Nuit Banai

  • Kader Attia

    The implications of Kader Attia’s installation Kasbah, 2009, extended well beyond the gallery’s bare concrete walls and low, unfinished ceilings. Occupying almost every inch of available floor space and requiring nimble footwork to traverse, this oppressive universe of rusty scrap-metal rooftops, which was dotted with makeshift antennae and strewn with vagrant tires, shoes, and bricks, rendered obsolete any picturesque connotations still elicited by the work’s title, the exotic-sounding name for a North African walled citadel. Instead, Attia, a son of Algerian immigrants who grew up in the

  • Su-Mei Tse

    Well before audiences entered the dimly lit room housing Su-Mei Tse’s installation Floating Memories, 2009, they heard the soft crackling of a stylus tripping along the groove of a vinyl record. This subtle auditory encounter evoked a time and place far removed from the environs of the museum—perhaps a setting, at once intimate and domestic, in the predigital era—and paved a conceptual path for the many disjunctions that animate Tse’s work.

    While the physical armature of Floating Memories is rather spare, the work is rife with suggestive layers that engage not just personal recollection, as the

  • 11th International Istanbul Biennial

    Presenting over one hundred works across three venues (two former industrial buildings and an abandoned school), the curators take up the urgent question of art’s capacity to bring about social change.

    Capitalizing on its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the International Istanbul Biennial has consistently offered an inventive platform for the representation of contemporary geopolitics. The eleventh iteration will be no exception, as the Croatian curatorial collective WHW (What, How & for Whom) borrows the title—and draws its conceptual framework—from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s song “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” Presenting over one hundred works across three venues (two former industrial buildings and an

  • Guy Raz

    Guy Raz’s “Liga Terezín” project emerged from a trip to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 2006, during which the artist noticed the red uniforms of a local team hanging on a laundry line beside a soccer field outside the walls of the Terezín fortress. Raz, who played soccer during his childhood, documented these reminiscences in a straightforward style and did not return to the photos until 2008, when he undertook research at Beit Theresienstadt, an education center and archive dedicated to the memory of the nearly 150,000 prisoners who passed through the camp during its five-year existence.

  • picks June 30, 2009

    Munio Weinraub and Amos Gitai

    If the architectural vision of the Polish-born, Bauhaus-trained Munio Weinraub served as something of a material and ideological template for the construction of the Jewish state, then the cinematic images of his Israeli-born son, Amos Gitai, have been boring holes in the foundations of his father’s designs to reveal their grave psychological and ethical consequences for Israel’s citizens. This is the deconstructive, though gently argued, message of this monumental exhibition, whose appearance in one of the most important state-funded cultural institutions only a year after Israel’s sixtieth

  • picks May 27, 2009


    Before committing suicide in April 1970, Paul Celan published his last collection of poems, Lichtzwang, loosely translated as either Lightduress or Lightconstraint. This compound title barely hints at Celan’s complex and cryptic use of the German language. Disavowing Theodor Adorno’s famous maxim “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric,” the Romanian-Jewish poet insisted that the only way to experience the war’s unimaginable trauma was to use of the language of the oppressor. As Celan would explain in 1958, “[The German language] gave me no words for what was happening, but went through

  • picks May 23, 2009

    “The Common Kibbutz”

    This remarkable exhibition, dedicated to the Common Kibbutz, an artists' group with a core of seven members, active between 1978 and 1990, is bookended by two dates––2008 and 2010––that function as historical markers of both normativity and possibility.

    On the one hand, the show responds to the problematic erasure of this group’s radical activities from the local artistic canon as it was formulated by six major state-funded exhibitions in celebration of the State of Israel’s sixtieth anniversary in 2008. Indeed, their recent institutional exclusion is akin to the silencing of the group’s stalwart

  • William Pope.L

    Invited to lecture or exhibit at Le Corbusier’s only building in North America, artists devise surprising strategies to confront the modernist architect’s legacy. Rabble-rousing performance artist William Pope.L was no exception: While inaugurating his installation and performance Corbu Pops, 2009, with a peripatetic address, Pope.L childishly tossed pieces of paper (presumably his notes) onto the auditorium floor.

    In seeking to unsettle the relations of power that inevitably frame any interface between master and interloping apprentice, Pope.L not only infantilized himself but repeatedly reduced

  • Yifat Bezalel

    “Ulysses-Alices,” the double title of Yifat Bezalel’s recent exhibition, was a summons to numerous travels, calling on the epic and fantastic voyages of Odysseus, Leopold Bloom, and Alice in Wonderland. But unlike her sources, penned by male authors, Bezalel’s work is given over entirely to the itinerant female psyche.

    The exhibition’s strongest works were the two large drawings from Bezalel’s ongoing “Alices” series, begun in 2002, which show the heroine’s plunge down the rabbit hole. While You are my sister III and Ulysses (each 2008) both visualize this passing between realms as the paramount

  • Amit Berlowitz

    Amit Berlowitz’s cinematic studies inform all aspects of her solo exhibition “in between everything that is,” so that her photographs appear like so many successive frames from an expansive film archive. They often resemble preparatory shots or outtakes, the sketchy conceptualization of what’s to come or the discarded remains excised from the final cut. As if to underscore their transient utility and anticipated futility, they’re displayed on the gallery walls like storyboards, with handwritten titles in pencil scrawled beneath them. It’s this precarious temporality, appearing fleetingly as a

  • Gerard Byrne

    “Nessie,” whose existence in a Scottish inlet has been ardently debated for centuries, lurked as a shadowy presence within Gerard Byrne’s magisterial US solo debut, which consisted of a multipart installation clinically titled Case Study: Loch Ness (Some possibilities and problems), 2001–2008. Is Nessie a terrifying monster, a wind-generated mirage, or a folkloric myth? Is s/he a figment of the collective imagination, or an ingenious marketing stunt devised to boost newspaper sales and local tourism? And might there be a correlation between the increase in sightings, the rise of popular photography

  • Art Focus 5

    “What does art want? Everything. What can art do? Nothing. What does art do? Something.” With an adaptation of Jean-Luc Godard’s claim for the radical potential of cinema as a conceptual aegis, itself an appropriation of the Abbé Sieyès’s remark in 1789 about the revolutionary necessity of the third estate, cocurators Bernard Blistène and Ami Barak organized “Art Focus 5: Can Art do More?,” the latest manifestation of this (roughly) biennial contemporary art exhibition as a paradoxical set of possibilities suffused with a lingering sense of failure. Yet rather than an always-already-foreclosed

  • Adel Abdessemed

    Although he employs various media—videos, photographs, and sculptural installations—Adel Abdessemed insistently refers to all his works as “acts.” The term, in its brute directness, raises the question of how exactly Abdessemed’s art operates within the sociopolitical arena and what criteria should be used to evaluate it. For MIT’s recent exhibition, curator Jane Farver presented works made by the artist between 1994 and 2008 as one installation, emphasizing their cumulative force perhaps to obscure the paucity of their formal means. The surge of interpenetrating sounds, images, and sensations

  • Art TLV, “Open Plan Living”

    A great deal was at stake in the launch of Art TLV, a multifocal event aimed at raising awareness of Israel’s up-and-coming contemporary art scene and inserting Tel Aviv into the global biennial circuit. In 2009, this coastal city will join with Athens and Istanbul to form a “Mediterranean Triangle” of biennial destinations. With this in mind, the main exhibition for Art TLV, “Open Plan Living,” curated by the London-based Andrew Renton, was an attempt to define the city’s specificity in its regional context. As an inaugural gesture, Renton did well to draw upon the city’s Bauhaus legacy while

  • Eran Shakine

    Forty-two years after the publication of Robert Morris’s Notes on Sculpture in these pages, the reception of Minimalism and post-Minimalism remains a live issue, so it is not altogether surprising to witness the reappearance of these idioms as mediated through motifs of Judaism. While Morris probably did not envisage the permutation of his “unitary forms” into anything like Eran Shakine’s sagging, handcrafted, toxic-hued Orange Menorah (all works 2008), such an extension into a culturally and religiously specific context may be an inevitable outcome of their engagement with the phenomenological

  • “Real Time: Art in Israel 1998–2008”

    With the state of Israel celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, six museums across the country mounted exhibitions that tried to capture the artistic essence of each decade since the nation’s founding. Considering Jerusalem’s historical and sociopolitical symbolism, it is probably no accident that the Israel Museum hosted the contemporary chapter of this dispersed survey, “Real Time: Art in Israel 1998–2008.” Seeming to represent an overwhelming consensus, the critical operations of the forty selected artists, most born in the years between the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973),

  • “Expo 58”

    With all the fanfare surrounding the fortieth anniversary of May 1968, one should not overlook the period that led to its events. The year 1958 was rife with unresolved sociopolitical tensions that would pave the way for the protests to come. In this context, the homage to the 1958 Exposition Universelle in Brussels, held at the fair’s fantastic space-age centerpiece, the Atomium, was illuminating. Featuring publicity materials, newspaper clippings, tourist ephemera, vintage photographs, and documentary films from the period, this retrospective, “Expo 58: Between Utopia and Reality,” curated by

  • Talia Keinan

    As the winner of the 2007 Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation prize, the most prestigious accolade given to an Israeli artist under forty, Talia Keinan has finally come into her own. After a few years of uneven explorations in video, installation, and drawing, she delivered an offering whose starts and stutters are an integral part of the work. Key to this coming of age is a motto Keinan has inscribed on her drawing book: “I had union with my closed hand, I embraced my shadow as a wife.” Taken from the Egyptian myth of creation, this cryptic sentence points to Keinan’s deepening insight about her

  • Tsibi Geva

    Since the early 1980s, Tsibi Geva has been interrogating the paradox-riven myths and national symbols that construct Israeli identity in an aesthetic language whose fidelity to abstraction is persistently problematized.

    Since the early 1980s, Tsibi Geva has been interrogating the paradox-riven myths and national symbols that construct Israeli identity in an aesthetic language whose fidelity to abstraction is persistently problematized. Ready-made materials permeate the artist’s paintings, which sometimes expand beyond their ironic, gestural expressivity to become site-specific installations. This midcareer retrospective spanning the past twenty years will showcase some fifty works from Geva’s most significant series—“Keffiyeh,” “Terrazzo,” “Grids,” “Windows,” “Birds,” “Thorns,” and “