is portraying the photographer more so than the German Man himself.  This is where you are so unique; a, because you chose to go ahead and take that picture with his piercing eyes looking back at you, where most of us would’ve decided that it was ‘wrong’ to do so and b, because something about you seems to encourage people to be themselves; to not shy away from what they are feeling, despite the intrusive lens of your camera. Did you have many negatives of the German Man?

The photographer Peter Hujar, who made lots of wonderful pictures, used to work as a commercial photographer for the business magazine Fords. One time, I assume that this was in the early eighties, he went out take the portraits of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and during the break Cage sat down on a chair and fell asleep. I said to Peter ‘Did you photograph him?’ Peter looked at me as if I had said ‘You have just grown three extra penises.’ He said: ‘No, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know him.’ It is interesting how different photographers respond to a situation. With the German Man I think I shot a roll of 35 and some of his wife. The two of them were standing there as if thinking ‘What am I doing here?’ and he was very keen on presenting himself. It was sort of a question of me being still and waiting to let them settle in to their presentation.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne German Man,1994

To me, with my vivid imagination, it looks like you were passing by and he happened to sit there so you asked him ‘May I take your picture?’ He looks at you as if wondering why on earth you would want to do that and the question resides within the image.

Mmm, but that is not what happened at all. I took the chair out of the kitchen to the backyard and said: ‘Sit here, let’s see how that works.’ But imagination is a wonderful thing. It is like photography, it tells the truth and it doesn’t, because of the information added by the viewer.

The photograph Coney Island, July 4, shot in 1990, is included in your book Directions for Leaving. It was taken on Independence Day and it is striking how unreal this ordinary photograph of an ordinary woman seems in comparison to the rest of the book.

It is accurate what you say. In the book it is one of its kind, but I have made many pictures with a similar flavor. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate somewhere around 1967, I was trying out street photography.  I really enjoyed photographing relaxed people on holiday and Independence Day gives people an extra excuse to go to Coney Island just to enjoy themselves. I realized at an early stage that street photography simply wasn’t one of my strengths. However, Susanna and the Elders expresses a similar kind of stillness.

You have been teaching at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island since 2002, becoming a full Professor in 2011. What methods are you teaching your students to guide them toward, I quote, “to convey the contradictory natures of making things”? (Quote from University website)

It is an interesting place to teach, but teaching photography is both simple and impossible. In the eighties I was teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. At that time I was in frequent contact with the photographer Robert Frank and in one of our phone conversations I told him about one of my students. This young man’s work was sort of mediocre, but he told me about his father who was making weird and kinky films in his garden. I said to him: ‘That sounds great! Why don’t you bring them in and we will show them in class?’ I was discussing with Frank about how the kid brought in this borrowed courage into his own work. I think that people who are starting often need to borrow courage from some place, to be able to understand that they can do that and to start experimenting on their own. What is so great with photography is that on a 35mm roll of film you have 36 opportunities to fail; 36 opportunities to try something that you think you can’t do.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susanna and The Elders, 2004

The two Elders, from the Hebrew Bible ‘Book of Daniel’, tried to force young beautiful Susanna into sexual intercourse. In your take on ‘Susanna and the Elders’ in 2004, we see a color photography with you laying down in a sort of tub dressed in drapery and a young woman pouring water over you from a watering can. It would be interesting to know why you have given Susanna the dominating position, since she is originally the one who is struggling against the dominating elders.

Mythology and religion are very potent influences on the culture that I live in. I was interested in getting the literal content matter dealing with the subject matter. I am wondering where some of the behaviors and body language come from and how images are constructed. That is some of the reasons to why I enjoy looking at Giotto and artists both before and after. I don’t think I would begin with Jeff Wall, and neither does Jeff Wall, there is a long range of references. To tap into what some of the positions meant socially, I wanted to take that and use it in these culture stories. I have been interested in working with these motivations or this impetus and putting it into some kind of frame work that momentarily makes sense to me.

In Susanna and the Elders there is a motivation from the Bible story, but I don’t feel that I have to follow it. I use the parts that I am interested in and make up other pieces. With the shutter in my hand, I am giving her permission to do my will. Water is both cleansing, used to ‘get the Devil out of people’, and used as a form of torture and killing. She is pouring it out of a watering-can; I get to be her garden. On a pedestal you have a piece of wood, which has been neatly cut; I am sure it is not a phallic symbol. It is some of this play that I was curious about.

One year later, you created the work ‘Betrayal, Susanna and the Elders’ where we see the betrayed middle-age woman curled up in bed staring into a void, with the man standing by the side of the bed fully dressed and we can only see the male figure from the shoulders down to the knees. With your attraction towards the mundane and how one persons’ Mon-Fri appears extravagant to others; is this your way of suggesting a new sort of every-day mythology with a narrative closer to contemporary household-complications?

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Betrayal, Susanna and The Elders, 2005

There is the idea of the bathing with stones and a sponge, as opposed to water. I responded to Rembrandt’s paintings Bathsheba and Susanna and the Elders much more strongly than others from the same time period. What the Biblical story offered the painters of that time was a justifiable way to paint naked women. What that offered the client was a justifiable way to have a picture of a naked woman in their house. We look at the figures of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba and Susanna today and their physical features correspond to the ideals of that time. So, it’s not just a rendering of a Biblical story, it also ties to the culture of beauty of that time. Susanna and The Elders was motivated as much by Harold Pinter. In one his writings he is talking about the making of a theater play which begins with one character on stage. As the second actor/actress enters the stage, the totality of the energy is shifted and the viewer is no longer feeding off the energy of that one person. There is also this impenetrable distance between the two of them that I was interested in and a lot of my work since the morgue work deals with not getting what you think you want.

In 2006, in the photograph ‘Staircase’ we see you naked touching a naked young woman with curling pins in a staircase. The same year you also shot an image of young ‘Lauren’ in the bathroom fiddling with her curl pins dressed in panties. These photographs are serene, yet problematic. In what way are these images communicating age and desire?

It is like a defeat of sexuality. It comments on what Kafka said, that many of those things you think you were going to do, many of those things you want to do; they are not going to happen. I was interested in that struggle.

Are we likely to find more mythological references in your work in the future?

I am sure there will be, but I am not working on anything directly.

Since you have begun to take part in front of the camera, it has sometimes been with the help of altered mythological stories, scenographic design, facial paint etc. Has it been necessary for you to do this in order to create a distance from yourself or is it unrelated to your participation?

It is to step into the world of an actor and author, and not to disguise who I am. Although it is difficult to interfere, I am willing to do it. I could probably find some old person to photograph, but I don’t think they would have the mental concentration that I am looking for. Certainly the self-portrait of the artist at work is not a new theme. Judith Leyster painted a wonderful portrait in 1609, where she is looking out at the viewer, whilst painting a fiddler. Max Beckmann did a wonderful self-portrait of himself in a tuxedo (Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927), presenting himself as an author and a participant of a community. I find that positioning interesting and sometimes confusing.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susan with a light bulb, 2006

Did you ever have an idea that was too controversial to execute?

Honestly, no. I was in Seville last year and I met some wonderful people who took me to a bullfight. I have seen bullfights before, but this time I was there photographing. I made some pictures which I think verge on a kind of ideal, which is the tourist post card and something that goes further into both the visual history and the culture specific to Seville, in my understanding. I am not Spanish, I am not trying to experience the world through Spanish eyes and I don’t understand their need to kill bulls, but they do have that need. In some versions of Peruvian bullfighting, they take an Andean Condor and they cut the back of the bull and they sew the condor into bull, so the bull comes out into the bullring with a bird on it and the bird pecks out the bull’s eyes while the matador fights it. I don’t know what to say other than that it is fucked. At the bullfight I came to think about blood, bodies, Diego Velàzquez, sacrifice, rituals, transgression, transformation and torture, while watching the banderilla men doing their dance. And then, linking all this back to modern life, I was thinking of women’s menstrual cycle and some of the taboos and sacrifices and of the idea of blood as transformation and I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be neat to photograph menstrual cycles?’, but I haven’t gotten too far on that project yet.

Is it actually too controversial?

No, it is just bothersome. There is a crudity, I think, when you go out to make pictures. You take advantage of people. You don’t need to be mean about it, but you definitely impose yourself. None of my models would lie back like that, people don’t do that.

Thank you, Jeffrey. It has been a great pleasure and been an honour meeting you. 

 

 

Jeffrey Silverthorne is currently exhibiting at Daniel Blau in London (www.danielblau.com) and Galerie VU in Paris (www.galerievu.com)

 

Originally posted on www.contemporarytalks.com

 

Click to read Part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”

Born a War Painter


Mother’s Day drawing at the age of 3, Edry’s earliest recollection of overpainting

”It is pretty amazing, looking back at life, how I have always had the privilege of being supported. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself, but when there are so many people who do believe in you, it strengthens you to continue on the artist’s journey.” – Noam Edry

In 2008 I got to know a Canadian abstract painter in his mid twenties whose parents dedicated the entire basement to his artistic endeavors. The first time I entered his studio I felt as if I had stepped into a dream world. There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge high quality canvases stacked along the walls like CDs at HMV. They were all beautiful and experimental abstract paintings, strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter. Wandering around in Wonderland, I stumbled on a mountain chain of used oil paint tubes. Luckily enough, I was wearing the epic studio guest-slippers, which were already covered in a Pollock pattern, including the soles. I suspect that those canvases have multiplied themselves without leaving the house, because it doesn’t matter how well you are taken care of by your family and other supporters; in order to succeed as an artist, you need to have Edry’s almost frightening impetus and a determination to keep on going no matter what anyone says.

Edry’s childhood is a wonderful story to be told: At the age of three she was discovered by the local kibbutz artist, who worked as a handy man in her kindergarten. When the man was called in to work, he always found her in the middle of a new drawing and started calling her ‘the painter’. Eventually the very young artist was invited by the experienced artist to have private lessons.

“I remember going to his studio and being totally fascinated by the smells and the colors, thinking ‘Wow, this is what a real artist does, I want to be a real artist!’ He tried teaching me to paint with aquarelle, in a specific technique which I found very rigid. I didn’t understand why I had to paint in his way. I found it very hard, but I also enjoyed the privilege that he was giving me.”

Most kids enjoy making cards for birthdays and special occasions and they are always really sweet with glued on deformed hearts and misspelled declarations of love. I can’t recall ever having seen a child covering a Mother’s Day card in a crayon colored square grid, but I didn’t go to daycare with Edry. For Mothers Day, when she was three, the daycare provided the kids with a square sheet of paper mounted on a wooden frame. Edry started drawing circles and thought it looked really nice, but decided to add a grid and at this point there was no return. The three year old had to keep going, exploring and pushing the limits until the point where the whole white square sheet of paper was full of crayon colors. Smiling at the memory, Edry said “I think that is my earliest recollection of ruining a painting; of over-painting“.

By recommendation of the painter, Edry’s parents bought Windsor and Newton watercolors and the specified brushes for their four year old daughter. One year later it was time for the family to move to London and in their new house, a little painting cove was built inside one of the wardrobes. Whenever the five year old decided to paint with her high quality materials, she would open the door of the wardrobe, sit down and paint. On occasion the little artist would be critical of her creation and throw it in the bin, but it was always rescued by her father.

The most fundamental requirement to achieve success in any field must be to have a limitless interest, a sincere passion for the subject, unless the ultimate goal is financial gain. One of Edry’s pre-school teachers was studying psychology and one day she conducted an experiment on the children. She gave them all a lump of clay and recorded the amount of time they were playing with it. Later on, Edry’s mother was told that everyone abandoned the lump of clay within 2-5 minutes, except for her daughter, who spent half an hour battling with this lump, sculpting it and molding it with her tiny little hands.

“My parents always recognized this gift that I have and they always made sure I had the room to do it. When we lived in London in our second house, we had this wonderful dining room with wooden paneling all over, including the ceiling and a beautiful fire place. They sacrificed the whole room and made it into my studio. I painted enormous paintings inside“.

 

 

Edry’s political engagement became evident one day at the orthodox Jewish school she attended in London. It was a strictly religious school, but it was her only option as a Jewish woman in London and despite not being religious, she was fascinated by the opportunity to get an insight into her culture and identity. Early on Edry was discovered by the art teacher Hinda Golding, who gave her leave from various classes to paint massive scenery billboards for the school play. The artist struggled to find her own identity within the school uniform and uniformity of thought, and decided to shave her head at the age of 14. It was a feminist gesture provoked by the conservative policies of the school, in which the male Morning Prayer went ‘Blessed be He for not making me a woman’, and the women’s version went ‘Blessed be the Lord for making me as he made me, according to his will.’

The girls had to pray every week at a general assembly, segregated from the boys. They stood quiet and still, because they were not allowed to join the men. One day Edry had enough and told the girls ‘Ok, we are going to sing today. Take it after me, I will start and you will follow.’ As the leader of the service announced the name of the prayer she had chosen, she started singing and everyone joined in. Once the girls started singing, the rabbi didn’t know what to do. They were not allowed to hear a woman’s voice, so they had to join in.

“From having this monotonous drilling on with mumblings of speech, it became a full sing along prayer. Everyone was shocked afterwards, wondering what had just happened. I was called as the representative of the girls to speak to the Head of Jewish Studies. He asked me ‘So, what do you want?’ I found myself sitting there negotiating the terms for the entire female congregation. I couldn’t say that I wanted women to be equal members of the prayer, because it was still a conservative school, but what we did achieve was to have an all-female prayer as well, where we could sing aloud and do what we wanted to do.” 

 

 

At the age of 17 it was time to say goodbye to London and go back to Israel. From painting almost non-stop and selling works, Edry had to lock up her passion and learn how to serve the country. In order to say goodbye to London, she spent an entire month sketching a different favorite location every day. Her father would often accompany her for safety reasons and sometimes her siblings joined in as well. The series was called ‘My kind of London’. One day when Edry was sketching her own house, a person walking by took a liking to the drawing and asked her to come and sketch his house. The trend spread and the commissions started pouring in, but it was time for the family to leave the UK.

Back in Israel everything changed. After a fortnight of basic military training followed by a few weeks of specific training for her unit, Edry became depressed and didn’t understand why. “I had never been depressed before, I just felt completely lost. The meaning of life escaped me entirely. When I finally made the connection, I smuggled some art materials into my army post. It was completely forbidden. I had nothing to paint, other than four walls. I don’t remember if there was even a window. I sat there and sketched my left hand”. However interesting it is to sketch hands, the day comes when you get sick of it. Eventually, Edry gathered the courage to venture outside to sketch the surroundings of the military base, which was situated on the edge of a cliff. The military base, the netting, the atmosphere, the military camouflage and the fishermen were among her subject matters. When it leaked out that Edry was breaking the rules, the commander was very encouraging and gave her permission to use his office as a studio when he was away. Colleagues from the UN were given drawings as a gesture of good will and they still follow Edry’s career.

 

Noam Edry, Study of my Hand 2000 I and II, pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

 

With regards to her present preoccupations, a series of commissions from Israeli art museums, Edry says “The most important thing to me is to not conform, but to stay true to who I am. What is the point of art if it doesn’t engender social change? How long can an artist be preoccupied only with the inner crevasses of the soul and not be a socially productive human being? I strive now to blur the boundaries of what is art and what is social. I wish it will have some kind of effect beyond the art institution“.

::::ContemporaryTalks.com 20 January 2012

 

_____________________________________________________________

[More on Noam Edry]

_____________________________________________________________

Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Readers’ favourite:: Jeffrey Silverthorne Live in London – part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”

 

Part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”
6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the ChapelPhotography and Dissolution

Introduction by Brad Feuerhelm, Gallery Director

Brad Feuerhelm: I’d like to introduce tonight a man who, for me personally, means a lot to have in the room. I came across Jeff’s work when I was investigating in my early days of photography and the image I ran into first was Woman who died in her sleep from The Morgue Series in 1972. For me it was quite immediate when I found this image, because you have arguably got some of the principal interests of surrealism, but I don’t think that was an intention, and the death of the image combined in one in such a powerful manifestation. The only time I have seen something that even hints at this image later on, was a work by a Mexican photographer named Enrique Metinides titled Adela Legeratta Rivas, struck by a Datsun, 1979. It depicts a beautiful blonde who has been hit by a car. Her body was flung towards a lamp post which her upper body ended up resting on and there is a man in the background in the process of covering her with a jacket.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Woman who died in her sleep, 1972

 

When I came across this uncomfortable beauty absorbed in death it was a game-changer for me personally and I started investigating photography. Not morgue photography per se, although there is history of that as well, but the image really stayed with me and I was lucky enough through the more recent years to strike up a correspondence with Jeff. We finally met a couple of years ago and it is hard to not get along with Jeff, he is such a likeable, lovely character. It was so interesting to meet him, because my preconceptions of who he might be and how he might act and behave were really up in the air – Jeff is probably the nicest guy I have met to this day. That is a bit reaching and wonderful, but I am very happy to have him here tonight for a conversational interview with Elin Henriksdotter, who runs a site called ContemporaryTalks.com, where she covers at length artists and does interviews quite nicely packaged. I definitely think you should all take a look at that.

What physically works for me with these images in the show is this idea of chemical dissolve in these unique prints. You can’t duplicate this chemical burn and it adds an overall feeling in particular which has a sort of double manifest of the idea of dissolve, whether it be of death or materially. What I would like to lead into, is if you (Jeffrey) can enlighten us a bit, quickly, about the process that you used to achieve the physical state of this print and with that initial question I will surrender to Elin.

 

©Jeffrey Silverthorne, currently on view at Daniel Blau London

 

Jeffrey Silverthorne: The process sets off with misjudgment or incorrect evaluation of how long the enlarging paper should be exposed, so if it is coming too quickly or not coming up, then I usually take it out of the developer, put it face down on some surface the darkroom could accommodate, like the floor, and I just let it stay there for a couple of months. In that sense, very similar to what Michael Grieve was discussing earlier, you don’t know what you are going to get. It has that element of chance.

So after you have developed the prints you throw them on the ground and the ambient light that travels through your darkroom effects the quality of the print and then you presumably redevelop the print a few months later?

It tends to be from two weeks to a month, or a month and a half.

Elin: I would like to talk about your Morgue Series. I remember reading a very strong comment from a woman, thanking you for the morgue series which had helped her to overcome the death of her husband, who was lost in the Vietnam War. And it is just such an amazing, important and life-changing experience that you led this woman towards. How did this happen?

This happened at a conference in California in a very pleasant environment with ideal California weather. I was walking back to the cabin where I was staying with a friend and this skinny little woman comes up and asks if I am Jeffrey Silverthorne. Usually when I am asked that question there is a problem that is about to come up, and I thought “Oh, shit. What have I done now? But then, I didn’t do it, whatever it was.” But I said “Yes” and she replied “I want to thank you for making the morgue pictures. I saw them at the San Francisco Art Institute and my husband had been reported missing in Vietnam. For many years I was always waiting for him to come back, but after I saw your pictures, I realized he wasn’t coming back. That helped me to bury him.”

How did you feel at that moment?

Well, I am not always that empathetic, so I thought “Oh, good. I didn’t do anything wrong.” I was happy that she had found that, I was much more used to people having an alternative response, such as “Why the hell did you make those pictures and who do you think you are?” It was good for her.

Was there was also an issue of someone wanting to burn down your house?

They didn’t say that, but in 1973, when the pictures were first shown at the Witkin’s gallery in New York City, I was invited to do a talk Amhurst College in Massachusetts, which is liberal, free-thinking and bla bla bla. The photography teacher, who invited me to do the talk, started asking me questions after my presentation, “Who do you think you are to take these pictures and to invade people’s lives?”  I wasn’t ready for it at that point, so that certainly took me by surprise.

Did this result in you being contacted by the government regarding your images?

No, we have 20-30 years in between. It is a strong content matter, it is a strong topic. I think that the culture of most people in the United States like things to be happy. We invented Disneyland, you didn’t – we like these nice things. But life is not a neat package, it is bloody, it is messy, being alive is uncertain and those are certain characteristics that really attract me. It is at those points where things meet and unexpected things happen, where I feel have an energy of uncertainty, a messyness, that birth can happen. I am not trying to be deep or suggest a metaphorical existentialist relationship here, it is just that things need to happen and when you let them happen (if you’re always in control, then what is going to happen?) then you get the smallest part of your imagination. If you want something different to happen you can’t keep applying the same rules.

You are saying you are not very emotional, but when you were there doing the Morgue Series, how did it effect you personally? Was it a difficult thing to do or where you more practical and thought “Ok, this is a dead body and now I am going to take a picture.”?

I think what I said is that I was not very empathetic. It is not that I didn’t care about her, we actually became friends, but the morgue was a very emotional place for me. It would be very difficult to not respond to these things, these entities, which surely before were living and often in good health and died in an accident or suicide and certainly sometimes of old age. But the bodies that had come to the morgue were the ones of people who in essence weren’t supposed to die.

The morgue happened for me when the Vietnam War ended, a war which I saw as an obscenity. We were still watching stuff on television and listening to things like “We got 43 and a half of them and only two and a half of us!” That is weird, to watch dinner while you are watching people being blown away. I was fortunate to get out of the draft. The whole thing didn’t make sense to me and in 1972, when I decided to make the morgue pictures, it was a different world and Rhode Island was a small place. I went up to the Attorney General, who was probably the only honest politician around at the time, and told him about what I was interested in. His office was across the street from where I went to school, which at that point still had a good reputation, and we talked for an hour. Finally he said “I don’t see any problem with what you propose.  We are not the best department, but we don’t have anything to hide.” There was a little bit of delay in terms of formal letters, but then I was given permission over the telephone. His secretary shouted to him “It’s a photographer guy; he wants to know if he can go to the morgue?” And that was it!

You also went to some people’s homes?

Yes, there were pick-ups. Since I had clearance the police let me in.

You mentioned that the Vietnam War was an obscenity to you. We have plenty of wars going on now and I wonder, do ever feel an urge to respond to them through your photography?

It is a natural part of life. I think that I sometimes respond to them, but not in content matter. The response might work out through Susanna and the Elders and The Bullfights or another project. I don’t feel any kind of obligations or an urgency to go to that content matter again. It is more interesting for me at this point to deal with the subject without that specific content.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne

In our previous conversation you were telling me about your productive years between 1971-1974, when you were photographing in the morgue, in massage parlors on 8th Avenue, in the slaughterhouse, female impersonators and portraits of your children. I wasn’t able to find The Slaughter House series on the Internet. Are they not published?

There are some published. There was one in a show recently that I had at Noorderlicht, but there are also quite a few up at VU,  and they took one of the horse pictures in which the horse’s head sort of back, because it’s neck is slit and there is this very nice pool of blood that reflected well with the flash. It was also in a show in Shuttgart in 1995 and in a telephone conversation with the German gallery they suggested that one of my pictures would go on the back of the monograph for the show. I said “Let’s put the horse picture there.” The gallerist, who was British but had lived in Germany for quite a while, stopped talking. There was a pause for about seven seconds and that is a long time in the middle of a conversation.  Finally he said “Oh, no. We can’t do that, the Germans love their horses.” I also did some photography in a pig slaughter house, which was much more controlled.

© Jeffrey Silverthorne – Demented Billy 

 

From looking at your work, I got the idea that you are the sort of person who goes on spontaneous trips to unknown destinations.

That’s not me. I go to a place and try to open up and not make the same picture I have made before. I try to listen to people, see what they are doing, watch them, pretend to be nice, you know. And if you ask, it is amazing what people will offer. If you don’t ask, most of the time people won’t offer. So it all depends on how you ask and how you present yourself as well. I don’t mean that I con people, but prior to Internet people were in general much more open to talking and engaging in conversations and being photographed.

Are people paranoid?

I don’t think they are paranoid, only much more guarded. It is not that I can make them relax, but I express my sincere desire to work with them and they either respond or don’t.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Annunciation, 2006

Your photography is always unconvential; you clearly always go your own way, and in 2004 your work took an abrupt turn. It takes a lot of courage for a photographer in your position to suddenly decide to a, position yourself in front of the camera and b,  move from black and white to color, sometimes with high a high level of saturation and one single light bulb as your source of light.

Where do you get this strength from; what has been your motivation for almost half a century?

I think that curiosity and some sort of wonder is very difficult to maintain and I don’t know, maybe because I took vitamins when I was a kid. Maybe because things don’t make sense to me most of the time, maybe because sometimes when I am really interested in something I want to make it a little more permanent, so that I can flick through a contact sheet and say “Oh, yeah, I remember this and I remember that.” I have recently been looking back at the last 40 years of work, trying to find some images to re-print and I come across pictures that I find much more interesting. I guess I look for things that I find really neat or really weird. Edward Curtis talked about the shadow catchers, and that is kind of what I do, visually. I dump my thoughts into it and then can I forget about it and move on to the next situation maybe a little more fresh.

What are your thoughts regarding the exhibition medium and does the fact that you are represented by commercial galleries have an impact on your work? 

I always make pictures and I don’t consider the viewer, at all. While I am editing I am driven by the question “Was this getting what I want?”  “Was this getting what I am interested in?” Somewhere down the line, hopefully it is distant, I wonder “Gee! Maybe there is a sucker out there that would buy this stuff?” And then I send it off, or don’t. Preferably I let it wait a couple of years and see if it still has resonance. So you make things and you let go of some controls and it really is a kind of addiction of a microsecond. Although, for a while I made long exposures so I got more fulfillment. There is a thrill there.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Making an offer, Series Silent Fires, 1982-1984, 2006

 

In an interview in connection with your exhibition at The BankRI Galleries in 2010 you mentioned the following: “What I am most interested in photographing are things that people feel strongly to do, whether they are socially acceptable or not, almost as if the thing had taken over the person and yet was an integral part of the person.” How does this relate to your own practice?

 

Most of the time I try to be fairly reasonable about making pictures and there have been some boundaries that have been suggested by people who I care about; they don’t want me to do anything too weird. I believe that I want to explore a wide range of things that I find curious and that I think are genuine and I have a great deal of difficulty with the word and the concept of authenticity, because I think that we are very socially constructed animals and we do these things and they seem genuine, because millions and millions of other people are doing the same thing. I do however believe that there is an authenticity to doing something that you really have to do. You really need to do this and you are putting at risk something. Now, that doesn’t mean you should do it and it certainly doesn’t mean it is going to be good, but I think that when you are doing that, and you are a little more savvy to ways things have been constructed, it might construct a design to ultimately come to a composition. When I do this I am speaking through many tongues, it is not just a fourth tongue. There are hundreds of tongues, and I think that as a maker you try to engage a lot of these tongues so that the image isn’t stuck in one moment, but both in the time and out of the time.

Now, whether this adds to or allows for the thing to last, who the hell knows, at that moment. Did Giotto really think people would still be paying attention to the Scrovegni Chapel after all these years? I don’t know, actually I don’t care, but I am glad that he made things and that people have preserved much of it to be able to look at the hands and how the hand gestures are used, as a part of the social history, as part of the social communication, because then I can steal from it and I can employ some of those devices. I think that there is a realness to the curiosity, to the desire to see something and the desire to make something. Then the work comes to be in a language that I feel uses as much as I can give to it. Whether you respond to it, that is out of my hands.

 

© 2009 Le photoblog de Renaud Monfourny

Jeffrey Silverthorne is currently exhibiting at Daniel Blau in London (www.danielblau.com) and Galerie VU in Paris (www.galerievu.com)

Click to read Part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion

Live interview – Meet Jeffrey Silverthorne

Meet Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau
::6th September 7 pm::

Introduction Brad Feuerhelm, Director of Daniel Blau Gallery London
+ Photography slide show
+ Live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter

American photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne is visiting the gallery for a comprehensive live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter from ContemporaryTalks.com in connection with his participation in “Haunting the Chapel  – Photography and Dissolution” (1 Sept – 8 Oct 2011); an exhibition of vintage, anonymous, vernacular and spirit photography.

Jeffrey Silverthorne invites his audience to hidden worlds that are fully ignored by most –because of their danger, ugliness and difficult nature. He is an anonymous spectator, who instantly steps aside from his point of view and leave us alone with our experience.

What it is like to stand next to an unidentified dead person in the morgue? Do questions bombard your mind, and if, what are the answers sought for? Maybe it is a mind-numbing experience that silences you for days. Is it possible to go so far as to imagine oneself in that position; the body cold and stiff and everyone deprived of the last goodbye?

The slide show will take you on two rapid photographic journeys; first we will visit the morgue and secondly the borderland located on the Mexican side of the Texas-Mexico border, where prostitutes in high heels are seen on and off duty in bathrooms and bedrooms. Outside awaits guarding dogs, railroad tracks, illegals and newspaper editors.

Through Silverthorne’s photography we are presented reality’s inherent complexity via simplicity. The world might stop for a few seconds and take on a new significance.

 

Please RSVP to london@danielblau.com, £5 payable on arrival

The event incl: Michael Grieve in conversation with Aaron Schuman


Noam Edry – “I Am the Terrorist”

Detail: Painting ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Oil Stain’

Noam Edry’s Graduation Show ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ had no ready-made opinions or moral lessons for the viewers to pick up on. Edry’s show was an objective and just mirror of the world as it is; entirely contradictive and bizarre with bombs falling as necks and thighs are being rubbed by educated professionals. She managed to take me somewhere; an experience strongly enforced by the performance where Edry made us, the audience, stand in a ring in the exhibition space and imagine a hole in the middle for one minute. We were focusing on that hole when all of a sudden a woman ran into the room screaming in panic, dressed in a skin colored body suit as if she was naked. The woman ran through our circle, over the hole, and dove into a sculpture on the floor; a hole. She was absolutely screaming in horror; terrifying! As if she had stepped out of the video installation ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ which was screened just next to us.

What do you think Art is capable of communicating?

Do you know why it is an unfashionable life? Because it is so lo-tech. In Israel we don’t have fashion as readily available as you do here; it is so hard to get your hands on anything like that for many reasons. It’s not such a wealthy place to come from; it’s surrounded by enemy states; so it’s unfashionable. Here it is the opposite; Israel is very fashionable in the UK. It seems to be as big as China, because everyone has something to say about Israel. It is a way of not talking about the poverty in Britain, the homeless people here. It is a way of not talking about many internal problems, like the Irish situation. It is easier to make someone else the front line. So, when I called it unfashionable it was also controversial or with a pinch of salt. Everything in the show could be interpreted in many ways. Everyone thought it was a man that had made the show, with all the phallic symbols; the penises.

So in this way art is able to both reveal the viewer’s prejudices and suggest alternative perspectives and ideas.

Painting ‘The Pussycats’

Women got enraged when they saw The Pussycats (painting), thinking that a man had made it. When they met me it all changed, because it was suddenly a feminist statement on the Machoism of society, the Machoism of the media world and the art world; it is a man’s world. You have to be a woman with balls to make it.

Then there was the question ‘Are you Palestinian?’ and the funny thing was that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Goldsmithscame on the private view and got really annoyed. I asked them ‘What is annoying you? What are you enraged about? Is it the work?’ They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t say what, because the work showed nothing that was ‘anti’ in the way they had expected it to. They were upset that I was feeling demonized as an Israeli. ‘How dare you feel demonized as an Israeli?’ ‘I do. You are the people who demonize me in your campaigns.’ So again, after that they just didn’t come. They came with the intention to crash the show or to make a protest, but they came and saw they had nothing to crash.

It was all pretty much crashed already, wasn’t it?

Yes. Exactly, it had all undermined itself and you couldn’t tell where the artist was positioned politically. So again and again ‘Are you Palestinian? Are you Israeli?’ All these questions surprised me every time and I got them until the last day. People came to the exhibition when it was closed as well. I couldn’t close the show because people kept coming. They heard about it from all walks of life; there were activists, sociologists, politicians; it ended up being publicized on Facebook by people I didn’t even know. The Israeli advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs even promoted it, even though the Israeli Embassy could not officially associate with my show, because my message was unclear. It had all these amazing effects on people.

There is a video from ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’-series on Youtube, where you approach old ladies on the street and ask them to pose for you as the Queen. It is just an excerpt and in the end one of the ladies agrees to this and invites you to come to her house. Did she pose for you?  

In September 2010 I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. It was formed as the result of my encounter with an old lady. As my alter-ego in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I was looking for grannies on the street because I needed one to pose for me as the Queen. More accurately: I wanted to cast their ears and hands because I was making a life size effigy of the Queen. I was so used to being turned down that I was almost caught off guard when one of them agreed. This one lady said that she would love to be my model and invited me to her house; so we went there. I was still filming (in my character wanting to meet the Queen), without her really knowing it. I ended up spending an hour listening to her tell me her life story. She has got a broken hip and she has to climb all these stairs to get home; completely neglected because she lives in a rundown house. The old lady asks me why I want to meet with the Queen and I end up telling her my own life story; about leaving Israel and coming back to London where I grew up and wanting to fit in. She keeps asking “Why? And why do you need to know if the Queen loves you? And why do you need a granny; don’t you have a granny of your own?” This is a 20 minute long clip and at the end of it she tells me that she is actually Jewish; which is bizarre, since I picked her because she reminded me of the Queen. All of the grannies I approached that day turned out to be either Jewish or Irish or South African; none of them was actually English. This really shows that nobody is authentic; there is no such thing as ‘The Real Thing’. ‘The Real Thing’ isreality!

Then in one single sentence, the old lady also tells me that she has a nephew or cousin whose son was blown up in a tank in Israel and recently a 20 year old man from the other side of her family just came back in a coffin from Afghanistan.

It just sums it all up for me, because I was beginning to be too much affected by all these images in the British papers of coffins coming back from Afghanistan, with a beautiful Union Jack wrapped around them. It affected me so profoundly; I am used to mourning Israeli soldiers dying and now I am mourning the British soldiers in the exact same way.

Maybe it doesn’t matter which country I come from, maybe all that matters is that they are dying? Maybe all that matters is that I am human? Those were my thoughts when I started working on my MFA Graduation Show. I wanted to bring an army of 50 grannies and involve them in a project where they would knit a giant Union Jack throughout the show, coming and going in shifts. This is when I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. However, it was difficult, because many of them couldn’t leave the house. They weren’t so easy to work with, given that I had a short period of time and somehow it wasn’t close enough to what I needed to express. I still had to tell the story of Israel.

I returned to my painting and again I was bombarded with questions at school; ‘Don’t paint!’ ‘Why are you painting?’ ‘What are you painting?’

Did this harsh critique only come from the other students?

No, no, no. I actually told one of my teachers ‘I have an idea for a painting. I want to paint the British Monarchy fleeing from an angry mob; running from something.’ I wanted to have giant ravens hovering above them, which is the symbolism for when the monarchy will fall. The teacher just laughed and said it was a stupid idea. Two weeks later when I regained my strength, I thought ‘That’s a reason to make it; I am probably on to something now. I should do it.’ My Head of Department, Gerard Hemsworth, came around afterwards and encouraged me to proceed with the painting. Hemsworth also encouraged me to combine the paintings with my other expressions.

I went to Israel and came back after Christmas and just said ‘The hell with it now, I am painting.’ It became more and more about the Israeli landscapes and the unfinished Arabic houses; the mixture of the two, which is so unique to where I come from.

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

Simon Bedwell kept saying ‘Your work is so strong; always extreme with sharp-edged politics. You mustn’t cut any branch off the tree’, which really helped me to brush off all the negativity I had around me. It was also like a license to do what I wanted to do. From mid-January I could picture this mad exhibition with a myriad of images and this brown blob, my DATE (please read Interview Part 2 for explanation), in the middle. This giant brown cocoon of a blob was to be placed on the studio floor, with its slit for the eyes and a veil over it to make it look more like a real dried up date. It somehow looks a bit like a burka, it is difficult to identify. The ambiguity of this work is very important because it opens it up for everyone to relate and create their own interpretation. Invited artists and tutors, such as Matthew Cornford from Cornford & Cross and Abigail Reynolds, came into my studio and encouraged me to include the DATE with my other works in the final show.

I have understood from our previous conversation that your painting sort of escalated into quicker work and in the end you were attacking the walls. When did you create your videos ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ and ‘The Fundamentalist’?

I got the space only a week before the Graduation Show. At that point I knew I was going to make all the videos, which also had to have this eclectic thing about them; I used snippets from YouTube videos that had constantly brewed in my mind. I wanted to show them to people, because nobody in my surroundings believed that they existed.

My colleagues would say ‘You are lying, there are no Israeli casualties.’ When I told them of friends of mine who had died and people I had seen being buried after a terrorist attack, funerals I had attended, a friend of mine that was on a bus that exploded; nobody believed me.

And I wanted to show them; Here! It is right here on YouTube! So that happened in the space, it was like working with newspaper cuttings only it was video. I made them that same night, thinking a TV needs to be here and then there was a bucket full of cement and a dead car battery near the dust bin, so I placed the TV on that. I found a wheelbarrow in a skip, which looked like the wheelbarrows on Arab construction sites in Israel. I knew I had to have it in the show and it ended up serving as the other TV-stand. The entire show was ruled by practical purposes, never esthetical and the function became the esthetic. The middle had to remain empty, because I wanted to gather all the visitors once a day for a minute of silence. I can’t bring the hole to you; I can only make you imagine it. It will be far worse in your imagination than anything I could possibly show you. You can imagine because, like me, you see it on TV and you are bombarded with images in the press. You can almost imagine being there.

Then I said, ‘Right, I can now say my message.’ Because when I had that stage for my seminar in front of the students, somebody convinced me not to do it. But now it needs to be said. I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery and I just thought the best work there was the video where she is interviewed about her abortion. I watched that video twice or three times and found it to be the most artistic work in the show. Just talking about it and taking us to where it happened to her. First I recorded myself with a video camera, but it was only me and it just wasn’t enough. I needed to tell the story to a real person and I needed them to ask me questions. It was a 60 min interview and there were bits when I really choked, like when I spoke about my two brothers in the army. They are there and they are endangered every day, but they have to do it; just like I had to be in the army.

Is it mandatory for both girls and boys to serve the Israeli Army?

Yes. For me, that’s a reality. When I tell people here that I have been to the army they raise an eye-brow and they look at me like ‘Oh, my God. How could you?’ I come from a country with constant threat of war; yes, we need to have an army.

The threat of war is not just from neighboring countries; it’s from within. It is a rocket launcher placed by Hamas on rooftops of civilian homes. London’s population is almost twice the size of the entire state of Israel. If you compare that and you think ‘Right, there is a missile launcher on the rooftop of New Cross; it is trying to fire towards East London.’ Would you do something about it?

I am sure you would. But for people, Israel first of all sounds huge because of all the noise people make about the Middle-East. It sounds huge and invincible; so powerful. But it’s just a tiny country with 7,4 million people, with a 10 km width. You could cross it in a few hours by foot. Nobody knows.

Diptych ‘Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House’

For 3-4 days, all I had at the show was the diptych Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House. It was spread out on two separate walls. But then there was nothing else and the room became Minimalist. There was the DATE and the wheelbarrow and a few other paintings that people kept telling me to take down. I was suddenly scared, I became Minimalist again. I don’t know why, but there is an encouragement in Goldsmiths to minimalize your work.

You could really tell by the other exhibitions.

So then I took my canvases off the stretchers because for the whole year that I was painting them it was obvious that they would not be shown as classic paintings, but rather as rushed paintings; nailed onto the wall. I wanted to have rusty metal and the aesthetics had to be inspired by the demolished houses, building sites, bunkers; the stuff I had experienced in Israel, both in the army and afterwards. I wanted to go to scrap yards and get them, but it turned out I didn’t need to. I found them on my way to school and as I was going about my life. I had to incorporate all this in the installation.

As I told you earlier, I gave my father a call, because at this stage I had lost myself entirely. The pressure from outside from some of my fellow artists telling me to take down the work was just too much. After this encouraging phone call I literarily stapled the paintings onto the wall. I started painting straight on the wall. ‘What do they call you here?’ I thought to myself. ‘A Zionist, right’. It resulted in a graffitied wall full of all the accusations I had come across at Goldsmiths; now they were no longer pointed at me.

Originally it had said ‘The bad guys will win’, but I didn’t want them to win and who are the bad guys? I am the bad guy here in London. The Zionists are the bad guys, but I was raised to feel that the bad guys are the terrorists. Here I am the terrorist. But the bad guys are really the apathy I experience here. British apathy is violent.

Graffiti á la Edry

It is the apathy of looking and not just not doing, reacting or intervening; it is letting all these slogans and supposedly peaceful protests, that are not so peaceful, go ahead. It is like joining that crowd of liberalists that are not liberal at all. I think they remind me more of the right wing than anything left. I come from a country where the left is very radical. The left is almost too radical because it doesn’t understand how Israel is perceived from the outside. It doesn’t understand that no matter what these radical messages and thoughts are misconstrued here. In Israel, for us it is given that Israel must exist. It is our only home. At the same time, we believe in the right of the Arab people to exist. Even co-exist with us, as Israelis or have their own state if they don’t wish to be Israeli. There are different Arabs, there are different wishes and here it is not understood like that.

I remember being 14, kind of left radical and I was reading all that propaganda stuff. I boycotted Israeli products for about a week, until I started thinking ‘What the hell does this actually mean? Israeli people are people too; they must have the agricultural right to export their products. There is a difference between a farmer and a terrorist. I can’t choose a side.’ I was vegan and felt a bit sorry for the delicious dates. It is just never that easy, is it?

Yeah, it’s like that. We can’t choose a side. I have never been a political artist; my work has been mainly about gender politics if political at all. It has been about being a woman, but never about the conflict. It wasn’t possible in Israel. Several Arabic artists in my class, who I was quite friendly with, were very dedicated to making political work, because they are the underdogs in Israel. Here I feel like the underdog, so I can feel more comfortable making it, but in Israel there was no room for me to make political work. I always thought it was short lived and it just never interested me.

So, how the hell did I end up making an ultra-political work? The key is to see my video ‘The Fundamentalist’. My teachers know me as the most political artist on the course and they even nicknamed me the ‘Zionist Terrorist’, you know lovingly, as I had been causing so much trouble, in an encouraging way. They like that. Then they watched the video where I say ‘Before I came to Goldsmiths I had never been interested in making political work, it seemed so uncool’. It kind of undermines everything I’ve done, or maybe strengthens it, because it shows how an ordinary person can be pushed into becoming radicalized and extreme. I am not just talking about me; I am talking about politics now. This is what institutions can do to you.

Some of the teachers came after the exam and said ‘Wow, we are not allowed to speak to you now. But we have so many questions. Can we take this?’ and they all wanted to take something with them from the show.

My volunteers gave them a t-shirt. Apparently Gerard Hemsworth, my Head of Department, went home and his daughter asked him ‘Dad, where did you get this mega cool t-shirt from? I want one.’ They were all deeply touched and some of them came back to my exhibition and brought other teachers that hadn’t been to the exam. They even made a point of staying for the 8pm performance, for some of them it was the second time. They told me they couldn’t stop thinking about it. That same day of my exam, which was seven days before the private view, I spoke to my tutor David Mabb on the phone and he said ‘I’ve heard all about what you did in your exam, it has been talked about.’ They thought I was all about ‘funny haha’ and tongue-in-cheek, being enraged; while there I was just saying ‘I was a kid in the army, I was never political. You made me political, by constantly silencing me.’

Just like you allowed your show to be an organic tree by allowing the branches to co-exist and spread; it reflected on the outside world.

I must say that another teacher who really inspired me was Susan Taylor. Susan is a performance and sound artist; a very special woman who was not just a teacher but also a friend. I hadn’t even seen Goldsmiths before I came to study there. I sent my application from Israel about a month after the deadline, thinking I would probably not be considered. About two weeks later I received an offer from them. I felt like it was meant to be. It was Susan who wrote to me and suggested that I could come for a tour of the campus. I never did, I just came the next September to study there.

Susan turned out to be an extraordinary woman; always always encouraging me to be who I am, to be different as I am; telling me thatall people are different. ‘Just be you’ she said. Susan also encouraged me as a woman, because she understood the struggle as a woman to make work in a very male dominated field. I think that the art world is a male dominated field, like all fields are, despite the Feminist Revolution. Even though she has now retired, she saw me this year a few months before my show and I told her what was going on and she said ‘This isn’t like you’. I was being vague because I kept getting told: ‘You’re being too specific. You need to be universal. We don’t want to hear about the Middle-East or about Israel. We want to understand; otherwise we feel alienated’. Susan said ‘Why not be specific? You always have something to say’. Curators that came over the course of the year did not discuss my art, but rather tried to guess my political persuasion. I was tired of it. Susan said ‘No, you are a very strong artist with a strong message. You have to speak up. Where is Noam, where is your voice?’ She also convinced me to duplicate that painting, because I wanted to do it. One of my teachers had said ‘I don’t want you to do it, because politically I disagree with you.’ And I said ‘I never told you where I stand politically; why do you suppose that we are on two different sides of the spectrum? Have you asked what I think?’ All I got was ‘I have had this impression from your work and if you duplicate the painting you will be insinuating that both sides suffer the same.’ And I said ‘A death is a death, suffering is suffering. And why does it matter who is suffering? I can be as upset that an Arab Palestinian child has been killed; I can be just as upset if it is an Arab. Why do you suppose I would be more upset if it is an Israeli?’ Susan is the one who convinced me to do everything I am doing. She came to my show. They all came and both Susan Taylor and Simon Bedwell stayed for the Minute’s Silence. I was very touched.

It has been such an extraordinary struggle.

Yes and it still is a struggle.

I got thinking about Tracey Emin. There was a Study Day at the Southbank Centre on the 13th of June and the discussion panel consisted of six people, but there was so much talk about Tracey as a private person. Her Tent is not about her own sexual experiences; she is communicating something universal – we all have a history of people we have slept with and next to. When we enter the Tent all those memories come back to us. Just like you, she is communicating all that crap we want to ignore and forget with works like her neon sign “People like you need to fuck people like me”, although I find that you are expressing far more complicated issues.

In my seminar, in the first performance of SAVE THE DATE, the work was hardly discussed. It was just about my political persuasion and I was also accused of being a Right Wing Artist – hilarious! Here I am rallying for Freedom of Speech and I am telling you that youare the bigoted ones, if anything. You look at me but you don’t see anything but Israel in my face. I never label people by wings, so why do you have to do it to me?

That’s where “Rehabilitating the Left” fits in. A lot of people in my exhibition said ‘Wow, I really like this. ‘Rehabilitating the Left’, yeah. The Israeli left really does need rehabilitating.’ And I happened to be there and I said, ‘Do you see any Israelis lying on the table?’

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

You don’t want to see what the Israeli left is, it is so radical. It is so different to the left in Britain, it deals with different issues; it is a different approach.  You can’t compare them, but why compare them? This constant labeling; I just find it funny. I find it very limiting.

Are you staying in London?

Yes yes. Now I am convinced I have to, because after the way in which this exhibition was received it has to be the start of a new mode of working for me. I want to make more and more of these ambitious shows. By ambitious I don’t mean bigger or more extravagant, I mean more thought-provoking and personal and with more interaction with other people. I am looking for new and exciting projects. At the same time I keep in touch on a very close level with Israel because I believe in that art scene which has some really fresh and punchy voices. I am preparing for two solo shows now. It is going to be an intensive period for me. I have also been approached by dealers and collectors, which is very encouraging.  I am so well connected now with friends and receiving many offers from curators, that it is a matter of figuring out what is worthwhile.

__________________________________________________________

[More on Noam Edry]

__________________________________________________________

Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011