- by Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly, 2014
- Read the Hebrew Translation
Such is the first law of Ilit Azoulay’s METHOD. As such, this method does not seem or even appear to engage in the production of an artwork. In truth, it offers no fixed frame for an eventual work of art. It does not even constitute itself as a “condition of possibility” for any artistic creation. Rather than commanding a structure, a determined and established orientation for ART, it leaves the ARTIST aimless, wandering, erring in spaces where each action, each gaze, each movement, every single artistic gesture is infinitely and incessantly questioned and re- questioned. This method first leaps into a perpetual search for its own objects and then it ventures into unending research on WHY this object occurred as it occurred. It does not create objects but rather discloses HOW an object has come about and shows why and how this disclosure gives itself as art. Searching for its objects and researching without end the non-appearing sources of their occurrence, the “double law” of this method invents a wholly other SPHERE where the objects and their histories happen WITHOUT method. As if objects and their histories were happening outside, before and beyond any and all space-time coordinates. As if thus objects and their histories required other performatives irreducible to the spatio-temporal synchronicity and, cast outside this synchronicity, they, the objects and their histories, finally reveal themselves WITHOUT END.
This is the over-arching idea that emerges in one’s mind as one listens to Azoulay speak and move around, almost ambling, perhaps dancing, sometimes even stumbling about her OBJECTS and their HISTORIES. As she “shows” us these objects crowding the studio space (are they still objects, these objects, that are more like TRACES of objects … ?) — broken pieces of walls from demolished buildings containing countless other objects (belt buckles, nails, fruit shavings, plastic receptacles, just about everything which no longer has any use or utility … ), but also coins collected from abandoned factories, papers dispersed here and there, retrieved from dated or undated notebooks, and photographs, thousands of photographs, with no order but each encrypting dark and evanescent secrets — one can only feel the profound pull, stronger than that of gravity, which draws Azoulay to make them SPEAK, in their own words, both loudly and quietly, with their own phrases, as if these “objects” have always been the orators. And orators they are — infinite orators; that is, orators capable of speaking significantly MORE and MORE, more profoundly and more resourcefully than whatever we could possibly tell. For each of these “objects” tells singular histories. Curious reversal here: whereas we were only able to tell HISTORY, the grand historical line where epochs are fixed between a beginning point and a teleological dénouement, between catastrophes and their resumptions, this History whose continuity is always assured by ruins and reconstructions — these “objects” open perhaps to another SAYING than the one translatable and already foreseeable as the tale, the legend, the saga of such a History. They contain the SUPPLEMENT, unseen and unperceivable, of singularities, working OTHERWISE than according to the set structure of chrono- historico-logical epochs. They contain, in themselves, that which has NOT YET been narrated in History, projecting our we outside the used and used-up motifs of resolution, depiction, delineation, illustration.
And Azoulay exposes herself to these singular and countless histories. She revolves, without release, around these singular and countless histories of objects. She offers, here, the PLACE where these histories and their singularities can be TOLD in all their resources, their power, their fragility, their uniqueness. And giving this place — which is not limited to the confines of her studio, much like her exposed works will EXCEED the walls and the frontiers of any exhibition — means, for Azoulay, to use FORCE. Not a brutal or raw force, but not a gentle or a weak one either. For Azoulay does not so much shape, construct, comprehend, grasp or seize the “objects” as bring them to their LANGUAGE by suggesting that they incessantly ADDRESS more than they articulate or communicate or express. Indeed, these forms of articulation, communication, expression already appear as poor and impoverished. Already appear as insufficient. Azoulay insists on “objects” speaking in FORMS untranslatable to such propositional forms. Forms untranslatable to any form. Their forms UNDO their NAMES as well as their FUNCTIONS. As if beyond names and functions occurred other, irreducible SERIES of MEANINGS which, not immediately visible, lay hidden and already twitching in the interstices of these “objects.” Such hidden series of meanings bring us closer to the EVENT in Azoulay’s “objects.” This event does not give itself through the DRAMA of events. It is, if we can still say of it that “it is,” an event which opens to questions and further questions on the event:
Who and what can capture the EVENT?
Where and when can one capture the EVENT?
Why capture the EVENT?
Three questions juxtaposed. This juxtaposition of questions on the event, on its possibility and/or impossibility, emerges from the modality through which Azoulay exposes her “objects” and their histories. What remains secret in this exposition of “objects” is not only its inherent organization or composition, but also the OPENING it gives or the “effect” it produces. When Azoulay arranges the exhibition of her “objects,” what is produced is the fragility of these self-imploding questions on the event. Why self-imploding? For these questions show precisely that there is no source or resource, or, better yet, that there are infinite sources and resources, from which the event of ART occurs. In a certain sense, Azoulay shows, by juxtaposing her “objects” and their histories, that no one source or resource, and consequently no one historical narrative, can suffice to grasp the occurrence of the “objects.” Only an undetermined intertwining of ORIGINS can open to the thought, the view, the very exhibition of the “objects.” Which means: never do the “objects” and their histories appear, nor can they ever appear, in their “authenticity,” nor do they show themselves as “inauthentic.” The “objects” and their histories participate in an incessant self-implosion of their own occurrence, outside the binomial authentic-inauthentic, true-false, fake-genuine formalism — as if an UNDIFFERENTIATED modality exposes the “objects.” Azoulay always deploys her “objects” and their histories without enframing them in the lyrical outburst of the “authentic” or in the condemnation of the “inauthentic.” For her method always and already undoes these frames — slashes and destroys these enclosures as it projects the “objects” in themselves beyond themselves, where neither “authenticity” nor “inauthenticity” has a claim. Rather, her method claims: This “object” is not only an “object,” it is an occurrence of indeterminations, layers and traces contradicting themselves where no time is wasted on a resolution.
The WHO, the WHAT, the WHERE, the WHEN, the WHY of the event are always and already emptying out the event. One must meditate this phrase patiently when facing Azoulay’s exposed “objects.” For these “objects” cry out this axiom. They empty out not only their past or their present or their future as if these were separate moments, simple qualities of the “objects,” but PROJECT these temporalities toward their own opening as the MULTIPLICATION of singular temporalities within them, that is toward their EACH-TIME-SINGULAR LIVES. Azoulay’s “objects” contain each-time-singular lives — some visible, some invisible, some coming to a visibility, some retracting from any visibility. A PLAY. Not between light and dark, between shown or hidden, but as the bare exposition of BOTH the light and the dark, the shown and the hidden — and otherwise entirely.
Spaces and Traces
Azoulay lets her gaze scour the lost, abandoned, forgotten as well as the planned, intended, foreseen spaces. The WORLD thus. The world that was, the world that is, the world that comes. Indiscriminately. Her gaze stops unknowingly and unpredictably on such and such a space, past and future spaces — a building soon to be razed to the ground, the cracks in a wall growing greater and greater year after year, the plaques on the walls commemorating the place of a memorable event, the reconstructed buildings standing on the ruins of destroyed structures—which, far from enclosing her gaze, liberate within it countless other gazes. And Azoulay never ceases to put the gazes in her gaze to the test, to the question, so to speak. As in the summer of 2013, when she traveled from Israel to Germany, from her studio in Jaffa to the KW in Berlin, and without reserve exposed her method yet again, this time applying it to a place, a space, a horizon and a territory which SEEMS different, seems radically other, some would even say opposed, but which—such is Ilit Azoulay’s clear sight—also reveals the same infinite return of differences which is to be found in EVERY place, space, horizon and territory. What, then, separates Israel and Germany? What opposes between these two names? Rather than posing this question and falling into the facility of psycho-sociological comparison of mentalities, rather than setting one place as other to the other, as opposed to one another or even as identical to each other, Ilit Azoulay shows how every place bears singularities which make all styles of evaluation, from identification to differenciation, IMPOSSIBLE. The displacement BETWEEN Israel and Germany creates in these two places infinite and countless, unarchivable yet always in some manner archived, OTHER SPACES; it opens to OTHER TRACES. Not only does it permit or allow a renewed gaze—yet another gaze—on the relation between the “artifice” and the “original,” it also, courageously and unambiguously, inscribes in this renewed gaze multiplied gazes—that is, the irrevocable invention of an indeterminacy where no one space can claim authenticity, property, ownness over another, and where all traces incessantly wither away. By doing so it reveals the phantasm of authenticity both in the old Europe and in the young Israel. Hence, EVERYTHING and NOTHING separates or identifies the names GERMANY and ISRAEL. Such is the radical REVELATION of singularities. And Azoulay tirelessly SEES this revelation. She incessantly revolves around the voiding of the structure and an economy of revelation where only ONE event is appropriable as such according to the logic of originarity AND, at the same time, around the always and already multiple revelations of countless singularities destroying all or any system of proprietorship and appropriation, authenticity and ownness, originarity and originality. In all spaces and traces. In showing the artifice of the so-called authentic and inversely by presenting the perdition of authenticity through artifice, Azoulay insists on the meaninglessness of both the authentic and the artifice. And her emphasis is, in this manner, pointing to all places, here and there, in Germany and in Israel, for example. In Germany, by showing how the quest for the “authentic” (in its architectural constructions, which are also reconstructions) could recall and invoke, call for and demand an entire economy of “artificiality”; and in Israel, by showing how the “artificiality” of its constructions, even their “inauthenticity,” could be a perpetual sign or movement capable of voiding all pretensions to any “authenticity.” This double bind, tirelessly working away without NEGATIVITY, what could it also give POSITIVELY? Between the “authentic” and the “inauthentic”—that is, otherwise than according to this dichotomy which has become so banal and which has always, then and now, impeded, obstructed, blocked thinking and the possibility of thinking—what would or could arrive? What would occur when both the “authentic” and the “inauthentic” are no longer there to gather and receive the “ARRIVANT,” the “COMING”? That is, what would occur as a POSITIVITY beyond the NEGATIVE?
Perhaps the Other than Event.
Can we conclude? Azoulay’s ART would perhaps never allow an interruption and thus something like a conclusion. Perhaps the search here can and must ONLY reiterate itself and repeat the gesture of deploying differences beyond and before they constrict and restrict themselves in the gift of an event. Perhaps the force of this ART is that it opens the world, the “objects” in the world, to a FURTHERING never yet seen where unfolding and unfolding would always further differences. Not suspension, but perpetuation. Not interruption, but continuation. Redefining the event, projecting the event to that which refuses to be simply thought as a beginning point or inversely as a concluding closure, but rather is that which always and already renews the occurrence of multiplied events, without beginning and without end: a beginning-less and endless voyage in the world and within the irreappropriable and innumerable vicissitudes of the world, amongst the “objects” of the world …
Joseph Cohen, Ph.D., philosopher, is a lecturer at the University College Dublin, Ireland.
Raphael Zagury-Orly, Ph.D., philosopher, is head of the MFA program at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.