Critics’ Picks

Yael Yudkovik, Untitled, 2017–19, mixed media, 29 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2".

Yael Yudkovik, Untitled, 2017–19, mixed media, 29 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2".

Tel Aviv

Yael Yudkovik

Chelouche Gallery
7 Mazeh St.
September 19–October 26, 2019

In “The Annual Conference on the Prevention and Care of Pressure Ulcers,” Yael Yudkovik tries to develop a visual language through which to represent the suffering experienced by both Palestinians and Israelis in a political conflict that seems to have neither an end nor a resolution. The titular mixed-media installation includes rows of skateboards decorated with keffiyeh scarves, a totemic wooden sculpture with attached butcher knives, a concrete block facing a photographic image of its replica, a mobile blackboard with aphorisms written in Arabic script, and various figurations of Palestinian women, notable among them the Mona Lisa as a matryoshka doll painted entirely black except for her iconic face and white hands.

Drawing on motifs associated with Palestinian life and culture under occupation, Yudkovik’s visual lexicon is also entwined with her personal narrative. She is an “IDF orphan”—her father was killed in the line of duty before she was born—and as an adult she joined the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum as well as the Narrative Project, which brings together Israelis and Palestinians to share personal stories of loss. These encounters inspired Yudkovik to give form to the physical and psychic burdens borne by Palestinian mothers. If the “pressure ulcers” of the exhibition title evoke the stress caused by the occupation, the prevalence of immobile objects, often propped on wheels, suggests a desire for mobility and change suspended in a state of potentiality.

For Yudkovik, the Palestinian mother’s wound is shared by her Israeli counterpart. While a mutual sickness pervades the colonial relation, the artist is operating on sensitive ground in a polarized public sphere. For some, transforming the female Palestinian experience into an art installation may raise allegations of cultural appropriation, whereas for others, representing “them” in “our” cultural spaces may also appear as an affront. Here Yudkovik recognizes that while the asymmetry of power relations in the political sphere is uncontestable, there are no hierarchies when it comes to bereavement.