vendredi 25 avril 2008
Tamy Ben-Tor (Zach Feuer Gallery, New York)
“My characters are embodiments of non-existing entities. Sometimes they mirror my mind’s demons and sometimes I watch them unfold before me. I find it necessary to escape into another universe in which I am not myself and language isn’t used to deliver information. Nationalities and races are embodied in language and people’s identities are revealed through speech. The characters I portray are not real. However they are specific. I don’t speak about politics; I use them to invoke feeling just as I speak in different languages in order to reach a nonsensical outcome. This is because it is only through the specific and descriptive that a tension with the abstract can be formed.”
People are idiots. That is the takeaway from Tamy Ben-Tor’s second New York solo show, which offers four new videos that fearlessly skewer the racism and misunderstanding between not only Jews and gentiles, but among humans as a whole. Using characters too foolish to be believed (including obnoxious art-world denizens), Ben-Tor shifts targets between the ugliness directed at entire groups, and the relatively harmless shortcomings of her peers. Despite the title of the main piece, Gewald (translatable as “violence”), Ben-Tor skirts direct confrontation, or provocation for its own sake. Her characters are laughable enough to be dismissed along with our own culpability in prejudice. Yet stunningly acute insights slipped into fleeting scenes or absurd utterances—a Hasidic woman denying that anyone would ever want to hurt Jews; a ditzy Fräulein still “duped” by Hitler—allow Ben-Tor to lay bare our capacity for ignorance without getting on a soapbox. If these characters created by Ben-Tor (who just recently perfomed her live work, Judensau, at the Kitchen) are fantastical, her portraits of a frustrated curator, an artist laughing all the way to the bank and an arrogant art critic are also strangely off-kilter. Contrary to the supposed careerism of today, a frazzled curator can’t get artists to return her e-mails, while an aggravated critic who “doesn’t even like art, let alone love it” is hilarious but probably not too representative of her ilk. Will Ben-Tor’s jumbled characters actually prompt self-examination? That will be the test of how deep our idiocy runs.