Tamar Zohara Ettun

Tamar Zohara Ettun creates multi-disciplinary installations that mix the boundaries between sculpture, video, and performance. Tamar has previously curated an event at the Queens Museum and exhibited at the Performa Biennale 2009 NYC, The Jewish Museum NYC, The Center of Contemporary Art (Tel Aviv), Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Israel Museum. AICF caught up with Tamar to learn more about her and her art.

What or who inspired you to want to become an artist?
Both my grandmothers…One, who is an ultra orthodox painter that manages to include the contradictions in social and ideological context into her work without being apologetic. My other grandmother, had a personal crisis that opened her mind and hands to experiment enthusiastically with materials and ideas and find comfort in the making.

What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are today?
My creative journey passed through a few art schools and institutions… I started in the art department in Bezalel, went on a student’s exchange program in Cooper Union NYC, that got up my appetite to come study in the states. I applied and graduated with an MFA from the sculpture department at Yale. After school I moved to Brooklyn, NY, where I am working now. Creation wise, I started making miniatures sculptures that I keep on making till now. When I moved to NY I didn’t have a studio at first. Trying to find a solution, I went to shoot videos out in the streets. In Yale we had large studios and an intense group of students that inspired and pushed me to build large scale installations and perform live. As for now, I am mixing it all… working on interdisciplinary projects where the sculpture function as dance pieces and the dance like performances are sculptural, with people and materials and switching between them.

What do you need as an artist today?
One of the most important things for me as an artist today is having a community of people to share ideas with, argue, change their mind – my mind, be inspired by, weather they are artists or not. Live voices, not just the super ego inside my own head, that offer suggestions, opinions and support. Another hard thing is to find a was to create a fruitful routine that makes me confident that I will be able to accomplish the project while allowing the creative process (with its dry periods and blocks) to exist in full. My friend and fellow artist Yonatan Ulman once gave me an advice to “be in the studio” make it a habit to spend enough time in the studio that will make stuff grow.  And last, of course, applying to grants and realize the projects by all the practical impossible details that attempt to ground it while making it fly.  

What creative project are you working on now?
I am currently working on a hot air balloon project that branched out to three exhibitions and venues. Each one deals with a different aspect of the large project. Last summer, after graduating from Yale, I received from the school a grant that enabled me to to travel around the US chasing How Air Balloons. I befriended “Home builders” or working class ballooning enthusiasts, who introduced me to this early form of air travel. In Texas, Philip Bryant gave me a retired, red balloon, that I am using as an exhibition – performance space for PERFORMA 11 produced by RECESS. During the performance, the audience will enter the balloon. Seven dancers, performers, and a musician will manipulate the balloon’s shape, and will function as moving sculptures. In October, as part of the Herzelia Bienniale, I will present an installation made from a parachute that is grounded to the floor with a Super Market cart casted with cement. The last exhibition resulted from this journey, is an exhibition at Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea, NYC, in November, that will show 40 miniature sculptures of hot air balloons, one for each day of the trip, made from materials collected around the US. It is a very exciting time for me, I get to share my experience with different audiences, and scary at the same time…

Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years? 
No idea… So far, one thing lead to the other, unexpected accidents happened that lead me to where I am today. I hope I will be able to continue showing my work and be part of the conversation in the art world. Have my own family, a coconut tree in my back yard, and a hot air balloon to fly and visit friends in far away countries.

What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist? 
As an Israeli artist outside of Israel everything I do has political contentions whether I mean it or not. In attempt to respond to that and make it possible to “talk about” it, my friend Katayoun Vaziri and myself curated an event at the Queens Museum that showed Israeli and Iranian video pieces and was followed by a conversation lead by Thomas Keenen of Bard. We looked for artists that do video that isn’t necessarily political, but reflect on their space, body, and cultural images. Framing it is a political, non-judgmental, event opened, (for me and hopefully others) new ways to read the pieces, and understand the political context each one is coming from.

What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
Israeli organizations such as AICF, Artis, and the Israeli Consulate have been very helpful and supportive. Trying to start on my own in a foreign country isn’t always easy. Ignorant questions like how do I do my taxes to connections in the professional world has been answered. Along with grants that enabled my to fund my studies at Yale, dream fantastic big dreams, and create large scale installations.

Tamar Zohara Ettun