Uri Tzaig

The videography by Uri Tzaig is characterised by it interest for competition games on the one hand and by its references to television, on the other hand. It is indubitably so that broadcasting matches of soccer, for instance, warrants huge amounts of spectators for a particular channel; yet there are also other connotations involved: publicity, nationalist chauvinism, etc. Some aspects of these games, however, are thwarted by the artist: for instance, he refers explicitly to soccer, but does not respect the rules of the game, rather, he disturbs them in such manner that there is no winner, no decisive end to the game in conventional terms. In this sense, Tzaig works appears to be absurd, yet it has been established that ‘play’ and ‘games’ are a typically human—though in part also animal—means to develop social structures and promote self-development; consequently, the competitive element is no absolute necessity.

On a stylistic level, Tzaig’s work shows a great level of diversity; yet the focus is not at all on the mastery of a wide array of techniques and materials, but rather on decoding the cultural assumptions which underlie the conceptual constructs to which they refer. His work is highly contextual, meaning that several elements recur from existing works recur in new constellations and these are re-conceptualised in function of the very (exhibition) context for which the artist has been invited. Another characteristic of Tzaig’s work is that it avoids any politically correct or otherwise clear, univocal interpretation. The rules of the games have been thwarted and most of the images which feature in his videos are equally non-conclusive, endearing glances at everyday life into which the spectator is to project his own interpretation, albeit framed by the square format and immediacy of the video display. Like the games have no rules and are not goal-oriented in the sense of competitiveness, his images of reality do not construct a conclusive ‘story’; quite often, he alters the viewer’s perception of reality by slowing down the tempo of the recording or otherwise manipulating our perception. However, this does not mean that all references are banned from his work; they might be of a political nature and refer to the Palestinian condition or to Jewish identity or have a more symbolic character as is the case of the images of the Dead Sea. Most of these different references quite often are intertwined and held together by a circular composition or another form of formal elaboration which unites them, even though, at time, they appear to be opposites.

A striking element in the formal elaboration of Tzaig’s style is the alternation and reconciliation of square and round forms, for instances the rectangular screen and mirror balls and circular sweeps of the recording camera. This implies that Tzaig’s work is characterised by a high degree of abstraction in order to have these formal elements interact which, in its turn, at times results in a loss of specificity of the identity of the elements, e.g. the teams of soccer players. As a whole, Tzaig’s references to games and play are of a serene nature, yet they do not imply the ‘panem et circenses’ type of critique and do favour playfulness as a constructive element. Therefore he leaves the structure of his work and the interpretation by the spectator deliberately open. The formal elaboration, on the other hand, is remarkably controlled and not seldom based on the interaction/interplay of a set of recurrent opposite elements and this bestows a great measure of unity upon his work as a whole, regardless of his working with a great many different materials and divergent techniques.

On the occasion of this exhibition at Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, six works by Uri Tzaig will be on display, four videos, one object and one photography based work. ‘Two Balls’ is a superposition of two existing videos, both dealing with the non-directed, non-goal-oriented character of games which usually have these aspects as their very ‘raison d’etre’. Tzaig subverts competitiveness by introducing two referees, two balls, etc., meaning by going against the grain of the very game they were supposed to imitate/subvert; another typical Tzaigian example of thwarting/calling into question the material of which he is making use and to which he refers.

‘Master Lucas’ opposes/juxtaposes highly modernist and contemporary theories and approaches to the theory of evolution, metaphor, mimesis, structural linguistics, deconstruction and presumptions of the universal, self-evident legibility of human codes via the spokesperson of the primeval pre-non human, a gorilla pondering and emitting statements about the human condition and its underlying epistemological presumptions in an eminently disconcerting manner. ‘Doors’ literally is a revolving video-image and does not make use of language properly, but rather of linguistic structures, as—for instances—described in ‘the Mirror Image’ by Jacques Lacan, as ‘le dédoublement’, ‘la superposition’, etc. In its formal elaboration, ‘Doors’ makes use of a superposition of shifts, the tourniquet and an illogical opposition of an insect suggesting freedom/claustrophobia, as does the tourniquet: the basic lay-out to this video qua image and qua imagery. Above all, this video entrances by its capturing of the gratuity of the contemporary social condition and its subsequent predicaments in public places, the very places favoured by Uri Tzaig in his quest to question reality through its mediations.

B/W (Black and White). This rotary, revolving video display has a markedly ambient-paysagiste quality to it. On the one hand, the black and white quality suggests a duality/opposition, whereas, on the other hand, the decentred, all-over composition suggests it’s very opposite. This is one of Tzaig’s videos most open to the interpretation by the spectator and which undeniably is most geared towards the aesthetic perception by the spectator, calling on qualities of form rather than on explicit content. For this very purpose, he makes use of the time-honoured maxim of ‘in der Beschränkung zeigt sich der Meister’.

by Jonah Foncé with excerpts from Edwin Carels