Dana Yoeli’s exhibition, Automaton, is a sculptural installation created specifically for the gallery. The exhibition is one in a series of site specific works exhibited in the gallery over the past year, which engage the unique context of the location of the gallery.
In recent years, Yoeli’s work has dealt with aspects of memory and architecture and the intricate bonds between the two. For example, in her exhibition, Leviathan, exhibited last year at the Kav 16 community gallery in Tel Aviv, Yoeli constructed an installation that presented at its entrance a massive, concrete, rocky relief that embodies a formalistic aesthetic characteristic of Israeli memorial sites as well as kibbutz architecture from the 60s . The exhibition Automaton is a continuation of this interrogation, and exhibiting it in kibbutz Yad Mordechai, with its rich history and fusion between the holocaust and the rise of the Israeli state, is especially relevant.
The central piece is a large sculptural installation, which demonstrates Yoeli’s interest in building monumental structures out of low-cost, local materials (previous works were made with concrete, stucco, plywood, plaster and sand). The installation is a large wall relief loosely related to the museum building “From Holocaust to Revival” in the Kibbutz. The building was designed by architects Arieh and Eldar Sharon, who received the Rechter award for its outstanding design when the museum was first opened to the public in 1968.
It is a kind of “fabricated” relief, in which elements of the museum’s structure and generic motifs of brutalistic and modernistic aesthetics are combined. This monumental sculptural approach refers to Israeli collective memory, and engages the viewer’s emotions in relation to it. Unlike the wall reliefs Yoeli has created before, however, here the relief lays on the floor, literally losing its grip of the wall, sprawled at the viewer’s feet. By doing so it elicits a new and unexpected response to a monument that at first glance seems so familiar. This monument, with its aggressive aesthetics, so typical of public institutions and monuments, yields to the viewer almost humbly, creating a field of concrete that may resemble a mass grave, poured architectural foundations, or a topographic map that has sprung to life.
What might appear to be passive submission is in fact an invasive occupation of the space, creating a masculine, rough-edge field of concrete plates that forces the viewer to be extremely cautious in its presence.
The attempt to deal with the automatic emotions that surface when confronted with these sites of commemoration is suggested in the name of the exhibition: Automaton.