הצפה - מיצב 2017-2018
מרכז אמנויות וגלריה ע"ש אפטר-ברר, מעלות תרשיחא, אוצרת נועה מגדל.
Apter – Barrer Art Center & Gallery, Ma'a lot – Tarshicha. Curator: Noga Migdal
Haim Maor – Flooding
“Our memories are ships that sail on the waves of time and carry their precious
cargo – thoughts, pictures, smells – with great care, from hour to hour, from year
to year. Yet despite the great care taken the cargo is constantly changing and
large sections of it disappear into the great ocean of amnesia. But sometimes we
discover in the hold of the ship a cargo more precious than gold that we never
– Haim Shapira, A Specially Lovely Childhood Memory, Kineret Zemora-Devir, 2017
Professor Haim Maor, among Israel’s most influential artists, set out on his artistic
career in the mid 1970s. Since then he has held numerous exhibitions in museums
and leading galleries in Israel and abroad. He is currently a member of faculty at
the department of arts at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev at Beersheba, while
continuing to work as an artist, a curator and a scholar of contemporary Israeli art.
Haim Maor’s visual and verbal journey cruises through the waters of the oceans
of memory and forgetting. His personal-familial memories and Israel’s collectivenational memories form a basis for reading his works. Maor creates a dialogue between his self-portrait and the objects, the archival documents and the photographs that he chooses. At times his portrait is absorbed, woven into and merged with the portraits of “others” and the viewer is hard put to discern who is who.
He perpetuates his many portraits on wooden surfaces painted in strong colors. Some of the portraits have square and colorful memo tabs drawn on them, like those that serve as daily reminders. Inspired by his uncle Sam Freed of New York, who filled his home with memo tabs when his memory began to betray him, Maor uses the tabs to record feelings, thoughts, deliberations, associations, questions, events, dates and facts. Placing these comments on the works assists the viewer to decipher and interpret the contexts and statements that the artist conveys in his paintings.
The course of Maor’s life is a familiar one, typical of many “sabras” or native Israelis,
second generation Holocaust survivors: childhood, youth movement, military service, studies, starting a family, fighting in wars, and long years of coping with
personal, familial and collective childhood memories. This is a painful and lengthy
process of never ending attempts to contain or repress, as Maor explains in his essay on the exhibition: “one accumulates memories up to a point at which they engulf you and you begin to drown in them, forgetting who you are or who you wanted to be.” Through Maor’s works we experience the dialogue that he conducts with his portraits. The eyes of his relatives and friends documented in his paintings gaze out at us and have fascinating conversations with us. The memo tabs allow the viewers / readers an intimate glimpse of his thoughts, feelings and fears – of his private life.
As he sagely observes the past, present and future, Maor’s gaze summons up social
and existential problems of Israeli society, a rich human mosaic of complex private
and collective memories.
Maor’s works hang from the gallery walls, nestling close to one another and
inundating the viewer’s consciousness. They merge with a powerful force of beauty
and esthetics; of pain that cries out alongside humorous touches that mix in with and
are absorbed by a celebration of riotous color that exudes a joie de vivre. This wealth
of color, however, is a misleading camouflage. A sweet layer that covers up the taste of the bitter pill. Thus, in Hanoch Levine’s words, “despair becomes more comfortable.”
Noga Migdal - Curator
From Concealment to Flooding
“Everything we see passes by like a breath of air, but some sights are buried in
you and grow with you” – Aharon Appelfeld1
Memories resemble a sub-conscious that opens up like a fan. This sentence is
borrowed from a line of a poem by Yona Wallach. It suggests something and its
opposite. That which has been repressed and stored away gradually opens up and
surfaces into one’s consciousness and writing. Yet, like the opening fan, it covers
and conceals one’s face and thus as something opens up it conceals something
Buoyancy – the state or capacity of something that floats on water.
Concealed – hidden or buried in something, preserved and obscured, the secrets of
his heart, his hidden thoughts.
Repressed memory is a memory of an event that cannot consciously be accessed. The
clinical term is dissociative amnesia.
Recovered memory is a memory that becomes accessible to one’s consciousness after
suffering dissociative amnesia.
Recovered memories – restoration of memories.
Scholars of memory disagree about the existence of the phenomenon. Some believe
this is a trapped or illusory memory. This dispute is called the “memory wars.”
In her book The Wonders of Memory and the Tricks of Forgetting,2 Nitsa Eyal notes that
“a good memory is a selective memory.” There are 129 types of memory (a memory for names, for sounds, for tastes, for smells, for faces, for navigation, for personal
experiences, for general knowledge, childhood memories, and so forth).
In his book Because from the Past You Have Come and to the Past You Shall Return: Memoirs the author Amnon Shamosh writes: “Everyone remembers different things, or remembers the same things differently.”3 “Memory – it may sift, or prettify, or cover up. It’s always personal, unique and subjective; like the fingerprint of the soul.”4
One dips a Madeleine cookie in one’s tea and its taste evokes a well of memories: the memory turns into a kind of movie, a stream of consciousness. An uncontrollable stream of memories. This is how Marcel Proust’s journey of memory begins in his monumental work Remembrance of Times Past.5
Memory is indeed akin to a deluge, memories that flood one’s consciousness; and on the other hand – memory as repression, as the unconscious, or memory as an ongoing nightmare that constantly replays like a broken record, as “unfinished business.”
I ponder the word flooding, its roots and origins and the layers of its contexts. These thoughts engulf me with fragments of memory, with the sounds and sights of my life ever since childhood. I jot down dictionary definitions and retrieve thoughts from memory, unsystematically and in no particular hierarchical order.
Flooding – the inundation of an area or place with a mass of water that breaks its banks, a deluge.
A deluge of memory – one accumulates memories up to a point at which they engulf you and you begin to drown in them, forgetting who you are or who you wanted to be.
As a child I witnessed the moments when my father was engulfed. His lifeless eyes would become flooded by tears and his memories of that war poured from his mouth like a roaring river, in a terrible torrent, in uncontrolled and undisciplined words, in a flood of emotions, in disintegration, and eventually in a nervous breakdown. The tranquilizers and the special treatments he received in the department to which he was committed stemmed the flow, locked the memories back into their cage in the dungeons of the consciousness, until the next outburst. The sensitive child who observed what was happening was perturbed and wondered what was better:
a taciturn father who concealed his memories or a talkative father who flooded the home with insistent memories that sought to free themselves and go forth into the world.
Crowded, too close to one another, oppressive, compressed and cramped. Floating, thoughts, musings and so forth that have surfaced from one’s head or one’s heart. Observed, seen from the side, present at a predictable, predetermined event.
As a child I read the fable of the Dutch boy who blocked a hole in the dam and saved his town from flooding. This story about “the little hero from Harlem” is told in chapter 18 of the book Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. I identified with the boy and believed that I was able to block the hole in my father’s dam of memories, perhaps preventing them from flooding his consciousness? But I couldn’t. And now I can’t prevent the load of my parents’ and my own memories from bursting out of the dam. Is this such a bad thing?
Letting the images/the memories flow, placing them beside one another on the walls
of the gallery and introducing them to one another, creates a strange encounter, novel hybrids, new meanings, coincidences.
The reality of memories encounters the reality of life in a crazy dialogue in which one can’t tell whether present reality evokes past memories or vice versa: the memories of the past are projected upon present events.
1 Keter Zemora Bitan, 2016, p. 118.
2 Arieh Nir, Tel Aviv, 2017.
3 Aviv, Tel Aviv, 2007, p. 43.
4 Ibid., p. 48.
5 Ha-kibbutz Ha-me'uhad – Ha-sifria ha-hadasha, 1992, pp. 49-50, translated by
- Haim Maor