A group of people entering through underground paths causing architectural intervention, a series of manipulated noises, irregular order of five channel video narratives and a series of clay busts skewered on poles and violated with microphones: ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived to the Pavilion of Israel.
Gilad Ratman’s statements on his work for this year’s submission for the 2013 Venice Biennale challenges the political notions of logical and acceptable ways of story telling, and intentionally causes distortion within the pavilion’s space and the audiences’ minds.
The story collects itself as such: a group of people enter the Israeli pavilion through a long and carved underground path, wounding the ground they come out of as a result. They take over the pavilion and host a sculpture workshop, where everyone molds a self-portrait of themselves in clay, then they record painfully random noises in a microphone and stab their sculptures with it. A DJ then proceeds to gather the noises and spin a musical piece with it. All of this is displayed in a dark 2-story space that is used up cleverly, compelling the audience to move about and attempt to make sense of it all.
The reoccurring pattern that I saw was Intrusion, claiming of space, marking territory with personal facets, and causing physical and emotional disturbance to the space and most of the viewers respectively. This to me synchronizes perfectly with the political turmoil that continues to erupt and rupture in Israel and Palestine.
I clearly understood that the artist intended to explore themes of humanity versus nature, and the underlining of that topic philosophically and politically through the boundaries of storytelling, as well as the dynamics of visuals and sound, but I found it difficult not to connect the work to the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. I am also aware that I may be casting a biased judgment by tying the artwork to that situation, but coming from a region that heavily and continuously exposes aspects of the occupation that was all I could see, a forceful occupation of space, done in an undeniably gripping manner.
In a place such as the Venice Biennale there’s a constant question of whether the art presented by the participating countries should be related to its nationality in one way or another, or if it should be a complete escape from it, and though each pavilion has their take on answering that question, I saw that some could not break away from the issues planted on their national soil, and their pavilions bared the fruit of that. Such was the case of the Pavilion of Israel.