Critics’ Picks

Nadav Assor, Ophan, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

Nadav Assor, Ophan, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

Tel Aviv

Nadav Assor

Julie M. Gallery | Tel Aviv
10 Betzalel Yafe St.
June 12–July 19, 2014

In Nadav Assor’s latest exhibition, a trapped hexacopter, hidden behind a black curtain and tied down to the floor, reacts to visitors entering its space by hovering and praying, perhaps crying for help. The drone chants Ezekiel 1 in Yemenite style and catches random broadcasts from the local popular army radio station, Galey Tzahal (Waves of the IDF), all becoming part of Ophan, 2014, the first installation in an Israeli gallery to consider civil uses of drones and the first to involve a drone practicing religious devotion.

The inclusion of a central biblical chapter of Jewish mysticism, which has also been interpreted as an encounter with aliens, uncovers an ominous spirituality in the interactions between operators and their machines. In the chapter, the prophet charts a vision of a chariot of god, appearing from a fiery storm. Ophan, which translates as “wheel” in Hebrew, is an angelic, mechanic entity of a wheel within a wheel, controlled by the spirit of another angel. Here, this description of the “Ophan” signifies the complicated emotional relationships between a machine, its operator, and its creator.

Assor’s video Lessons in Leaving Your Body, 2014, further reflects on these relations of vision and power. The work’s protagonist, Jake Wells, is a DIY drone builder, First-Person View hobbyist, and Remote Control Minister. He is pictured in the film building a drone while preaching its use as a means for hope and an extension of bodily experience. In Wells’s world, drones allow him a divine perspective, to conceive existence as an all-seeing, all-knowing being. In society’s posthuman condition, illustrated through Assor’s work, civilian operators turn the machine unto themselves, unraveling the inherent failure of belief in finding a spiritual relief in machines of war and surveillance designed to survey, gather information, and control their movements.