The practice of Chen Cohen (*1983, Katzrin, Israel; lives and works in Tel Aviv-Yafo) stems from the incessant operation of a camera placed in front of her in intimate situations; however, the results of such practice are works of art in a wide range of materials, techniques, dimensions and modes of display. In front of that running camera, Cohen’s body is changing constantly due to a degenerative chronic disease.
On the occasion of her solo exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo, the artist presents a selection of works created since 2013, works that narrate the tensions between pain and beauty, between physical and spiritual efforts, ultimately using art to express and resolve such tensions. In Cohen’s work, one cannot distinguish between life itself and the artistic act in such a state, and thus her practice follows key players in the history of photography and performance art. Cohen is devoted to creating a private alphabet, an assortment of primary forms she finds in her body or in the objects she positions in front of the camera lens; these primary forms also resurface in the video works and actions she conducts with various partners, and as a whole they create an uncannily alluring world. This world, Cohen’s world, is gradually expanding as her ‘end’ gets nearer.
Some of the works presented in the exhibition employ plain and ordinary technologies, such as Xerox printing, or home video recording, out of which the artist composes large mural installations. Other works feature physical experiences, either performed by Cohen Public program in solitude or in the company of other individuals, animals or objects. Such experiences combine extreme physical challenges with the creation of special signs, such as the red circle left on her body by a basketball in the work Shot in the Back (2018). Born of the strict rules she adopts, such as eating for a few hours in front of a running video camera, or hugging her friend for half an hour until her arms collapse, Cohen’s art sees the camera as a tool for preparing life, her life, for its end – a life ready to become an image.
In the work How to Die Beautiful (2015), Cohen is worried about the way she would be seen if one day she was found dead at home. Nevertheless, this fear is laden with the visual history of scenes of female victims of murder or rape as they are frequently portrayed in the media. Observing this series of images, the photographed woman whose death reoccurs in front of us, we may feel that the real perpetrator is the camera itself rather than a concrete human enemy. Thus, we come to weigh again the invasion of the camera into the life of the artist, as a witness both to her pains and her attempts to recover by inviting others to participate in her art.
“Chen Cohen: How to Die Beautiful” is guest-curated by Dr. Noam Gal.
The exhibition is accompanied by printed matter in Hebrew, Arabic and English, exhibition tours in Hebrew on July 3 and 31, in English on August 14 and in Arabic on August 21, a conversation between the artist and Gal and a book launch on July 17, workshops by the artist and Maya Resheff on July 14 and August 4, and a performance by Aya Kenat on August 27.
“Chen Cohen: How to Die Beautiful” is supported by the “How to Die Beautiful” Exhibition Circle: Nathalie Mamane-Cohen and Jean-Daniel Cohen, Ann and Dr. Ari Rosenblatt, and those who wish to remain anonymous; drinks provided by Malka Beer.
A monograph with content in Hebrew, Arabic and English will follow.
“Chen Cohen: How to Die Beautiful,” 2021
View of the exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo
Photo: Eyal Agivayev
Plaster, installation view at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo
Courtesy of the artist
Photo: Eyal Agivayev
Chen Cohen: How to Die Beautiful
August 27, 2021
July 2, 2021