Exhibition at Mishkan Museum of Art presents a series of actions performed by Gregory Abou
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Exhibition at Mishkan Museum of Art presents a series of actions performed by Gregory Abou
Gregory Abou (b. 1974, Melun, France), JETESAIS, Chapter 1: Lofoten Archipelago, Norway, 2016, still, video, 16:9. 13 min. Film Editing: Gregory Abou and Erez Pery; Sound Design: Jakob Mäsel. PhotoGregory Abou, 2021.

EIN HAROD .- This exhibition presents for the first time a series of works created by the performance and video artist Gregory Abou (b. 1974, France; lives and works in Tel Aviv) under the title JETESAIS (Iknowyou). The videos present a series of actions performed by Abou from 2016 to 2020 around the world: at the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway; in the Yakushima Forest in southern Japan; at the Ein Ziv nature reserve in western Galilee; and at the Byzantine site of Shivta in the Negev Desert.

Abou, who serves as the director, actor, and cameraman of his films, strives to become part of the natural environment by engaging in personal rituals, forming a connection between the man-made and nature. A wooden gate-like structure marks the transition between the sacred and the profane, like the Japanese Torii gate in the Shinto religious tradition. For Abou, it also signifies movement between continents and allows him to pass from one location to another, drawing them closer: from the pristine forest of Yakushima to the nature reserve of Ein Ziv, and from the snowy terrain of the Arctic Circle to the arid desert site of Shivta. The bowls are another important component in his work, and their arrangement in the exhibition recalls that of the kabbalistic Sefirot (divine emanations). In Shivta, he uses rhythmic brushstrokes to coat one of the bowls, which has broken, with gold leaf, and then smashes it – actions that allude to the kabbalistic notions of the “Breaking of the Vessels” and “Tikkun” (repairing). In addition, Abou refers to the linen robes as Kami (divine wind) and Kesa (referencing a garment of Buddhist monks resewn from tatters).

Abou’s previous series of works, Areyouthere (2009–2014), recorded on the Swedish island of Gotland and by the Dead Sea, dealt with the existential question of proximity to, or distancing from, God. The current series, titled JETESAIS, appears to answer that question. Abou’s work as a whole is representative of the post-secular openness to a wide range of spiritualities. To the venues he chooses, perceived as sacred sites – an old church, a beth midrash, forests and rivers – he has now added the museum space of this exhibition.

The current exhibition is the outcome of Abou’s encounter with the Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod. During the first COVID-19 lockdown in Israel, in May 2020, he was invited to perform inside the Museum, which was closed to the public. The actions he performed in the empty museum halls are featured in the film JETESAIS: The Performance, on view in the adjacent room. Responding to the Museum’s architecture of light, Abou covered the gallery walls in this exhibition with billowing swathes of fabric, thereby turning it into a kind of Tabernacle in the Wilderness, a temporary accommodation or nomadic structure that beckons visitors to gather within it. This is not only an homage to the inspirational architecture of the Museum, but also suggests a new series that the artist is working on, which explores the concept of “home.” This is because, for him, a work of art is always one in the making, and each series springs from its predecessor and nurtures the one that follows.

The exhibition promotes mindfulness and maintains the values of sustainability. The nomadic structure in the exhibition replaces established communal buildings whose validity has been reexamined in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, in the context of the pandemic, the artist’s actions underline the benefit of solitude as a means to reflection.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Israel and the Institut Français d'Israël

Batsheva Goldman-Ida
Guest Co-Curator

Yaniv Shapira
Director and Chief Curator, Co-Curator

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