The rich, busy inventory of images presented here provides a peek into what appears to be Gili Avissar’s studio journal. A quick glance at the photographs reveals a maze of fluctuating connections amongst the images, both visible and hidden. The eye looks at one image, hops to the next, then to another one, in constant motion. There is a starting point, an arbitrary one; there is no ending point.
The collection of pictures invites a search for similarities among the images, an act of sorting, perhaps into folders labeled Yellow, Red, Fire, Horses, Birds, Stars, Hotel, Wigs, Masks, America, Hands, Body Gestures. However, after several attempts, the categorization process becomes sterile, available only as a fleeting option within a non-hierarchical multiplicity, a tangle of affinities that materialize instantly, dissipate, pull together, and reunite.
The eye travels over a photograph of hands holding masks; it moves on to hands pointing at something beyond the frame of the photograph, and then to a diptych of a woman with a mirror, putting on make-up next to a masked person, and from there to a black-and-white image of an array of archaeological tools waiting for the user’s hand, on to a Wonder Woman-like figure who is flying with her arms extended forward. An imaginary line stretches from her feet to a studio photograph in which the naked artist is standing on one leg, his hand pointing ahead, out of the frame. Wandering through the images, the hand gestures lead the eye in acts of grasping, using, marking, representing, and pointing, transferring energy from the image to the viewer, energy that invites reflection and intimacy with the viewer.
Next, the eye focuses on photographs of masquerade. The colored suits he changes into, a digital collage in which the artist is costumed as a chambermaid, set against an outdoors background, and then to the chambermaid in a hotel, sitting crossed-legged next to a flowers vase; on to a hybrid figure with a naked human body and a bird’s face, and then to portraits with only partially visible faces: in one, sunglasses obscure the face, and in the other a collage of flowers, while in another assembly the faces a visible but replicated, the eyes leaking red paint.
The journal presented to the viewers invites them to roam around the artist’s consciousness: to wander in private and collective narratives that constantly intersect and separate, which show how the artist goes back to the studio between exhibitions, unravels the works and embroiders a new tapestry that leads in a different direction. But this is not a reiteration of elements that repeat themselves and fit into an existing model. Things are in constant transformation, ongoing creation of identity.
Avissar’s repetition is schizophrenic. It contains mystic incarnations and intertwined magical ghosts. Like those lost, homeless souls, Avissar creates nomadic characters with temporary and changeable identities. Among them are the Clown, the Chambermaid, the Pop Star, the Youth, and the Naked Artist. However the interchange doesn’t stop with the figures – the space, too, seems to be disguised as a theater stage, curtained off and mutable, a setting for what is about to come. Often the mutability is in the object, like in the mask, which functions not as a motive but as a method, surviving various actions in a cycle of processing, going back, and invention, which breathes a different life into it.
“Sometimes I secretly mix old works into new ones. They might serve as their pedestal or some other part of them. It is like adding an energetic charge to the work – something they contain just because they have been made at a certain time or place or from a certain material. That’s my in-joke – hiding something the viewer has already seen and making it new again.” (Gili Avissar, 2017)
One of the objects Avissar has used in the video series “Man on a Boat” 2011) is like that. It started its life as a stand for an object, and was then turned into a house, a swing, and again into a stand, this time for a different object. In another instance, ashes of incinerated drawings, recorded in the video Incinerated Drawings (2009), were secreted inside a black owl. These objects, parts from an earlier installation, came back to the artist’s studio only to be turned from raw material into a Golem –a new thing that conceals the old.
In Avissar’s database, the images float in black space. At the same time, the space defines the images as separate entities but also floods them as a mutual consciousness that also contains gaps. Thus, each image functions also as a picture of remembrance, conveying the circumstances of its making, its display, and the traces left by those who have watched it. The metamorphosis in of the artist, and of the image, is enhanced in the scrolling journal by the multiplicity of images. A meta-metamorphosis, incorporating a dense, fantastic, dreamlike world-picture, now magical, now banal, wild, libidinal, poetic, disturbing. A world picture where identity categories are suggested as perpetual possibilities of interchange, where the miracle of the permanent joins the wonder of changeability.
The catalog has been published online with the kind support of the Council for Culture and the Arts of the Israeli Lottery.