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Dana Yoeli in a successful sculpture exhibition, Divided into two parts: a solid concrete commemoration wall and plenty of porcelain miniatures. Both parts deal with grotesque death//Galia Yahav

On Dana Yoeli’s Leviathan


When entering the gallery the view is interrupted and the space is blocked. A large concrete wall stands as an autonomic commemoration wall or a memorial for an unknown soldier.                             The wall is a relief made in the vulgar manner of commemoration aesthetic, so common in our place, which is accepted in Israel as an architectural element of the 1960’s and on.

It is a severe screen, monochromatic, pore less, abstract, geometric – not breathing – it almost lacks the list to its side stating the names, in the heritage of these memorial walls.

On the other side of the wall there is an arrangement of ply wood columns, blending with the gallery floor, as if emerging from it. The general view appears as a tombstone-filled cemetery made of living, breathing and decaying material.

On top of the columns lay porcelain-like figurines, some bone-white, others colorful, all depicting what seem to be pastoral nature scenes: animals, rocks and tree trunks. A second glance reveals each of the scenes contains an exotic, grotesque catastrophe. These are in fact wild horror scenes depicting men’s defeat to nature.  By inverting the civilatory myth of conquering nature, in Yoeli’s scenes man is always defeated, a victim that never survives.

The miniatures describe types of deaths: dismembered, bleeding organs, stabbings by unclear objects (transforming the victims into a sort of unicorn), cropped heads and skulls thrown on the ground as rocks, buried beneath ruins. In one scene a wolf lays its sweet paw over a bleeding dismembered leg, its’ pack members running below, in another a bear lethargically looks at a plucked arm thrown over rocks. Those horrific death stories are shocking and humiliating (also) because the animals continue to appear in their cute “porcelainic” positions, in their empty gazes, paw-lickings, in the playfulness of their habits.                   The contrast between the appalling content and the sweet, un-threatening form is an effective one.                          In each figurine a surprising new horror is revealed, every mise-en-scène tells a great drama, a struggle for life and death and agonizing torment in a different way.

The exhibition is divided in two halves completely opposite of each other: the brutalistic cold style of the memorial wall is meant for public spaces, for the outdoors, the public domains, for the national commemoration, the Israeli wars. It is the most distant style of the porcelain-like figures. Unlike the austerity of the wall, the secular drama and masculine heroics of it – the miniatures are mincing. 

They are sentimental genre sculptures, connected to homey glass displays, to unrestrained taste, to a complete rejection of the modernist idea. They are sensual and appear as the perfect hybrid between the Grimm brothers and the Chapman brothers, representing a decadent fantasy, luscious and insatiable.

The porcelain culture is historically connected to European bourgeoisie, producing regal objects in lesser qualities and grace. Today they are objects of the lowest class, bought in dollar shops, decorating teenage girls’ rooms.

The design of the space is ravishing in its preciseness.                                                                                              The impressive wall matches the concrete ceiling of the gallery, the pedestals match the floor.                               The meticulous attention is both on general atmosphere and the small details, and the impression is of a complete installation, formalistically and thematically, when the overall impression is of an accurate portrayal of necrophilia.

The work is an intelligent expression of the “anti-sublime”, of the fetishization of death in its various forms. Yoeli has succeeded in creating a convincing space, that includes monumental sculpture as well as miniature sculpture, both dealing with the décor of death, and demonstrated in a profound manner how death is their basic infrastructure and their raison d’être. It is because of that that each of these two elements also functions as the others’ sublimation, conjoined with no answer to the question which of the two is the euphemism that covers the other’s vulgar brutality.


Timeout TLV, March 10 2011

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