Yasmin Davis' Video Art: Trapped in a Nightmare

The apartment featured in Yasmin Davis' enigmatic video work carries on a coordinated dialogue with the gallery-apartment in which it is being displayed.

From Yasmin Davis' Following You Following Me No. 2'.

Video artist Yasmin Davis is a choreographer of an alternative reality of image and voice, taking the two to a breaking point at which they are separated from one another, in order to be reunited and then redivided once more, in a changing and yet not-changing reality. Thus, through her masterly video of dance, Davis creates an absent-present image, voice, time and body, in which the self-evident becomes an enigma à la Jorge Luis Borges.

An interrelationship emerges between the interior of the apartment seen in her video and the space in the apartment that houses Tel Aviv’s Oded Shatil Gallery, at 8 Lieberman Street, where it is currently on show. Last year Shatil, a collector who worked for many years with the city’s Julie M. Gallery, opened his own display area in his home, in the space that previously housed his library.

“The new space,” he wrote in a press release at the time, “will present exhibitions of painting, sculpture, video and audio works, site-specific performance art and installations, exhibitions of other curators and occasionally shows from my private collection.”

In the first part of Davis’ work “Out of Sync,” we become familiar with the scene of a crime that is or is not about to take place. The interior of an apartment from another time and place is seen – which corresponds wonderfully with Shatil’s own apartment. In the video, a television screen is partially reflected in a dark, glass-fronted cabinet, vague voices are heard in the room and hallway, and there is the sound of footsteps of some unseen person.

Now a cycle begins, at first by way of a long shot, after which the camera draws closer. A sheet of white paper is pushed under a double door, and a key is pushed out from the other side of the keyhole, falling onto the sheet of paper, which is then pulled away. The key is inserted into the other side of the keyhole.

This action occurs repeatedly. The camera moves vertically between the keyhole and the sheet of paper. There’s a faint sound of a passing plane, a light is turned on and then goes off when the sheet of paper is pushed from the lit room into a dark one. The light that penetrates through the notch in the door reveals the damage the key has inflicted on the sheet of paper when it falls.

The camera continues to move up and down, and we can hear footsteps approaching the door and hear the key falling and being pulled to the other side, but now neither paper nor key are seen. The sound then disappears as well; only the camera continues to rise and fall. No human being is actually seen in “Out of Sync”; the identity of an invisible figure and its criminal or innocent essence remain a riddle. Nor is the door ever opened, so the action is rendered opaque. In this hypnotic, cyclical dance, the basic elements that activate our senses and our perception are separated from each other and sharpen our awareness.

In Davis’ “Following You Following Me No. 2,” the apartment space opens into the cosmic infinite, becoming a sort of abstract cage. There’s a black space in which the artist’s own illuminated form flickers as she paces about, soldier-like. This is an illusion, for she is actually walking in place; only the camera moves forward and back. The rhythm of the dance between the camera and her figure is dictated by her breathing. When she inhales, she seems to move closer to the camera; then the camera draws back very slowly as she exhales and then hurriedly pulls back. The rhythm and duration of the breaths constantly change, and in their wake the rhythm and duration of the camera’s movements, too.

Davis’ pace of movement sometimes verges on running, creating a vague sense of fear, as though someone is chasing her. This is a video that is itself a nightmare in which protagonist and viewer are trapped – an orchestrated dance of suffocation until the last breath.

The exhibition also includes the musical score for the choreography seen in Davis’ work, illuminated with night-lights. And indeed, the score stands as a work of art in its own right.

Davis’ works are on show at the Oded Shatil Gallery through April 15.