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Moby Dick: The visual and the verbal are the protagonists in exhibition at Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Elizabeth Peyton, Nick Reading Moby Dick, 2003. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, partial and promised gift of Mandy and Cliff Einstein. Photo: Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

TEL AVIV.- The visual and the verbal, the eye and the ear, are the protagonists of this exhibition. Alongside each other and together live Herman Melville's novel and a selection of works of art; some are aware of their identity, others have been baptized for the context, but all ask (if they could ask) "Call me Moby Dick."

The novel Moby-Dick (1851) – Herman Melville's literary creation – recounts the testimony-tale of Ishmael, the only survivor from the the Pequod's whale-hunting voyage. Using a linguistic texture intertwining biblical, Shakespearean and scientific sources, among others, Melville wove a "sailing encyclopedia": a whole world arises from the adventures of the ship's crew, above all the monomania of Captain Ahab: his obsessive drive to take revenge of the big white whale, who had severed his leg in a previous encounter, plowing a deep scar in his body and soul.

The question of the visual image's readability, raised in the title of Ernst Gombrich's famous essay "How to Read a Painting," drifts along the great Ekphrasis ocean, as ancient as the shield of Achilles described by Homer and as language's talent to provide the object of art with a voice. Defining ekphrasis as the verbal representation of graphic representation embodies the possibility of cross-referring its limbs and offering an echoing title to Gombrich's: "How to See a Text." However, the binary structure drafted here to present the dramatis personae is alien to those seafarers who wander along coiling currents, who have swum through libraries and sailed museums and hold a dialogue with the writing eye and with the narrative intertwined in the gaze. For the works in the exhibition do not seek translation or reciprocal representation, but rather a mutual bearing of the yoke of representation's blocked moments, of the invisible topics indicated by the visual and verbal image alike. Herman Melville, beyond his novel Moby-Dick, sent his hands "among the unspeakable foundations of the world," and it is there – towards the elusive – that the works in the exhibition turn.

Artists: Eitan Ben-Moshe, Yael Burstein, Shibetz Cohen, Sharon Etgar, David Ginton, Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben-Shoshan, Noga Linchevsky, Anna Lukashevsky, Rami Maymon, Naama Miller, Michal Na'aman, Elizabeth Peyton, Henry Shlesnyak, Moran Shoub, Jakob Steinhardt, Gal Weinstein, Yael Yudkovik.

I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this slippery world that can hold – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

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