Igal Ahouvi Award Exhibition for the Most Promising Artist 2013
No vestige of a beginning no prospect of an end"
James Hutton, 1788, Theory of the Earth.
Amir Yatziv and Ella Littwitz
Many Israelis consider Israel to be closer in spirit to Europe and to the USA rather than the Middle East. Israel’s Terroir – a concept taken from the winery world, depicting geographical, geological, ecological and climatic conditions – exposes all the mechanisms which worked for creating this illusion. From the moment the first Jewish settlers arrived here, the local terroir drastically changed: wilderness was disseminated, forests were planted, rivers were diverted, hills were built, and just like on a Hollywood set - a new landscape, similar to Tuscany or Provence was created. Archaeologists, scientists and Architects measured, examined, marked and appropriated every stone in Israel. Every plant and vantage point was given a Hebrew name. Thus, whole epochs from history were erased. The desire to connect the land to its Jewish past is one of the most prominent principles of the Zionist movement.
At the same time, in recent years a reverse process began taking place. Many restaurants in Tel Aviv, for instance, offer their diners local, Israeli cuisine, deserting its European affiliation, infusing it with olive oil and bringing it closer in flavours and scents to the Mediterranean kitchen in general and to the Palestinian one in particular. The connection to the ‘local’ is an on growing, worldwide trend, not less vigorous than the Enlightenment Movement’s desire to reshape nature. The award exhibition for the most promising artist that the couple Amir Yatziv and Ella Littwitz share, offers an incisive outlook on this double process. From their current residence in Berlin and the broad perspective they share in regards to their homeland, both artists engage in the present day through the layers and historical events which shaped it.
The main subject of their work is a revaluation of Israel’s national narrative and especially the way it was told to us by the founders; the Zionist preference of pre-Islamic epochs, the preference of a Christian culture in general; defining various ruins from the Crusader period while ignoring other ruins, concealing findings which did not coincide with the spirit of the regime and so on.
As artists who base their work on research, their artistic process relies on burrowing through archives, revealing untold stories, disputing narratives and finding new contexts and connections. The works they chose to exhibit at Fresh Paint art fair reflect their working process. These are open works, exposing their continuous research, not viewing the research’s findings as the final result. These are works which preserve a sense of hope and optimism. The ‘local’ in their works undergoes reshaping and revaluation, resulting in its rebirth in a form of a new locality, which does not conceal its own past. To a large extent, the sensation that rises from their research and due to their artistic process resembles a child’s feeling when he discovers he is adopted.
Similar to the Zionist manipulation of the land, Yatziv and Littwitz artistically manipulate their findings and raise questions regarding the instilment of education and values; the possibility to promote multiple truths and narratives, while simultaneously criticizing the erasure of Palestinian identity. Littwitz and Yatziv’s works do not pretend to engage solely in historical justice, but rather raise questions, by enigmatic means, regarding their subject matter – their homeland.
Amir Yatziv uses unconventional photographcal methods in his artistic practice: thermo-graphic cameras, different filters, graphic processing and animation. In this exhibition he presents three-dimensional laser scans and photo-scans of ruins in Israel. An image of a ruin has always preoccupied the art world, symbolizing a romantic trace from the past. Though, in Yatziv’s case this image serves as an incisive standpoint. The result of these scans is open for interpretation, just as the original ruins were open for the interpretation of the new settlers. Yatziv detaches these images from reality, transforming them into surreal sites, similar to the way subjects of research were detached from reality by the new narratives which were formed around them. The works also mimic the way we perceive reality by means of certain detachment from it.
Ella Littwitz engages in transformations. By using maps, sketches and diagrams of the landscape she found in various archives, she examines the way the generation of the first Jewish settlers re-sculpted the landscape of a young country. The findings of her research solely serve as a starting point to an artistic preoccupation, while undergoing various manipulations which redefine the ‘signified/signifier’ relations of the work with its origin. This is how, for example, Littwitz transforms her findings into dysfunctional objects, carrying only their historical cargo and their socio-political value. In other cases, despite the fact that the archival findings are the only key to understand her work, Littwitz doesn’t necessarily provide the viewer with accessibility to them, as they remain hidden or untraced.
Though Littwitz and Yatziv work in different mediums, their gaze is similar. It is an inquisitive gaze, resembling the perspective of a scientist who investigates every detail in order to comprehend and formulate an opinion regarding the studied matter. This seemingly romantic approach, which aims to expose a hidden, misunderstood or distorted secret, is the direct result of the settlers’ aspiration to create a mini-Europe in Israel. It is of no surprise that Israeli artists, who engage in the subject matter of self identity, do so by turning to classic European methodology. In their current work, they invite the viewers to participate in their research and ask themselves: what is the future of this hybridist place in which we live, if we continue to ignore its past?
Amir Yatziv – b.1972 in Israel, lives and works in Berlin. He graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya in computer science and the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, Jerusalem. He was also a student of Hito Steyrel. Yatziv exhibited his works in solo shows in Germany and Israel and participated in numerous group exhibitions in Israel and worldwide. He won several artistic scholarships, such as, DAAD (Germany), the Polish Institution and Creation Encouragement Prize (2013). He won awards for his film Paleosol 80 South (in collaboration with Jonathan Doweck) in Israel and Portugal.
Ella Littwitz – b.1982 in Israel. Lives and works in Berlin. She graduated from the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design. She is currently completing her degree at HISK, Ghent, Belgium. She participated and exhibited her works in festivals and exhibitions worldwide: Tel Aviv, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Krefeld and New York, as well as winning a supporting scholarship and exhibiting in the framework of Botin Foundation, Santander, Spain.