Bundle of Life

Orna Ben-Ami

Bundle of Life

Curator: Yaniv Shapira

June 15, 2020

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Orna Ben-Ami’s exhibition “Bundle of Life” joins several of her works of the past decade. Central to them is the exploration of personal and collective memory, of displacement and wandering, of absence and void, of farewell and detachment and ultimately: of the power of all those to recall the commandment to live. Ben-Ami states that she seeks to describe a situation wherein “The entirety of one’s experience and support is to be found in one’s suitcase. The packages hold up the person. The People featured are detached, lacking support and a place to call their own. They hold only what they have taken from the home they used to have.” She evokes this experience by sculpting in iron, as though wishing to fix her thoughts into the heavy, stubborn metal; by welding objects and figures and combining them with photographs. The installation ‘For the Trees’, filling the museum’s central gallery, ushers the viewer into a world that is at once full and empty. Before us are trees ‘sketched’ in space, lacking both foliage and roots, they offer no shade nor provide consolation. They are inanimate objects whose sculptural function is in representing absence and void. From within this ‘naked forest’ the exhibition opens into its other axes: the series ‘Entire Life in a Pack’, ‘Transparent’ and ‘Shadows’, all merge to form an experience that is tantalizing, physical and visual.Ben-Ami’s lexicon of images and symbols is welded together with sensitivity, as well as urgency and precision, as though for want of choice. Faithful to Gershom Scholem’s statement whereby “symbols are born and grow out of the fertile soil of human feeling”, she seemingly scavenges them out of a sense of reality, while shining a limelight towards a single object, on a gesture or a faded image, each of which contains a memory bordering amnesia. Scholem continues the characterization of a symbol in remarking: “The very fact that the symbol expresses with great precision and also with completeness the meaning bound within it, is that which qualifies it as a symbol. Symbols, despite all the depth they present, are no riddles.” Indeed, Ben-Ami does not concern herself with riddles and instead bids us confront the unsettling topicality of her works. In placing displacement and wandering and emigration at the center of her work, she points at them as an unbearable and inacceptable distortion of human culture and universal human dignity.