What is the Contemporary? asked the philosopher Giorgio Agamben in one of the seminars where he reads texts from different periods of time in order to rethink the issues he discusses: "the contemporary is not only an adjective describing chronologic time alone, but rather an urgency that works within the chronological order, urging, pressing, and transforming it."
As a point of departure for his own response, Agamben goes back to Nietzsche, who wrote, in the Birth of Tragedy, "the contemporary is the untimely". Agamben responds by replying that this same urgency is "the untimeliness, the anachronism that permits us to grasp our time in the form of a "too soon" that is also a "too late"; of an "already" that is also a "not yet."
The exhibit 'Contemporary' is a collection of works of art created in Israel over various periods of time, with the common denominator of the English language as an element of the work . Contemporary is a local exhibit in a foreign language, and therefore to view it, the spectator must engage in translation . By nature, the act of translation is one that brings together two perceptions of life, and since the languages are not identical, it takes place in an asymmetric space, a realm of discrepancies in meaning and of "matching without identity" . As such, it prompts us to consider issues of crossing boundaries, possession, and betrayal.
At the foundation of this exhibit is a unique attempt to take one single element of the curator's work to the extreme, by turning the verbal text into the principle underlying the collection of art. By creating syntax and syntactical omissions, the exhibit aspires to rekindle the possible readings of the selected works. It also does so by casting the curator for a moment in the role of collector or words, in this case – works of art – in order to create his own texts . By the acute realization of the act of writing through works of Art, the exhibit aspires to bring to light the question of the relationship between the curative act and contemporary art, and also to reflect on the responsibility of critical forces in forming the expectation that curators and artists translate local expressions into a global language of art.
"Contemporariness inscribes itself in the present by marking it above all as archaic…" The archaic, writes Agamben, means close to the arkhe, the origin. "But the origin is not only situated in a chronological past: it is contemporary with historical becoming and does not cease to operate within it." Because the exhibit requires the spectator to engage in translation as part of viewing a work of Art, he is paradoxically required to activate the Hebrew language as part of experiencing it.
It is precisely through creating text that this exhibit wishes to offer the opportunity of reflecting on the instability of meaning. It offers the space of translation as one in which language struggles to explain that which it cannot convert, rephrase – a space housing the struggle for words to encapsulate unfamiliar forms of meaning, a space in which we can hover in the moments where words often disappear.
Arnon Ben David
Pinchas Cohen Gan
Guy Ben Ner
Ido Bar El