Meirav Heiman - Artist Statement
In my art, I try to focus on the gap between the ideal and the concrete, the virtual and the real, the personal and the anonymous, and undermine the fantasy of the sacred family institution. In most of my works I use props, stylized design, humor, exaggeration and grotesque elements, in an attempt to create a sense of familiarity and estrangement at the same time. I am interested in rituals that have become mechanical and in distorting body language so that it intensifies feelings of loneliness and detachment.
My art deals mostly with staged human situations, common in everyday personal and family life. In my works, either in photography, video or installation, I choose to focus on familiar, simple situations, derived from my own experiences and surroundings. In my works, I aim to manipulate these situations in order to demonstrate and expose, through a process of defamiliarization, the beauty, the fragility, the misery and the absurdity of life, that usually go unnoticed.
Loneliness, intimacy, family relations, sexuality, stereotypes and the search for love, are recurrent subjects in my art. The never ending search for a sense of homeyness and warmth is also one of my main themes. Since the perfect home fantasy cannot be fulfilled, this search only emphasizes the imperfections and flaws within the system, that turns the home into an alter on which we sacrifice ourselves and our loved ones for bourgeoisie values.
Recently I have started dealing with questions concerning authenticity and the yearn for what is supposedly “natural”. After conquering, industrializing and effectively destroying nature, mankind is now surrounding itself with fake plants and natural elements, comprised of environmentally hazardous materials, in a paradoxical attempt to reunite with it. Some of my latest works focus on modern Western society's great effort and failure to reconnect with nature through these artificial means.
In dealing with highly charged subjects and questioning our society's basic foundations, I wish to create an empathic gaze, taking into account the flaws and strengths we have as individuals and as a society as a whole. Though sometimes intentionally ridiculous, the characters in my works express a constant desire to receive sympathy and love, a desire most living beings have in common.
My work is composed of documentation of staged situations: personal, family and social. I am dealing with common scenarios that I manipulate so that beauty and pain, the miserable and the absurd, comes to life. Love, loneliness, family relationships, sexuality and stereotypes are all subject matters which come together in my work and sometimes include myself as a participatory performer.
The project Sister of Mercy (2000) consists of enlarged c-prints of men and women with whom I met face to face, following internet chats. I met them for dinner, usually in their house. During these intimate, though not necessarily romantic rendezvous, I mimicked familiar human interactions, played worn-out parts, and duplicated exhausted stereotypes. These human dynamics were created to a fictitious time and place, enhancing the elements of chance and randomness. The people who took part in the meetings had no past and no future; only the temporary experience existed, highlighting an extreme situation examining the conflict between anonymity and intimacy, imagination and reality, text and image. My work deals with virtual reality, or is that real virtuality?
The anonymous intimacy of the media took hold of me for this project; I was willing to do anything, talk to everyone, boys and girls, perverts, lonely-hearts, liars; witty and smart, bitter and naive, professors and fakers. The desire to shatter the mask of anonymity made possible by virtual space, generated the tension. Is it possible to control a clearly uncontrollable situation?
See Projects- Sister of Mercy
“Wanted for a video art project: individuals, couples or families for a documented meal.” This was the ad I published in the local paper and on the Internet for the next project Gullet (2003). After a lengthy interview process, a selection was made for the final cast, who would form five fictional families.
I picked a residence in the suburbs for each of these invented families, and modeled the dining and living rooms to suit each, and then invited them for a meal. The participants were asked to dress in a certain color, eat naturally and finish the meal in exactly twenty minutes without talking to each other. Each meal was documented in a single shot with a static camera, without rehearsals. Through editing manipulation, I constructed the scenes to play in reverse and at an accelerated speed.
The installation consisted of five monitors, simultaneously showing the five meals in five colors: yellow, orange, red, black, and white. All the meals begin and end at the same time, screened in a loop.
Like Sister of Mercy , Gullet focuses on the gap that lies between notions of ideal and the concrete, virtual and real, personal and anonymous. In this case, the individual virtual identity of the chat rooms is replaced by a fabricated family unit. Familiarity and estrangement coexist due to the radical treatment, props, stylized design, humor, exaggeration, and the grotesqueness of the meals. On the one hand, there is the mundane banal ritual of a family meal; on the other – the setting appears as a maquette, like theatrical decor.
See Projects- Gullet
In Split (2003), a series of self-portraits were taken at various places throughout Israel, mainly in the Negev and the Jordan Valley. Wearing leotards and positioning myself in a split pose on the ground in each, I attempted to dominate the environment. This performed horizontal pose transformed me from being an active subject dominating the landscape into a passive object planted in it. Taking the gesture out of context and integrating it into the landscape signifies, and yet rearranges, an attachment to the land.
Evident in my work are contemporary notions linked to the praxis of staged self-photography. A photographic praxis that demands taking a position in the public space and an autonomous positioning in the stratified sphere of the politics of identity. The "split" pose connects between the place of birth in a woman's body and the earth; the body being spread over a large area yet allows no actual movement. A total connection to the land makes the person who performs this inconvenient act to be static. The work confronts the painful conflict regarding the land, which exists between Israel and Palestine.
See Projects- Split