A4 on the Richter Scale: Delicate Paper Cuts Depict Catastrophes

Artists including Noa Yekutieli, Jonathan Goldman and Alex Levac tackle disasters in a new exhibition in the Galilee.

Barak Brinker

A new spirit is in the air at the Wilfred Israel Museum in Kibbutz Hazorea in the Galilee, founded in 1951 to house Israel’s collection of Far and Near Eastern art. The scion of an affluent English family who died while rescuing Jews in the Holocaust, Israel bequeathed his collection to the kibbutz. Currently showing are three exhibitions, two of them by young artists having their first museum exhibition.

“Through the Fog, the Distance,” by Noa Yekutieli, born in 1989, is an installation consisting of two parallel walls that create a relatively narrow passageway along which hang more than 200 works created with paper-cutting techniques. The images they depict are of destruction, fragments of memory after natural disasters and moments of coping and compassion in the wake of these catastrophes. Yekutieli’s sources are photographs of disasters that occurred in various places. She did not study art in a formal way, but became acquainted with the delicate charm of cut paper during a stint in the fashion world at the outset of her professional career.

Emerging from the far end of one of the walls is a kind of extended swarm of objects, stones, furniture and remnants of culture, a long trail of ruins. Both here and in the cut paper, it is apparent that Yekutieli relates to disaster from a personal, poetic point of view, free of accusations or criticism. This is not a particular story of loss or grace, but a take on the universal and the human. The 
paper cuts are displayed without reference to the geography or chronology of the disasters they represent. The walls become a monument to a harrowing general reality, but at the same time testimony to its intrinsically ephemeral character.

Yekutieli “defines herself not as an artist but as an investigator of memory,” says Anat Turbowicz, the co-curator of the exhibition (with Shir Meller-Yamaguchi). The disasters that pervade the works are not the linchpin of the exhibition, only the frame story through which the artist observes “the void that is created, the place we feel the absence and longing to complete rather than only tolerate.” The wall, Turbowicz says, is a metaphor for memory, which erases what occurred and comes to terms with the ensuing emptiness. “We seek to fill in the void, in order not to feel it, but it remains a meaningful part of our lives,” the artist says. The emptiness, in her perception, is a platform enabling movement and change.

Also showing at the museum is “L.A.N.D.,” an exhibition by Jonathan Goldman, born in 1984, which fuses diverse media into a multidimensional sensory experience. The principal image in the exhibition, which appears in a series of variations, is a hill that seems to be floating in empty space. One work, evoking a mountainous terrain, is made of remnants of trees that were cut into different lengths based on the wavelengths of the sounds of the sea, which Goldman recorded and printed out. Also part of the young artist’s installation is a laboratory in which he is growing small hills that float in a green liquid in laboratory jars.

Perhaps under the influence of his mother’s work in biological and ecological research, the laboratory became Goldman’s natural environment. Two years ago, for his graduation project at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Goldman created a bizarre, raucous MDMA (popularly known as Ecstasy) laboratory in which sounds of dripping were converted into visual information. The co-curator, Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, notes in the text accompanying the exhibition that Goldman “treats art as a field of research about connections in reality, and offers an alternative which contains optimism and innocence, a habitat for new continents.”

Goldman’s installation, too, exists outside concrete time but retains the principle of constant change. “One of the things I find lacking in visual art is the absent dimension of time,” he says. “When you create a sculpture or a painting in the studio, it is an action done with material and which is complete before the work is exhibited. There is no performance effect, of something that is emerging all the time. That is what led me to create an installation in which what the viewer hears and sees changes. At the given moment in which one comes to it, a one-time event is occurring that is being endlessly transformed, so the relationship is continually coming into being.”

The third exhibition at the museum is “Three Years After,” by the veteran photographer Alex Levac, which shows his impressions of the aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011. Here, too, according to the curator, Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, the emphasis is not on the destruction as such but on the feelings aroused at the sight of a place that was full of life and became a denuded landscape. The works, she says, “convey implicitly the scale of the destruction and the human difficulty of coping with it.”

Barak Brinker