Oded Hirsch “Habaita”
Thierry Goldberg Gallery is pleased to present “nothing new,” the first New York solo exhibition of Oded Hirsch.
In a series of videos and photographs completed over the past few years, Hirsch presents seemingly purposeless collective endeavors, performed in real time, where the focus is more on the process than on the outcome of the undertaking. Questioning the very notion of “togetherness” and utopia, Hirsch produces works that, while profound and political, are also intimate and moving.
Hirsch’s unaffected documentary-style and linear narrative structures are sometimes at odds with the questionable nature of the actions performed on film. In “50 Blue,” Hirsch’s brother pushes his father in a wheelchair through a rugged terrain towards a destination the audience only comes to know at the end—a destination that seems anti-climactic at best. After having been hoisted up onto a high structure along the water’s edge, the paraplegic father is left to appreciate a view (obstructed by a horizontal bar) of the shoreline. In this sense, Hirsch toys with the very idea of accomplishment, interrogating the assumption that whatever was suffered through, despite the effort, was worth it. While something has indeed been achieved, and a certain amount of exertion has resulted from the completion of a particular task (in this case laboring to bring a man in a wheelchair to the top of a lake-side tower), its significance seems unsure.
Nevertheless, if the merit and meaning of such ventures are dubious, it is the event of the endeavor itself that is here under scrutiny. As such, the means, and not the ends, become the site of interest. This is evidenced in “Tochka,” where a crew builds a wooden bridge across a ditch whose construction appears to serve little or no purpose. With no information other than the unfolding of the narrative in real-time, the present moment is the only given. These ideas around time and industry are further examined in “Nothing New,” which illustrates a mission to retrieve an inert parachutist caught between two electrical pylons. The piece is primarily devoted to the activities of a rescue team in their attempt to retrieve the individual. The camera methodically records the drudgery (and moments of rest) that the group experiences and endures. Here, the conflation of the event and the work of art becomes a focal point.
Blurring boundaries in this way is further explored in “Habaita,” where a crowd of Kibbutzniks stands in a boat that is stationary, despite the sound of waves suggesting movement. The incongruence between the audio and the inexplicable immobility of the vessel (there is no sign of an anchor, for example) presents, not without a touch of humor, a feeling of disjointedness. Despite the scene’s apparent staged self-consciousness as the people stand speechless, facing the camera as if posing for a photograph, their unabashed expressions detract from the idea that the whole production is an all-out performance. Art seems to be under the spotlight as much as the people, who themselves alternate as spectators and spectacle. Not unlike the thoughts that might pass through the minds of the audience as they watch the scene unfurl, the questions “Where are we going?” and “What is it all for?” reverberate like the continuous rippling of the breaking waves.
Oded Hirsch was born in 1976 in Kibbutz Afikim, Israel, and currently lives and works in New York. He holds an MFA in Visual Arts from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. His work is currently on view in “The Workers” at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, and will also be included in the forthcoming 2012 Liverpool Biennial, UK. Past exhibitions include the Queens Museum of Art, NY; The Ramat-Gan Museum of Art, Israel; The Jewish Museum, Munich, Germany; HVCCA, Peekskill, NY; Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX; EDS Galeria, Mexico City; and Lesley Heller Workspace, New York, NY. Hirsch is a recipient of the 2011 Jerome Foundation Film Grant; the 2011 Laurie Tisch Illumination Fund Production Grant; the 2010 Six Points Fellowship; the 2009 Artis Exhibition Grant; and the 2009 Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Exhibition Grant. His work was featured in reviews in The New York Times, ARTFORUM, and ARTnews Magazine.