One on One Artby Keren Goldberg | 07.02.16
Remaining Silent – 966 NIS
“You choose to remain silent. You choose an object form the display and decide where to position it. Perhaps in your own home, perhaps in somebody else’s, perhaps in the office. You leave your contacts details at the gallery. The artist contacts you to schedule a meeting. You meet. She arrives with the chosen object to your chosen location. She reads you your rights. You host her, offer her something to drink. You talk (she is impressed by you?). You choose the exact location. She positions the object, violently draws plastic zip-ties in front of your eyes. You cannot touch, it is her work. You learn about yourself. An hour passes, time is up. The artist chooses a title. You take a picture together. You say goodbye. She leaves. The new work finds its way into your life.”
This text (translated from Hebrew by the author) accompanied Maya Elran’s latest project, included in the group exhibition ‘HOST’ at the Artists’ Studios in Tel Aviv. The work, called Miranda, was based on the American ‘Miranda Rights’ – the warning recited by American police to criminal suspects before they are interrogated, very familiar to us from films and TV. Elran created 66 small sculptural units, all made from colorful plastic zip-ties, the ones often used for handcuffing. She offered her audience two purchasing possibilities: ‘Remaining Silent’, for only 966 NIS, as described above, or ‘Pleading Guilty’, which will grant you the right to shape the sculpture together with the artist, for only 1966 NIS.
This direct approach to the audience is characteristic of Elran’s practice. In her previous works, she offered passersby to join a massive, communal citrus fruit salad preparation (LiveFruitSalad, 2013); she opened a shop in Dizengoff Center that offers its costumers items for 1-60 NIS – they had to determine the price (Cinderella, 2012); and invited the audience to join her in a makeshift gallery-turned-sauna (Sauna, 2012).
So, do you have a hidden desire to tie yourself to your audience in plastic zip-ties?
M.E: I’m interested in a kind of intimacy, in doing art for a specific person, in creating a non-mediated encounter. Miranda actually developed from a spontaneous encounter I had with the late curator Naomi Aviv. She saw one of my early zip-ties objects by chance, and wanted to buy it. At the time, I didn’t know who she was, and I was confused by her request, as it wasn’t even offered for sale. I agreed, but intuitively insisted that I must come and install it. I came to her home and we installed the piece together, on her reading lamp. It made me understand that this must become a part of the work itself, this direct contact with the client, the buyer, or collector.
Speaking of collecting, how did you come to the odd prices of the two options – 966 and 1966 NIS?
M.E: All the numbers included in the work – 66 items and the two prices – are derived from the year in which the Miranda law was established – 1966. I always prefer working from within clear restrictions, so I looked for something that could offer me a framework. It was a random way to decide upon a price. How do you decide the value of an artwork? Or of any item for that matter? That was also what I was trying to explore in the Cinderella project. Together with artist Liraz Pank, I took over a vacant store in Dizengoff Center, filled it with objects from my studio (I’m a kind of hoarder…) and offered them for sale for the price range of 1-60 NIS. It was super interesting. Crazy talks about value developed there between friends, or between grandparents and their grandchildren. Some people spent hours there and finally left with only one item. It is interesting to see what people choose from such a wide selection, how they build their own private curating. Some people tried to ‘rip us off’ – bought many items for one shekel only to later sell them for much more.
And did it make you feel some kind of betrayal?
M.E: Not really, what was difficult for me was the interaction with weird strangers, who left me wonder what they are really buying the items for… Anyway, I tried to focus more about the idea of generosity, which I communicate in my work. In the show ‘What it an Amusement Park’ at Maze 9 (2013), I took upon myself to handle the refreshment budget. I like my work to have a function. I bought tones of citrus fruit, and for three days people could enjoy them, take some home, cut a fruit salad together. At the end of the show, I took all the fruits left and gave them away in Levinsky Market. There was such a dissonance, between that cultural, polite artsy giveaway, and the mayhem that went on in Levinsky, where people were practically fighting for the fruits.
You mention giveaways, but in many of your works you also take-away – some of your performances use a parasitic practice, and feed from other works or artists, for example your performance Q and A with the Artist that accompanied Christian Jankowski’s show at the CCA last year (‘Heavy Weight History’).
M.E: As I mentioned, I try to work from within a clear set of rules, and sometime this set is somebody else’s work. I also like these in between places, where you are not sure when the work starts, when it ends, and who it belongs to… Jankowski himself plays with these gaps between art and reality. So to accompany his show, I decided to create a romantic performance, in which I mixed four existing Christians into one lover. There was Christian Jankowski himself, Christian Grey from the book ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, Christianity – the religion, and my Christian – a German ex of mine. I showed pictures of Christian and me, our text messages, and played parts of a conversation I held with Jankowski himself a few days earlier. All the Christians were real, but mixing them together created a kind of hyper-reality. I don’t lie – I melt together different pieces of truth in order to tell a new story. But it’s was easy to assume I was intimately involved with Jankowski himself…