Since the spatial turn that has occurred in numerous fields of science, space – as a construction created and brought to life by the movement of the human body – has received considerable attention. This is especially true for cultural-political situations where observations directed at the landscape and the built environment point to unresolved historical issues, as it is the case for Israel. In recent decades, a notable number of artworks and exhibitions have addressed the manufacturing and conquering of physical and cultural spaces, as well as the power exercised over – or through – these, bringing to the foreground social and political connections.
In the videos of young, Israeli-born artist Eyal Segal, physical space not only serves as an almost exclusive departure point for dialogue (with both the self and the audience), but also explores memory, the legacy of the past and the possibility of self-understanding. In other words, the artist seeks out “memory places”) “lieux de mémoire" ,Pierre Nora); events occur in spaces that manifest as a system of relationships encompassing various – in the Foucauldian sense, heterogeneous – places that bring into play social, national-historical, local and global contexts. As it is suggested by the title of the present exhibition, the artist’s activity can be grasped through the concept of returning, even if it is a place he has never been to before. As a third-generation Holocaust survivor, he seeks out places that carry meaning in terms of ancestral or collective memory, where he either records a repetitive action of a unique aesthetic or, as the protagonist of the scene, fills the symbolically loaded (living-)space. He creates personal memorials of sorts, which mark the place of remembering in people (Jochen Gerz).
Columba Riot, 2012, HD video, 3'53"
Approaching the works from the history of video art, Eyal Segal employs gallery installation forms that have, by now, become standard. He uses the multichannel and installational arrangements of motion pictures as “a law unto himself” in the sense that, instead of regarding the medium itself from a critical standpoint, he places it in the service of what it seeks to communicate. Thus an organic relationship between the thematic of the artwork and the form of the installation can be established, as the videos projected on the floor and walls, as well as the flat screen monitors installed in a cube-like fashion, also double the individual elements of the videos in terms of form. In Turgor (2014), the shape of the glass container is repeated by the back to back position of the monitors placed on plinth, thus – as has been the practice with video works documenting the artist’s performances – offering viewers the opportunity for identification.
In the video series entitled Moon, Mars, Jupiter Trilogy (2015) which was shot in Japan and which articulates an external – and thus observational – viewpoint, the effect of projecting the image on the floor and walls evokes in the viewer a sense of the physical space which ensures the temporality of perception, and stepping into which further disturbs the system of spatial relationships. In the video entitled Columba Riot (2012), we see the artist at an abandoned site: in a silo that has never been used and is now inhabited by pigeons. In the enormous building of the multi-story storage facility, the artist attempts to chase the birds away. The industrial – and, at the same time, surrealistic – environment, the activity of the artist and the interaction between nature and the silo make for a poetic and metaphoric effect, while the struggle to scare the birds away can be interpreted as an internal mental activity.
COLUMBA RIOT, 2012
While using a poetic-aesthetic approach and roaming visually through places far from the eye, Eyal Segal invades a deserted silo in the Arava desert. In Columba Riot, the camera penetrates into an abandoned concrete structure populated by pigeons. A mysterious, even intimidating, atmosphere develops: footsteps on a layer of droppings, feathers scatter through the air, birds flutter in front of a barred window, and a blurred figure passes through all these. There is no plot, although old ones spring to the viewer's mind (like Hitchcock's movie 'The Birds'), creating a surreal combination of seduction and horror, the symbolic and the concrete.
The setting is an agricultural-industrial enterprise - a feed silo in an industrial zone in the Arava that was abandoned before it started operating. Nature took over the empty silo, and pigeons converted it into a present-day columbarium. Free and independent, the birds hover around the intruder who has infiltrated their living space. [Dalia Manor]
TIME CONTAINER, 2013
Diptych, Two Channel HD-Video, 7'41"
Time Container is a diptych – two parts presented as a single unit. This video is more narrative and documentary, though very painterly too. It was filmed during a visit to Ashdod port by the artist and his father, who had been a seaman as a young man. While one screen records the father's encounter with memories of the past and the contemporary world of ships, another screen displays tremendously powerful cranes moving slowly across the screen. The former sailor's wonderment at the sea's power and the huge vessels matches the photographer's admiration of the colorful cranes and geometrically arranged containers. Throughout the work there is a play of oppositions: between the monochromatic screen and the color screen at the work's start and end; between a static abstract picture and teeming movement and a human story; between the open sea and the cargo quays.
The port is a point along a route of a global movement - it connects past and present, father and son. It is also - as the film says of European ports - the country's backyard.
The visual beauty pervading the film shifts it away from contemporary contexts and links it to traditional paintings of harbors, and modernism's machine aesthetics. [Dalia Manor]
MOON, MARS, JUPITER TRILOGY, 2015
3 channels video installation
In the videos of Eyal Segal, physical space not only serves as an almost exclusive departure point for dialogue (with both the self and the audience), but also explores memory, the legacy of the past, and the possibility of self-understanding. In the video series entitled Moon, Mars, Jupiter, which was shot in Japan and which articulates an external – and thus observational – viewpoint, the effect of projecting the image on the floor and walls evoke in the viewer a sense of the physical space which ensures the temporality of perception, and stepping into which further disturbs the system of spatial relationships. [Lili Boros]
The trilogy on its part wishes to create a “constellation of stars,” a possible triangular formation: Moon, Jupiter, Mars. Strange worlds, which seem to echo a familiar promise:
“When the moon is in the seventh house, And Jupiter aligns with Mars, Then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.”
HD-Video Performance, 3’09”
(Filmed in Münster, Germany, 2014)
Filmed as a single continuous shot on the promenade in front of the Zwinger building, in ‘the city of water’, Münster (The artist’s grandmother was born and spent her childhood there). The 'Zwinger' (The dog house) is an old city fortification, which once served as both a Nazi gaol and a Gestapo place of execution. The artist’s inverted entrance into the water and the indefinite pause in his breathing, while people ride by behind him on their bicycles, seemingly unaware to the act of exertion taking place within eyeshot. Turgor is a pressure that inflates vegetal cells that helps the plant maintain its rigidity, facilitating the outward growth of young stems and leaves. But while vital for vegetal cells, Turgor pressure can be lethal to animal cells that don’t have a cell wall. By referencing the history of water torture, this work reads both like a physical metaphor and psychological trauma, dealing with fear of memory and human struggle for survival.
'LA RIVOLUZIONE', 2015
The video 'La Rivoluzione' is composed of footage taken at a projection event of the Italy-Spain Euro final.
The immediate context hinted by the piece is the political context. Evident already in its title, it is also reiterated in the flags, in the singing of the national anthem, and in the torrent of ecstatic people, united by the Italian national context, who wash over the piece. Specifically, the video associates the aesthetics used in entertainment with the political that manifests itself in culture – an age-old bond connecting the stadium in Rome to the amphitheater of the Roman Empire, and the football match to the gladiator battles. Indeed, Rome provides the video 'La Rivoluzione' with a fitting context and a rich (albeit ultimately degenerate) tradition for the relation between entertainment and politics: from the days of Pax Romana, through Christianity and the Catholic Church, to mid-twentieth century Fascism. And so, in La Rivoluzione, people of all religions, races, and genders come together under national cultural representations, driven by hope and faith.
[Menahem Goldenberg] *Click to read the full article
*The Video soundtrack is composed alongside the song: 'La Rivoluzione' by Gianni Pettenati (1967, Sanremo festival).