Men Gaze at Water by Shay Zilberman

Photo Credit: Elad Sarig

Shay Zilberman talks about his newest exhibition, which was on display at Tel Aviv Artists’ Studios in February 2018. This project was proudly supported by Asylum’s Small Grants.

The exhibition “Men Gaze at Water” has its roots in a collection of photographs in which men are seen observing water sources (sea, river, lake, canal, pool, fountain). These are taken from books of architecture, albums of technical photos, magazines and nature guides from Israel and abroad. The sources from which the images were taken attest to a material world that is gradually being destroyed and shows the ravages of time. The men are photographed from the back or in profile, and it remains for the observer to decipher their vanished and absent gaze. The manner in which the various men were caught by the camera treats, among other things, the methods of representation of landscapes and gazes as moderated by photography. The various water sources hint at pilgrimage sites, in which there may have been a revelation, a border, or a meeting place. The trio of gazes created in the exhibition will be the connecting thread.

The exhibition strives to generate new processes, and to examine the relationship created between the two-dimensional images and the sculptural objects to be placed in the exhibition space. It invites the observer to stroll through a site whose characteristics hint at an imaginary prayer house or memorial of an invented collective.

In the center stands a stained-glass piece based on the illustration “Moon of Elul”, (1902) by Ephraim Moshe Lilien which was made for the booklet “Songs from the Ghetto” by Yiddish poet Morris Rosenfeld. The booklet contains iconic images from Jewish village life in familiar Art Nouveau style, with Lilien’s signature style.

Moon of Elul

The figure of the wandering Jew that appears in Lilien’s works is here replaced by the figure of the artist looking towards the sea in the background. The changes in the original work raise questions of identity, place and belonging, and connect the figure of the wandering Jew to the collection of men watching a water source. The stained-glass work signifies the entrance to prayer house territory that is at once both imagined and existing, both active and abandoned.

The contrast between the transparent, milky and colorless pieces of stained-glass and between the black copper lines connecting them echoes Lilien’s drawing as a distinctive source of inspiration that is conceptual as well as graphic and will blur the borders between inside and outside.

Across the space a six-wing screen is dividing the room. Two images from the collection depicting two men from two different places and times, simultaneously leaning on a tree, bringing to mind John the Baptist pointing his finger up to the sky, have been scaled and printed on the screen as a mirror image of a reflecting timeless reality.

Wandering Jew
Men Gaze at Water

Inside a wall niche are porcelain body parts embedded with botanical motifs, inspired by the tradition of Ex-Voto – objects referencing a miracle or a healing, tying together the different times, places, and the botanical and physiological morphologies which are in the heart of the exhibition.

porcelain body parts

Photos by Elad Sarig


Upcoming Exhibitions:

March 10: “Souvenirs” opening at the Wilfrid Israel Museum, HaZore’a at 12pm

March 22: “Hunting West” opening at Inga Gallery, Tel Aviv at 8pm

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