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Niches, 1991

For this installation I chose the corridor of the art department at the Bezalel Academy. This space had 5 niches, all of them full with junk left by students. The corridor leading to all the different studios was a ‘lost’ space. We used it all the time but it was a functional space and nothing else. I decided to change this state of things and transform it into a special place of contemplation. To this effect I emptied the niches and added big wooden frames over which I stretched plastic sheets. I had already created in my second and third year two big installations using wood and plastic sheets to transform the architecture of the space,but now this material had gained a new significance in view of its use for the sealed rooms during the First Gulf War which broke out in January 1991.
It was not anymore just a convenient material, it had now an unsettling (unheimlich) feeling to it and it was not easy to use it.

I wanted to create a ‘total’ artificial environment enhanced by pink neon light breaking the boring functionality of this corridor as I questioned both the estrangement of the art academy (or the art world) from its surroundings (the Arab village of Silwan which I could observe but which I never entered) and the dichotomy between the art world and everyday reality.
The artificial world I created had references to art history and to childhood landscapes and traumas. In each niche I created a specific space, covering floor, walls and ceiling, using kitsch objects, posters of Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Galactea, a real cactus planted in a plastic pot, an aquarium with a plastic mermaid, a golden mirror, music and a death mask.

In this very early work I was dwelling into the ‘here and now’ of art and into the place of personal biography, questions that later would never stopped to come up in my art.

Ariane Littman