Workbench – Monica Lavi

By Monica Lavi

Bilha Aharoni’s installation, displayed at the Gallery on the Cliff, encompass the whole gallery. It begins in the entrance and descends down the steps to the interior. It shifts, flashes and opens and closes an opening to the sea that is just at the other side of the wall. its components are borrowed from the seafaring world and from those who remain on land.

Aharoni builds an installation that looks to the sea, its substance emanates from the sea, expressed in a thin and minimal language. Yet, the installation appears to be an allegory of expectation, lingering, apprehension, fear of death and finding a way back.

Bilha Aharoni creates a system of images that draws its power from richness in allegorical possibilities. The display is ambitious with a technical, somewhat territorial presence, and in a way even authoritative, nevertheless, the emerging voice is that of yearning, searching and anxiety. Within the male setting, fearless of machines, engines and relay systems, emerges another voice, that of one who lacks air for breathing, that of one signaling from the shore to his loved ones, that of one who needs a compass, a level, a lighthouse, so that he can find his way.

In the center of the upper level, Aharoni set a table with an engine that periodically operates a system of relays that ends at the gallery’s emergency exit at the lower level. The relay opens and closes a small porthole. Wood stakes hang on the rounded walls of the upper level, surrounding the table and creating the image of a compass.

Compared to the organized system in the upper level, the lower level resembles a beach in the aftermath of a storm. A fallen lighthouse, its lantern laying at a distance, detached, still signaling periodically, a small round surface on it a small house, figures of tall and narrow gray men stand by the wall and wait for something.

The whole installation is made of wood and boards that once had other uses and now are joined in a meticulous patchwork to create something new. The feeling one gets is of something that was destroyed, split into its components and rebuilt. The process of destruction and rebuilding, dismantling and reassembling, create the sense of a world after a disaster, a catastrophe, a severe storm that destroys everything and yet there is a sense of stubbornness, a capacity for resistance and human resourcefulness.

The workbench and the chair placed in front of it generate, in a sense, the whole installation. Both seem to be anchored to the house, a safe place, that is positioned on a wood surface that resembles a raft, as if at any given moment this fantasy of a home, the workbench, the place where thoughts emerge and plans form, can detach from its mooring and embark willingly or unwillingly to far away places. And if so, if nothing is safe, one must arm himself with compasses, criteria, an oilskin, fins and everything that can help during a catastrophe that may be brewing so that you will be prepared to identify your location and survive in the unknown and unfamiliar places that you may arrive at.

In a sense, this is an installation about uprooting or being uprooted, leaving or being left, waiting for someone who went away or the desire to get up and leave. The voice that arises is that of fear, of a disaster that may instantly arrive, of the temporary nature of things, even the most sturdy and about what remains after all is taken apart. Even so, and with no exception, this is an installation about consistency, waiting, holding on to what exists and rebuilding and about hoping that in any case one will be able to find the way home because there is always someone waiting, facing the sea with a throbbing heart.

Curator- Monica Lavi Translation from Hebrew – David Pargament

February 2007