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Nevet Yitzhak: Permanent Exhibition

Opening: Thursday, October 4 at 8 pm

The Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv is pleased to announce “Permanent Exhibition,” a solo exhibition by Nevet Yitzhak (*1975, Jerusalem, lives and works in Tel Aviv). Following the artist’s ongoing interest in traditional artifacts, crafts, display strategies and representation, “Permanent Exhibition” put the attention on the social meaning imbedded into objects as carriers of memory, knowledge and ideology.

Evolving from her previous research on the status and power of the object as social constructs, this project turns the focus to the folkloric output of the “old” Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts and the Bezalel Museum, both founded in 1906 by Boris Shatz.

With an initial display of zoology, ethnography and art, the Bezalel Museum had its humble beginnings in a disorderly jumble of artifacts, dubious archeological finds, coins, medallions, Judaica items, a painting collection by predominantly Jewish artists, or Jewish-themed, taxidermies and entomological cabinets, among other assorted oddities; in sum, something of a belated cabinet of curiosities.

Through the investigation of this museum – which was later declared the official museum of the Jewish settlement in Palestine – Yitzhak goes back in time to the beginning of the 20th century, revisiting the galleries that were annexed to the school. By recreating the original display context for its oriental rugs, reliefs, ceramic signs and biblical inscriptions, Yitzhak embraces this wide-ranging eclecticism, appropriating Bezalel’s display methods and ‘proto-curatorial’ strategies to analyze cultural heritage in connection to the act of shaping an ideology, as well as reflecting on the colonialist bias at work in the Zionist project.

She freely recreates the museum’s spirit in its first two decades of existence – a period that saw the museum’s holdings growing and diversifying, with new wings added and greater method applied to the display, as part of Schatz’s tireless efforts to attain official status.

The two large-scale, immersive installations that constitute “Permanent Exhibition” encompass the two opposing display modes employed by the Bezalel museum. The first, on the CCA’s ground floor, revives the eclecticism of the display in its very first years, deploying a mix of original, reconstructed and fake artifacts along with a group of animated video works that are hung in-between: decorated rugs, tableware, portraiture and paintings that typify Bezalel’s iconographic repertoire, transporting us to its unique atmosphere – not without intended anachronisms and disturbances.

On the CCA’s first floor, however, we find ourselves in a harmonious portrait gallery featuring “Jewish types” – Yitzhak’s animated video interpretation of one of the most questionable subject matters treated in Bezalel. Using digital collage, Yitzhak juxtaposes typified Jewish personas with agglomerations of still objects, raising questions on the complex relations between humans and material goods and how they co-determine each other.

Through these immersive spaces, Yitzhak sheds light on this bygone museum, its collections and professed mission of preserving the legacy of Jewish material culture at a time that – dominated by Diaspora – glorified practical Zionism and the resettlement of the land; a museum that, while dedicated to the task of commemoration, at the same time excluded all those outside the Zionist narrative of revival. Hence any references to the Palestinian people, or to hundreds of years of Ottoman rule were nowhere to be found.

The propagation of such ideology – in tandem with the vision of Theodor Herzl and the first Zionist congresses – gave the museum a role that is of one of the main apparatuses of the soon-to-be-established state. The use of visual material for such dynamics are a very important case study for Yitzhak, who dislocates and tampers with the signs and idioms of that era in order to put into question the quest for today’s national identity, in Israel and beyond.

Nevet Yitzhak: Permanent Exhibition” is guest curated by Sally Haftel Naveh; it is accompanied by an exhibition guide and a 111-page catalogue including a curatorial text and an inventory of all the objects featured in the project, together with historical quotes taken from disparate sources. The exhibition also includes a public program, with two exhibition tours lead by the curator on October 27 and November 24 at 12 pm and two artist talks – in which Yitzhak will dive into the research behind this project – on October 13 and November 10 at 12 pm.

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