lundi 14 avril 2008
Ohad Meromi (Harris Lieberman, New York)
Ohad Meromi, Who Owns the World?
Meromi invokes a utopian modernist spirit, while exploring ideas of collaboration, improvisation, and community. He will install a large spatial construction consisting of four modular spaces. Each of the sculpture’s rooms signifies different aspects of interaction and communal living, while suggesting that the possibility of being able to physically step inside a model is in and of itself a simulation of a utopian experience. Fabricated entirely by the artist, the work draws upon manifold sources of influence, such as Constructivist set design, the early communities of the Israeli Kibbutzim as well as the austere aesthetics of late modern institutional architecture and public space. Each element of Meromi’s rough-hewn installation possesses a consistent aesthetic with an unfinished quality that reinforces the artist’s interest in creation as an ongoing process. Who Owns the World? features an installation of Meromi’s recent video work The Exception and the Rule I & II. Composed of two separate but related videos (Schitopolis, set in Israel, and Trois Gaules, set in France), the work depicts two interpretive rehearsals of an early Bertolt Brecht learning play. Enacted by the artist’s friends and family, the videos’ loose, improvisational formats reassert Meromi’s equation of the theatrical stage and the architectural model as spaces for communal creativity within scripted environments.
Artists who create political work face the challenge of addressing very particular points without losing the majority of their audience. This is the problem with Ohad Meromi’s highly interesting if somewhat impenetrable video-cum-installation. Rather than make overt statements, Meromi, an Israeli-American, highlights and theatricalizes the visual languages of several social and political groups—among them the kibbutz—without completely connecting the dots. This open-endedness is key to the work’s success but also makes it difficult to figure out what’s going on. The loose configuration of narrative elements explores the power dynamics of living and working communally. The videos show silent teaching plays, staged like Brechtian After-School Specials, while the majority of the gallery is occupied by a handsome skeletal wooden frame that looks like the base of an unbuilt house and serves as a milling area for viewers. It contains the props and costumes that appear in the video; the architectural structure itself carries strong modernist overtones, as do various maquettes and framed images placed throughout the space. Without knowing that the artist was born on a kibbutz, it’s difficult to decipher the sartorial and symbolic references in the show. The relationship between video and sculptural installation isn’t entirely clear. However, by assembling references to modernist thought and political frameworks in a loosely structured arena framed by the popular contemporary art language of performance documentation, the artist almost inevitably prompts the viewer to think about the role of work in a social context—a relevant issue indeed.
Andrea K. Scott:
Meromi’s work, like that of his fellow Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner, combines low-fi home-movie aesthetics and collaborative production with highbrow references. A two-part video finds actors wandering the dry hills of Israel and the South of France, performing a “learning play” by Bertolt Brecht. An accompanying installation explores ideas of art and communal living via an open, modular, homespun construction. Meromi is so adept at synthesis that what might have appeared to be a shotgun marriage of incompatible modes—Brecht and kibbutz collectivism, Joseph Campbell mythologizing and modernist design—is actually seamless.