Patrick Healy, The signatures of Difference. 2005
Essay by Professor Patrick Healy, born Dublin, 1955, has been engaged in research, writing and public performances for almost 30 years. His first novella Up in the Air and Down was followed by publications in art and architectural history, monographs on individual artists, and books on the philosophy of science and aesthetics.
There is a certain risk, which any writing on the work and development of a young artist takes. The risk is not at first in any way dramatic, it starts to show itself hesitantly. What is said is also a faltering towards the works of the artist. The risk is not lessened by repetition, and the works also can be said to remain resolute in their right to speak for themselves. This requires that one begins with some aspect of the immediacy of the artist, the means he has chosen to manifest what appears to be a critically engaged and widespread use of media, a deepening of subject matter, that itself turns around a few simple themes.
In the case of Gilboa one can say, that the work is about nothing else but life and death; about a life that is riven with death and a death from which life lives as if in a fated struggle.
Initially one can say that this artist performs his own identity in everything he looks at and makes, that he asks of those who engage with his work a serious commitment; to follow and understand his own search, and that in this sense he also surrenders the image of himself within the works he makes.There are no self-portraits, no artist statements, even as in the case of his final end exam at the Rietveld Academy in the summer of this year, a self-effacement.It is as if in each case and with each project and work, he enacts his own disappearance.
Something of the multiple layers of this work can be indicated. One can say of thisinstallation that it logged itself subtly within a politics and architecture of a complex weave of lives and events. In that sense the artist becomes a director, gathering people together and beginning initially with a process of what on the surface seems like a documentary. It seems at first a well-rehearsed environment, the use of an enclosed space, a screen on the wall, a bench to sit on, you view from there two actors on a spilt screen. The entry space is small and has a book on a table, like a comment book in a makeshift lobby. The interior of walls is a dark Prussian blue, and the screen has two actors who, on closer examination, are ventriloquists for the voices of several participants. Initially the project can be said to enquire into the politics of identity for people living in a foreign country, who are thinking about the relation they have to their place of birth and upbringing, and their new environment and place of residence.
In the case most of the speakers who are being ventriloquised are, from internal references in the comments that are spoken, from Israel ; and they are often speaking about their lives in predominantly the urban settings of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The only strict division in the-personality-of the actors is the giving of genderd voices to both of them.
Already the word personality hovers into doubt, the old word, probably from Etruscan, relates to speaking through a mask, which the actor in the Roman theatre held in front of their own face, and thus per-sonare; to sound through something, the event of the self as a ritualized enactment. The performers too, the chosen actors, are both personalities and masks, the first level of self-effacement takes place, they become more visible in their degree of surrender, because on the split screen as one figure is speaking the other is held in freeze-frame. The Dyptich is a double icon, that flicks on and off, because of the vocalic confusion. They are literally speaking in different voices, again the rigours of identity require standardization: a name, a way of speaking, a detailing of the self, still taken at its most authentic in the signing of one's name.
In entering the space, you semi-automatically sign the book; register in that graphic trace a name. Somebody has entered the makeshift and highly interiors place, a box within a box, a mis-en-abime that belongs to the double framing of a truly illusionistic world.
The space becomes less dark as you sit and become engrossed in the various comments; frank, mocking, direct, sometimes anxious. Who is speaking here?What is at issue? Only the trace of the voice and the echo in the room now takes on the signature of difference. It seems mysterious, comments and personal analysis, which seem to belong to the modern amalgamation of the photograph as the certificate of presence, and the documentary. Why break then with its most hallowed conventions? The purchase of credibility of the photographic by being present to the person interviewed, the subsequent role of the spectator in this contrived nearness, the intimacy at a distance that pervades the cool and pseudo-objectivity of the documentary, which does everything to conceal its own contrivance is left away.
Also effects of close up, through elimination of the interviewer, by the staging of a new spectacle for consumption by avid voyeurs, is absent.A further consideration can be added, text on the wall speaks of a desire to be green.
At some point you see there is an elaborate visual complication, which folds into the animated and frozen screen, that flickers on and off; the colours of the space are waiting to become active. The green of which the title of the work speaks is a reference to the theory of colour complementariy. The issue of colour betrays a naturalistic fallacy that lies at the heart of all talk of the way different bodies can be said to join. Colours when mixed produce different Colours, depending on the light, even the green of grass looks yellow; depending on the mixture of intensities, and the colour saturations, a combination of yellow and blue gives you green. What the colour indicates is the very outer surface of any body, not something that is looked at, but what renders something as being visible.
Complete transparency would lead to complete invisibility. The artist has moved from what you think you see and hear, and subtly alluded to complex perceptual expectations that point to the political and architectural situation, which is being explored.
The tacit alliances of visible things speaks of other kinds of bodies and the immateriality of the voice, signed and masked, also speaks a willful kind of self-abnegation, which is allied to a survival value, and closely mimics some dominant cultural themes and expectations, with their insistent and monotonous demand to integrate, and at the same time not to become too visible , or, as the idiom has it 'get beyond yourself'.
Learning to adapt requires tactical self-effacement and modest proposals. The host culture demands exemplary conformity, which those who control the master narrative of the cultural are free to break in their own terms.
Many of the voices speak not of exile, or being a refugee, but rather a kind of transitory curiosity, and in some cases a slightly touchy melancholy, where the pathos of expectation has led to the need for an other kind of distance. There is clearly impatience with the setting up of the conversation on integration with the host culture, the demands to learn the language and culture, what is perceived as an overly insistent demand to surrender valued and cherished feelings from the self: the places of the self, nooks and cranny, places that are the memory of the profound solitude in which, as the philosopher Bachelard says, the simplest and the most powerful images of intimacy arise, the deepest sense that being born-is itself well-being, that home is where there is a peace of well-being in the respect and difference that not only makes a difference, but does not require of the other a kind of politics of persuasion, nor, the more ruthless demand of peace with surrender.
The host culture speaks of tolerance, and this does not mean welcome. It speaks of transparency, and is vastly over-weighted with burecratic demands. It speaks of the public and private domain, and leaves its windows open so that the two cannot be distinguished. It will carry on the discussion only after the conformity has been agreed. It can overlook infractions, which gives the rule of law an even more arbitrary and complicit edge. The situation can change at any moment, the practiced ambiguity does not emerge from what Weil called the properly human moment of hesitation, but offers strategic and other advantage, because as Marx once noted, "private interest has no memory".
The issue of integration is a demand for conformity, not the creation of collective memory and of social solidarity. Business as usual: control becomes naturalized, and then metaphysics, about self-control, character, small emblematic lessons, taught to one each day, about 'how we do it here', a real cul-de-sac, posing as a cosmopolitan boulevard. The mimic of Enlightenment and modernity goes about with fretful feet.The social has become only a question of economics.For Gilboa the various routes of his art are also paths of exploration. In that way it is not easy to characterize him. Yes, he is painter, and yes, he has trained as an actor, and yes, he uses video and the technical resources of film. But also he as shown himself to be very adroit at touching, through installations, difficult and complex cultural and political questions.
Whilst he can point to formal training as an actor and a painter, everything suggests the autodidact, and knowledge won in such a sense of isolation and independence often has very hard edges. At times in his work he already steps back from the danger of self-effacement with which he is concerned, a moment of violence becomes so immediate and shocking that the cool and intellectual work of the ; I want to be green', seems mannered, when compared for example to an installation around the Iraq war, which used live animals in a cage in complex setting of intervisual activity that pointed to deeply disturbing topography of conflict.
Once again there is a death of image, Gilboa pointing out that since the first Gulf War, 1991, which Rovner the Israeli artist has seized on so brilliantly, the aims of security and propaganda, was to destroy the very documentary certificate of presence.
Gilboa introduces in the room of connecting screen and selected imagery, the real disturbance of captivity. His choice of a scorpion and rat reaches deep into the mythology of Mesopotamia, the chthonic world of infernal beings and mythic destructions.
The text of Gilgamesh in the fine rendering of Jean Bottéro, comes to mind;
"No one can see death, no one can see the face of death, no one can hear the voice of death, yet there is savage death that snaps off mankind, For how long has the river risen and brought the overflowing waters so that dragonflies drift down the river?
The face that could gaze upon the face of the sun has never existed ever. How alike are the sleeping and the dead The image of death cannot be depicted yes!
You are a human being, a man.
"But, it should also be added that whether consciously or not, and certainly not in the shock seeking activities of Damian Hirst, Gilboa has also faced in the installation the problem of evil, of the magical and destructive realms, through his interdiction of the most ancient Mesopotamian bestiary of the demonic. Bottéro has studied the way in which the interconnectivity of the single manifestations works through affinity for all the species, and that therapeutic and protection against evil, such as that the scorpion figured, required exorcisms, of what came from 'evil forces'.
This was a ritualized magic. Its relation to artistic practice can never be disavowed.
In another of his installations, Gilboa places the 'tablets of the law' in the setting of a washing area the tiled interior again points to the problem of being at home, of ritual and transgression.
The dripping water, and the cracked tablets, piled up on each other, have the words of the commandments in English. No doubt the relation between magic, purification and the codified rules, with its excoriating of graven imagery, is a complex personal reference to the Mosaic commands, which also contain as much prohibition as injunction. As one would expect, Gilboa has also tried to comment and show his response to issues of Jewish history, and also the current politics of survival for the State of Israel, with its immediate focus on the issues of re-territorialisation, in what physically leads to a more intensely protected interior. This psychic geography, and the politics of the land, not co-extensive with ancient textual descriptions, also reflects different understandings of the borders between religion and citizenship, between what is termed secular and sacred values, but ultimately, and beyond any personal individual consideration, the survival of the people. One can point also to the development in his work though paintings. A recent series, which has comb structures in the foreground, gives a view through to scenes of immensely painterly virtuosity, not unlike the late landscapes of Monet at Giverny.
The double of the urban and the scapes, landscapes, gives again a tension of self-effacement, where the view through the surface is a moment of vertigo, and hallucination. The imagination finds even in the restricted claustral urban and architectural setting, that seems iterative and transcendentally bland, access to an imagined world a 'locus amoenus', as if an Arcadia Lurked even in the most anonymous banality. There is then, a beautifully melded surface of suggestion, that communicates powerful feeling for nature, and a falling thought into a world of repose and beauty, that moves away from the early expressionist grotesques with which his work as a painter began. Crudely outlined figures in bold simple colours, have given way to elaborate ornamental surfaces, on an enormous scale, and to these classically balanced and subtle urbanscapes, which engage the feeling precisely through the tripping illusion of the transparent frontal planes. The world is not upside down, but pushes into manifestation, in the event of a seizure that comes from the ground of picture outwards. It is a disconcerting animism, and a generous gift of vision. Something is being born here, as in the exhibition of hanging eggs, and breaking shells, which then result in an action painting, but again with the direct agency of artists being increasingly placed out of the work. It becomes auto-generative and has its own spontaneous irruptions.
Gilboa is a serious talent, and an artist of canny resourcefulness and precise courage. In a particular sense he deploys the range of media, and situations, to allow the viewer a return to the face, namely facing himself/herself. It is that decision which is beyond personality, and is the silent action of recognition that is given to every other person, where the whole wisdom of a tradition is said in one phrase: do not do to your neighbor what you would not have done to yourself.
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