Einat Amir’s video installation takes place at the Joe Alon Center in the Negev. Sitting in the middle of a Bedouin tent in a tailored suit, the artist lists names of artists she knows. The work is divided into five episodes which unite to form a single film.
Amir’s work unfolds in a cultural center which explores the notion of “otherness” under the classical colonialist model: named after an IDF pilot, the museum celebrates “exotic” Bedouin culture. At the core of this cultural enterprise, which evokes esotericism and provinciality, Amir positions herself as a crude cultural implant, a prosthesis for the barren discourse taking place in it. The site is typified by vivid coloration, the aroma of coffee, and the sounds of its grinding, but Amir introduces a new, foreign color into this set in her own figure: a young artist, a lesbian woman.
The recitation of artist names known to Amir occurs on set as an act of factual recitation. She is making a discernible effort to pronounce their names accurately as well as to remember them all. Her tone of voice indicates that she is satisfied when she succeeds in recalling as many names as possible in a sequence. With regard to some of the names she makes various comments that tie her with the figures, albeit never art-related comments. One may say that Amir endeavors to generate a genealogical structure of the local art scene, provocatively. Initially it appears as though the name-dropping will be characterized by some modus, possibly a narrative, or fall into some coherent statement in terms of movements, perceptions, or even doctrines. But this is not the case. The artist names are uttered in an entirely arbitrary manner, associatively and offhandedly. Under this random, deconstructed structure, however, a personal statement is devised about local cliques, anti-artistic socio-hierarchical structures, in a manner underlain by a fair bit of humor and self-criticism. Thus the name dispersal seems to spawn a text which undermines canonical hierarchy, while generating a new hierarchy at whose top the artist situates herself.
The result is an accumulation of names which activates the viewer only if he is a part of that restricted inner world which Amir describes. The very same sense of total strangeness elicited by the list of names is experienced by the figure of the Bedouin man standing next to Amir in the film, at whom the viewer looks, as if seeking salvation, or possibly a response, a sign of belonging. He belongs to the place, yet is foreign to the words; he feels at home on the set, yet planted between the lines as an extra, as a mute object. Amir’s tranquil pose begins to crack in view of his passive presence which becomes mutely active, a muteness that will gradually grow as the film progresses.
The restricted, local, artistic structure constructed by Amir via the accumulation of names is complemented in both endings of the film by an oppressive sense. In her first ending, the artist climbs onto a camel and is led by its owners towards the horizon which signifies macabre emptiness at the heart of the work, as Elvis’s You were Always On My Mind is heard in the background; in the second ending, which was also isolated from the film’s sequence, and is presented here as a separate work, Amir is seen in a lengthy kiss, apparently with a man, photographed in cyclical motion, like a quote from a romantic film, yet displaying difficulty and distress. As the kiss drags on, it becomes more and more disturbing to watch and highly unsettling. This ending reinforces Amir’s preoccupation with the national situation, leaving the viewer, who becomes an “everyviewer,” confused and with contradictory feelings. All the work’s undecipherable texts are abruptly pushed aside, and their absence is replaced by the presence of a disconcerting act.