Event DetailsJune 14, 2018, 12:00PM – August 30, 2018, 8:00AM
(this event is over)
At the Monumental Complex of Steri - - Sala delle Verifiche - University of Palermo, ItalyUniversity of Palermo, Italy
Solo exhibition of Israeli artist Avner Sher: Bridge Palermo Jerusalem (Curators: Flavia Alaimo, Ermanno Tedeschi)
Avner Sher – Bridge Palermo Jerusalem
Text by Smadar sheffi, PhD
Avner Sher’s work seeks to decode the present, to observe meetings point in which civilizations collide in an avalanche of beliefs, despair, and hopes. His exhibition at the Monumental Complex of Steri – – Sala delle Verifiche – University of Palermo, Italy, spans the court yard and exhibition space, and creating contemplation on Palermo, a city in change.
Sher’s oeuvre contains images of gestures, emotions, body and domesticity urban space and architecture in a primordial language that transcends cultural differences and celebrates symbols, traditions and myths .His artwork is both universal and individual, suffused with his own biography yet offers viewers a map of the inner layers of the world in which they live, its origins and yearnings.
The exhibition in Palermo follows his outstanding art project ’950 sq.: Alternative Topographies’ in The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem (2017). In ’950 sq.: Alternative Topographies’ Sher explored Jerusalem as a nucleus of history, an intellectual, political religious and ethnic junction of strife and creativity. The many tensions in Jerusalem between the eternal and the transient, religions, nationalities and ethnic groups all became part of the intricate narrative he shared with the viewers.
The parallel lines in the history of Palermo and Jerusalem, cities who have been invaded time and again and cultivated multicultural societies, are intriguing. In Palermo, as in Jerusalem Sher and observes universal questions of inclusion and exclusion, appropriation and power and address contemporary issues without being timely.
Palermo, capital of Sicily boasts a rich history .In the 8th and the 7th centuries BC, it was a trade centre between Phoenicians and Greeks and Carthaginians. Later it prospered in the Roman and then Byzantine empires. This period was followed by Moslem conquest and religious tolerance that ended with Norman rule. Until Sicily became part of the Italian kingdom it was ruled by different European kingdoms each one infusing it with its culture and style. The city was severely damaged in World War II. Today it faces challenges concerning immigration, mainly from Africa in what is one more chapter in the Muslim – Christian relationship.
Sher makes bold, sometimes ironic use of symbols. Four obelisks, two red and two black sore in the courtyard like pillars encapsulating the story of the cultural juxtaposition in current Palermo. 0baliskes, originally symbols of military triumph in ancient Egypt were taken to the west as spoils of colonialism. Sher works in the symbolic space between of meaning and history: the two red obelisks are bare images referring to the Judeo- Christian myth of creation, stand like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. The two black obelisks refuse to be deciphered at least to the white viewer. Sher inscribed them with African symbols that he appropriates without assuming an understanding of the cultures in African.
Sher confronts his viewers with pain and injustice. He dot’s the ground and floor with small back pieces of wood coloured black with appeals for help in African languages. Are these notes that were written by drowning refugees? Letters in a bottle that never reached its destiny? Sher’s work echoes the despair of those in political existential limbo. As a son of Holocaust survivors the nightmare of being outcast, persecuted and refused asylum are all too vivid for Sher. His choice of materiel, Cork, carries and denotes further reflections on the present. It is the external bark of the Cork Oak tree, peeled off the trunk once every nine years. The trees are not only in a constant process of regeneration and growth, but also in repeated trauma. The use cork began as an aesthetic preference and is now a deliberate reference to the essential nature of cork as bearing its history and a regenerative capacity. Sher treats the cork, aggressively: he etches, scorches, burns and floods the cork with color from unusual sources as wine, laundry detergent, ink and ketchup. He creates an archaeology and history for the material. The texture obtained is reminiscent of tortured flesh.
Large pieces of thin cork sheets resembling skin and parchment, are printed, engraved, embossed and hand written by Sher. Although small parts of the text may be read it is precisely the chaotic disturbing quality of an unledgble text that Sher amplifies as a reflection of confused nature of the present.
A huge piece lattice work in cork is Sher’s interpretation of mashrabiya, a type of projecting window commonly enclosed with carved wood which is an element of traditional Arabic architecture .Sher uses the motif to explore the situation of inclusion and exclusion, questions that haunt the very existence of life in a city in constant struggle to define its character. Sher take the architectonic component as a symbolic semi-permeable membrane that may bring balance, equalize the opposing cultures and set of interests that kindle unrest in Palermo and other regions .Its beauty power suggest the multiple opportunities and dangers in the current historical fork road and convey to viewers the urgent need to consider new possibilities so as to exit the present viscous cycle of war, immigration and deportation.