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Exhibitions > How to Render a Thinking Person? / Udi Sharabani



Catalogue writing, and commentary on catalogue writing

Outdoors. Hypothetical. Morning.

The camera is following someone. This is the opening shot. Beforehand, lines of text unrolling on the screen will name of the financial backers of the film (and after all, today these are the real lords of the "before thing": the financial backers). At any rate, afterwards, the opening shot. Here we'll glimpse the director's touch, hinting gently at his signature style.

We go on. We see someone walking. This walking someone is the subject of the film. The artist. He is always walking. And thinking. It must be him. Yes, it's him, there's no mistaking it. Fin. It's a minute long. You can't film a person thinking. What can you show in such a film? Yes, you can see his work, his history, etc., perhaps even a narrative frame opening with raw materials and culminating with a product, but the ideas in his head - how film a glimmering thought? An idea coming into being? A closing tune then. Credits, then (who was the water girl?), again the financial backers. Lights. A parking ticket on the car window. Home. End.

Commercial break

Here we'll place the paragraph on how and where I met Ron Arad. This paragraph describes the way I remember the moment. We go on.

Interior. Expert panel. Midday.
[About the person]

Ron Arad is a perspectival artist (a perspectivist). If we go counter clockwise for a moment, stomp grapes to extract oil, stomp the olives to distill wine, then Ron Arad is one who accustoms the eye to think differently; what is normally visible is not necessarily right, not the right perspective. (And is there such a thing? The "right perspective"?) Things can be otherwise. A new thought about, or through a new object. And from there to a new reality.

And then again.

And the same goes for the body; if others create postural installations to suit the human body, deferring to it, Arad - let's call him by his surname from now on - shows it is possible, retroactively, to sculpt the human body to suit the design, and not only the other way around. 

And it works.

Synesthesia is the jumbling of the senses, a cognitive blend of various senses: a state wherein a person feels that he is tasting the color red, hearing a number and seeing it in a particular color, seeing a square and experiencing a sour taste, etc.

The same is true of Arad. His objects go through a kind of synesthetic filter, and we feel and see them differently through his eyes. Yes, I went for an abstraction here to make this tangible, but why shouldn't a square have a specific flavor? A thought bender (which is physical), bending matter
(mentally), the dissolution of form and rounding it off, the rearranging of the perceiving pupil, deconstruction; draining an existing object of all content, and proceeding to point out the possibility of possibilities; the mental possibility, and furthermore - the possibility of physical use. When
it comes to innovations, to [making] something from nothing, relying on nothing from the past, it seems that Arad subverts himself and performs - if one might say so, and one might - a deconstruction of the "thing (in) itself" even before it existed. And while we are transfixed by the finished product, he keeps on walking on (literally, or metaphorically1), already engaged by the next thing, creating something anew, differently. Etc.

Commercial break

Here we'll place the paragraph on how and where I met Ron Arad. This paragraph describes the way he remembers the moment. (We go on).

Interior. Macro. Evening
[Almost and about this exhibition]

I'll be coming to the multiple, folded over and introverted things presently, to Fiat 500s hanging limp and crumpled by the artist, but before I do so, I'll say right here that yes, possibly it may be only in my own mind. This preamble is not the effect of arrogant self-glorification, or the other side of the same coin - an armor of seemingly candid documentation that creates an opening for shaking off one's own stance. No. But there is a possibility, a chance, that only we, the observers, will think so: perhaps the artist wasn't motivated to that end - neither at the start, nor in the middle of this meandering process, and not at its end. This is of course a structured art-talk register; I would 
not raise a subject of interest to no one such as "the artist's role is over when the work is done," or "authorial intention." We were already at that point early on in our observations. But we must let the un-speaking of this subject be drained of content as well. Words: they're my implements. Well, it is almost impossible to do so by writing "about." This paragraph you are now reading is an attempt; it was composed so that if we collect the first letter of each line, they will form a vertical acrostic. Acrostically2.


A paragraph dripping with perspiration? Aggression for the sake of authenticity? Did the writer (me) reach this (writing acrostic in acrostic fashion) in the course of writing? Or did he have it at the ready beforehand? And above all, does it make any difference whatsoever whether it was or
was not an ideological, artistic theme from the get go?

From here on in there is another problem, which is almost "bureaucratic": the above text is presented in a certain font, with specific spacing between lines, and a given margin on both sides. Possibly, all that was written above will be hurled into oblivion in print; after all, I do not work in cooperation with the catalogue's designers. I am required to hand over a text, words. Will the catalogue designers defer to the text, break up the format and structure (if necessary) only to preserve the acrostic bearing the word acrostic? Will the "electric light" of this paragraph "tickle the darkness to pleasure" as poet and songwriter Meir Ariel wrote in his classic song, or perhaps not to pleasure but torment?

Arad prances right over these questions and in-between them. He constructs a concept. The paragraphs above are in an on-going dialogue via the art world, which Arad, in his way, dissolves. Again, this is not an erasure of the discussion of authorial intention, but a draining off of the content of un-speaking this subject: to design sound, to hear light, to sniff a square. The attempt to let words make tangible what Arad frolics over lightly with his creations, the attempt to define Arad, when this is exactly what he is not - definable. As well as what he is, yes, no, partly, before, during the work process, afterwards.

Well, every writer knows one may quickly leap onto this kind of meta-textual structure (if something cannot be defined p that is the definition), but Arad's works combine structure and language. Conceptual redesign of words and thought; in some cases his creations clear and open new territory for us as users or viewers; at other times, his works are reality itself. 

Interior. Micro. Evening
[About this exhibition]

And now we can tend to the multiple, folded over and introverted things. Arad takes items that have a use, old Fiats 500, and makes them un-useful. He crushes them. This is one thing and it stands on its own, a work in itself. A resolvable matter with two possibilities: a question left hanging in the
air, or an object in itself. Choose.

What this enfolds is that Fiat stopped producing this model in 1975, and renewed it again in 2007. So what actually took place here? Arad works in the spaces created by the interval; he turned something useful to un-useful by crushing it, but this something, the old Fiat 500, was redesigned and freshly branded by Fiat. In this way, Arad's work indeed made the object (the car) un-useful, but now this object was made immortal; Arad crushed an item which was no longer being produced, and by crushing it gave new life to the item which, ironically, has now been rejuvenated on the highways. Arad intervened in the organism. 

Immortality: useful - un-useful/useful - useful/un-useful - art work.

And from here, another multiplied, folded over, inverted subject. Just as Arad works with thought bending (which is physical) and bending matter (mentally), we too will go from the philosophical part unto the other part, the seemingly physical-perceptual: if we look for a moment at the Fiat 500 and its shape before it was crushed, things get jumbled. Is it a cute toy, or is the concept "cute toy" etched into our minds because of its cute shape? Arad bends this question as well; the simulations made with toy models of Fiats 500, and the real cars you're looking at here, crushed like a toy by a
sleepy foot in the middle of the night.

Art: real - icon - icon/real - real.

Ron Arad - we are back to his full name now - the artist, was born here in this specific exhibition. Precisely the way he was born during his last creation, and the way he is born when he designs a pair of spectacles, and as he will be born during his next construction. Yes, his "signature" is a pair of words to be used by people standing before a work of art and recognizing an artist by his style, people who never imagined they would find themselves before a painting or a sculpture of the artist's own hand, which leaves them, the viewers, undressed and empty-handed. And Ron Arad's signature style is well-known, as in the end, "a man sings only one song his whole life long, though the words may be different every time," as departed artist Yossi Banai, once wrote. But at the same time, it appears that Ron Arad does not only go for new subject matter; rather, he elegantly appropriates the world to himself.

If there are artists whose work opens a porthole unto the world after which they wait for it to come towards them, then Ron - and this time we'll use his given name alone, the way one would for a child in a playground - intervenes in the structure of perception that governs the world's view of itself. Through art. 


Udi Sharabani is a writer



1. A double metaphor, as "walking on" can be related to thought, and is also a phrase for doing
something with ease, effortlessly.

2. A paragraph that cannot be translated into the English section of this catalogue, an
opportunity to patronize you, the English-speaking reader.
Translator's notes: in Hebrew, "walking on" is related to "a train of thought."

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