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

>> archive


You built an entire installation from your personal history.

I always lived in two worlds – the modern, mediated life of the western world, and the immediacy of experience in the world at home. My parents came to Israel from Morocco in 1967. We used to live in a modern habitation unit built in the ’60s. From the outside it looked very anonymous; at that time, Israeli architecture sought to convey a uniform society. Our neighbors came from all over the world; outside was desert. I can still remember coming home from school and entering these anonymous projects, which inside resembled a crazy theater: on the first floor there were people from India, on the second from Morocco, then people from Russia, from Georgia, and the only thing that connected them was the fact of being Jewish. This was like a 3-D simulation of a postmodernist structure. The more people feel disconnected, the more they need to compensate, to emphasize the culture they come from. Carpets on the wall, but far too many of them. It was always a bit exaggerated. The more they felt disconnected, the more there was.

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

Your work is filled with images that resemble bar codes and diagrams. What are those strange shapes that look like two cabbages?

There were six of us children at home. My father was a carpenter and my mother a seamstress. And there was always a great deal of chaos at home, as you’d expect from six children playing. And so my mother used to say: "Listen, this isn’t Sweden here."

This seemed like a very strange sentence to me. What did it mean? For many years, I had no idea what she meant. To her mind, I think, Sweden was a kind of place where everything functions perfectly. Perhaps she was reminding us that we didn’t have servants to pick up after us. And so Sweden became a kind of key concept for me. And one day I took a slide of the map of Sweden in an atlas and traced the outline; then I moved the slide projector a little bit and drew it again, and again. Eventually, you have something that resembles two cabbages.

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

A highly abstract form that only you can read.

Yes, like a geometry of emotion written in a secret code. I had a diary as a child. But we didn’t have a lot of privacy at home, and one day I caught my sister reading my diary. It was my first experience with exposure, with the need to conceal, but then I developed a more sophisticated form of revenge. I started creating diagrams describing the emotional situations in our family in a kind of code that nobody else could understand. I had a lot of notebooks filled up with these lines. I was looking for a very simple language, and I invented a system that resembled a bar code but that was, in fact, a kind of transcription of very intimate experience. My family was always a great inspiration for my work in terms of its internal relationships. I developed survival techniques as a child; when the whole family was sitting around the table and I felt the tension between the individual members, I’d disconnect myself from my body and view the entire situation from above. Drawing the situation from this perspective helped me to deal with that. When my mother heard my lecture one time, she asked: was it all really that horrible? And I said no, it’s just the way I perceived it at the time.

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