The story of Sweat Shops in the first person
The exhibition was born out of a calculation I performed about seven years ago. The idea was to divide the total income that I earned from making art - from the sale of works, as well as scholarships and awards - by the number of hours I estimated that I had spent working on my art during that same period of time. The resulting income was more or less identical to that of a sweatshop worker in eastern Asia, earning between 50 cents to a dollar per hour.
Remembering this calculation, I was inspired to create a momentary disruption in the customary practice of the art trade, by which the artists spend long hours in their studio not knowing if they will ever get paid for their work. If and when their works are sold they are in fact being paid retroactively, sometimes after many years, and in most cases the payment is split with the gallery.
11 artists were invited to participate in this exhibition, each of whom was given a wage of 2,000 NIS for one day of work in the studio, regardless of the results. The work that was done in that one day is on display in the exhibition.
The art trade as it currently exists places limits on the range of art producible. By setting aside the current practice, the exhibit displays a passing view of the abundance of creative possibilities that are being missed under the customary procedures of the art trade.
Limiting time to one day attempts to charge the viewer's experience with the vitality that comes from the fact that the work was created under limited conditions and stressed the artists' intuitions, as they were obligated to waive the possibility for thorough reflection and rationalization.
The artists were invited to relate to the allegorical and ironic analogy between working in a studio and working in a sweatshop in whatever way they choose, including disturbing and subverting my idea. Their responses to this comparison ranged between two poles, one of which expressed the ironic adoption of the demands that a sweatshop worker must meet, i.e. to produce as many products as possible in any given day of work. The other pole was marked by the option to completely resist this work procedure and do nothing, seemingly. Other works range somewhere between these two poles.
Shai Yehezkelli wrote and painted nine works that relate to painting, to his painting and to painting at the specific moment it is created under that single day's conditions. The works were made on damaged surfaces using common acrylic colors, as an imitation of quality painting, and a paraphrase on the forgery of brand name products in sweat shops, such as - Hadidas
Ravit Mishli baked 22 sculptures from dough, set with cranberries and sunflower seeds. The sculptures were concocted as a mix of human ribs, stimulated or sagging sexual organs, tribal masks, and twisted and pockmarked faces. Their parts are joined by disposable skewers.
Rami Maymon created 10 screen prints based on a photograph downloaded from the internet, which shows a young boy presenting an audience with a painting by Johan Vermeer at a public auction at Sotheby's London. The similarity of the boy in the photograph to the young girl in the painting raises questions relating to the mechanisms that define the status of different artworks. It also examines the possible relationships between an original and a copy as well as between works of art and commercial brands.
Liav Mizrahi produced four sketches on colored paper and 372 paper cones which he used to decorated a pillar supporting the gallery's south wall.
Dror Daum documented himself with a still camera trying to sleep after sniffing Ketamine ("Special K") - a drug used to put down horses, but can cause hallucinations when taken by humans. The camera was on for eight hours, as a stimulating tribute to the Andy Warhol film, Sleep.
Between work meetings and telephone calls, Doron Rabina carved out a ready-made sculpture of a black African woman with her baby which turned into a Yemenite man with curly sideburns, in an act which could be interpreted as conceptual and/or post-colonial and transgender, while it is actually an act of purification by way of blindly wandering through the material.
Eitan Ben Moshe intended to create a Zen circle from artificial nails that would hang elegantly in space. After the ring collapsed repeatedly, he was forced to deviate from his plan and impulsively used an embalmed stork which he had kept in a bucket for years, cut off its head with a chainsaw, placed the severed head inside a vase, and arranged a traditional Uzbecki crown of flowers upon it, along with golden chains, feathers and pigmented hardened polyester.
Maayan Elyakim placed a ready-for-action knife on a shiny copper tray on the rear end of a chair that he had treated. He referred to an old Aztec custom, according to which a bowl of water with a knife inside was placed next to the entrance of the house, so that if a stranger came to harm the home owner, he would notice his reflection slit by the blade of the knife, remember the possibility of losing his life, and change his mind.
Noam Partom attempted to spontaneously speak poetry in front of a video camera over the course of two 1-hour sessions, one on her bed and the other in the stairway of her house. Giving up on the writing made this attempt a repeated confrontation with its inherent failure, side by side with the mental and poetic over exposure.
Roee Rozen created a work while crouching on his knees, based on a technique which he used while writing a 16-page children's book "Catalan's Death," (Mauricio Catalan) which he recently completed. This is in fact a three-part text which is made up of the original text, an additional text written on it and illustrations.
Ruven Kuperman created a realistic drawing using colored pencils based on a photograph of a sweatshop in China where hundreds of workers simultaneously draw the same picture of a religious figure with a long beard.
I spent the day of work with each of the artists in their home or studio. The exhibition incorporates photographs and videos that document, or partly-document, the artists and intermediate stages in their work.
Ohad Matalon, 2011