WINTER BEAT

Curator: Lia Tzigler

Winter beat is artist Netta Dror’s first solo exhibition. It is a site-specific installation set within the Residential Project (in which Dror participated in 2019), a site now hosted by the Jaffa Museum. The installation incorporates sculpture, video and audio.

The Jaffa Museum, with its multi-layered, multi-functional structure, is housed in an 18th Century building, itself built on the ruins of a crusader fort. It has at various times served as the headquarters of Ottoman rule in Palestine (the Saraya), as a soap factory, a wayside hostel and till the early 1980s as the Jaffa Museum of Antiquities, exhibiting finds from Tel Jaffa. The archeological exhibit is retained albeit as a small, marginal department of the museum.  The entire building appears to be empty and dilapidated, holding on to its varied past but at the same time absent and incomplete; revealing one small space and then covering up two.  

There is an inherent link between the historical building and the nature of the artist’s work which breathes life in exhibits and remains. She operates on a time axis along which the museum enfolds what is hidden within it. Dror is an multidisciplinary artist who deals with processes of cataloguing, mapping and continuity which are recurrent motifs in her work. 

A beat in winter relates directly to the building’s architectural form, directing the gaze and the body of the visitor to its intangible boundaries, as though gathering in the unseen things beyond its walls and echoing between the vaulted ceiling and the floor. What is seen evokes the unseen; waves of sound echo the unheard. The whole is fractured but Dror restores shattered remnants into an interwoven whole once again. This process of mapping and collection generates a matrix with two main axes providing coordinates which help us to read the map of a broad space. 

 

First axis: East to west; entrance to wall and the people beyond.

Ascending a curved staircase to a level above ground level, one enters a dark, cave-like space. It is a textile installation made up of strips of white cloth hung from the vaulted ceiling. The strips are hand painted with a textured black. The “cave” spreads inwards into the space like an amoeba and the visitor re-emerges from the darkness into blinding light at the entrance. This action contrives a resonating upending to beyond the western wall of the building which encloses the museum and separates it from the half of the area occupied by a modern, active bat cave. The permanent residents on the other side of the wall have lived there undisturbed for hundreds of years. Dror has recorded the cries of the bats on the other side of the wall which now echo around the space, a beastly presence hidden in the darkness. 

Second axis: south to north, a contemporary remnant full of archeological promise.

The southern space is to the left of the cave entrance and served as Dror’s studio during 2019. When the building housed the Jaffa Museum of Archeology, ceramic jugs were exhibited here in the now empty niches. In this space Dror created her performance art piece “Swan Lake” which included a collection of used white dishes exhibited on a bookshelf. The participant would enter the space alone, wearing protective clothing. He or she would be asked to choose a dish and “hurl it with intent.” It would smash into fragments which smashed into shards which then remained as witness to what had occurred there, when other visitors entered the space following the evening’s performance. 

Now a video homage to Micha Ullman is presented here. Dror is seen holding a broom and gathering up or crushing the shards into a heap over and over again. The artist’s never ending sweeping of the remains of the performance generates a new work and scratching sound. The ceramic heap documented in the video, the remnants of a vessel and of the human activity of sweeping and smashing is installed in another work as an object in a glass showcase which once belonged to the Jaffa Museum of Archeology and was recycled by the artist to become a new archeological exhibit. The object which is entirely broken is exhibited as a museum piece facilitating observation of a moment frozen in time. The showcase stands between the new space and the old wing as though gathering folds of time into a heap and testifying to its own provenance. At the periphery of the space we encounter the axis markers of Dror 1 which began as a broken ceramic swan seen in the photograph “Swan Song” (2017) which preceded the performance “Swan Lake” and generated its action. It now returns as a ready-made object; its fragments glued back together with black adhesive, healed and made whole. The installation ends in an upper, front facing storeroom of archive cartons, a visible cubby hole which occupies an unused space between arch and rough partition, on the limen between the museum archive and Dror’s personal archive. It is a mark with no direct access hinting at what is not exposed or acknowledged, waiting in a sealed box for some future occasion. 

The compass, shifted aside, invites the spectator to lie on a round, black mattress constituting the negative of the ceiling. Her gaze is limited; her body surrenders to the restless beat of the space. 

Photos: Smadar Liani