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02 Jan 2017

Liat Livni - 'Lotus in the backyard' at Wilfrid Israel Museum

Avraham Hay

'Lotus in the backyard'
Wilfrid Israel Museum


A talk with the artist on January 6th at 11am. The exhibition will be displayed until 10.2.17


Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art and Studies
kibbutz HaZorea

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In this exhibition, Livni explores the relationship between Kibbutz HaZorea, which houses Wilfrid Israel Museum, and the East Asian art displayed in it. Livni's site-specific research and practice are rooted in a real interest in this conceptual and material multilayered dialogue, and formulate through the artworks the Museum's connection to the kibbutz that serves as its home.

In her exploration of the Kibbutz's farming branches, Livni found that two of these have a direct link to East Asian aesthetics: aquatic plants, including lotus plants that are a prevalent image in Buddhist art, and koi fish – an ornamental carp that is particularly popular in Japan. Three of the pieces Livni created for the exhibition are based on a photograph of lotus ponds and made of very fine sand in different shades.

In homage to the Kibbutz's founders, Livni created two Indian style statues of goddesses with multiple arms – The Goddess of Creation and The Goddess of Construction. In each of their many hands they hold a different tool, symbolizing the almost superhuman number of labors that were necessary for the fulfillment of the pioneers' vision, and perhaps the many hands that contributed to it.

Other works that connect the local imagery with East Asian art offer a tongue-in-cheek approach to the encounter: a fragment from van Gogh's Sower is painted on a Korean fan, disseminating his seeds above the Kibbutz's lotus pond. Fans that Livni had brought from artists' residencies in Taiwan and Japan became 'souvenirs' on which she created images from the photographs of the Kibbutz's archive: a proud tractor driver, fisherman, or the image of a plowman with his horse in the fields, as a distant silhouette from a different era, when farming was still an object of desire and longing. These hybrid objects conjure up a sense of simultaneous distance and intimacy.

At the end of the hall spreads a Zen garden. While in Japan, the Zen garden is designed for quiet contemplation and mediation, here it is made of meticulously raked plastic crystals culled from the Kibbutz's factory. The ancient rocks are replaced by rocks made of plain brown wrapping paper. The appearance of the rocks, which look like artificial islands floating at sea, is associated with the series Maps of the Island of Israel that Livni created in Taiwan in 2012, inspired by ancient maps of Formosa Island. In this context, Israel Wilfrid Museum could be perceived as an island of East Asian culture in the Kibbutz, and the Kibbutz as an island of social utopia within Israeli society. However, the isolation and calm embodied in the image of the island are not the options Livni selects in her path as an artist. Like a culture alchemist she fuses art with life, works with everyday materials, and brings together seemingly distant cultures.

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, Curator