Since 2003, Michal Rovner has worked extensively with old stones collected throughout the Middle East. These stones have served as a support or substrate for the artist’s text-like video images of rows of human figures repeating simple actions. In this marriage between video and surface “the text” takes on the effect of time as it resides on the ancient stone.
In 2006, Michal Rovner began a series of large-scale works titled Makom (Place). Rovner has collected building stones from the remains of old Israeli and Palestinian houses from places like Jerusalem, Galilee, Haifa, Nablus, and Hebron. In a crossover between sculpture, architecture, and archeology, these new works are simple, nearly cubic structures assembled from these stones. Makom II measures approximately 11.5’ x 16’ x 16’. One of the structure’s four walls has a vertical gap from top to bottom; the gap is wide enough to look through, too thin to enter.
Rovner and her crew of Israeli and Palestinian masons employ traditional building techniques that require no mortar, but rather the nearly perfect fitting of the stones—stone to stone, row to row, and wall to wall. Finding the perfect piece to fit the artist’s increasingly complex puzzle, which she devises as she goes along, requires an archeological search through countless dusty piles. Without cutting or changing the stones’ shape or measurement, Rovner creates a 60 ton puzzle, a coherent construction, an intricate collage. Although each perfect piece must be a specific size and shape, each brings with its form many histories, places and times.
With the intention that the construction will undergo geographical changes, Rovner numbers each stone, a classical archeological technique, enabling the work to be deconstructed and re-constructed anywhere in the world. Proceeding across the closely knit rows of stone, the numbers tie the stones permanently to their new formation, while simultaneously asserting their individual biographies.
The first work, Makom, was recently exhibited in Beyond Limits: Sotheby’s at Chatsworth, the British noble house in Derbyshire, England in 2007.
Michal Rovner (b. 1957, Israel) studied cinema, television, and philosophy at Tel-Aviv University and received a B.F.A. in photography and art at the Bezalel Academy. In 1978, she co-founded Tel Aviv’s Camera Obscura Art School for studies in photography, video, cinema, and computer art. Ten years later, she moved to New York City.
At a November 2007 ceremony in New York City, the American Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF) presented Rovner with the Aviv Award in recognition for her achievements in the Arts.
Michal Rovner’s prolific work in video and film, as well as on paper and canvas, has been the subject of over fifty solo exhibitions. In 2005, Rovner was the subject of her first museum show in France when the Jeu de Paume, Paris presented an exhibition entitled Fields. Sylvère Lotringer, a professor of French literature and philosophy at Columbia University, New York, was among the scholars who contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue. At the same time, the Festival d’Automne, the annual citywide arts celebration, featured Fields of Fire, a collaboration specifically commissioned for the event between Michal Rovner and German composer Heiner Goebbels.
Rovner’s other major solo exhibitions include Fields of Fire (2006) and In Stone (2004) at PaceWildenstein, New York; Against Order? Against Disorder? (2003), the acclaimed exhibition featured at the Israeli Pavilion during the 50th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2003); and Michal Rovner: The Space Between, a 2002 mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Some of Michal Rovner’s site specific video installations include Living Landscape (2005), a permanent twelve meter high video wall at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem; Overhang (2000), a site-specific installation at the Chase Manhattan Bank on Park Avenue in New York City; and Overhanging (1999) at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Further video installations include Untitled Paris 2003 (2004) at LVMH Headquarters, Paris and Mutual Interest (1997) at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1997), Tate Gallery, London (1997), and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (1999).
Rovner’s films have been screened internationally at several museums. Notes (2001), collaboration with composer Philip Glass, was featured at the Lincoln Center Festival 2001, New York, and the Barbican Theater, London. Rovner’s film Border (1997) premiered at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and received over a dozen subsequent screenings at major international venues including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Gallery, London; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Michal Rovner’s work is in over thirty permanent collections worldwide, including the Agfa Collection, Cologne; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Bohen Foundation, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Jewish Museum, New York; Lambert Art Collection, Geneva; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée des Beaux Arts, Calais, France; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Paris Audiovisuel (Collection de la Ville de Paris); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Tel Aviv Museum; Polaroid Collection, Boston; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.