A new Middle East
Heinrich boll Foundation 1998-9
Curator: Tal Be Zvi
text by Tal Ben Zvi
Tal Shoshan produces texts. She constructs a ritual of transition rites, temporary transformation rites that make it possible to cope with anxiety and fear of an uncontrolled change of the face and body. She moves between transformation situations in which changes take place aboveground and transformation situations that take place in the inner organs. In the course of these rites she brings herself to extreme situations, a desire to confront, to overcome and to produce action that is conscious of itself.
The transformation – as a condition of change beyond recognition, takes place as a temporary condition, a borderline condition of control and losing control. The ability to repeat the action and reconstruct the moment of change enables control and coping with fear of that moment from which there is no return – old age. This is a model of a basic ritual ceremony, such as Voodoo rites that gives visibility to the cause of fear. The rite is experienced as magic, as a possibility of postponing the verdict – the fixation of the change and loss of control.
Aboveground, the obsessive act creates erasure, negation and covering-up. The rites are documented in video; the camera focuses on the face, the mouth and the throat. The body itself is passive and the activity is monotonous, mechanical and calm. The action marks acts of eating, breathing, smearing and choking as acts marking a boundary. The acts are almost non-functional, their only goal to continue the activity until the end of the transformation. Her face no longer resembles itself and the relation between the face features – the portrait, and the artist’s identity, is undermined.
She chews gum, the mouth becomes full, overflow is created, the balloon bursts on her face, the gum is stretched on her face, filling the nostrils, the face is distorted, it appears to be on the brink of suffocation, it loses its surface as a source of self-identification, it becomes dough-like. She smears chocolate on her face with a fork, the face with a chocolate beard and moustache, changes beyond recognition, the chocolate becomes a mask and covers the face, the mouth and the throat. For a moment, the face appears to be a live organic creature, with its own powers, losing shape, losing themselves once again. She sucks a painkiller – Optalgin, without water. She does not swallow it, she sucks it, she feels it in her throat to the point of repulsion. Her eyes are not shown, the camera focuses on the mouth and the throat, the mouth is distorted with disgust and pain, it reflects an overflow of unfamiliar feelings, impossible almost. On the brink of vomiting she drinks water and her facial features return to the portrait condition.
The rite has no meaning in itself, the meaning is in achieving maximal change. The essence and the order of the acts appear arbitrary. She performs physical manipulation, in the course of which she feels pain, discomfort to the point of losing control and almost an inability to continue. The transformation, even if it is temporary, expresses the victory of the changing-plastic-physical-body and its liberation from the chains of consciousness, cognition and fear.
The documented rite does not offer a moment of forgetfulness, cleansing or return to the zero point. Recurring viewing of the rite, heaping an insufferable amount of chocolate or gum on the face, it is a pile of dirt, filth, horror that erase the zero point. The transformation is already fixated in the viewer’s imagination and serves as the artist’s mirror.
The texts (“On the Verge”‘, “Ants” and “Queen of the Flies”) exist as wall-window works of art, as an installation and as a performance. The multitude of texts, the multitude of women and the multitude of performances enable a feminine character to wear and remove different shapes. She describes a passive feminine body in extreme violence situations, manifested in processes of transformation in the internal and external organs of the feminine body. At the basis of the violence situations there is spatial collapse or a real fall that causes the feminine body to be in a state of penetrating invasion of the body. In “Ants”, the ants digest her from the inside, exerting direct and terminal violence, and she surrenders to them and becomes something else. The process of transformation is completed. The text is arranged on the wall in the shape of an ant. She says: “Ants are human females”, as a human female she identifies a self-destruction mechanism: “I imprisoned black ants within my hands”, and she gives submits to it. In “Queen of the Flies” the flies invade her, they crown her as queen, she becomes addicted to them and they eat, suck her, they identify decay, they change her internal organs, but finally they die, lying like corpses, her body is split but she has a simple cleansing plan… In the text “On the Verge”, the change is the result of the feminine text that turns into a violent and paralyzing weapon. Her woman moves within the public domain passive and vulnerable. The changes that take place within her are in her internal organs. The street sharpens her vulnerability. While the violence running wild within her cannot be seen from the outside, she becomes a fountain, visible to all, she returns home. The source of the violence is in herself, and that is perhaps the only control position available to her. In the center of the rites there are processes of destruction and self-loss, the feminine character is in situations of power, control and surrender to transformation and destruction processes. Some of the transformation processes are final, while others return to the zero point, but the text as a representation of a real place functions as a rite, and the recurring ritual reading of the text (by the artist herself in the installation or by the viewers in the exhibition) will extract the feminine character from a final self-loss, marking that loss as a temporary condition within a more complex human existence.