Outdoor Mural, Artists House, Tel Aviv
August 1, 2019 - November 16, 2019
Rotem Reshef’s new outdoor mural fronting the Artists’ House in Tel Aviv, Eden in Two Acts, seeks to amalgamate the platform of public space with the occasion of the upcoming elections, as a form of visual activism that aims to cause a butterfly effect and reverberate beyond the bounds of the art world.
The two paintings, which will be displayed one after the other in the next few months, are the first reveal of a monumental new art installation on which I have worked for the past two years – Eden (Chapters in the History of the Yishuv*). This project— the artist’s most political and narrative-driven to date—consists of six scrolls of canvas, encompassing some 140 meters of painting. The installation conceptually discloses elements from the development of Israeli society, specifically in relation to the land and its inhabitation. Through artistic and emotional means, both implicit and abstract, it presents the journey and process we underwent prior to and following the establishment of the state, up until the present day. We have grown much since then – from an ideological but perhaps somewhat naïve love of the land; a space that was not a country but an object of desire; a sparse, airy area exposed to blinding light – into a beautiful, highly developed albeit chaotic world, whirling around itself in all its complexities.
Eden in Two Acts probes the gap between the state’s current circumstances of existence and its founders’ heartfelt ideological aspirations. Is Israel becoming increasingly more removed from that presumable Garden of Eden as a model society and a “Light unto the Nations”? Or is it perhaps coming around full circle and approaching that status? Did the state in fact ever promise to be a paradise for its residents and citizens, or are we actually angels ministering in its service?
The two titular “acts” of the piece refer to three aspects – the act as an internal political battle over the country’s character; the act in its theatrical context, allowing us to “re-play” events in a way that might evolve differently; and finally the act in relation to the artwork’s place in the public space, spread across the flat wall and yet creating scenery and a deep, multilayered inner world, which passersby are invited to enter.
The first act opens up to present what appears to be two polar opposites. One pole consists of two muddy, bleeding crimson stains: dominant presences looming on either side of the composition. The other pole is a bluish-green sheaf of palm fronds stretching between the two stains, seeming to emerge out of their grim violence. The extremities are domineering and threatening, but in their midst beats a verdant heart that has not yet wasted away, symbolizing growth and optimism.
This image of Eden attempts to echo the constant public storms that we as a society have trouble confronting; the repression and normalization in the face of the wars of survival we diligently nurture; and the individual difficulties and endless hope for peace and quiet. It tries to remind viewers how the state currently conducts itself, the rise of greed, selfishness, incitement and corruption; while also reminding them that blossoming and happiness can exist without the shadow of perennial danger and spreading hatred. The “writing on the wall” encourages the possibility of diluting the moral stain – which is focused on crushing the present rather than providing inspiration for the future – and removing it from our lives.