Critics’ Picks

Oded Hirsch, Tochka, 2011, color video, sound, 13 minutes 20 seconds.

Oded Hirsch, Tochka, 2011, color video, sound, 13 minutes 20 seconds.


“The Compromised Land: Recent Photography and Video from Israel”

Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College
735 Anderson Hill Road Purchase College, SUNY
August 11–December 1, 2013

“The Compromised Land: Recent Photography and Video from Israel,” curated by Helaine Posner and Lilly Wei, investigates the notion of land and what writer Ory Dessau refers to in the exhibition catalogue as “the cracks of life in Israel.” Featuring accomplished works by twenty-one Israeli artists, the show reflects on current experiences of living in the country. Divided into three main themes—settlers and land, conflict and coexistence, and history and memory—the works, created in the last twelve years, offer a diversity of perspectives that originate in a multicultural existence.

Oded Hirsch’s Tochka, 2010, explores the generally waning need in Israel today for the communal structure offered by kibbutzes. The video depicts a few kibbutz residents dressed traditionally in white and blue uniforms while they build an elaborate bridge over a small crevice, just for the sake of working collaboratively, thus emphasizing their yearning for a dying socialist ideal. In the video (Sa)/Mira, 2008–2009, Dor Guez interviews his cousin, a young Israeli Arab who works as a waitress in Israel. During their conversation she reveals that her boss suggested she change her Arabic name, Samira, to the more common Israeli name Mira. In the video, Samira slowly realizes the discrimination and the abuse that request entails and comes to confront the ongoing oppression of the Arab minority in Israel.

The theme of memory and history is explored in Yael Bartana’s iconic video Trembling Time, 2001, which documents the haunted moments of silence in a scene during the Israeli Memorial Day. Elsewhere, Rona Yefman and Tanja Schlander offer up absurd comic relief in Pippi Longstocking at Abu Dis, 2006–2008, a sad-funny imagining of the redhead trying to crack the West Bank barrier. This slapstick tragedy sums up the painful and impenetrable present, but it also embraces art’s role as a tool of expression, affirmation, and political action.