The Jerusalem Post
When a box is not just a box
The Negev Museum of Art features Adi Fluman’s new exhibit
Whether we live in a binary world or not has become something of a moot matter. Gender issues, for example, have certainly contributed to blurring what were previously viewed as cast iron demarcation lines in recent years. The web-generated “global village” has also led to a more formulaic perception of the world around us. But there also seems to be a tendency today to reject clear-cut categorization while seeking to cling to some kind of neatly defined roots-based identity.
The yin-and-yang, ebb-and-flow dynamic is also present in the virtual vs tangible world that increasingly continues to inform our existence on terra firma, particularly in a post-pandemic world. While lockdown followed lockdown, many of us became accustomed to living life vicariously through our computer or cellphone screens. We ordered our vittles from our local supermarket online, studied and kept in touch – from around the world or even across the neighborhood – via WhatsApp and Zoom. And the latter made it possible to enjoy some “live” entertainment, while offering artists a means of earning a crust and restoring a little public exposure in the process.
The concept of that balancing act, between computer-enabled products and the corporeal world, is central to Adi Fluman’s Pandora’s Box exhibition currently up and running at the Negev Museum of Art in Beersheba. It was curated by Dr. Dalia Manor, who served as the museum’s director and chief curator for a decade before leaving last December, with the help of assistant curator Nirit Dahan.
It is a fascinating, almost mysterious, spread that harbors more than initially meets the eye. Considering the exhibition title, that is a given.
When you see the works, such as Brooch – in fact, the full moniker is Untitled (Brooch) – there are more parenthetical add-ons where that came from – you do a double take. You straightaway sense there is something visually and texturally different about the image, although at first glance it is difficult to pin it down.
What appears to be a densely intertwined downy braid arrangement, pierced by a pin, is actually a printout, albeit a state-of-the-art high-quality one. There is also the prominent element of the deliciously varnished wooden
frame around the hair which, too, is a 2D image.
Fluman’s creative process involves making 3D models using computer software that are printed out and presented in frames she designs. She neatly terms her works “inkjet-printed digital sculptures in artist frames.”
There are seeming dichotomies wherever you look across the exhibition, which incorporates works Fluman created over the past half a dozen or so years, the majority of which were previously presented to the public. The three earlier roll-outs include Bottleneck, which the artist put together for her MFA graduation project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem; The Perfect Lamina, from 2017, showcased at the Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv; and Souvenir d’amitié (2020), which premiered at CCA – Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv.
The Pelvis exhibit is another visually misleading case in point. Dahan observes that Fluman has played along several cognitional planes with the work: textual, visual and conceptual.
“This, obviously, has several features of the human body, and she primarily took things that support.” There is, fittingly, a flipside to that too. “There are elements that support and are supported. Our body leans on the pelvis when we sit, stand and even lie down,” says Dahan.
THERE IS a great deal of thematic, and disciplinary, leapfrogging threaded through Pandora’s Box.
“What Adi has done here is to introduce a change in the function,” Dahan continues. “This has the shape of a pelvis, but it really looks like a sculpture, like a sort of vase. There is a transparency to it, but it is also opaque, and it sort of sparkles. That doesn’t really exist in our bones. Our bones are very warm.”
Therein, says the assistant curator, lies an intriguing oxymoronic element.
“There is this contrariety in Adi’s work, between warmth and coldness.” That also refers to the means Fluman employed to produce the series.
“There is the coldness of the modeling computer application but, at the end of the day, she imbues them with warmth, using the light and shade. You can see that really clearly in this work,” Dahan says, heading in the direction of a particularly intricate exhibit. “This work is different, which is really a mattress,” she notes as we pass by an outsized print that looks like a springy, dusty bed component that would give way easily to even the slightest hand pressure.
The item Dahan was actually referencing looked like something you might find slung in the musty corner of a plumber’s spare-parts shed.
“You can see the down of the thyroid gland. But it doesn’t look like a neck. It looks like some kind of plumbing pieces. You can really see the parts of the neck – the esophagus and the trachea. But we can still see the cooling of the bones.” The bodily artificial dialogue comes into play once again. “These are body parts but they look synthetic and rigid.”
There is more in the way of thematic oscillation.
“Look at the backdrop of the work,” Dahan. “It is like a frame, or a physical background. It is like I’m putting my neck into a frame, or on a wall,” she suggests.
That is a highly evocative notion, and there are plenty more multi-stratified suggestive sentiments throughout the exhibition, which fills both floors of the museum building.
The double-entendre intent pops up all over the show, as Fluman takes us into all manner of imagined, virtual, historical and visceral domains. Untitled (Toolbox) keeps the observer guessing for a while, before you are drawn into the 2D innards of the said receptacle, which looks for all the world to made of hardened wood. As you hone in on the print, you discern more and more implements that, it is said, were regular fixtures of any self-respecting noblewoman’s makeup kit in the 18th century. Again, there is a subtext to be gleaned here.
“When you look at this from the point of view that Adi gives us, you notice things which are not purely related to beauty,” says Dahan. “You see a bit of a wound. You see this nail file which looks like a spear, for example. Once again, we see the polarization in her work.”
Fulman often takes her creative reference points from virtual domains, scouring the Internet for images that prick her curiosity and send her off to delve ever more deeply into the backstory of the artefact in question, researching and reimagining how the work came into being, what its initial purpose was and who used it. There is an enticing fabric-based printout from 17th-century France – about which Fulman was unable to obtain too much information – that neatly leaves the viewer to invest their own thoughts and feelings in the display. Not a bad way to capture the public’s attention.
As the exhibition title infers, you never know what you might find when you start digging.
runs until July 10.