installation Shots



Angelika Sher ‘By The Window’

Exhibition Opening: Friday, April 29 at 11 am

Angelika Sher’s new exhibition deals with the aspirations of immigrants, with the stories they tell themselves about life and with the gap between their wishes and desires and stinging reality, the breakdown of ideals and the loss of hope for a better future.

The works in the exhibition correspond formally and thematically with the artist Yossel Bergner, whose painting Windows (1981) is shown alongside Sher’s work. The window, a common and multifaceted motif in classical and contemporary art, negotiates between interior and exterior, presenting a gateway to an inner world and allowing the viewer to peek into the lives of others. Through the artistic process of pasting meaningful figures from her life at these windows, Sher recreates the experiences of immigrants, who were sent to the periphery, and emphasizes the surreal sense of alienation of something that is taken out of its natural context and placed elsewhere.

The blocks of hastily built housing estates teem with the lives of the refugee immigrants. Most of them were dreaming of a life of prosperity now embodied in the plastic flamingo that decorates the house yard. Yet in reality the walls of the house are wounded. The seducer stands in her solitude, a white dove disguised as a peacock, and the dreamers wait, like Rapunzel, for salvation while the sunset paints everything in fool’s gold.

Kintsugi, the art of the golden repair, is a Japanese technique in which broken or damaged ceramic vessels are glued back together with lacquer and gold powder. In one of Sher’s photographs fragments of a housing estate appear like a mosaic behind the tree branches. Yet whereas the Japanese use Kintsugi to glorify and heighten the value of the vessel, in the photograph the lines formed by the tree’s dark silhouette indicate that the act of connecting and joining has not produced the desired result. The broken fragments remain in their isolation and the vessel in its destitution.

Sher’s video works, like her photographs, are also characterized by conceptual wealth and symbolic abundance. As is customary among immigrants from the former Soviet Bloc, Sher’s grandmother would hang carpets on the walls of her house, which served for decoration and warmth and were considered a status symbol. As a child Sher would look for recurring patterns in these textiles and find figures who inspired the imaginary stories that she told herself before bed. As in dreams, the recollection is incoherent, made up of random items and memories from the substance of their lives. Like the childhood fantasies, the immigrants’ desire for a better life is represented by the sardines falling from the sky like the Biblical manna.

Both Bergner and Sher are attracted to Arab homes in Jaffa and set-like facades. With both the occurrence is imagined, discovered through a window, and expresses the sense of uprootedness and mourning for the loss of the home. The feeling of emptiness is exacerbated by the profusion of sabra plants that Sher “planted” behind a Lithuanian building.

Rows of sabra plants in Israeli consciousness symbolize Arab villages abandoned in 1948 and also appear in a photo homage to Bergner’s The Tea Drinkers (1964). A family sits around a set table with teacups and a Lithuanian samovar. The prickly bushes rub against their backs just as the constant friction with Israeli reality. Their gazes reflect their mental state – the mother’s eyes are shut like those of the pricked sleeping beauty. The father is detached, and the adolescent girls seem lost. Only the young son, the sole figure in the painting who looks directly at the viewer, implies that there is still hope. A close look will reveal the burning eyes of a black cat – a omen of bad luck but also of survival – a reminder that all refugees are alike.

Text by Ella Harel