A Soft Corner

The flank of the padded muslin serpent made by Uriel Miron rubs against the edge of the floor panel that protects the white-washed walls of the museum, as it stretches along them, through the exhibits of Daniel Bauer, Yael Robin, Sharon Poliakine and Yoav Miller, and into the museum’s central nave. Above the serpent, at eye level, oil paintings from the museum collection flash the promise of bliss inherent in painting, while they echo the utopian hopes and desperate agony of the past century.

The soft strip of fabric and stuffing, soft corner, runs a cyclical course that yields a subtle opposition. The two ends of the strip meet as it completes a continuous meander that encircles the walls of an open-air patio at the heart of the museum. Thus, the coils of the cushion embrace a chunk of outside even as they remain inside.
An elongated cushion punctuated by knotted ribbons does not usually line the walls of a museum; its place is in a baby’s crib – protecting the infant from the hard bars that enclose it. Yet, in Miron’s piece, this personal strip of padding has assumed gigantic length, like a tape measure (endless, in principle), and it worms its way into the very heart of an august institutional edifice.

There is something unsettling about this displacement from the warm and familiar intimacy of the private domain, and infiltration of the stable and unchanging representational space that partakes – ostensibly – of eternity. If the museum is custodian of the narrative of collective memory, if its white walls guard a repository of culture and knowledge, then Miron’s cloth serpent delineates a boundary that questions the validity of protective walls that would separate the permanent from the fleeting, ponders the exterior that becomes interior, and reflects on situations that undermine the solidity of the image of the museum as a temple of collective memory.

These issues, albeit with different emphases, inform the work of the four artists invited by Uriel Miron to join him in open dialogue in a group exhibit of mini-solo shows. Borderline states like those staked out by Miron’s serpentine cushion arise, for example, in Daniel Bauer’s digitally manipulated photographs Only Background and Sky. Images of luminous northern skies from Flemish landscape paintings that Bauer photographed in American Museums are superimposed upon landscape photos of frontier zones between Palestine and Israel. Photographic superimposition can perhaps be likened to the psychological process of condensation, which compresses thoughts and sights etched upon our awareness into a charged, complex image.

In Yael Robin’s installation, Ridge Road, a concrete experience also metamorphoses into a series of fragmented internal landscapes. Unlike Bauer’s quasi fictional pictures, Robin’s photographs unfold into memories of emotions, sounds and movements, situations that elude verbal description and cannot be encompassed in a narrative image. She uses dirt, cardboard scraps, debris, found objects and images cut out from her own photographs to construct a miniature landscape laid out on the floor, that one can walk through like the landscape of a remembered past and present-continuous.
“I walked and slipped with people in the mud, saw marks made in the landscape, filth, felled trees, piles and cubes of concrete, and an abandoned house with a cut out soldier effigy in its window.” (Yael Robin)

Sharon Poliakine’s exhibition Dispossession consists of eight oil paintings on stretched canvasses painted over one year (2002), echoing biographical, material and conceptual situations related to the idea of dispossession: ranging from the dispossession of the physical site of her activity – the studio – to questions of dispossession of the image (which gradually yields place to the canvas itself), dispossession of origins (in serial pieces that deal with repetition), or the image of frottage erased into white, dispossession or decimation of life by material, by the color white.
“When Uriel asked me to take part in the show I fantasized about the sealed cube of the gallery space, and suddenly Uriel’s piece was there, snaking under one of may paintings that has the word “dispossession” inscribed on it. To me, this kind of cooperation presented an option that was the opposite of dispossession, a kind of reinforcement.” (Sharon Poliakine)

In Yoav Miller’s sculpture exhibition the dialogue with Uriel Miron assumes an active character. In Miller’s words, “Uriel Miron’s piece… appeared to me as though it were trying to run its course at all costs. What choice had I but to dissuade it from doing so?” Only in this exhibition is Miron’s serpentine cushion diverted from its constant course: it billows off the wall, into the center of the gallery and then retreats, wriggles into one of Miller’s sculptures and back out again. The cushion does not seem so alien in this setting, which stitches together an enigmatic fantasy out everyday elements that undergo transformations that skew our view of reality. Miller deals in paradoxes (a fishing rod, fishing itself out of a bucket of sawdust), sensory illusions (a steel chest of drawers made of wood) and deflections of function (a row of dysfunctional drawers that conceal a secret compartment) to construct a sensual, puzzling and richly imaginative sculptural environment.

The artists collaborated on a group installation using pieces from the museum collection that were kept in storage. They titled this collaborative exhibit Light of Day. In the midst of their own, contemporary installations, they built an exhibit consisting of a group of fifty-six sculptures – busts and portraits – from the 19th and 2oth Centuries. These stand on the floor in a dense circle at the center of the gallery, while their catalogue cards from the museum archive hang on the wall. Uriel Miron’s muslin serpent also flows through this exhibition of sculptures, lending them renewed significance and shedding new light upon them.

According to Uriel Miron, the cushion-strip fascinates him both because it embodies the existential conflict of defense, in which every defensive measure taken may present a new threat and require yet another defensive measure, and because it expresses the convoluted interior/exterior relations that inform sculpture, architecture and the institutional space of the museum.

Group Exhibition

A Soft Corner

Curators: Uriel Miron, Galia Bar Or

December 2004-March 2005

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