In this feature, Moran Kliger shares with us how she came to explore the complex array of translations and interpretations of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, a small, but influential story that embodies the struggle between compliance and acceptance versus rebellion and defiance. She explores how we, the viewers, re-engage with it from our contemporary point of view.
‘Cain’ will be on view starting Thursday, May 15, at Noga Gallery in Tel Aviv.
At my most recent one-person exhibition, “Seven Primates” (Basis Gallery, Herzliya, 2018), I displayed drawings of apes as images that were taken out of their natural environment and embedded in situations referencing familiar Old- and New Testament scenes. The work on that exhibition introduced me to a complex religious, mythical world and culture of primeval myths and representations that I felt I wanted to further explore.
Cain, 70×100 cm
Over the past two years, I have been researching and working on a new project that centers on the biblical story of Cain and Abel among other things, through Christian commentaries that present it as prefiguring the New Testament’s events and protagonists. The story of the first murder in human history is actually a tale of revenge and morality, guilt, and the struggle for acceptance, freedom, and sacrifice, life, and truth. The story appears at the beginning of the Book of Genesis (Chapter 4) in a concise and economic manner, opening the door to many different and diverse interpretations.
Left: Abel (the good shepherd) 100×70 cm, right: Abel (Nimrod) 100×70 cm
The story of Cain and Abel begins with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, after which they became mortal beings. At the core of both stories stands the question of choice – compliance and acceptance versus rebellion and defiance. The works in the exhibition explore the image of Cain and Abel, who to me represent one entity expressing the tension between the two forces in man: morals and urges, logic and emotions, forgiveness and vengeance. The exhibition offers a visual interpretation of Cain and Abel’s story as a large-scale allegorical drawing installation, evocative of an altarpiece. The works themselves incorporate abstract shapes that turn into detailed figuration – abstract ink stains that at times hide a more figurative world and other times complement it. The drawings depict a religiously complex mythological world, based on ancient cultural representations and stories, and I hope to encourage viewers to engage in re-reading. The entire exhibition is an attempt to disrupt mythology as we usually encounter it in different cultural representations and formulate an alternative iconography.
The exhibition is on display at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv, curated by the independent contemporary art curator Sally Haftel Naveh.