Passage International Art Encounters
Gal Weinstein and Pedro Cabrita Reis
25.05.00 – 08.07.00
Published by: Chelouche Gallery, Tel Aviv
Wall, Skin and Psyche in Gal Weinstein's Work
1. Hormonal Secretion
Already in Gal Weinstein's first group of art works, which established his name as an artist (and which can still be defined as sculptures due to their position as objects in space), one could sense the uneasy, disturbing presence of obscure hybridization procedures: starting with an architectonic cube (the proportions indicating a reduced house, cupboard or refrigerator) Gal Weinstein wrapped the 'sculpture' in many layers of rolled wallpaper, descending and piling up freely instead of clinging, curly instead of straight, appearing like combed hair falling on the back. There, under the piling layers of wallpaper some kind of deep and veiled agitation comes into being, allowing the creation of another entity which gradually causes the raising of more and more doubts about the architectonic basis: dark, dense “bristles” on the sides; slack “skin” loosing its tightness; the texture becomes bloody and carnal – processes which take place in front of the spectator's eyes, clinging on the 'sculpture's' surface as though it had developed from surplus hormonal secretion discharged from a hidden gland, awaking strong suggestive sensations of an animal or human body infiltrating and assimilated into the architectonic cube. Based on Jentsch's assumption, Freud says “that a particularly favourable condition for awakening uncanny sensations is created when there is intellectual uncertainty whether an object is alive or not, and when an inanimate object becomes too much like and animate one.”
States of hybridization, shifting balances and changing of dosages, control and loss of control are part of metaphors which Gal Weinstein occupies himself with. The architecture provides him the functional shapes ruled by the sane everyday routine logic: it begins, for instance, with the morning scene, facing the wardrobe (cupboard), the mirror, the act of shaving, the refrigerator in the kitchen. Weinstein succumbs to the shapes' strength, their stability and massive function in the space, but he also is aware of the potential concealed in their redundancy, especially in their shells: excess growing, surplus layers, certain exaggeration in the surface that breaches the withdrawing existence of walls and partitions, rendering them a piercing presence in everyday space.
2. Attached to the Ground
A roof INSIDE the basement: from wall to wall, sliding down into the corridor, filling the space to the brim, without a walk, lacking any vista. A red-orange tile roof: a familiar motif of the local Israeli landscape, a detail from a pastoral-bourgeois fantasy in vicinity lacking any bourgeoisie or pastoral. A roof attached to the ground, not leaving any space underneath as though someone had forgot to build the house and its windows and doors. Like in a nightmare the roof grew and swelled up filling the gallery's entire space. “Do you want a tile roof?? – Get it!”
The roof within the gallery's space turns into a total sculptural object, its orange-colored wavy slopes stretching toward the straight white lines of the walls. The pillar raging from the center of the roof reminds a chimney, whereas the beam crossing the ceiling is perhaps the smoke, which rises from both sides. Rather than a sculpture located in a space, it's a concrete and real object depicted in detail, which had been plucked out from its place and fell disproportional, with its systems disrupted, amidst an alien situation. Like the old angel in Borges' story, who one day fell into the village's yard, his wings plucked, so did the red roof swell up and rise in the basement of an old Tel Aviv house, with its rotten pipes and aging tenants. What links between the roof and them? What kind of a wild hallucination does it fulfil? What place does it symbolize? A sort of rural idyll which rose like a yeast cake… a place-non-place peculiar to an architectonic project, a suburban fantasy, a Dutch street… blurring the differences between the city and the kibbutz, between simplicity and lavishness, between lifestyle and building style.
An upright wall, stretching from corner to corner while keeping minimalist discipline, knows its exact limits. A white wall, one of four sides of the 'white cube' i.e. the sacred space of the modernistic gallery. Gal Weinstein covers (rather a censored term, modernistically seen) the wall with a kind of wallpaper imitating the pattern of marble (mimesis, marble, distinctive post-modernistic materials, like, for example, in Gideon Gechtman's works). Only this time the imitation is diverted and aimed at another matter, abandoning the issue of truth and lie. The white wall of the white, geometric, clean gallery looks like a body that did not undergo any retouching or shaving. The great, pure, 'neo-plastic' surface suffers from varicose; blur stains, hairy groin and curved corners. Neither is it an imitation nor a falsification, but suggestive diversion towards another space, where the self-confident walls that rule the architectonic blueprints have also a fleshly and embarrassing dimension.
Gal Weinstein deals with the connection between architecture and both the body and the psyche. He is interested in envelopes and in turning their inside out; space and its “organs”; concealment and revelation. He wants to make the construction flexible, to find the joints and bends, rub together wall and body, and deface the impeccable familial cover.
4. The Football Labyrinth
Weinstein did also duplicate the – especially to the male population – well-known green square of the football playing ground like in the mirror-room at the amusement park, and thus created a surplus of players, squares and angles. In order to expose the Uncanny, maintains Freud, there is no need to release the monster: it dwells, concealed, in every available item; if duplicated, it would become redundant enough to make it useless and distort all systems: Freud maintains that “that factor which consists in a recurrence of the same situations, things and events, will perhaps not appeal to everyone as a source of uncanny feeling”. When the Ego is duplicated to more than one identity we speak of the pathological phenomenon of schizophrenia – “a regression to a time when the ego was not yet sharply differentiated from the external world and from other persons”, emphasizes Freud and explains the special function of the double and duplication in denial of the power of death and in restraining man's fears of castration.
Weinstein distorted the element of playfulness by sterilizing it from its dynamic components, which activate its circling: the field was divided into side alleys and complex junctions, the amount of players duplicated to two hundred and the ball totally eliminated. The fact that the players were molded in white porcelain created a mental hybridization built on the contrast between the ceremonial delicacy of the fragile porcelain as taken from the traditional tee-ceremony, and the virile power-oriented cult that bursts into the stadium. The same can be witnessed in another work sharing the same motif – “the Anthem” – comprised of a line of football players threaded on a stick, standing at attention when singing the anthem. Weinstein deals with two kinds of collective obedience, the one to the national anthem, and the other to the virile anthems of power, acceleration and victory.
5. Passage: the Curtain and the Umbilical Cord, Sinews and Stars
Weinstein's physical attitude towards architectonic elements does not indicate humanistic approaches relating to the space and its human uses, but seeks to drag architecture into the act of metabolism, both metaphorically and visibly: the wall itself turns into skin, the cupboard's surface grows hair, and like in a Freudian hallucinated movie-scene the walls themselves turn into an agonized, wounded, groaning living entity. The curtain, or partition made of silicone cords, which Weinstein exhibited in the Chelouche Gallery within the “Passage” series, is another example for a similar illusion: apparently, a transparent partition, bead curtains like those rustling at the entrance of bordellos. The metaphor of an erotic body hidden behind the curtain is indeed indicated in one aspect, yet another look rests on the curtain itself rather than on what is apparently concealed behind it: the line of wound silicone cords awakes a physical sensation of either muscular sinews or an umbilical cord wound around itself. The silicone in itself is loaded with physical associations like stuff injected into the body in certain plastic operations, independently finding its way towards inner organs and settles among them. Weinstein reaches the unpleasant threshold of physical rejection, but does not traverse it. The spectator, who for a moment is enchanted by the glittering transparency in the light and then rejected by the sticky silicone touch and the muscular hillocks along the cords, is led by the dichotomous sensation of attraction-rejection. However, the touch is inevitable: the spectator is compelled to shift the curtain aside with his bare hands in order to pave his way through the gallery's space.
In Balloons – a wall covered with colored cotton wool in a changing motif of stars – another bizarre encounter between wallpaper and down takes place. What appeared to be chic and sexy, light and optimistic is, at close range, thin hairiness and plucked chick feathers. Weinstein loads also the sweet ice-cream colors with the ambivalence of attraction-rejection and seeks to undermine the mental intent of sweetness, beauty and sports as agents of happiness and security.
6. Portrait – Fur
In Untitled (Cotton Wool on Legs) at last, a human figure bursts out… Just look! It's covered with feathers: Weinstein took pictures of some parts of his body while “growing” white feathers. The process of hybridization, which was only insinuated and abstract in his early works, became evident, extroverted and annoying. Weinstein disclosed his primitive fears and exposed himself as half human half bird covered with down, a creature which the decent bourgeoisie will repel with blur recoil. Like Kafka's Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis, who awoke one morning and found himself enclosed in the body of an insect, Weinstein exhibits in his last works his attraction to the dark layers of his decent civil identity. In his later works, however, Weinstein created sportswear made of white down (using double sided adhesive tape and white cotton wool), which he fastened to a muscular shop-window male-mannequin. Weinstein clings to the skin, to the shell, to the dress. The act of twisting the substance exposes the hybridization of the shell-like optimism peculiar to western sport and health culture, with the Bestial and Bizarre lurking somewhere in hidden corners.
Weinstein makes up and stages the moment when the Bestial comes out, when the Human is gradually wrapped in and covered with fur, and therefore to him the passage to real animals was only natural: Weinstein sketched domesticated pets from a drawing and watercolors manual with an obedience of a student: horses, dogs, chickens and geese, yet the drawing was performed with coarse and rigid steel wool, which demands from the artist maximal control and high technical skills. Weinstein learned to control the rigid steely material and tamed it to the outline of the drawn domestic animal. However, the human portraits which he drew using the same technique are drifting to the bestial domain, due to the fury effect of the steel wool. Thus, there is only a small difference between the large animal heads and the human portrait.
In his attempt to touch the “fluid” limits of the Ego Weinstein “invades” also his own family: by using the photo-collage technique he combined his parents' facial organs with his, his brothers and his nephews to create inter-generational entities, mingling together without possibility to entangle and thus being deprived their personal identity. By using a well-known technique Weinstein tried to touch Oedipal fears of mental and genetic joints, and created links with “criminal” connotations between him and his parents, brothers, nephews and little nieces. The beautiful bourgeois family is drifted into a vortex of identities, and the findings, which lie on the surface abolish the pure human element, however beautiful it may be.
All quotations herein are taken from The 'Uncanny' (1919) part II,p.378-399 Sigm.Freud, in: Collected Papers, vol. 4, authorized translation under the supervision of Joan Riviere, Pub. by Leonard & Virginia Woolf, Hogarth Press, London, 1934.
An encounter between two artists takes place in the Passage, where they discuss their works as well as change ideas, views and experiences emerging from the mutual exhibition in addition to getting to know each other better. Pedro Cabrita Reis comes from beautiful, melancholic Lisbon that is built on many hills, looking over the endless ocean; Lisbon, with its narrow streets, high staircases and elevators hidden behind neogothic iron constructions, its delicate and elegant palaces, its slowly cruising ships on the ever undulating river Tejo; The city which is marked by its dainty, small, old streetcars, its sad sounding Fado music, and finally by its white and black inhabitants, whether Africans, Latin Americans or Europeans, who have borne the heavy burden of the history of Portugal, a once great empire.
Gal Weinstein, from the city of Tel-Aviv that combines the utopias of functionalism, rationalism, social justice, of free, democratic, sound collective life; The city which is known for its Bauhaus style buildings from the “white city” epoch, its ever lively streets rustling with beautiful young people, who (or whose parents and grandparents) came from the Diaspora to Palestine in order to build a modern nation; The city with its cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and sunny beaches, were families from Europe and Africa, Asia and America mingle together as a matter of course and a jolly mixture of languages is heard from all sides.
Portugal – with its capital Lisbon – which lies at the edge of Europe, has been shaped by three continents. The tiled and embellished house facades depict motives from Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, mixed with baroque as well as popular Spanish and Portuguese elements.
Israel – with its metropolis Tel Aviv, lies at the edge of Asia, between three large continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. In this city occidental and oriental philosophies of life from a mixture, whereby the occidental rationalism meets the oriental sensuality.
The history of Israel combines the three great monotheistic world religions and bears the heritage of the ancient world, with its old and classic, Hellenistic, cosmopolitan empires. Its destiny as a battlefield of many countries, religions, colonial empires and freedom movements connects also the medieval and modern world. Both countries Portugal and Israel are now sovereign states, however, their peoples are shaped by their long, multifarious, sometimes bloody, tragic and inconsistent history.
The art of Pedro Cabrita Reis and Gal Weinstein represents a sensible and attractive combination of both intellectual and utopian elements, and of direct as well as sensual elements that appeal the sensual experience. Both artists work economical and hedonistic at the same time, concretizing intellectual reminiscences of the Avant-garde as well as of antique cultures as shown in myths and great collective narratives. One could consider their oeuvre as a positive and present-day contribution to the new interpretation of the “Grand Narratives”, but on the other hand they try to reshape and actualize the modernistic strategies that originate from the Constructivism and Dadaism and from the intellectual agenda of the Ready-made. Their dialog in form of a mutual exhibition within the framework of The Passage offers the spectator a deeper look into their “Alchemy”, in which they deconstruct past symbol systems and assemble their parts in a totally new, actual and up-to-date multi-referential context.
Text by Lorand Hegyi