The title of Hila Laiser-Beja’s new solo exhibition is based on a poem by Leah Goldberg:
"White Days, long as sun rays in the summer.
Tranquility of great loneliness grows across the river.
Windows wide open for a silent blues
Straight and tall bridges between yesterday and tomorrow. "
The notion of loneliness is at the center of the poem, and it is also this sense that the exhibition aims to.
In 2018, Laiser-Beja participated in a residency program in Santa Barbara, USA. Every day she encountered homeless people sleeping on the manicured laws of the groomed city, at the feet of the luxury brand stores.The dissonance between these poles and the sense of estrangement, made her feel close to those homeless.
Dealing with detachment, a sense of fragility and the meaning of home are recurring themes in her work of recent years.
The viewers enter the exhibition space without their shoes. This act of removal takes the audience to another space, where there is a separation between indoors and outdoors. Stepping barefoot into another's backyard.
On a synthetic white grass that spans the entire gallery, lie three figures sculpted on a human scale. They are not aimed to reflect a specific gender or person but rather be "any person."
One figure is covered in a packing cardboard, as a protective cover against the cold and rain. Another figure is curled up in a fetus position, frosted with concrete, as if fossilized. Wild ivy climbs on top another figure, as reminiscent of a visit to a forgotten garden with stone sculptures that nature has taken over.
On the wall there is a drawing in pencil and charcoal, on which a video work is projected. As the viewer wanders around the space and gets closer to the characters, the sound of texts read by their creators is suddenly heard:
Art historian Gideon Ofrat narrates his text "Alone" about artists who spend most of their time in an isolated studio environment, the poem "Kind of Together" by the poet Agi Mishol, and the poem "From the Window" by Ayelet Avni, a creator that directly references the well-known poem by Haim Nachman Bialik.
The motif of Home surfaced frequently in Laiser-Beja’s work of the last decade in various configurations. The man with no home, the feeling of abandonment, the sense of loneliness from within - all these are the anchor of the current exhibition.
Proper Disclosure: I served as a model for one of the characters in the show. We met several times for a few hours where I gradually became a sculpted piece. The hours in the studio sharpened the feeling of isolation, the lingering stay at the studio, the artist with oneself, often with no outside visits. Departure time from the studio, according to Ofrat's text, are sometimes made of strange choices: exhibition openings of other artists, rare meeting opportunities with fellow colleagues, and more rarely than often, visits with curators and collectors.
These hours, when loneliness is seemingly erupted, when someone else enters the artist’s creative space, intensifies the loneliness of the artist. Loneliness may be a fountain for creativity, but on the other hand it is tough. We all experience in one way or another a lack of understanding or alienation from the other and, consequently, loneliness.
The arena that Laiser-Beja creates in this site specific installation is handled various media - video, sound, sculpture, drawing, with specific treatment to the entrances and exits, the windows, as well as the entire floor. A total transformation takes over the space.
The viewer is invited to move around and listen. The act of listening does not encourage a dialogue between the visitors. We are being called to enter the artist’s white days of silence.
The loneliness is being experienced by the representational body sculptures, the white color the alludes to the end, to death, to mourning and absence.
The drawing piece presents a “mind construction”, an attempt to abstract relate to the intricate mysteries of self-thought, to the platform that carries the being of a person, his or her brain and mind. Laiser-Beja’s complex installation outlines the signs of a person, his silences, his words, his thoughts, his loneliness. A total experience through sound, touch of feet on grass, eye sight, and the artist's image within her field of thought.
Efi Gen, Curator, January 2020
Gordon-London House, Municipal Art Gallery, Rishon LeZion, Israel