The location selected for Anisa Ashkar’s performance-installation Mashkhara (2009) as part of the Fresh Paint art fair touches upon her biography, the point of departure for her fascinating work: the railroad tracks of the old Turkish train station, now situated on the blurred border line between Jaffa andTel Aviv,not far from Andromeda’s Rock,named after one of the heroines of Greek mythology. The existence on a borderline connecting/separating places, histories, cultures, and identities, the political and the aesthetic, has been at the core of Ashkar’s work, much like the act of sailing away from current reality toward the mythological past in order to gain a perspective through which to examine the present.
The eponymous ‘mashkhara’ is the place where charcoal is made via slow combustion. It is a traditional profession in Ashkar’s family, which is still practiced in some Arab villages and towns. Charcoal was the first material to spark Anisa’s artistic imagination,anditplay sapartin the current installation as well. The traditional engagement with charcoal is juxtaposed in Ashkar’s life and art with the violent presence of the Barbur (Heb. swan) factory for ceramic and porcelain products, which gave her native neighborhood on the outskirts of Acre its new Hebrew name (its former Arabic name was Basatin Elramel); a name guiding Ashkar’s imagination to the realms of mythology, and the story of Leda’s rape by Zeus in the figureofaswan,which Ashkar construes also as containing acceptance and love.Charcoal and chalk, white milk and black milk are the materials, colors, and metaphors frequently employed by Ashkar in her performances throughout the years. In these performances she engages in acts of whitening and blackening, thus challenging prevalent stereotypes. The performances Barbur Aswad ( Black Swan), 2003 and Barbur 24000 (her home address and zip code), 2004, consisted, inter alia, of sculptural objects, canonical Arabic texts, and her own poetical writings, which she inscribed on her face and body in Arabic calligraphy or presented in audio during the performance.
A trip to Greece after Greek mythology in 2007 has spawned the piece In a Wink. The work was centered on the story of Medusa, whereby Ashkar addressed the relations between the sexes, a recurrent theme in her works. Ashkar’s works may be regarded as alluding to post-Colonial and feminist theories, as well as to the work of artists such as Kasimir Malevich and Kara Walker. All these elements are reinforced in Mashkhara, (2009). Ashkar’s ability to drift off from her tangle dbiography and intricate identity to realms of mythological imagination, and back to art, renders her work complex and moving.
Participants: Anisa Ashkar, Gil Kerer, Curator: Edna Moshenson, Artistic adviser: Ron Kuner, Production: Anat Cederbaum
With the support of OUTSET
Make up - courtesy of MAC