Tag Performance art

Review:: ‘This Bloody Excrement Is My Testament’

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.”

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

 

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[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

A mind-blowing Goldsmiths’ MFA Graduate Show 2011

 

What has Noam Edry, a female Israeli artist, born in Haifa, raised in up Kibbutz and newly graduated from Goldsmiths University in London (MFA) in common with Steven Cohen, a South African Jewish homosexual performance artist? They both make ground-breaking art with an explosive expression derived from and based upon an overwhelming life experience. Their art somehow articulates the difficulty (to the verge of impossibility) to be a human being stretched between cultures, religions, ideologies and countries.

After having spent three months in an army mental asylum when he refused to bear arms in the whites only South African Defense Force, Steven Cohen dedicated the remaining 21 months to secretly studying photographic silk screen techniques at night. Ten years later after “a decade of being hungry and angry and constantly working” (1), Mr. Cohen spent several months bed-ridden in hospital due to several diseases simultaneously. At the end of it, having forcefully experienced the “unexplored palette”(2) of his body, Mr. Cohen made the decision to use his own body as canvas. In a similar manner, although the product is entirely different, does Noam Edry reveal her inside to the audience at Goldsmiths University in London at the MA Graduate show, which can now be seen in the Ben Pimlott Building and Laurie Grove Baths. By the use of documentary video mixed with contemporary sonic and visual art, Edry manages to bring reality further, into a realm of extreme realism.

The experience started at the entrance, where the hired security guard insisted on checking our bags and I, not realizing what was ahead of me, jokingly said that my bag was indeed full of bombs. In the first section we were offered a relaxing massage by a professional, a woman was laying down receiving what looked to be a very comfortable treatment. Already at this stage it was a puzzling experience and I proceeded to the “Groovy Little War Mix”; a Video installation screened on a tiny TV, a relic from only 15 years back. The soundtrack was indeed a groovy little mix and the video footage presented documented war scenes, scratching back and forth like a hardcore edited cool music video. The original sound had been mixed in with the music, which filled the big space with a surreal mixture of war and fun. My gaze wandered back to the relaxing corner next to the entrance of the room before I proceeded further into this impossible scenery, making my way through the crowd. I had to carefully watch my step to not slip on a piece of junk that had been spread across the room as a part of the installation.

 

Video peek of Noam Edry’s installation ‘Groovy little war mix’

Noam Edry works with all mediums at once; big paintings, drawings, video, sound, sculpture and performance; all continuously flowing throughout the exhibition and sort of joined together into one big installation and on top of it all we were given a performance piece by Edry that I will never forget. In a beautiful white suit, elegant high heels and wild long curly hair, Edry confidently entered the exhibition room. As she reached the middle of room, Edry informed a crowd that they were in fact standing in a hole. Pointing at 4 marks on the floor, she explained that inside the marks there was nothing but a hole. The crowd emptied the area and we were all asked to take one minute to visualize a hole, while staring at the space on the floor. We did. Just as I was about to reach the acceptance of an invisible hole, a panicked woman ran in to the room screaming her heart out, screaming and screaming and finally throwing herself down on the floor and disappearing into a sculpture, which to me at that point looked like a pile of mud or perhaps a dirty blanket, where she was hiding away from that which she was running from.

Video: Performance at the opening night

 

    

 

I walked out in silence and I can still feel my heart beat just a bit heavier. Thereason for me to draw a parallel to the performance artist Steven Cohen is to highlight how art is able to communicate life stories, tragic and heroic all at once. It can be fun, funky, bizarre, heart-tearing and amusing at the same instant. It is real life bubbling up to the surface, revealed by artists with great courage. We will certainly be seeing more of Edry, a fresh young British artist graduating from the same University as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas amongst others.

        

Event Information (3)
Location: Goldsmiths University: Ben Pimlott Building, Laurie Grove Baths
Cost: Free

Times:
 14 July 2011, 18:00 – 21:00
 15 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00
 16 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00
 17 July 2011, 10:00 – 16:00
 18 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00

1. ‘Interviews’ by Gerald Matt, Director at Kunsthalle Wien, Published 2007, Interview with Steven Cohen
2. ‘Interviews’ by Gerald Matt, Director at Kunsthalle Wien, Published 2007, Interview with Steven Cohen
3. Goldsmiths University website: www.gold.ac.uk

 

__________________________________________

[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