|Semblance Within Semblance / Oded Manda-Levy |
Site-Seeing - solo show catalogue
curated by Ruti Direktor, 2007
The emptiness of the white walls inevitably guides the body, the gaze,
toward the giant UV-protected windows, to the landscape seen through
them, to the Haifa Bay vista.
To construct the space: near and far, up and down, left and right, in front
and behind. A jumble of directions and borders: The Mediterranean Sea,
Zebulon Valley, Acre; on a clear day – probably even further beyond.
An industrial zone, chemical plants, monumental smokestacks installed
like giants on earth, their heads reaching the balancings of the clouds.
Residential buildings, hotel walls, the Kishon River, winding roads,
something that appears nature-like.
The static, fixed gaze which contains bustling movement, unseen and
unheard, seems to filter, blur, unravel some hidden intertwining of roads,
intersections, human motion. The higher, distant gaze, the "reading" of
the landscape, of the city, from "high above," form a point of view that
structures a fiction, observation from an "all-seeing," "all-knowing" divine
perspective. It is a hypnotizing panoramic gaze, a vision that generates
an illusion, like an artificial pattern that ostensibly makes it possible to
read the visible through infinite intricacy, to perceive the landscape, to
grasp it, as it were.
In his book 'The Practice of Everyday Life' Michel de Certeau writes:
"When one goes up there, he leaves behind the mass that carries off and
mixes up in itself any identity … It allows one to read it [the world, O.M.L.], to be a solar Eye, looking down like a god. The exaltation of a scopic and Gnostic drive: the fiction of knowledge is related to this lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more. … [T]he fiction that creates readers, makes the complexity of the city readable, and immobilizes its opaque mobility in a transparent text. Is the immense texturology spread out before one's eyes anything more than a representation, an optical artifact? … The
panorama city is a 'theoretical' (that is visual) simulacrum.
And now a substitution.
"When nothing arrests our gaze, it carries a very long way. But if it meets with nothing, it sees nothing, it sees only what it meets. Space is what arrestsour gaze, what our sight stumbles over: the obstacle, bricks, an angle, avanishing point. Space is when it makes an angle, when it stops..."
Gal Weinstein's work replaces the transparent glass partition, the high
windows, and the sight of the Bay. The gaze no longer wanders to the
distance, it no longer crosses vast expanses with monuments scattered like
reference points. The higher, panoramic gaze is blocked. The "bird's-eye"
view descends, it becomes concentrated, focuses on the here, leaving the
Gallery walls bare and empty, emphasizing a layered geological section,
that winds and protrudes, curves and breaks. The replacement of the
panoramic gaze with the geological gaze appears to be total, harnessing
all the dimensions of the space. A binary set of oppositions replaces the
distant, the ecstatic exterior, with something close, interior. The natural
sight, the ostensibly real landscape, is replaced by an artificial apparition, an image made of an artificial material. The striking coloration is hidden by hues of black and white. The surface of the landscape unfurled from above like a fan is replaced by a depth structure that underscores stratification, a structure that internalizes the place's time or the time's place. The overt is replaced by the covert. The panoramic, visionary, superficial, blurred gaze is replaced by a scientific, inquisitive, rationalistic gaze, a structure of knowledge. The panorama of the surface, of the overt and thrilling, is replaced by a panorama of encoded depth.
The geologic cross-section at the forefront, the image of the rocks'
arrangement in the substrate of Weinstein's work (one of many sections
in his oeuvre) – is it the cross-section of Negev folds? Can one discern
the Ramon Ridge (the Ramon crater), Hazera Ridge (the Small Crater),
Hatira Ridge (the Big Crater), and Yeruham Ridge? (Does this generate a
further opposition of north vs. south?) Perhaps the section is an 'everysection': a visual representative, an illustration of processes from the fieldsof stratigraphy (the study of rock layers and layering), sedimentology (principles and processes underlying the creation of sedimentary rocks) or geomorphology (the processes that shape landforms and their interrelations with geological forces and structures)? The gaze directed at the section involves knowledge. It is a possible outcome of a scholarly practice and scientific understanding; the result of data processing, the use of electronic microscopes, x-rays, infrared aerial photographs, satellite simulations, and chemical analyses of rocks.
And back to Georges Perec. Discussing the street, he offers practical
exercises in observation. "Nothing strikes you." he writes, "You don't
know how to see."3 He sets out to decipher the space, with all its facets,
manifestations, and attributes. He endeavors to carry on "until the
scene becomes improbable."4 He offers possible methods, guiding the
imagination through the city: to observe a crossroads towering a hundred
meters above the roofs of the buildings, or alternatively, to imagine what
lies under the network of urban streets, the multiplicity of underground
pipes. Adding a bottom stratum, he writes:
"Underneath, just underneath, resuscitate the Eocene: the limestone, the
marl and the soft chalk, the gypsum, the lacustrian Saint-Ouen limestone,
the Beauchamp sands, the rough limestone, the Soissons sands and
lignites, the plastic clay, the hard chalk."5
Perec offers yet another alternative: "Or else: Rough draft of a letter."6 A
possible, surprising alternative for the hidden geological structure is a
textual attempt at intimacy, a page space containing a moving, almost
intentionally-pathetic observation of cultural images: a Parisian café, a fake marble table, a packet of cigarettes, a writing pad and a felt-pen, a cup of coffee and concluding lines for the letter's draft:
I am thinking of you
you are walking in your street, it's wintertime,
you've turned up your foxfur collar,
you're smiling, and remote
Perec generates an equivalence of perspectives, of the gaze. The
resuscitation of deep geological strata – the "perverse" idea, to use
Baudrillard's words, "of the millions and hundreds of millions of years…
of wear and erosion struck between the elements"8 – is one alternative
among many for the gaze coming from the corner of the café.
Gal Weinstein's work presents the option of ultimate depth. Strata of
place and time that block the surface of the panoramic gaze, while at the
same time piling up under the surface of the earth, underground. It is an
interplay between the notions of 'surface' and 'depth,' exploring the very
existence, actuality, feasibility of depth. In his book, 'Time Baba,' poet Zali Gurevitch probes the dimension of depth, writing:
The moderns and more so
the postmoderns don’t like depth,
depth is an illusion, the depth
of things, deep people,
thanks for Kohelet son of David, for his deep thought,
the depth of landscape, of perspective,
because depth invites digging,
penetration, sneaking in, entrance,
arrival, coming, as if there's where
to come, where to come from,
someone to come to, and there is none,
no depth, no secret...9
In a conversation with Tali Hatuka, Zali Gurevitch referred to his poem in the
context of the deconstructions which tried to bring depth down, or in his
own words: "the idea that there is something beyond the surface, a secret,
a depth structure, a source, a decipherable code, master-narrativies."10
Is there a secret in the geological depths? What does the section tell us?
What is the rocks' arrangement? How do they differ from the surface,
from the ground above? Are depth and surface essentially different and
differentiated? Are the lines between them clear-cut? Does Weinstein's
work introduce a new depth, a "secret" in Gurevitch's words? The crosssection, the stratified exposure, reveal but a new surface. The depth and the secret are revealed to be abstract notions that exist as long as they remain unseen, as long as they are without substance, akin to intellectual potentials, poetry-like. In a conversation with Jerzy Michalowicz published in the catalogue of his exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Weinstein addressed these very thoughts in the context of what Michalowicz dubbed: "one of the foci of your sculptural thinking: surface vs. interior or flatness vs. depth." "Ultimately," Weinstein writes, "the interior is also surface," going on to say: "I always think about interior in terms of surface," a formulation which is so close to Wittgenstein's words: "The depths are on
The visibility of the ground is on the surface; even if we dig in, we will not be able to confront anything but a new surface of the earth.
The fold section in Weinstein's work illustrates and represents the nature of geological section drawings. Even if it refers, as if incidentally, to a concrete section, it embeds the qualities of sectional drawings: the differentiated, marked stratification, the curving, the folds and pleats, the fault, the ground's x-ray-like reflective dimension. But the fold section in Weinstein's work, with its unique distinguishing marks and its ornamental, coquettish, decorative dimension, relies on a particular source or source types, which in themselves are an abstract illustration, a scientific picture translated into a concise didactic illustration, comprised of accepted signs. The ambiguous representations oriented at a physical, geological structure possess some quality of simulacrum, of semblance. The section has the appearance of something that seems to exist. Where is the origin in relation to which the section transpires? Is it but a distant, approximate "theoretical" visual image of that hidden something which "does not exist" for us in effect? Images and externalizations of a depth which is entirely on the surface of the earth?
The deception of the higher view, of the landscape vision, seen through
the Gallery windows on the "700" floor, is akin to the depth illusion of the
geological section. Semblance within semblance. A specter replaced by