installation view at the Center for Digital Arts, Holon, 2013
In recent years Yochai Avrahami has been studying the ways and methods in which artwork is displayed in visitor centers and museums of military history, Holocaust museums and other centers memorializing national disasters. In this exhibition he presents a series of images presented along the width and breadth of the Israeli Center for Digital Art hallways. The display is dense and crowded, experimenting with different methods of presentation, creating topical clusters that blur the origins of the original museum from which each piece came and subsequently exposing a language of national representation. The exhibit creates a form of alternative museum dedicated to historical museums, displaying not wars and catastrophes, winners and losers, but rather the methodologies of manipulation, technology, failures and the inadequacies of display.
Display Mechanism: a Conversation Between Yochai Avrahami and Rotem Rozental
Published in Spilman institute blog
In his work, artist Yochai Avrahami explores contexts and disruptions between the photographic image, the politics of memory and the display mechanisms formulated in consequence thereof. His project, Display, is currently on view in the exhibition Histories in the Israeli Center for Digital Art, in Holon. Exhibition curator, Udi Edelman, indicates: “Histories is grounded in the assumption that the recent decades have seen a significant development in the art world, whereby artists use history as a raw material for producing new orders, transformations and disruptions”. A gallery talk and tour will be held on November 23, 2013.
Rotem Rozental: Let us begin from this moment, when Histories is opened at the Holon Digital Art Center. How would you describe your project for the exhibition
Yochai Avrahami: I printed hundreds of black-and-white photos of various sizes and used them to cover the walls of the Center’s corridors and stairwells. In the photos you can see exhibitions in museums of military history and national catastrophes, as well as regional military museums. I shot most of them myself, and borrowed others from the internet, books and archives. Most museums are located in Israel and the rest are from other areas in the world such as Korea, the Balkans, Africa, and Cambodia. Most settings are two-dimensional and some are three-dimensional, ranging between collage and free setting in space. The images document the ways photographs, objects and texts are displayed. The original idea was to design the exhibition as a historical museum, titled “Designer”, but eventually it turned out to be too much work.
RR: How did your specific preoccupation with military history museums begin, as well as your preoccupation with preservation?
YA: It depends how you define “preoccupation.” There’s some biographic background: tours in little museums in the area where I grew up as a child, the Jezreel Valley, and school trips throughout the country. I experienced these museums with a childlike enchantment, searching and deciphering the various mechanisms to obtain the desired effect.
Later, as an artist, this had all sorts of precedents both during my studies and years later, but my work on Uzi and what preceded it were a milestone. I spent several months in Weimar, East Germany. This town houses dozens of historical museums of various kinds, as well as the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Commemoration Site, as well as sites commemorating the German Enlightenment, including Goethe’s and Schiller’s homes, the Nietzsche Archive, and later Franz Liszt’s home; Weimar is also home to the first Bauhaus School building and the first Bauhaus-style villa in history. As I came to know these sites, I was exposed to the rich debate around questions of preservation, immortalization and their politics: What should we reconstruct? How? What is achieved at the expense of what? What is reconstructed symbolically and what is reconstructed totally? What remains neglected?