This summer, the Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod, brings current projects by three artists represented by Parasite, a local Israeli platform for curating and artist management. Disposing of no permanent showroom or gallery space, Parasite is noted for constantly switching the venues it operates in, organizing shows in ever-changing locations that are put at its disposal. A conscious decision on the part of Parasite, this modus operandi allows it to orchestrate a range of scenarios that percolate at the edges of the institutionalized art world. It is with great pleasure, however, that Parasite accepted the museum’s invitation to organize, on short notice, a show for the summer of 2019. “Situation: Parasite at the Mishkan Museum of Art” takes up the museum’s foyer floor, while the rest of the museum’s exhibition halls are being prepared for an exhibition set to open in the fall. “Situation: Parasite at the Mishkan Museum of Art” is the first show in Parasite’s nine-year history to be held in a museum space. Whether from the side of the non-institutional platform, or from the institutional framework that accommodates it, the show is reciprocal in its acknowledgement of the parasitical mode of operation. Inserting itself in a time interval between one show and the next, it allows for this peculiar mode to seep and percolate into the museum’s premises, generating artistic positions that – tightly delimited by the show’s timeframe – hinge on the bemused, the circumstantial and the dreamy.

The three artists presenting work in the show are all well-versed – albeit in different ways – in procedures of assembling and disassembling, in protracted work processes that stress the ever-evolving and the modular. Organized under irregular circumstances, the general platform given to them encompasses two antithetical layers: a museum space – in this case a venue recognized as one of the pinnacles of modernist architecture in Israel – which envelopes the additional layer of a parasitical action coming to invade it from without. Such circumstances, however, provide them a chance to ponder the institutional, to challenge it in ways that are informed by the informality of a targeted flash action. It is a framework that, in containing this antithesis, also allows for broader considerations to come to into play as regards the artwork and the space accommodating it. Not merely formalistic, such considerations have, of late, become inevitably political, given the recent tumultuous events in the local cultural arena – institutional and non-institutional alike.
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What used to be a large, wood-veneer armoire was pulled apart and reassembled again, in a new quadratic structure that, a cross between domestic and temporary dwelling, brings to mind a wooden shack out in the open or a three-walled, exposed refuge. To what extent does the wardrobe – or better yet, its constitutive parts – retain its previous essence once taken apart, reduced to elements that are ready for reuse? For Tchelect Ram, an artist known for sculptural settings and installations made of household objects and furnishings, of personal belongings and additional structural elements, the temporary is inextricably tied to a preexisting object, such that was still functional at the time when it was acted on and made to re-organize itself – just slightly, or overwhelmingly; such that it was not yet out of order, not yet bereft of its essence and identity. The muted and charged poeticism in Ram’s works is born out of the tense negotiation she undertakes between the exhibition space as a neutralized, largely whitewashed, and exposed environment, and objects that are reconstructed and deployed in such a way that they should suggest a degree of containment, of intimacy. The level of reworking called for – in this case, undoing the joinings to release the boards, inside and out – only goes so far. After it was pulled apart, parts are joined again, set to a spread-out position. As the structure that emerges relies on parts that are still clearly distinguishable, it can delimit its territory only conditionally, forever falling back on the object that preceded it.

With his table installation, Tzion Abraham Hazan offers a second, more minimalist version of a former dining table he presented in “Amity,” his solo show of about a year ago at Beit Uri and Rami Nehoshtan Museum. In the current show, the table only carries never-used wine goblets, traditional Jewish candlesticks and pristine prayer books, together with paper napkins and just a few disposable plates here in there, containing barely any discarded pistachio shells. Absent of any dishes, dinner leftovers and the lit candles that were present in the former installation – a lush ensemble capturing the aftermath of a traditional Jewish feast – the interplay of the remaining objects, now no longer as narrative, gains in enigma. As a staged tableau, the overcrowded table of his former show touched on a twilight zone of a Jewish experience that, even after having been transposed to local Israeli circumstances, still manages to retain something of an art-historical sheen. In the current situation, though, the crispness of the mostly new components could almost inspire something akin to secularity. There is solemnity – albeit of a playful kind – to the symmetrical piling-up of candlesticks, wine glasses and prayer books. “Hazan’s table achieves the post-conceptual, it is certainly pictorial but is motivated by, and unravels its meaning through, the text,” wrote Yair Garbuz in an essay on Hazan’s former show. With secularity all but absent, one may add that with the current table, the path to the conceptual only grows shorter.

Hanging across the walls of the exhibition space is a massive, curtain-like textile by Gili Avissar, an artist whose work in different media always relies on materials and elements reworked from previous works of his’. Already bearing the shapes, spatial functioning and images he lent them in a previous iteration, Avissar’s patched-up arrays of fabric are vivid in both color and expression, easily commanding any space they end up adorning. And yet, despite the massiveness of their proportions, in fact they are always made to adapt the space for which they are were intended. His current, markedly longitudinal strip of fabric received its shape following the dimensions of the walls on site, but likewise from the materials available to him, which included a giant array of fabric that adorned a three-story wall in the inner courtyard of Beit Romano, in Tel Aviv, just a year ago (“Other Skies”); a series of individual arrays, flag-like, that were hung high up at the David Citadel, as part of a Jerusalem arts festival in July this year; and smaller-scale masks and weaved elements from his recent work. Whether coming from a Tel Aviv context or from that of an ancient Jerusalem citadel, Avissar’s scraps of fabric and weaving work lend a sense of medieval alchemy to the space as a whole – the elusive enchantment of gargoyle faces, masks and cavities in constant flux. They possess the vibrant performativity of a traveling troupe that has to reinvent itself each time anew, with respect to the means available and the needs of the hour.

Text: Hemda Rosenbaum

Photos by Lena Gomon