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About the Exhibition  
Video Drawing | Sivan Eran-Levian  
Credits  
   
The Exhibits  
Joshua Neustein  
Oscar Muñoz  
Talia Keinan  
William Kentridge  
James Paterson | Amit Pitaru  
Maya Shan Bowden  
David Behar-Perahia  
Zilla Leutenegger  
Katerﬞina Šedá  

          Video Drawing | Sivan Eran-Levian
 
   

A blue kite fluttering across a drawing’s landscape, a hand holding a brush and moving over a hot surface, charcoal drawings repeatedly created and erased – all demonstrate possibilities for the relationship between drawing and video. The medium of drawing is immediate and primal. It comes directly from the mind and hand of its creator, forging an intimate bond between the artist and the individual viewer. Video, on the other hand, is devoid of materiality and texture. It is the representation of a representation, a technical reproduction intended for a wide audience. In this exhibition the two contrasting forms of expression are brought together in works that challenge the power of drawing to maintain its unique qualities and afford it new dimensions of time and motion, while endowing video with the added value of the artist’s touch.

The exhibition presents several potentialities for the combination of drawing and video, including video documentation of the act of drawing, animated films created from drawings, a video projected on a drawing, and digital drawing. Despite the diversity of the works, a number of recurring motifs can be identified: erasure, or alternatively, layered drawings; the use of video as a source of light and means of animation; computer programs employed as a drawing tool; and the presence of the artist’s hand in the frame.

The earliest work in the exhibition, and the starting point for the connection between the two media, is the series of videos by Joshua Neustein from 1971–73 entitled “Erasures,” which evidences the spirit of art in the 1970s. Conceptualism, which flourished during this period in the art world in Israel and abroad, sparked the first attempts at video art and the projected image. 1 By its lack of materiality, the projected image questioned the status of the artistic object at a time when the borders of art were being examined. It was thus an integral part of the investigation of the very concept of art, of the attempt to redefine it and undermine the notion that painting was the superior form of artistic expression. 2 Since drawing was regarded as clean, direct, and non-monumental, it too became a major medium of conceptual art.

“Erasures” begins with the scene of a hand holding a pencil and drawing the letters of the alphabet one after the other, while a second hand comes from the other side and erases the writing. As the video proceeds, the two hands write and erase entire sentences, including “I’m a real girl,” “I’m a Zionist girl,” “I’m a Zionist Jew,” and “I’m a shy Jew.” Finally, a Star of David, a cross, a dollar sign, and an Islamic pentagram are drawn, and although these symbols are also erased, the first hand draws them again, over and over relentlessly.

In histories of modern art, the idea of erasing a drawing is attributed to the American artist Robert Rauschenberg, who in 1953 asked his fellow artist Willem de Kooning for a drawing he could erase. The resulting work became a landmark in conceptual art. Rauschenberg’s act of Oedipal aggression against de Kooning offered a new language to replace abstract expressionism. In contrast, Neustein erases his own work, raising the basic question, “What is drawing?” The erased drawing does not cease to exist; it is transformed into a ghost and lives on as a memory and as remnants of erasures. Left with the conscious memory of the erased drawing, the viewer witnesses the creation of a new one, and the unresolved struggle between the two acts. The erasure enables us to freely project our own ideas onto the newly created empty space. It is only when the work reaches the stage of erasing the symbols that our thoughts are deliberately channeled in the direction of historical, national, and cultural connotations. 3 The acts of drawing and erasing that are repeated throughout the series reconstruct the mental acts involved in defining and judging, and are made possible by the element of time, which is a basic feature of video. 4

Also in the exhibition are four of the first works in a series of short animated films from 1989–96 by the South African artist William Kentridge. The title, “Drawings for Projection,” attests to the key role played here by the act of drawing. Each film consists of a series of charcoal and pastel drawings that Kentridge created and filmed in a step-by-step process documenting the gradual development engineered by erasing and redrawing a single detail, or a figure, structure, or landscape. However, unlike Neustein who erases his work in order emphasize the essence of drawing, for Kentridge erasure represents a constant state of incompletion and mutability, along with the awareness that nothing is final. This leads to an aesthetic choice that rejects any definitive conclusion, reflecting the artist’s political opposition to authority of any sort. 5

The content of Kentridge’s work is influenced by his identity as a South African artist, white and Jewish, as well as by the complicated historical reality of his homeland, which was still under apartheid when the majority of works in this series were produced. The films tell the story of the rise and fall of the fictional protagonist Soho Eckstein, a typical white tycoon from Johannesburg who owns a diamond mine and is invariably depicted in a pinstriped suit. Another character is Felix Teitelbaum, a naked and sensual artist, lover, and dreamer. The two men represent different views of the world, and different aspects of Kentridge himself. The tale’s events unfold against the landscape of the stone quarries around Johannesburg, dotted with the remnants of abandoned industrial buildings and citizens portrayed as exiles in procession. The erasures reveal traces of earlier stages in the form of blotches and shadows, symbolizing how past events in real life become layers of memory that affect the present. Erasure here is also a metaphor for the loss of historical memory, the forgetfulness that enables age-old acts of injustice, racism, and brutality 6 to be repeated, and it is this aspect of Kentridge’s work that gives it universal relevance.

Oscar Muñoz’s video work Re/trato shows the artist’s hand holding a brush and drawing a self-portrait in water on a sun-baked concrete surface. The viewer’s anticipation of the end of the process, the completion of the portrait, is thwarted, as at any given moment parts of the drawing evaporate and vanish, forcing the artist to go back and draw them again and again. The film thereby documents a Sisyphean effort to capture an elusive image. As in the works by Neustein and Kentridge, the viewer’s memory is activated by the disappearance of the picture, although in this case no traces of it are left behind. By choosing to work under conditions that inherently lead to the rapid eradication of what he has drawn, Muñoz challenges traditional drawing techniques, mimics the human process of forgetfulness and the inability to hold on to memory and the image, and alludes to the ephemerality of life, to extinction, and to death. 7 This is the first in a series of works by the artist that expand the viewer’s perspective, relate to the sociopolitical situation in Colombia, and protest against existing forms of organized remembrance and commemoration. 8

"It Doesn’t Matter" by Katerﬞina Šedá is the product of an unusual collaboration between the artist and her grandmother Jana (1930–2007), who retreated from the world in her final years. In an attempt to draw her out, Katerˇina talked with Jana about her past. In the course of the conversations with her granddaughter, Jana remembered the hundreds of items in her old housewares shop. At Katerˇina ’s urging, she began to draw them. The group in the exhibition is a representative selection of the over 600 drawings in Jana’s series. They are accompanied by a video that presents their creation as a daily exercise conducted during conversations between the two.

Each of the drawings is done in a black felt tip pen and bears the name of the object. In some cases, several objects of the same type in different sizes appear on a single sheet of paper. They are represented in a flat elementary manner, barely more than a doodle. The line and form are rudimentary, with minimal geometry and design, making the items appear two-dimensional and emphasizing the primeval nature of the medium of drawing. Although the items have their source in the grandmother’s memory and as such are subjective, they seem almost abstract in the drawings, as if they were universal images or the Platonic ideas of the objects.

Seda’s work displays the therapeutic aspect of art and its power to connect people. It continues an approach found in the artist’s earlier work in which she examined the social role of art and sought to unravel the hierarchy between art and life. 9

At first glance, the drawings in David Behar-Perahia’s series “Mediterranean Meditations” trigger thoughts of the sea or sand dunes. They are crossed from end to end by pencil lines suggesting the undulating motion of waves, or rising and falling frequencies. Each drawing has its own density and rhythm, with lines of varying widths and degrees of curvature or angularity. The entire series, comprised of thirteen drawings, was produced while listening to Bach after a visit to the seaside. Despite the linear strokes of the pencil, the drawings convey the sense of infinite circular motion, as if they were depicting cyclical phenomena. They can be seen to represent the idea of flowing in general, and the flow of their creator’s mind and feelings in particular, or in the words of the artist: “The drawing was done directly from the stream of consciousness to the hand and from there to the paper in an unmediated motion.” 10

The video accompanying the work documents the process of its creation. The music in the background defines the time frame of the work and induces an emotional bond with the drawings. It was filmed by means of a camera attached to Perahia’s waist that recorded the movement of his body while he was drawing. The video reflects the artist’s perception of art as an act, as an event that takes place in a given period of time, and as a process which in and of itself is what affords the work its primary significance. 11

Talia Keinan’s Landscape 1 is comprised of a pencil drawing of a landscape on black canvas on which the image of a kite moving in the wind is projected. The pencil lines are invisible against the black ground. Only when illuminated by the projected image can a deserted nocturnal landscape with a grassy field, two ponds, and barren hills be seen. Rocks scattered about the scene lead the viewer’s eye from the foreground of the drawing to a row of bare trees, and onward to the dark horizon. The scene, similar to the landscape in other works by Keinan, blends reality with fantasy and arouses the dual sense of a place that is both strange and familiar. The movement and vivid coloration of the kite do not belong in this landscape; on the contrary, they cast an aura of magic and benevolence over it. When the kite appears, the drawing lights up and fills with gentle motion that seems to lift and pose it against the silent immobile scene. And when it vanishes, the landscape disappears as well, leaving nothing but the black canvas. It is the appearance and disappearance of the kite that give the work a sense of cyclical time.

The drawing and video projection are two elements of equal importance that come together in this work to produce a new and unexpected image. For Keinan, combining the two media creates disparity and confusion, injecting uneasiness and tension into the work. 12

“Bedroom” by Zilla Leutenegger is a series of drawings on the walls of a real room that contain a sculptural element – in this case a cupboard – and a video projection of a woman performing a variety of routine acts, such as resting, showering, and reading. Leutenegger, who seeks to break through the two-dimensionality of drawing and find ways to incorporate her own figure, 13 calls this body of her work “video drawings.” They are produced by simple animations based on contour drawings of herself, which actually turn her into a universal, virtually anonymous, figure. 14 The simplicity of the drawings creates an interesting duality. On the one hand, they appear to be preliminary and unfinished; on the other, their sketchiness is what maintains their freshness and innocence. 15

As in the case of Talia Keinan’s kite, here too the projection is the source of light, bringing the work to life and completing it so that it becomes a delicate, coherent piece. A separate projection on the ceiling shows the reflection of a window accompanied by the sound of a car engine. The viewer is invited to peek into the intimate, closeted world of the woman who is reading. Leutenegger developed this sort of private universe when still a young girl whose family moved frequently, forcing her time and again to switch schools and friends. The somewhat childish nature of the drawings might also have its source in those early experiences. 16

Rhonda, a collaboration between animator James Paterson and musicianby- training Amit Pitaru, utilizes a computer program by the same name developed by the duo. The program, based on a conventional threedimensional computer design program, makes it possible to express the immediacy of drawing and traverse the borders between art and design by enabling the user not only to draw freely and flexibly, but also to alter the angle of the drawing and continue to modify it to create an illusion of threedimensionality. Here, the sheet of paper is replaced by a digital interface, and the pencil by a digital line. The video traces the evolution of the drawing from single lines to a three-dimensional object, along with the construction of additional objects in space. The result bears a close resemblance to a wire sculpture.

The starting point for Maya Shan Bowden’s Samaria consisted of photographs of the Samarian hills and the built landscape of the Shilo settlement, subjected by the artist to digital processing. In the computerized image, an algorithmic program converted the points at which light and shadow meet into a virtual “stitch” colored red. Replacing the artist’s hand with an algorithm raises questions as to the limitations of freehand drawing.

Samaria was originally presented as a video installation. Whenever a camera installed in the gallery space picked up the movement of a visitor, the algorithm was actuated and another stitch was “sewn.” Little by little, the image was embroidered, until the entire picture of the landscape was recreated in red lines. The work in the current exhibition documents the embroidering of the image and its final form as a computerized scene of the houses of Shilo in the landscape. As it takes shape on the screen, it reveals its resemblance to a topographical map, hinting at the complex issue of Israel’s territorial borders. The gap between the title of the work and the emerging image elicit reflection on the very things that do not appear in the picture.

• • •

The different ways in which drawing and video are combined in the works in the exhibition all indicate a reciprocal relationship in which drawing provides the content and video serves as a tool or conductor. On the whole, the works entail close observation of the process of drawing and the traces it leaves behind, demonstrate the wide variety of its materials, and extend its limits, whether by duplication, by trading the traditional sheet of paper for some other material, or by replacing it with a computer program that strives to resemble it. All these techniques provide the medium of drawing with innovative tools for communication and expression. They suggest a new status for drawing as opposed to its conventional perception as subordinate to painting and sculpture, and expand the borders of artistic creation in a fresh, and often surprising, direction.

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1 Video technology was born directly out of the technological development of the modern
age, which began with the Industrial Revolution and eventually led to the invention of
photography and cinema; see Ilana Tenenbaum, Video Zero: Communication Interferences –
The First Generation of Projected Images, Videostoria Series Chapter 1 (exh. cat.,
Haifa Museum of Art, 2003), p. 9.
2 Ilana Tenenbaum, Video Zero Live Acts: Performing the Body – The First Generation of
Projected Images, Videostoria Series Chapter 3 (exh. cat., Haifa Museum of Art, 2006),
pp. 9–48.
3 From a conversation with the artist on 21 July 2009.
4 Tenenbaum, Video Zero Live Acts… (above, n. 2), p. 48.
5 Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, “On Defectibility as a Resource: William Kentridge’s Art of
Imperfection, Lack, and Falling Apart,” Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, William Kentridge
(Torino and Milano: Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, 2004), p. 32.
6 Ibid., pp. 32–33.
7 Tami Katz-Freiman, Fatamorgana: Illusion and Deception in Contemporary Art (exh. cat.,
Haifa Museum of Art, 2006), p. 100.
8 http://www.herzliyaMuseum.co.il/hebrew/march-2009/mar2009/oscar_munoz
9 See: http://www.renaissancesociety.org/site/Exhibitions/Essay.Katerina-Seda.593.html
10 From conversations with the artist on 12 June 2009 and 14 June 2009.
11 That is, “art-process”; see: Kristine Stiles’ introduction to the chapter “Process,” Kristine Stiles
and Peter Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and
London: University of California, 1996), pp. 577–78.
12 Ellen Ginton, “Talia Keinan: Moonlight Music,” The Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation Israeli
Art Prize, 2007, Shortlisted Artists: Talia Keinan, Shai Zurim (exh. cat., Tel Aviv Museum of
Art, curator and editor Ellen Ginton, 2008), p. 13.
13 Katharina Vossenkuhl, “The making is still a new, unforeseeable experience – A conversation
via E-mail with Zilla Leutenegger,” July–August 2006, Imagination Becomes Reality Part V:
Fantasy and Fiction (Munich: Sammlung Goetz, October 2006).
14 Neta Gal-Atzmon, “Feeling at Home,” Meet Me at the Library 9:00 PM (exh. brochure,
Tel Aviv: The Center for Contemporary Art, September–October 2007).
15 Karolina Danków, “Zilla Leutenegger,” Contemporary Magazine (London, No. 91, 2001): 65.
16 Gal-Atzmon, Ibid.

 

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