A Collective Set Free / Tali Tamir
The five bicycles that comprise Yael Yudkovik’s installation represent a whole family: two parents and three children. Organized in an arrow-like formation, the family of cyclists maintains a traditional patriarchal hierarchy, by which the father takes the lead and the mother and children follow the route that he has marked. By presenting the family structure so clearly, Yudkovik conveys her awareness of the fact that she is ignoring the superstructure of the group. The historical tension that had developed within the kibbutz movement between the family and the group, and the attempt to undermine the authority of the bourgeois head of the family, by replacing him with the kibbutz establishment, eventually succeeded in perpetuating the institution of the family. But Yudkovik’s “Bicycle Family” is subject to yet another threat: the threat of stereotypical identity. The different “characters” in the family represent typical and highly-valued Israeli identities, which kibbutz culture has particularly fostered: beginning with the father, whose bicycle is clothed in a mixture of military garb and work clothes, adorned with parachute wings and the symbol of the Air Force; continuing with the mother and her flowery bike; on to the eldest son, whose bicycle is dressed in, among other things, a Golani (an elite unit) T-shirt; the daughter, whose bicycle is fashioned in shades of pink, and finally the youngest child, whose bike is clothed in plaid shirts and another shirt with the Israel flag printed on it. The clothes from which Yudkovik made these “bicycle garments” were from various kibbutzim, , and together they create an precise weave of features and identities. Despite the momentum of freedom Yudkovik has given her cluster of bicycles, the image that emerges from the details is one in which each character grows into his or her corresponding stereotype, incapable of taking off to other places or going beyond the predictable, paved path. The irony in this bicycle formation stems from the notion that these very bikes offer kibbutz members free and unsupervised cycling routes: a rare commodity in a community that is used to limiting its members’ rights. But, after all, even these conveyors of freedom are tied down and led along predetermined routes. So they stand, each with a particular Israeli identity tailored to his or her needs, and yet they evoke a sense of displacement and neglect.