this issue contains
>> Portrait Cornelia Parker
>> Gerard Byrne: The world is a stage
>> Annelies Strba: Idyllic Worlds
>> Interview: Yehudit Sasportas

>> archive


Yehudit Sasportas
"Simple Mountain", 2002
courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin

In the ’60s, Marshall McLuhan wrote about the phenomenon of the hybrid in the context of media theory. A new entity arises out of the reciprocal effects between different media – a "bastard" characterized by an interaction between disparate elements. What are the various elements joining together in your work to form a hybrid?

Actually, the hybrid is the perfect vehicle for synthesizing the contradictions in my work. As a metaphor, it suggests the coexistence of different codes of origin and perception in a single being, two different DNAs. This finds its formal expression in the use of different media as a variety of different languages interacting in a given piece; it also finds expression in the different ways I approach drawing. In terms of the landscape, I draw directly from nature, engaging in the actual looking and experiencing of what I see. But I also take slides and draw from them in the studio, and these interact with the impression of nature as I remember it. And sometimes I shoot a video and record sound of the same situation and project it while I’m working; in this case, I immerse myself in an artificial situation that refers back to the actual situation that formed the original point of departure for a piece. And so I’m using the studio as a laboratory to juggle different channels of perception, creating a hybrid to play with different distances to the original experience.

Yehudit Sasportas
"The Love Rain", 2006
courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin

This concept of the hybrid plays an important role in your work on a number of levels: there’s an allegorical level in terms of a joining of images otherwise discontinuous in nature, such as the combination of the foliage of different countries and climates in a single, homogenous organism; but there’s also a kind of crossbreeding characterizing the formal development of your work, for instance when you begin exploring an idea in one medium and transpose it into another.

Yes. It’s like when I take a slide of an object’s shadow and project it onto that object and continue working from there. In my early works, I began with an everyday domestic object and rebuilt it; it was like a perpetual rewriting of a single story, with a simultaneity of different times and different levels of perception, an inner dialogue among a multitude of different voices. Later, the idea of the garden became very important in my work, the notion of the tree as an allegory of the human psyche. Here, however, the emphasis is less on the different DNAs and the friction among them than on the overall structure or pattern. If I had a narrative for life, then it would be an inner explosion with an immense scattering of the various particles of the self. And so life’s process becomes motivated by a profound longing to reunite these various parts; this comes to expression in an attachment to different forms and media simultaneously. The result is a hybrid, the appearance of continuity in something that is not continuous. But there’s a kind of scratch in this illusion of reality, and this scratch jars us; it wakes us up and makes us take a closer look.

Yehudit Sasportas
"How did it ever come so far..."
Installation view: Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin, 2001
Photo: © Uwe Walter

Perhaps art’s role is to put us back in touch with the utter improbability of being.

Yes. This scratch in the illusion of reality momentarily separates the object from its name. I expect a good work of art to remind me of my own alienation from the things around me; that I’m no more than a guest in this life. According to Walter Benjamin, the only stage when language still possessed any synchronicity with the world was at the moment of creation; the two have been moving further and further apart ever since.

Hybrid forms bring about a shifting of existing borders that replaces the modernist dichotomies of time, space, and identity. How does this hybrid element determine the construction of meaning in your work?

One aspect that can characterize postmodernism is its distance to an original starting point, in this case nature. On one level, there’s a disconnection from the body; it’s like living in a synthetic body, perceiving yourself within and at the same time removed from your life. Reality can be read from many different angles. One of the early sources of my work were descriptions of mental illnesses. I used these as a source of inspiration to create three-dimensional objects. It wasn’t so much the content of the disease that interested me as the structure it created in the brain. There is a disease in which the brain starts losing its ability to distinguish between different sounds; it is a disturbance in sound balance that gives equal significance to everything at once.

Yehudit Sasportas
"The Carpenter and the Seamstress II", 2001
Installation view: Deitch Projects, New York
courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin

And so sanity consists in the degree with which we are able to screen out a large degree of what we’re perceiving at any given moment.

Yes, exactly. And the people who lose this ability go crazy. Everything is perceived with the same intensity.

In terms of structure, it’s an overall pattern without any clear hierarchy. You seem concerned with creating an installation without a center, in which everything possesses an equivalent meaning.

Yes, and this brings Robert Altman’s Short Cuts to mind – it’s no longer a question of a main actor or key scene, but an intricate interconnectedness among everything. This was his genius: that each little story held the same significance. When I began combining imagery from various different sources and unifying it all in a kind of overall diagram, I was concerned with flattening it out to create a larger, more transparent view.

Yehudit Sasportas
"The Carpenter and the Seamstress I", 2000,
Installation view: Tel Aviv Museum of Art
courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin

A good example of this is your installation The Carpenter and the Seamstress, shown in 2002 at the Kunsthalle Basel, probably your best-known work.

This also began quite simply. I was building a model of the floor plan of my parents’ house. And then I built it the size of the installation. One morning when I arrived at the studio, two of the walls had caved in. And I suddenly thought that this was a fantastic idea. So I opened it up like a box, ironing the images out, but still retaining a certain depth – the somewhat paradoxical depth of a two-dimensional image that consists in the enormous energy a pattern can convey. I worked on the installation for one and a half years, playing with the elements as though they were huge cards that described my life somehow. The structure is minimalist, but at the same time it contains all this narrative information – in another kind of hybrid.

Yehudit Sasportas
"Chemical Garden I", 2000
courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin

[1] [2] [3]