by Rahul KumarAug 23, 2022
Of the many certainties, known through experience, is the fact nothing is set in stone. As time moves, the history of the nation swiftly alters the course of her direction, the human tends to oversee the wounds of the past healed, the nature metamorphoses its beauty under the spell of inevitability. If the cycle of time anticipates change, the memory keeps a slice of a time gone by intact. Playing upon these ideas with the large-site specific works is the Tel Aviv-based artist, Gal Weinstein. Determined by time, the fissure between before and after paves the way for duality lurking at human existence. To oscillate within the point of the exterior–interior, creation–destruction, upside-downside is to evince the fragility of human life. Weinstein’s works, with a visual appearance of an asymmetrical pattern, is an invitation to unravel the binaries that run deep to affirm their sloppy coexistence.
Speaking with STIR, Weinstein explains how his works evolve while having time as the central key point. “Changes over the span of time demonstrated in my works are best seen by the way I re-use works from the past and they become the starting point and raw material for new works. It interests me to continue returning to the same image so that the work itself becomes like a physical body that changes through time,” says the Israeli artist. The work, Jezreel Valley in the Dark, made out of black coffee grounds, by the artist is an epitome of organic change in the fields of agriculture. The work is made by pouring black coffee into moulds, shaped as the valley fields, which, as the curator Tali Tamir believes, could be seen as a play of dark cosmology: a concurrent run of earth and heaven. Weinstein elaborates on the work, Jezreel Valley in the Dark, of the year 2017, as an evolution of the work Jezreel Valley made in 2002, “To emphasise the feeling of change it was important to me to use the same image from the original work and change its materiality from synthetic carpets to patches of black coffee and sugar, which grow a carpet of mold.” Over a period of time, when Jezreel Valley gained the status of an icon, Weinstein adds, “This was another motivation for me to emphasise changes over time - as icons are images that are static through time, as though eternal - and I wanted to comment on that and show that even iconic works are always in a process of change and evolution where the past appears like a ghost in the new work.”
For the work Beyond Frontier, the panoramic view of the Entre-ljuis region of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil was retrieved from Google Earth to translate it into an image onto a carpet carved out of the industrialised materials. The work is in continuation with the artist’s sensitivity towards ecological imbalance and geological shifts that deepen the cracks on the planet Earth. For another installation, Fire Tires, Weinstein creates a simulation effect of burning tires and smoke with the use of moulded wax, polystyrene foam, pillow filler and graphite dust. The installation, when placed inside the white-cube gallery, is an immediate reminder of the omnipresent spread of life ridden with the politics of everyday environmental disaster — a resultant of cheap economic production of rubber and fuel.
Talking about the use of an array of materials to give visual shape to the conceptual thoughts, Weinstein expounds, “Sometimes a specific image leads towards a selection of a specific material, and sometimes a material leads to selecting an image. In the process itself, I use trial and error to find new opportunities and different states of moulding the appearance of the materials. Sometimes I find new methods out of the need to solve concrete issues in existing works.” The artist uses industrial, every day and functional materials or different states of the same material. Since he does not paint the materials, Weinstein states, “the surface and raw-feeling of the material is important to me.” Each of the materials has its challenges, yet to achieve the best results, its limitations in the hands of the creative minds could open new avenues of opportunities. “The advantages of a certain material are exposed through its limitations. The limitations and constrictions of specific materials allow me to find new possibilities that wouldn’t be exposed if I had total freedom. The curiosity to discover the surprising presence of a material is a driving force. I think of it as an ongoing game of control and lack of control. An attempt to engineer the material to react in a way that I think I want and on the other hand accepting and embracing surprises caused by lack of planning or ‘amateur construction’,” he adds.
Any discussion on the art practice of Weinstein remains incomplete without referring to the magnanimous site-specific installation Sun Stand Still. Against the tide of the progression, humans, more often than not, long for the time to a standstill, even for a moment. The installation hints towards this desire while evoking mythological and Romantic images embedded in Israel’s collective memory. The title of the installation is a direct reference to the biblical miracle performed by Joshua Bin-Nun, an Israeli leader who in his passion to win the battle against the kings of Canaan strived to hold the time. In an attempt to capture the essence of the tale, Weinstein highlights the element of decay when the time is made to go against its nature. In other words, the phenomenon of decline is the corollary of the stagnation. To remain in a flux entails progression.
Furthermore, Weinstein retraces the coming of this site-specific installation that was designed specifically for the Israeli Pavilion in Venice Biennale, “It demanded a ‘re-build' of the pavilion insides itself (covering all the walls and the floors), when the actual production had to be done in Tel Aviv. This created a unique situation that required planning and consideration that in my opinion emphasised certain absurd parts of the work that come from the combination of creating wall coverings that are usually decorative butt-covering them with images of mould, dampness, and rust.” The artist admits, “Through the whole process, it was only possible to work on fragments of the work without knowing what the whole will look like, trying to image the whole by looking at the specifics and trying to imagine the full installation using models and simulations. In this regard it was like walking in the dark - at each step you try and focus on the nearest object, zooming in without being able to zoom out. The first time I saw the installation as a whole was when it was fully installed in Venice. This is the first time it became an artwork and (for a while) stopped being a creative process.”
Interestingly, Weinstein's thoughts on the inescapability from the ‘organic’ flow of change are delimited to his relationship with art. It is mirrored in his response to a relationship between the artist and the viewer, that is, a kind of facilitation of “dance” between the viewer and the artwork. “I use the word dance because dancing is a type of physical dialogue that combines both sight and touch. What can engage the viewer and spark their curiosity is the scale of the work, its placement, its physical properties, the time the viewer sees the work, and the possible viewpoints the work provides. These states need to be part of the creative process and planning of the work.” The artist is not intimidated to gauge the perspective on the piece of art from the standpoint of a viewer. “To emphasise these thoughts, I try to imagine myself as the viewer of other artworks and recollect what caught my attention, when I was surprised, when I was bored and why did I feel differently when viewing the artwork, a second time? Did I discover something new when getting closer to the artwork that I didn’t see at first glance?”
The time indeed does not stand still while looking at the works of artist Weinstein. Like the scale of the installations, his works tend to find routes to turn into a distilled memory of the viewer.