Critics’ Picks

Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela, Image Blockade, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 38 minutes 20 seconds. Installation view.

Tel Aviv

Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela

The Center for Contemporary Art (CCA)
2a Tsadok Hacohen St. (Corner of Kalisher) The Rachel & Israel Pollak Gallery
July 30–September 26, 2015

In 2009, Israeli artists Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela initiated their collaborative “Exterritory Project,” which projected works by Middle Eastern artists onto the sails of boats located in exterritorial waters just outside of Israel. The duo’s most recent body of work in this show, curated by Chen Tamir, consists of three videos that similarly investigate the role of censorship, ethics, and the gravity of images in contemporary regimes.

The two-channel video Image Blockade, 2015, for example, explores the physiological effect of Israeli intelligence veterans’ training on their sensory perception. Here, the veterans are introduced to short video testimonials by disguised colleagues and are asked to determine, while being examined by an MRI machine, what is worth censoring in the footage. By mapping the veterans’ brain functions as they watch the clips, scientists determine that the participants’ orbitofrontal cortices, the part in charge of critical analysis and judgment, are significantly more active than the visual and auditory cortices.

In the twenty-second video Extras, 2012, a group of four men are physically manipulated using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the nerve cells in the brain that command body movement. With the men’s limbs being simultaneously choreographed, the experiment exemplifies the prospect of external mastery over the physical body. Also highlighting the importance of control is the video Scenarios Preparations, 2015, which documents the groundwork of journalists and activists for a flotilla aiming to bring humanitarian support to the Gaza Strip. In the midst of their training, the participants realize that exclusive information about their project has been leaked. The ensuing discussion then revolves around issues of trust, exposure, and the value of full documentation while protecting each person’s human right to withhold.