Meirav Heiman’s new series of photographs was taken over the past year at various places throughout Israel, especially in the Negev and the Jordan Valley. Shivtah, Ramon Crater, Yechiel Hills, Nachal Hed, Tze’elim, Urim, Nachal Chadav; unsettled areas with similar topographic characteristics such as areas of exposed earth, rocky hills, lone trees and different types of scrub. Yet despite the above, the fundamental deciding factor within the framework of the series is different, and is expressed through the repeated presence of a woman’s figure that appears in each and everyone of the photographs.
During her work on the series, Heiman traveled to different places throughout the country (1), placed the camera, set the frame, and positioned herself wearing a leotard in front of it, her legs spread wide facing the camera and her back to the open view.
Heiman’s decision to thus poistion herself in relation to the landscape creates a basic situation where she dominates the environment through the presence of her body, through her pose, and through the foreign colorfulness that she brings with her. But at the same time, the specific pose she has chosen places her in the landscape horizontally, spread out, present but also stuck. As it is not a simple position, and it does not allow any movement, it transforms her, to a point, from being an active subject dominating the landscape into a passive object located in it.
And thus, more than Heiman casts her gaze and photographs over the landscape, she turns her gaze directly toward the camera and photographs herself. Her presence becomes a central element within the photographed frame, in terms of the composition as she traverses the frame, in terms of the strong coloring of her leotards, and many cases, because of her defiant gaze that insists on interaction with the spectator by delaying the option of passing his/her gaze onto observing the landscape itself.
Wadi Hed , 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
Mitzpe Ramon , 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
Be'er- Tse'elim, 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
2005 shpagat projecy
Makhtesh Ramon , 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
The Windy Plain , 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
Wadi Khadav , 2003, C Print, 150X120 cm.
Sister of Mercy
Borochov Gallery, Tel Aviv.
Curator: Hadas Maor
Accompanying Exhibition Text:
The Borohov Gallery, December 2000. In the center of the space sits a young girl beside a wide desk baring a computer, a screen, a keyboard, a printer, a small video camera and work related papers. This is Meirav Heiman. Born in 1972, Meirav graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Department of Photography in 1998, and currently lives and works in Tel Aviv. Throughout the whole month, Meirav Heiman will remain in the exhibition space of the Borohov Gallery day in and day out. Between 16:00 and 20:00 in the evening, she will sit in the center of this space; her back turned to the visitors coming in and out of the exhibition, engaging in constant and on-going random chats with random people on the net. A big projection screen will enable visitors to not only stare over Heiman’s shoulder, beyond the computer screen, but also be exposed to the chat in real time, both as evolving information and a live image on the wall further down the exhibition hall. The rest of the exhibition will showcase a series of enlarged c-prints of men and women with whom Heiman met following her previous chats. These are men and women she met online, using alias names, and who agreed to her request to meet face to face. Heiman intended on photographing her subjects during these meetings, staging intimate although not always romantic situations. She met them for dinner, for a single night, for her leisure. Sometimes in a restaurant, sometimes in an empty apartment, sometimes in her house, and more, while the degree of exposure is directly related to the interaction built up during these encounters.
During these rendez-vous, Heiman mimics familiar human interactions. She plays worn-out parts, duplicating exhausted stereotypes. Only these human dynamics are created and limited to their given time, to anonymous characters, playing on enhancing the element of chance and random, the drama and boldness on the part of the people participating in this production. There are no hopes of a romantic relationship in these meetings. The people meeting have no past and no future, only the experience exists. An extreme situation examining the conflict between anonymity and intimacy, imagination and reality, text and image. Meirav Heiman’s work deal with virtual reality, or maybe real virtuality, turning the logical connection between the two, forming a clear and poignant saying on the human experience and communication in the beginning of the third millennia.
The passion for the lost paradise, a place overflowing with beauty, harmony and exalted pleasure, is a human passion that never ceases, and is at times uncompromising to the point of violence. The amount of force we are willing to exert on ourselves and our surroundings in order to return to that same perfect place that cradles us in its bosom is apt to crush us. Meirav Heiman returns to the lost paradises with her camera lens - places created by artificial means and made to suit the immediate, extroverted and demanding modern taste. Meirav Heiman’s paradises are tourist attractions, exotic guest rooms and garish almost toxic amusement parks in shopping malls, places where the lost paradise has become a commodity one can buy, spend a moment in, absorb and be absorbed into. “The soul of man is full of lusts: he has vast excesses of them.” Thus proclaims the French poet Charles Baudelaire,(Charles Baudelaire 1821-1867) in his book “Artificial Paradises,”dedicated to describing the intoxicating influences of hashish, opium and wine. According to Baudelaire the great passion of man is “ to be delivered, if only for a moment, from the material body in which he dwells, and ‘to attain paradise in an instant’.” The desire to reach the lost paradise by artificial means is, to a known extent, a twisted desire, but in Baudelaire’s opinion, not groundless. On the contrary “ common sense teaches us that the existence of things on this earth is only a tenuous existence, and that true reality exists solely in dreams.” If so, what is more logical than the artificial creation of a dream of happiness? The paradises of Heiman are the industrial, capitalistic, lawful and available sequel for every consumer of Baudelaire’s paradises. Like hallucinations from hashish or opium, so too are the tourist attractions of our time – they seek to flood the visitor with an intense experience of sharpened senses and intoxicating colors. They seek to be the pivotal point that connects us to richer and more primal levels of existence, like those lost to us long ago or that exist only in our yearning imagination. I read Baudelaire’s descriptions of the hallucinations of hashish, and am amazed to discover how they correspond with Heiman’s photographs. A “man of letters” who Baudelaire quotes tells of his experiences (according to Dori Manor, the Hebrew translator, most researchers of Baudelaire’s works are certain that the mysterious man of letters is the novelist and poet Th?ophile Gautier, while others are sure it is no other than Charles Baudelaire himself). He emerges from his home while still under the influence of the substance, and is flooded by feelings of extreme cold, which become more intense “Finally, the chill that enveloped me was so absolute, so encompassing, that all my thoughts froze, if one can say that. I became a thinking block of ice: I looked at myself as if at a statue chiseled into a large glacier; this insane illusion exalted my pride, giving me feelings of spiritual wellbeing that words do not suffice to describe.” (Ibid, page 33). Are Heiman’s photographed figures, turning their empty gaze towards the human observer, not similar to glaciers that have become part of their silent surroundings? Is the bride, standing frozen in her pure white dress like a tall and strange statue against the background of an artificial stone arch, not like a statue carved into a great glacier that is solemnly patronizing its surroundings totally? “Hashish always requires great excesses of light,” writes Baudelaire’s man of letters. It craves after everything that illuminates, after all gold that abounds, all flowing magnificence. In short, no light is foreign to it: bright light that washes like a river, or hidden sparks that cling like straw to every point and protrusion, magnificent palace chandeliers, votive candle flames dancing in the virginal month of May or the fading pink cascades of sunset.” (Ibid, page 34). Heiman too desires an excess of light, and it is one of the series strongest characteristics. From the depths of the corridor of the golden hall of mirrors she photographs, clear light bursts forth. Enchanted light refracts and glows in the light blue watery firmament of the mermaids’ world. It seems that light hypnotizes Heiman. Her love of color in all its hues leads her to places no less sweet and artificial than the drug induced hallucinations of Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s man of letters, under the intoxicating influence, watches theatre and closely examines the actors. “ I saw in the observed not only the most miniscule of their props, such as the pattern on the fabrics, the seams of the costumes, the buttons etc, but also the seam line between truth and falsehood facing them, the white, blue and red and all the remaining stuff of makeup.” (Ibid, page 35). Heiman too does not attempt to convince the viewer that these are actual visions. She is aware of the fact that the sights that fascinate her are deceptive. In her work, the seam lines between truth and lies are revealed. They are the white makeup on the face of the girl at Ramat Hanetifim, the electric exit signs, the lighting elements, and the rope barriers, which the camera does not avoid. Her awareness of the artificiality of the sights she photographs is her self-awareness of the artificiality of her activity as an artist. The falseness of the situation is seen in the falsehood of the artistic action and there is no need to conceal it but just to enjoy it. The sense of intoxication of the visitor in the artificial paradises is not meant to be harmed by exposure to the artificial aspect of the situation. On the contrary, it is part of the experience, part of the hidden pleasure of control in a world created expressly to fill all desires.
Is it possible to attain real happiness through artificial paradises? Baudelaire himself is hesitant about this. “Man consequently seeks to create paradise for himself through various fermented concoctions and drinks - and thus acts like the madman who substitutes real furniture and actual gardens with an illustrated and framed d?cor,” writes the French poet. “This endless distortion of meaning is in itself that, which, in my opinion, is the cause of all sinful hyperbole.” (Ibid, page 16). Heiman too is not optimistic. Her artificial paradises empty the photographed characters of any humanity and content and turn them into part of the scenery. The characters submit to the scene, becoming part of its aesthetic weave. Their tranquility is a tranquility of imperviousness and assimilation. The colorful attractiveness of the situation does not cover up the absurdity and the alienation and even accentuates it. Her artificial paradises are devoid of an emotional aspect. In their exquisite addictive faked sensations, they are a faithful representation of the spirit of the time.
Yediot Achronot, 2008. Translated into Hebrew: Dori Manor
“If there is no riddle, no mystery, don’t bother photographing it.” Sally Mann
Since completing her studies at Bezalel, Meirav Heiman has distinguished herself as a unique photographer both in her use of the language of photography and the subjects she chooses to deal with. She has an extremely personal agenda, and alternates between society, gender and culture, working with political subjects, and relating to nature and ecology. In her new series of works, Heiman deals with the human longing for nature and authenticity. She stages different scenes at commercial tourist sites in which ironically the artificial environment substitutes for reality itself. It is a journey to another nature - “Artificial Paradises,” as the name of the present exhibition proclaims.
Nature is a concept that represents all in the world not produced by man, all that is not artificial. By definition, all of mans’ products are artificial, that is, not part of the natural world. The further man moves away from nature, the more he needs to rest in the bosom of nature, which means moving away from an urban environment back to his origins and to “Mother Earth”. Evidently, even though the urban landscape supposedly provides man with all his needs, he still needs to relax occasionally in a pristine and wild place, untouched by human hand. It appears that in every age man requires a certain image of nature in order to define himself and the culture he lives in. The images or representations existing in our consciousness determine how we construct ourselves and the world. Post-modernism sees culture as that which forms our perception of nature. It is man who creates the apparent “reality” he seeks to investigate. Man is perhaps created by nature, yet it is he who now creates nature in his own image. The nature Heiman chooses to emphasize in her work is in fact a myth, and the nature-culture dichotomy conceals power conflicts and serves different ideologies.
In this series Heiman describes man’s yearning for nature and the fantasy he weaves around it. Each picture creates an event specific to the people and place. The meeting between the staged and bizarre surroundings - trying to show a small piece of real life - and the staged photograph, creates mixed feelings of strangeness and intimacy. Heiman assembles her “actors” in a random fashion by advertising on the Internet or through chance encounters with them (on the way to a restroom, at a gas station and more). The fact that complete strangers are encountered in her work in momentary intimacy, staged for the camera’s eye, infuses the photographs with a sense of artificiality, and accentuates the gap between the real and the fake, while creating uneasiness and tension. This tension is noticeable in the photograph Hanoch and Michal, The Cave Suite, Moshav Hosen(2008). The exclusive guest room is designed in plastic materials as an authentic cave from the Stone Age, accessorized with all modern utilities. The surroundings are filled with candles, yet the electric lighting is blinding and prominent. The fur covering the bodies of the characters is completely synthetic. The animal bone, which the male grips forcefully in his hand like loot or a club, is also plastic. Thus a proffered experience - of “a place in which to return to the distant past and experience the innocence of human nature” - becomes an absurd clich? and anti-ecological. The plastic cave also appears in the photograph Orli, Kings City, Eilat (2008). This is a giant underground cave (one descends into it by elevator to a depth of 60 meters into the ground), which imitates a cave of stalactites and stalagmites as part of the attraction of the “Cave of Illusions” and “ the Bible Cave” at the site. At first sight the d?cor is so convincing that the fake and the real become confused. Only at second glance is it possible to notice a crooked “emergency exit” sign on the left, an electrical outlet, and a space between the decor and the floor, indicating that it’s all illusion. Ironically, these “nature” sites become a kind of reality and nature, which people are exposed to almost exclusively. The masquerade and the fabrication are obvious in the failed attempt of the characters to be wild, primitive, and to assimilate into this nature. As in Plato’s cave, so too in Heiman’s caves - what we see and understand with our senses are not real things and ideas but only a meager shadow of them.
The considerable effort made by modern-western man “ to connect” with wild, prehistoric nature stands out in the photograph Eleanor, Yaarena, Arena Mall, Herzliya (2007). “Forestry” is an artificial zoo in the middle of a shopping center, without natural light or air. It imitates a tropical jungle and rain forest and contains real animals. “A wild girl” “ dark skinned’ is seated in a synthetic alcove encircled by plastic flora. She is clothed in a synthetic leopard fur and grasps a real snake, and beside her, in a pool, are four tiny water turtles, also real. The way the girl sits, the calm manner in which she grasps the snake, and the tranquil multi-colored shades of brown and green create a momentary illusion of harmony. Heiman tells of a photographic experience similar to that of Alice in Wonderland: “It was hallucinatory, in the middle of the day, in the heart of a shopping center, I opened a door, arrived at an office, opened another door and entered a forest.”
Heiman insists on staging unusual scenes, in which the characters and their humanity is palpable - whether in relation to content or whether in relation to form-color. In the work Hoffit, Orr and Tahel, Underwater Observatory, Eilat (2008), three young girls, masquerading as mermaids, sit on a rock - similar to the well-known sculpture of Edvard Eriksen in Copenhagen - but look grotesque. The distortion of their bodies, the frightening colored wigs, their theatrical pose in the artificial pool filled with stagnant water, and passivity of their postures - all these create an atmosphere that is both macabre and degrading, yet at the same time, na?ve and sad. The young girls in the photograph are aged 14-15, the age of the mermaid from the famous legend by Hans Christian Anderson (first published in 1836). The Little Mermaid is a story about tragic first love, which is unrealized, and the myth of an immortal changing into a human girl and the opposite. Heiman’s mermaids are actually ordinary young girls from Eilat who dream of beauty (their makeup is exaggerated), amuse themselves by being princesses (grasp plastic scepters and wear cheap plastic crowns on their heads), if only for a little while. The fantasy of the princess - beauty and the love of truth - here becomes tawdry and sad. The wretchedness, which represents the gap between the exciting fantasy and the disappointing reality, permeates all parts of the photograph. It is accentuated on the left where we can detect a bridge leading to the next attraction in the underwater observatory.
The mermaid myth is found in the work, Gal-Shahar, Eilat (2008), where a 10-year-old girl is seen dressed as a mermaid and made up with “glitter,” perceived from a distance as a blow to the face. It’s uncertain whether the figure is swimming or drowning, and out of balance and control. This tension creates a gap between the revealed and the concealed, between what the eye sees and what is hidden below the surface. The figure of the girl and her posture recalls the photographs of Sally Mann (Fallen Child) from 1989. In both pictures it is not clear whether the girl is in distress, although in contrast to Sally Mann’s girl, lying/falling on the ground, Heiman’s girl swims/drowns in water between heaven and earth.
An additional myth in this series is the story of Masada. Masada is a symbol and myth of heroism, deeply rooted in the consciousness of Israeli Jews and the Diaspora, and also among non-Jews ascending the rocky plateau of Masada and awed not only by the scenery and the archeological traces, but also by the story of the siege and its tragic conclusion. Heiman photographs outside at the site, between the columns, and inside, in the space of the restored synagogue at the site of the museum.She assembles a cast of Hashem the Arab-Israeli and Shai the Israeli, and in this way creates bizarre and theatrical situations connected to the local and international social experience. With great humor she confronts the past with the present, the myth of heroism and survival as a contrast to male ego and “pumping iron,” where one ritual replaces another. In fact, juxtaposing them creates a silent dialogue on issues of status, identity and honor, and at the same time, feelings of alienation, loneliness, separation and falsehood.
The historian Meron Benveniste summarized the functional importance of myths to national identity: “ Myths are the building blocks from which a nation builds its collective identity. The myth is a call to battle and a lullaby, the makeup and the mantle, the screen and the mirror, which human society uses to recruit to action, to err in dreams, to blur ugly notes, to confront a difficult reality, to draw consolation, to channel hate, to bear and to nurture his self image. Myths are not hallucinations but a mixture of real events and legend, consolidated by the glue of heroic and traumatic experiences. These are events easy to absorb and from the moment they are understood they are made more real than reality itself.”
Heiman’s method of working - creating a staged photograph - relates to the work of Canadian photographer Jeff Wall and Israeli photographer Adi Ness, who stage their scenes meticulously, down to the last detail. In contrast to them Heiman chooses to stage her work in existing set locations, and also allows their reality to penetrate, directing it in the process. “In all the works, everything starts with finding the location that for me awakens a vision and fantasy of another place. Afterwards, I looked for characters, but while doing this I was open to suggestions at the site itself. The reality penetrates the fantasy and the contrary. I don’t stage down to the last detail with a sketch, but integrate what happens to the character on site.” By design she works with a variety of non-professional “actors,” increasing the sense of fabrication at the site and the pitiable Israeli culture of leisure. Instead of the clean aesthetic manifest in the works of Wall and Ness, in Heiman we find the Israeli reality - cables and crooked signs that convey an experience of ‘”authentic artificiality.” The artificial sites are part of the goal of the so-called all-embracing culture of truth, which reaches its peak in reality shows, where the clear longing to actually touch the reality of the tangible world is shallow and staged. Jean Baudrillard claims in his book “Simulacra and Simulation” that we live in a world of reproduction and simulation whose origins are lost or did not exist at all. The tourist sites of Heiman disguise and distort reality. The more “real” they appear - the less connected they are to reality.
The size and presentation of the photographs invites the viewer to relate to them in detail and at length. They contain a revealed and hidden tension, between nature, freedom and escapism, and between culture and knowledge. Heiman’s works defy, provoke and challenge. They examine cultural, political and ecological phenomena in contemporary Israel. This humorous, embarrassing and penetrating series illustrates the pathetic nature of our existence and our need to realize impossible fantasies.
“Forestry”, as Dr. Rado -responsible for the wellbeing of the animals on the site - defines it, is “the first project of its kind in the world. Throughout the world there are many large and imposing wildlife parks, yet there are no zoos in the vicinity of a shopping mall. Conventional zoos are visited by the “addicted,” animal lovers who are “crazy about” them. The idea is to bring nature to everyone. And what place is more popular than the vicinity of a shopping mall?” The place was closed in 2007
In 2007, the museum named after Yigael Yadin at the Masada Visitors Center was opened. Here findings from archeological digs are exhibited at three central points: Days of Herod, Daily Life of the Rebels on the Mountain, and Battle against the Romans.
Gal Shahar, Eilat, 2008, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X95 cm
Hachem, Masada National Park, 2009, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X145 cm
Aviva, Kings City, Eilat, 2008, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X145 cm
Michal and Hanoch, The Cave Suite, Moshav Hosen , 2008, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X145 cm
Hachem, Masada National Park, 2009, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X145 cm
Hoffit, Orr and Tahel, Underwater Observatory, Eilat , 2008, DIGIgraphie Print , 95X95 cm
In “Trampoline” the family literally loses the ground beneath its feet, while struggling to maintain the dinner ceremony. The act of photography, like the family, attempts to achieve absolute control; it is meticulously planned to the final detail but loses its control in the decisive moment of being up in the air, or, in other words, when faced with new, unknown circumstances. The exaggeratedly staged scenes in this photo, dealing with intense questions of intimacy and conflict within the family unit, create a sense of defamiliarization of everyday situations that usually go unnoticed. This defamiliarization points out the difficulty and inability to prepare for the complex experience of day-to-day domestic life.
Part of group exhibition, 'High Heels in the Sand', Curator: Revital Ben-Asher Peretz
Petach-Tikva Museum, 2005
from the text: High Heels in the Sand Trafficking in Women in Israel / Revital Ben-Asher Peretz
.......Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben-Shoshan present a staged photograph, Backstage: women trafficking in Israel, class of 2005. The site is the make-up/waiting room for a TV talk show. A moment before going on air, the guests are attending to their appearance – are they properly made-up, are their outfits nice – and the issues that had brought them there are pushed aside. The photograph ostensibly documents a "backstage" scene, placing it on the stage. Heiman and Ben-Shoshan created stereotypes of "role players" in the world of women trafficking, who foster it and follow its rules: trafficked women, policemen, lawyers, judges, politicians, customers and traffickers; and the pimp shall lie down with the judge, the prostitute with the politician, the policeman with the john – and it isn't always clear who is who. This breach of boundaries questions, of course, reality beyond the studio walls. In the dispute between reality and artistic narrative, the confusion is exacerbated: some of the photographed figures are professionals, lawyers as well as ex-pimps, who pretended in this production to be actors playing roles that correspond to their actual lives.
Also emphasizing the glorification of external beauty, a series of photographs portrays men holding female lingerie and shoes. They stand in line, as if straight out of a catalogue of Roman Caesars or a gay magazine, in masculine poses, advertising and displaying themselves, allowing the viewer to examine every wrinkle and muscle in their bodies. It is difficult to escape a judgmental viewpoint that stems from social classifications, definitions and categorizations. The female "present absence" is stressed vis-à-vis male corporeal presence. Even when holding a negligee and a soft bra, the male is in a position of power and the female image becomes wrinkled like satin-and-lace skin on his proffered hand. And yet, at the same time, he is presented like an inanimate clothes stand, and in some of the photos looks like a domesticated, at times pitiful, animal.
In the installation Get Lost, Heiman and Ben-Shoshan invite the active viewer into a long, dark corridor saturated with the mustiness of solitary confinement. A video is screened in the corner: the same social grouping from the group photo Backstage appears in A Birthday – presenting the celebration of an individual's existence, a symbol of love and social acceptance, as a forced, pathetic gesture. The act of raising the celebrator on a chair turns violent, simulating a rhythmic coital movement that ends in the disappearance of the girl in the celebrating crowd.
The walk along the corridor is accompanied by sounds of a busy street. Slowly the place becomes clear: a basement, above which urban life runs; a sense of gutter-like suffocation and confinement. Through peep holes in the wall, the video “habitat” of a street section can be seen. A girl in a short mini-skirt walks unhurriedly back and forth. Her footsteps are hesitant, her feet convey bewilderment. The peeking audience is locked in the basement while she cruises the street freely. We witness the lower half of her body, practically looking into her panties, watching her covertly from below. The sense of excessive proximity to her body is both sensual and repulsive. There is doubt regarding her occupation; is every woman standing on a street corner to be suspected of prostitution? Standing in a specific place, in a particular pose, wearing revealing clothes, heavy make-up, perfume – are all these signs of prostitution? Questions dealing with the representation of the body on the uncertain boundary between fashion and prostitution recur in all of Heiman and Ben-Shoshan's works, engaging in an intense dialogue between reality and its representation.
At the end of the corridor, the animated movie bordel is screened: movement, to the sound of a heavily walking man, along a dark corridor with sensually, temptingly textured walls, and entry into the mysteries of femininity – an enticing vagina dentata, a never-ending hellish torment.
The Mediterranean Biennale in Haifa, Israel. Curator: Belu Simion Fainaru, 2010
“Inertia”, the Artists' Studios, Tel Aviv. Curator: Vered Gani, 2011
“Tweetakt/Kaap”, stage and media festival, Utrecht, The Netherlands “Stuttgarter, 2016
Meirav Heiman’s Digestion is a video work created in stop-motion technique where the plasma screen is propped horizontally, like a dining table. The viewers bend over from either side of the ‘table’ to witness a full three-course meal being consumed in fast-forward, with the cups, plates and serving bowls repeatedly emptied out during the work’s 1:10 minutes’ run time. But the diners themselves are absent, and so the viewers take the place of the four family members that would have been seated on either side. Likewise missing is the vibrant chatter that would have accompanied a family meal, leaving only the rattle of dishes, utensils and food that is swiftly unloaded unto plates to disappear in digestive systems.
The dishes we see are typical of an Israeli Friday evening meal, a weekly gathering of sacred status in Israeli society where one enjoys quality time with family members over a hearty meal. Devoid of any human presence and accelerated to a frenzied pace, the video produces the spectacle of mechanical ingestion bordering on mindless gluttony and decadence. It is, however, an absence that also resonates with two important themes in Israel society: that of Eliayhu Hanavi (the prophet Elijah), who according to custom honors the all-important Passover feast with his invisible presence; and no less, the abiding absence of war casualties from practically every family – those invariably referred to as the “sons” and the “fallen”.
Digestion is part of a larger video and installation project by the artist, where she takes on the theme of routine and cyclicality in everyday life. Through temporal distortions, Heiman brings out an existential dimension that hovers above everyday routines and arrangements, addressing these with the subtle humor and parody that characterizes her work at large.
Joint project with Ayelet Carmi
"Local Pulse 2", Artists house, Tel-Aviv, Israel
curators: Orly Hoffman and Arie Berkowitz
edited eclipse2 2
The Natural History Museum, Petach Tikva Museum of Art, April-October 2009. Curator: Revital Perez Ben-Asher
The video installation “Whale” by artists Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben Shoshan is part of an exhibition entitled The Natural History Museum, (Petach Tikva Museum of Art, April-October 2009). The exhibition brings together contemporary art and the world of science and nature, addressing complex issues raised by the interior duality and conflicts inherent in museums and natural history museums, such as authenticity and forgery, virtual and real, colonialism, the relation of man and nature, and man’s appropriation of nature
The work “Whale” presents the animal in its natural size – its skin was taken from a photograph of a real whale and its length is about 46 feet. Unlike the manner in which stuffed animals are exhibited in natural history museums, the Whale is virtual and animated.
The work is based on an exploration of the viewer’s experience. Through the work an attempt is made to investigate the tools we use to perceive reality. When viewing this virtual stuffed animal, its “life” is made possible solely through the work of our imagination. The narrative created for the viewer – an animal the viewer could empathize with – is intended to offer a critical viewing.
Like viewing stuffed animals in natural history museums, the work exhibits a combination of a rational and an emotional experience. Whereas the naive part of us is convinced by the sight and enjoys the “beauty of nature,” our rational side retains contact with reality. It delineates that which is forgery and allows us to experience and feel the “as if,” the illusion. Similar to viewing reality TV shows, the intensive consideration of virtual experiences gradually receives the status of that which is “real” and “natural,” and with time, that which is “right.”
The Natural History Museum, Petach Tikva Museum of Art, April-October 2009. Curator: Revital Perez Ben-Asher
“UNNATURAL”, in collaboration with Yossi Ben Shoshan, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach. Curator: Tami Katz Freiman
“UNNATURAL”, in collaboration with Yossi Ben Shoshan, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach. Curator: Tami Katz Freiman
“UNNATURAL”, in collaboration with Yossi Ben Shoshan, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach. Curator: Tami Katz Freiman
A Video installation Whale by Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben Shoshan
Living Room, Kitchen, Bedroom, Children's Room, video art, 6:10 minutes, 2013
Produced for the exhibition Composed Family
Curator and Producer: Carmel Gottlieb Kimhi
Won the Team-Work Award, Stuttgarter Filmwinter – Festival for Expanded Media, Stuttgart, Germany
Home economics, the complex management of family life and its inherent power struggles, are at the essence of the photos I am submitting. Borrowing the psychological concept of the family functioning as one body struggling to maintain balance, the use of highly trained acrobalance, dancers, in some of the works, implies to the near impossibility of this struggle for ordinary people. Everyday domestic situations, like having dinner or watching TV, are used to express the acrobatic challenges required in order to maintain a proper family life within the confined and intimate space of the home. In “Trampoline” the family literally loses the ground beneath its feet, while struggling to maintain the dinner ceremony. The act of photography, like the family, attempts to achieve absolute control; it is meticulously planned to the final detail but loses its control in the decisive moment of being up in the air, or, in other words, when faced with new, unknown circumstances.
The exaggeratedly staged scenes in this series, dealing with intense questions of intimacy and conflict within the family unit, create a sense of defamiliarization of everyday situations that usually go unnoticed. This defamiliarization points out the difficulty and inability to prepare for the complex experience of day-to-day domestic life.
Tal Gilboa Ardon
Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben Shoshan
Ariel Berns, Electricq
Dudi and Tal Gilboa Ardon
The film was produced with the support of The Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts
Gullet, video installation, Herzliya Museum of Art, Israel.
Family Dyes by Tami Katz- Freiman
“Wanted for a video art project: individuals, couples or families for a documented meal.” This was the wording of Meirav Heiman’s ad published in the paper and on the Internet toward the current show. After a long series of interviews and meetings, the final participants were selected, among them actual relatives of the artist, and were cast in various combinations to form six fictive families. These ranged from the traditional nuclear family of a father, mother and two children, through an alternative family of two grandmothers and two grandchildren, to a family of two mothers, an aunt and three children.
For each of these invented families the artist matched a residence in the suburbs; she modeled the dining and living rooms in keeping with their staged image, and invited the participants for a meal she cooked by herself. Her instructions toward the meal shoot were minimal yet strict: the participants were asked to come dressed in a certain color, to eat naturally and finish the meal within exactly twenty minutes without talking to each other. Each of the meals was documented in a single shot with a static camera, without rehearsals. Through editing manipulation, Heiman played the meals in reverse, so that they are in fact seen from end to beginning at an accelerated synchronized speed.
The show is made of five monitors, simultaneously and incessantly screening five meals in five colors: yellow, orange, red, black, and white. All the meals begin and end at the same time, and are screened in a loop. The sixth meal, likewise familial, is projected on a separate wall, only this time the diners – father, mother and three children – are seen pulling out bags of snacks and cans of drink, eating them while jogging in the open landscape.
The white meal is held in an antique-style living room. The dining ‘family’ includes two grandmothers and two grandchildren, a boy and a girl, who eat cream cakes and drink milk. The red meal is an all-girl meal – two mothers, an aunt and three daughters. It is held in a living room against the backdrop of a collection of reproductions and tacky wall decorations. Some of the participants wear red wigs. They drink wine and eat salmon and spaghetti with ketchup. The yellow meal’s participants are a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter – a traditional nuclear family – all wearing blonde wigs, eating corn and drinking lemonade. Two sons and three mothers eat the most aristocratic, black meal in a fancy dining room (one of the mothers dines wearing gloves). They eat chocolate fondue and drink coke. And in the orange meal (a candle-lit breakfast), a redheaded family – father, mother and three daughters – eats in a standard dining room. The menu consists of pancakes and orange juice.
This is not the first time Meirav Heiman cooked meals for strangers, creating human situations of anonymous intimacy. In the project Sister of Mercy, at Borochov Gallery, Tel Aviv (January 2001), she documented blind-date stories with people she met in chat rooms on the Internet, and invited for a meal at home or in places where they felt comfortable. There too, Heiman dictated the date conditions: you will receive a meal and intimacy and in return, expose your identity and be documented with me. The results attested to the bizarre nature of the encounters: with one of them she was photographed in bed, with another – during a romantic candle-lit dinner, and with the third – in the bath tub.
“I was fascinated by the anonymous intimacy of the media,” Heiman said at the time. The desire to shatter the mask of anonymity made possible by virtual space involved risks, which, in turn, generated the tension she is after – total control of a clearly uncontrollable situation. In an interview published in proximity to the project’s presentation, she confessed: “ I was willing to do anything, I talked to everyone, boys and girls, perverts, lonely-hearts, liars; witty and smart, bitter and naive, professors and fakers.” The current project is a direct sequel to Sister of Mercy, only here the idea was expanded – from the intimacy of a couple to familial intimacies. This time Heiman took fewer risks and made sure she has more control. The random and unexpected were filtered through the preliminary interviews and meetings, thus allowing for exact casting of the fictive familial combinations.
In Gullet too, she focuses on the gap between the ideal and the concrete, the virtual and the real, the personal and the anonymous. The individual virtual identity of the chat rooms, however, is replaced by the fictive family she has fabricated, a family that is, in fact, a mixture of acquaintances, authentic family members, and total strangers. The radical treatment, the props, the stylized design, the humor, the exaggeration, and the grotesque lend each of the meals an air of familiarity and estrangement at the same time. On the one hand, there is the mundane banal ritual of a family meal; on the other – the setting looks like a maquette, like theatrical decor. The houses ostensibly represent the stylistic spectrum of the kitsch-oriented Israeli bourgeoisie (plastic flowers and animal figurines on the windowsill). The ritual becomes mechanical; family members resemble a monstrous shredder (note how they nibble on the corn and saw the pancakes). The reverse screening creates a discharge effect, as if the food is returned from the mouth to the plates that gradually pile in the course of the meal. The body language is distorted, and the reverse sound transforms the rustle of knives and forks into a hiccup-filled fencing match.
Heiman subverts the fantasy of the family’s sanctity. A potentially intimate graceful moment of familial togetherness becomes a hollow choreography that speaks of loneliness and detachment. The meal remains functional (“In the museum they will eat continuously for eight hours a day”). Apart from passing the salt and pepper, there is no communication whatsoever between family members. Each keeps to his/her own plate. Every bite they take into their mouths gnaws upon the utopian harmony of the family unit; the idyll is violated, and as the minutes pass, the meal is increasingly perceived as an empty ritual of collective stuffing.
The ‘family institution’ is defined in terms of relations based on birth or marriage, namely on shared origin. A more open definition would describe a ‘family’ as a hierarchical organization or as a group of people who identify themselves as related to one another and maintain intimate relations of inter-dependence. In any event, the meaning of the term is socially structured in culture. Heiman’s definition of family is determined by color, not by blood relation, nor by biology. The intra-familial relations were determined arbitrarily through color unification: the family of yellows, reds, blacks, oranges, whites. A twofold goal was thus obtained: suggesting a class-oriented social critique while subverting the standard family and challenging divergence within the family.
The personal identity of each member of the fictive family has been assimilated and absorbed within the ‘organization.’ All of them are, in fact, puppets in a set. The figures appear stereotypical and hollow, and the relationships silenced by order are disturbing in their alienated and superficial nature. With typical humor, Heiman places an unflattering mirror, reflecting the eating customs of the average Israeli family. Unlike American contexts where the familial gathering is regarded as artificial to begin with, in the Israeli Middle-Eastern context a family meal is considered warm, at times emotionally stormy. In this respect, the very act of silencing the Israeli by the dining table is tenfold radical. From a sociological-anthropological point of view, Heiman ridicules the food-oriented culture, highlighting the boredom inherent in the eating rituals and hinting at different types of anomalies within the family: eating disorders, abuse, incest. As in the work of American artist Robert Melee whose works are exhibited alongside Heiman’s, here too a hidden violence, pain, and a great deal of sadness are revealed under the veil of grotesque fantasy.
Gullet is deeply-rooted in the contemporary post-feminist discourse. Many female artists have addressed the food obsession in an attempt to undermine conventions pertaining to the traditional functions of the woman as food-provider. In this context, one can mention Cindy Sherman’s series of film stills from the late 1970s where she plays the role of a housewife in the kitchen, as in Holliwoodean clichés, or her 1987 series of color photographs depicting the remains of festive meals, highlighting the repulsive aspect of eating rituals.
The link between consumerist culture and the kitchen and the affinity between body and food (in the context of interior and exterior) have led many women artists to deal with the food obsession typical of affluent society as part of the discourse of the ‘abject’ – the rejected and despicable, disgusting and sickly. Thus, for instance, Sophie Calle has composed a color-coded diet for each day of the week (The Chromatic Diet, 1998); Janine Antoni nibbled and gnawed for weeks on two large lumps of forbidden carbohydrates – lard and chocolate (Gnaw, 1992); and Marina Abramovic starved herself for twelve days spent at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (2003).
Under the guise of a comic fantasy, Meirav Heiman too offers a poignant comment on the eating culture and family entity. Her nice families spit their food into the plate, and all the acts of biting, munching, scrunching, chewing, and swallowing appear non-gratifying and automated. The family meal has been neutralized of any feelings. All that remains are the food-related gestures. This is achieved through a strategy of estrangement (note the title of the piece, Gullet). In keeping with the medieval traditions of the grotesque and carnivalesque, everything is exaggerated but not all the way. Like the decision regarding the food colors and their matching to the colors of wigs and outfits, so the dosages and ratio between humor and subversive energy, between normal and abnormal, between familiar and ridiculed are carefully calculated. Next time we sit at the table, we won’t be able to avoid thinking about this bizarre game called ‘family meal.’
a joint project with Ayelet Carmi
Haifa Museum of Art
Icosahedron is a joint project by artists Meirav Heiman and Ayelet Carmi that combines sculptural pieces together with projections on multiple surfaces and screens. The work’s eponymous object, the icosahedron (a polyhedron with 20 faces), is seen both in the installation itself and in the films. In the main projection we see it as it slowly moves across the floor, its movement generated by a group of mostly women located inside it who use the weight of their bodies to move it along. As they interact with this geometric-mathematical object, a shared choreography of human versus machine is played out, highlighting the tensions between the body as an organic, intuitive and responsive organism and the shape as a mathematical abstract.
This moving environment created by Heiman and Carmi is at times deceptive as it challenges the force of gravity. The Sisyphean effort involved in shifting the icosahedron around, the complex communication between the participants, the exertion of muscles, the body, the arms and legs – all these are shown from different angles, using an array of cameras placed inside the object and outside it. From a bird's-eye view, achieved using a camera crane, the path of the movement is traced by a trail of light that the structure leaves behind it, lending the whole endeavor an air of fantasy or magic, like a colorful pageant that takes place in a multi-dimensional space.
As in their previous collaborations, the artists draw on the utopian vision attached to basic geometric forms. The combined effort needed to advance the object raises the question of the necessity of interpersonal communication in the course of human progress, and thereby of myths and collective narratives. The duality of body-machine also harbors the tension between the feminine pole of the body in action versus a male realm of rigid social ideals and the concept of good, as symbolized by abstract geometry.
The Jewish thematic is explored through the work. In the current work, the artists use what is known as a ‘Platonic icosahedron’, which suggests the mathematical harmony of 20 identical triangles. Through the continuously shifting superimpositions of shiny triangles, instances of the Star of David form and unravel. The harmonious beauty of the Platonic shape is superimposed with layers of Jewish symbolism, as likewise reflected in the number of participants. 7 in total, it is a group whose members incarnate the divine harmony of a heavenly . In a sense, their effort, geared toward shifting what appears as a celestial body – is tantamount to the forces of nature.
Media in space
When entering the space, the viewer encounters a large projection shot entirely from above, showing the icosahedron as it is moved by the participants. The icosahedron’s movement is generated by tumbling over one facet of the polyhedron at a time, a sequential and Sisyphean progress that leaves a trail of blue lights thrown from inside, each at a time. The film ends with an overview of this trail of light.
Across from the screening are two icosahedron sculptures covered in translucent paper, one lying on the floor and the other, built only in half, hung as a relief on the wall. Their facets feature additional screenings of the action involving the icosahedron, but this time shot from within to show the participants in action. These videos, projected in slow motion, offer a closer look at the participants in their efforts to revolve the shape forward.
The hung object offers itself as a relief on the one hand, while the sheerness of its covering paper allows a glimpse into the inner structure of its connecting rods. The transparency of the support doubles the image screened, which also reaches the wall behind it. In addition, as the surfaces and angles of the screening support match exactly those of the images projected, we get the impression of peering in and seeing the mostly feminine cast, who appear trapped inside the icosahedron.
media in space-Ayelet Carmi and Meirav Heiman
“Villa” (2005) is a sound a video installation dealing with social rituals in a domestic family setting. Filmed from the ceiling, the performative work captures a couple as they constantly move pieces of furniture around their house, seemingly with the aim of rearranging it. However, this soon turns out to be pointless, a ritualistic or rather obsessive action that offers no point of release or catharsis, and is unlikely to end up in greater harmony in their household.
walking edit avi
the Artists’ Studios, Tel Aviv
Cוurator: Vered Zafran Gani
Traces in motion.
The principle of inertia, the title of Meirav Heiman’s exhibition is revealed in different ways throughout an installation, located in the entrance space, and video and photography, in the upper gallery.
The exhibition examines everyday processes of constant change and the potential disruption of “proper order” in them through the interruption of seemingly trivial connections between people and the objects they use. Usage of them, “a breaking of vessels,” and also their abandonment, brings up a world of traces, stains, remains and shadows derived from our very existence.
The continuous movement of the light fixture that rises and sets in a steady rhythm, for a period of minute, acts as a metronome of light whose pendulum-like motion casts continuously changing shadows of a group of abandoned furniture onto its surroundings.
The photograph Trampoline in the upper gallery is a straightforward photograph in which a staged “decisive moment” actually took place.
The consideration of time, but also changing emotions in their individual aspects, leads to thinking about continuity as a general perhaps eternal process and its destructive significance at the individual human level, This duality of simultaneous presence is included in the details of the installation, the video and the photograph, but to the same extent also exists as a generalization, a commonly shared principle of continuity cut off artificially in the process of doing, as expressed in the different works. However, this artificial cutting off only emphasizes all the more forcefully the inflexibility of the circular, the superhuman nature of the continuous, the personal sacrifice of the individual for the sake of continuity, as well as its latent consolation.