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"Ilana Salama Ortar: Encapsulation" on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Ilana Salama Ortar, Encapsulation, Drawing Installation, 2013.

By: Irith Hadar

TEL AVIV.- Ilana Salama-Ortar's "autobiographical" work is anchored in formative experiences of uprooting, refugeeism, and wandering, and with them—in the insight that identity is an ongoing, unending process which nourishes itself via processes of accumulation and selection. These residues of the past have spawned in Salama-Ortar a sensitivity to conditions of powerful intervention from above in people's lives and suspension of the law (under the guise of a "state of emergency"), which sanctions social exclusion as well as physical and political uprooting. Her works are thus conceived in the context of places—absent places that have become realms of yearning—and are implemented in sites with an "emergency" history, places which constitute and have constituted an absence.

The act of drawing is woven into Salama-Ortar's everyday as an anchor of stability. Obeying a given format, her drawings are spawned by oscillation between concealment and perusal. Some of the drawings in the exhibition (Urban Traces; Chords-Marks, Tel Aviv-Jaffa) feature geometrical sections—traces of presences and structures which did not survive in the urban fabric, yet form a city's mental mapping. In others (Land without Earth and Corporeal Memory; Palimpsest) the expression is physical, burrowing and wounding, engraving and scratching, bringing to the fore the paper's empty-voided immanence. Both modes of expression are intended to present the act of erasure, which silences and dooms to oblivion whenever one truth gives way to another, which denies-censors the former. On the paper, however, the revealing erasure presents-fixes nothingness and the absence of the erased.

The drawing installation Encapsulation, comprising numerous elements from previous actions and installations, is akin to a capsule which holds an extract of Salama-Ortar's entire oeuvre. Although it is located inside the museum institution, inside the white cube of the gallery, isolated and detached from the emergency sites and the personal trauma that set it in motion, the installation nevertheless annexes some of the museum's qualities as a site of observation and openness to the elusive poetic element; a place which indeed cuts projects (present and past) off from the historical sequence, but only to frame and conceptualize the passions and traumatic experiences, and thereby discuss the innate tension between the state of emergency and the work of art.

The exhibition si on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art until February 22, 2014.

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