SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-
From January 30 through March 17, 2009, the Contemporary Jewish Museum
(CJM) will present Dateline 09, featuring the two shows Adi Nes: Bible Stories and Yael Bartana: Short Memory. Dateline 09 inaugurates a new series of annual exhibitions at the Museum. Each year, the curators at the Museum will select a series of projects that reflect new trends in contemporary art and that explore important contemporary issues. The exhibition will provide a forum for the Museum to respond to the latest developments in today's rapidly changing world. Dateline 09 will feature presentations of work by two highly regarded international artists--Adi Nes and Yael Bartana--working, respectively, in photography and video. Nes's work explores timeless biblical stories while Bartana's work examines contemporary social rituals and political issues in Israel. With this exhibition, audiences will be able to examine, in depth, the work of these important artists, much of which has never been shown before on the West Coast.
"One of the Contemporary Jewish Museum's goals is to provide timely perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas," stated Museum Director and CEO Connie Wolf. "We are delighted to launch our new Dateline series by bringing the work of Adi Nes and Yael Bartana to Bay Area audiences as their work provides a forum for the Museum to engage with visitors in an exploration of issues that transcend borders and reflect today's increasingly complex world."
Adi Nes: Bible Stories
Adi Nes's photographic series, Bible Stories, is a modern-day retelling of the stories from the Torah, including drunken Noah, lonely Hagar, and Jacob and Esau, the quarrelling twin brothers. Nes frequently works in series and focuses particularly on identity, on what it means to be a citizen of Israel, and how masculinity is defined within that context.
This exhibition features 12 large-scale images in which he transports figures from the Hebrew Bible to scenes depicting contemporary homelessness. He chooses moments from the original stories when the characters found themselves dispossessed or exiled and draws on recognizable visual sources as wide-ranging as Caravaggio's paintings and Dorothea Lange's photographs. Casting ordinary people as the biblical figures, Nes adds new layers of complex social commentary to our understanding of these enduring stories. Nes also imagines the characters of tribal myth as denizens of Israel's new urban underclass, "homeless" in the heart of the Jewish homeland. He inscribes these foundational figures of Jewish history in a global conversation that touches not simply on Israel but on the universal right for a person to have a home.
"The power of myths has nurtured different areas of art for hundreds of years," observes Nes. "As a visual artist I can't only relate to texts or stories and deliberately ignore pictorial references created by the old masters. Along with this, in places where I interpret texts, whether biblical or from Christian mythology, I'm not trying to illustrate or dramatize the story, rather, I'm trying to use the text to say something new -about myself, and the world from which I come."
Yael Bartana: Short Memory
The work of Yael Bartana investigates society and politics, and the ever-changing world and her relationship to it. Over the past decade, Bartana has become known for her complex visualizations in the forms of photography, film, video, and sound works and installations. Whereas largely known in Europe, her work has not been as present in the U.S. until recently.
"I am interested in the issue of land-people-state," said Bartana. "Basically how identity is created within these parameters. I try to focus on different elements each time... I think there is a certain openness and ambiguity [in my work] that might be consuming for some people. Perhaps it is not clear in terms of my political position. I was once described as a disappointed lover of the State of Israel...."
Yael Bartana: Short Memory presents the past seven years of Bartana's artistic practice. Whether exploring social ritual or political resistance, Bartana's thoughtful mastery of the medium of film is evident in the diverse range of work on view. Featured in the exhibition are Trembling Time (2001), Kings of the Hill (2003), Wild Seeds (2005), A Declaration (2006), Summer Camp + Avodah (re-edit, 2007), and Mary Koszmary (2007). In the films Trembling Time, Kings of the Hill, and Wild Seeds, Bartana takes an anthropological approach to her observations of Israeli social ritual. These rituals often stand in for deeper and more complicated issues in Israeli culture like militarization and resistance, nationalism and individual identity, and deconstruction and reconstruction. In her more recent works like Summer Camp + Avodah, A Declaration and Mary Koszmary, Bartana's films deal with many of these issues in a more direct way. Her work creates a revealing ambivalence between playfulness and serious topics, time looped and halted, material from documentation and reenactments. Her examinations of the various forces of Israeli society alternate between being anthropological and observational and more direct and critical.