Ilit Azoulay

Ilit Azoulay

„The Keys“ Ilit Azoulay, 2010, 150 / 370 cm, © Ilit Azoulay

 

Maurin Dietrich
In what way has the work at KW in Berlin developed differently to the large scale photo-compositions that you have previously worked on, in Israel?

Ilit Azoulay
I like to work with a certain degree of freedom but at the same time I have a lot of rules. For example, in Israel, I would never start a composition by starting with a kind of frame.
I would only allow myself to begin with juxtaposing the objects when I have completed the research of the history and the character linked to them. The process of research that I did in Israel differs from the one in Germany. There aren’t a lot of archives in Israel, since the state is young. In a way it takes less time, the research can end suddenly and abruptly because there is not a lot of information to it. Most of the objects that I’ve dealt with within the last five to six years are unnamed objects, construction material or fragments that were left scattered, unneeded. What they all have in common is that they originate from inside what I call „fake walls”. By observing the processes of demolition, construction and preservation of buildings I have learned that construction in Israel is congruent with the israeli materialistic approach to objects because, for the most part, it is very cheap and fast. In almost every building that I investigated, I found at least one wall made of wood and industrial waste rather than cinder blocks, hence far more inclined to suffer from humidity, crack and easily crumble. This is what i call „fake walls”.

M.D.
Could you give an example for the research of an object that you have concentrated on?

I.A.
When I found this large amount of belt-buckles in between concrete inside a „fake wall“ I started asking the neighbours whether they remembered if there was ever a factory closely located to them. They said that the could not remember, so I went to the city hall and was granted access to the plans by paying 40 shekel. Then you are exposed to more information. I discovered the family name of a company that was involved in accessories, got hold of a relative that brought me to his uncle to show him one of the buckles and he said “Yes, we donated them. We never really knew what happened to them.” and that’s it. It stopped there, like a dead end. The history is short – and I am not referring to the history of objects that I would find if I did the same thing in in the charged atmosphere of old Jerusalem or Jaffa. The objects that interest me are those of houses that are about to be demolished because they where built without a sense of tomorrow or the past. These objects do not link to a system without opening up this huge reference to biblical time, to mythology. It is rather the “micro-stories”, local histories that expose the structure and mechanisms of a larger story, that of Israel as well as the occupation that interest me. But, in a way, the art is never about the object, it is left behind in the course of this process. It is more a beginning, an excuse – merely the headache that leads to unavoidable questions.

M.D.
This gradual process of detachment from the object is noticeable when taking into consideration the last two years of your work. For a while, I thought of it as being object-based, revolving around objects of fetish, almost. Being involved in the preparations of the exhibition „shifting degrees of certainty“ I understood that the objects that I believed to be the centre – are actually on the verge of disappearing.

I.A.
Imagine it, the object, were something linked to highly personal information and meaning.
Imagine a pen that my grandfather wrote his last sentence with just shortly before he died. That’s fetish, its about the object, about preserving the memory it contains.
In my decision on how to display and exhibit my work I always decided to hide the research, to present just the collages and the object they contained without ever explaining anything about them.

 

Ilit Azoulay I

„Horizontal study“ Ilit Azoulay, 200/ 135 cm, 2012, © Ilit Azoulay

 

M.D.
You excluded the research, deciding it to only be a part of the production that you never felt the need to display or explain?

I.A.
Yes, and that has changed during the time i spent in Berlin. The results of the process are almost abstract and for me an exhibition is almost like a playground, that is also part of the work, much so in the ongoing show at KW. The show in Herzlyia Museum functions differently, like a theatre space with objects waiting for an event. Just recently I started thinking about creating an actual happening within these walls. Perhaps to work with a team of actors, however without giving them a subject. There will be no actual performance happening.

M.D.
Could you explain the structure of the relation between the audio files and the visual components in your work at KW?

I.A.
Usually visitors spend about 4 seconds with one displayed object in a museum. Here, the audio voice and the given information encourages to observe, to focus on small details, to stare, to wonder.
I perceive the relation between the person and the work like a slow motion scene – even on the busy night of the opening. People moved silently, concentratedly through exhibition space, between photographs that don’t really have an interesting, or visually exciting, tempting structure or topic.

M.D.
Here, the audio guide functions not as a didactic medium wich provides you with a certain meaning connected to the work.

I.A.
In being confronted with the work I wanted to open up a space for the fictional, imaginary aspect of it so that the visitor is active within the interaction. I hoped for it to create a place with non-hierarchic structure, not defining a certain meaning but rather a possible story to one event. With this, I move away from simply documenting an object towards a story that could be real but doesn’t have to necessarily be linked to the object on display. Here the fictional part in the production of the stories often arises within the gap between what happened and what couldn’t have because things are so structured and determined.

 

Ilit Azoulay II

Ilit Azoulay, „Shifting degrees of certainty“, installation shot, KW, Berlin, 2014, © Ilit Azoulay

 

M.D.
In a way you appropriated certain elements of a tipically, seemingly didactic guided tour, similar to one in a museum. However, you modified certain patterns of it and used the conventions of archival museum display.

I.A.
I want to expose the viewer to a didactic situation in which he is like: “Allright, here is the explanation…but wait, did this really happen?“ It is based on how archives work, on their vocabulary and structures but to disarrange small aspects of it to make people suspicious about a truth that they took for granted.

M.D.
To no longer distinguish between the fictional or the documentational part of history telling? Your work attempts to draw awareness to the various ways in wich history is told, organised and sometimes manipulated.

I.A.
That makes me think of Waalid Raad and his archive, wich he describes as „re-igniting our curiosity in the truth.” How are we meant to view a piece work? you always ask yourself: is it true or not?
but he doesn’t separate true and false, does not give those factors much importance. He places imaginary events parallel to historic facts. Truth is not the issue in a way.

 

Ilit Azoulay III

Ilit Azoulay, installation shot, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art , 2014, © Ilit Azoulay

 

M.D.
Your focus is not to distinguish apparently opposite realities.

I.A.
No, I do not like to separate either. Intuition for example combines and includes many aspects, that are undecidably interconnected. Sometimes there is just this strong feeling that there might be another thing behind the curtain, that the research here wont be just a dead end with a simple final answer. This is kind of closely linked to my first time that I ever went to Club Med.

M.D.
Whats Clud Med?

I.A.
It’s this weird french club, commonly known as a vacation resort located in the north of Israel. It is considered the first ‘all inclusive resort’. As a child I was completely astonished when we first went there: They have their own, different currency inside, everyone is constantly smiling at you, strange people just start talking with you about intimate things. The staff is called „GO“ (Genteel Organizers) and they are constantly entertaining you by acting out different dances, by pretending to be a mythical creature. Growing up I dreamt about working there, I experienced it as such a different, sexy space.

M.D.
And you actually did that, right?

I.A.
Yes, just shortly after finishing the mandatory two years of military service I went there. My french was horrible, I answered every question with „oui“. Because they really needed people they hired me for the kids section. It was a nightmare. I was there to play with the kids, to listen to their dreams and after that make them come true by blowing magical powder on the children’s faces. What you have on stage and what you have behind or around it is something I was alway curious about because it exposes more about the anthropologic nature of events.

 

Ilit Azoulay IV

Ilit Azoulay, installation shot, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art , 2014, © Ilit Azoulay

 

M.D.
With regards to the contemporary art scene in Israel which, because of its geopolitical setting, is influenced by topics like national identity, or the attempt to resume and expose the history within a work.

I.A.
I did not set out to capture the story, to know the narrative, I do not insist that something can only be told in a linear, logical way. I always thought things could all function differently, like that there is no „natural“ or „objective“ way how things have to be. In a way, exhibiting is a way of structuring and organising knowledge. But its just one way, one individual truth, one possible story.
I do need reality, but it’s just the starting point for a possible event. The work at KW only proposes degrees of certainty, each object has its own. This certainty, that might not be certain sometimes, in it’s existence, is also only a suggestion of one possible realiy.

Interview: Maurin Dietrich

 

http://www.kw-berlin.de/de/
http://www.ilitazoulay.com