Reverence of Bethel, about worshipping god
—is an easy read. To be a good, contemporary interpretation is hard to do. We should be grateful that it is a conversation we can have. Its a good one.
. As in his earlier works, he uses the power of various kinds of icons—from the crucifix to the bullet to the swastika—to reveal the fragility of human existence. The heads of the characters in this installation are usually surrounded by a white veil, as if they were in a trance.The artist continues to explore the connection between painting and photography, and between the photograph and the painted image. For example, in Untitled, 2006–2007, he has used photographs of himself and others to create a work based on the parallel relationship between the self and the photograph. But where the photographs show the artist as he appears in the photograph, the paintings are based on the individual portraits of the artist. The actual faces of the subject are absent, but the artist, posing as the subject, sits on the ground with his head in the portrait position. The head of the painter, as well as the head of the subject, can be recognized by their contrasting white tones. Although the artist is depicted as an anonymous individual, this identification with him is made apparent by the simple, bare canvas in which he is placed. There is no human presence. Instead, the white veil can be seen as a veil of identity, a veil that, in its totality, reveals the human condition, its necessity and its complexity.
Reverence of Bethel, about worshipping god, was accompanied by a performance of music and dancing, the latter performed by a nonhuman female figure. In a playful bit of dance theater, a tall, blond woman with a rabbit-eared head wore a mask as a mask and stood before a wall of mirrors. She blushed furiously, and even more furiously when her head was turned to the camera. She looked like a guilty, impassive substitute for the artist herself, who was half-masked and half-masked, as she stood before a wall with a pair of mirrors that reflected her own image.The other part of the show, S/he, which was led by an installation of sculptures that looked like a cross between a David Smith and a religious iconography, was centered on the body as a medium. The artist had invited the public to participate in an active ritual of self-immolation, with a blood bath. This rite was accompanied by the audiotape It all started with a whisper, in which an ordinary, carless woman narrates the events that led to her self-immolation. The body as an object of destruction was also the theme of the performance, which featured a group of digital images of a single, self-immolating body with a small doll on it. In one image, a hand is clenched in a fist. In another, a woman with her arms tied together holds a long, high-heeled shoe against her chest. The body as an object of destruction also recurred in the installation, in a sculpture of a metal crucifix. A rope hung from the ceiling of the gallery, dangling from the neck of a tall, dark-haired man, and held the two ends of a long, dangling rope that pointed upward.The installations central figure, it turned out, was a young, naked man who appeared to be about five feet tall.
Reverence of Bethel, about worshipping god, remains a post-Modernist aspiration. The presence of the house and the lighthouse, as well as the pseudo-religious iconography of the Bible (a nude woman in a hat, for instance, seems to be praying), indicate a return to the faith in religious experience of the primitive, and the reevaluation of the Church as an active agent of society. These early attempts to transcend the isolation of the individual from society have been replaced by a return to the strict religious order, the institution of the Church. The transformation of the Church into a powerful tool in the service of society is of the first rank, a status that was also the activity of the Gestapo, the Gestapo organization, and the Gestapo itself.The structures that shelter the church as symbol of social reality (the synagogue) and that designate it as a necessary part of the everyday (the synagogue as a symbol of the order of things) were transformed into the interior of the house in the form of an open window. The window is no longer the place of the individual's expression of his or her faith, but it is a sign of social control. The window functions as a closed door to a society where there is no possibility of free expression and where it is possible to violate the purity of values.The window is likewise a sign of the social order, a tool that sets up a certain social dimension. It is the place where the individual is isolated from the society. It is the place where the individual's individuality is defined by his or her position in relation to society. The window serves as the projection of social expectations, the projection of the social message that is the most important element of all, the expression of the social message of a social situation. The window is a sign of the society in which everything is a sign of the social situation and, in so doing, is transformed into an art object.The glass is used as a symbolic image of the social situation.
in the way that we worship animals, was a conflation of death with the formless, which led to the most sedate of liturgical pieces, a quiet tribute to the beauty and mystery of the self in all its vulnerability and desire. In this respect, the artist is a feminist with a message. On the one hand, she draws attention to the difficulties of femininity and the power of the feminine on both a formal and a conceptual level; on the other, she reveals how the feminine—both as an object of desire and as a simple self-referential signifier—is not simply a means of signaling the femininity of the object. In this respect, her work is a kind of fable, a tale of two selves and of two roles, which are often played out within the same work but always different. The idea of sharing the self with others is a central theme in her work, and she combines this with other ideas, one of which is that of the intimate relation between the artist and her work, the more intimate because it is more symbolic. But where the relationship between an object of desire and the artist becomes problematic, the work becomes ambivalent. The work is heavy-handed in its homage to the feminine but even so it refuses to be taken for a call-and-response, which is an important characteristic in a patriarchal art context. Indeed, Bethels self-portraits are an indictment of patriarchal ideals. But to be taken as a critique of the patriarchal order of expression is to be a form of social identification, and Bethels self-portraits are an affirmation of the feminine as the feminine.