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Exhibitions > Yaacov Kaufman - Stools

Stools / Galit Gaon

Four hundred and fifty stools.

At first glance, they resemble replicated mutations in a flip-through animation book. Upon closer, slower observation, one discovers a wide-ranging, nonhierarchical system that has no beginning or end, limits or margins. This system continues to evolve without any pre-established order, so that if we had not packed the stools and transferred them to the museum, they would continue to replicate themselves, entirely filling the small studio space in Jaffa.

My first encounters with Kaufman and the stools take place with the latter arranged in long rows or crowded piles, a mixture of old and new creations. We draw close to them and then pull away, for it is difficult to observe their details when they are crowded so closely together, covering one another or intertwining with one another like a large multipede. We speak about them, beside them, around them, trying to postpone that preordained moment - that of choosing which ones will be exhibited in the gallery; of determining which are the best stools, most precise and most interesting stools. In addition to our thoughts about our ability to give expression to such a complex project in a single exhibition, I privately wonder whether the transition to the museum space will benefit the unprecedented scope of this project. There, in the studio, in the midst of the creative storm, the artist could engage in a two-way process involving adjustments and revisions, mistakes and letting go, disassembling and reconstructing. Here, in the static space of the museum, the stools will cease to move and change - as if, having ended the most fascinating stage of their lives, they are now embarking on a silent journey to a fixed eternity.

"I think that the first objects I played and created with as a child were a pair of scissors and sheets of paper. I remember the German apartment, where we moved from Siberia during the war. It was an accountant's office," Yaacov tells me during a moment of rest while we are shooting images for the catalogue.

"This is what I found on the table - scissors and paper." Of course, I think to myself, nothing else could have brought him as far while keeping him so close: playing with paper and scissors - not describing, painting, or reading - nothing but taking things apart and putting them back together over and over again. 

The research project that Yaacov Kaufman presents in this exhibition may be compared to the process of writing a doctoral dissertation in other theoretical fields - the exposure of the unedited process of design, a kind of automatic writing of objects in three dimensions that consciously eschews choosing, classifying, or reducing; a set of objects ordered into a detailed and highly intriguing weave of design values. And like every weave, this one is composed of horizontally and vertically intersecting lines - orderly thinking, definitions and terms alongside flexible, free, liberated ideas which all steam from a single source - the stool.

If one considers the Jewish hierarchy of objects, this is the smallest, lowliest, most restricted item of furniture. For Kaufman, it serves as the point of departure for a lengthy and complex process extending over many years and applied to a single item that contains no superfluous parts. To this stool, he applies various exercises aimed at forwarding the design process, while allowing for multiplicity, expansion, questioning, and an ongoing process that is not aimed at a single result. He could have chosen to stop at any point in time, yet chose instead to continue and expand, work, examine, disassemble, construct, stretch, shrink, cut, glue, insert, smooth, round, bend, connect, gather, perorate and fill. In doing so, he combines two world views that were distinct while he was charting his trajectory as an artist, and which have become one now that he is recognized as Israel's most prominent designer. For us, professionals on both sides of the divide, artists, scholars, and observers, an encounter with Kaufman's work may be likened to arriving at the professional core of the design process. 

The encounter with his work enables us to examine our creative processes in relation to a carefully consolidated, highly professional codex. This point of observation is not reserved for one type of viewer or another, but rather offers conceptual purity, textual integrity, and formal unity. 

The visual and conceptual pleasure involved in the encounter with such a unique stool is not reserved for professionals alone. The excitement in discovering one special, different, and exciting object is a personal experience that does not require of the viewer to be familiar with the language of design or the intricacies of this professional field. This multitude of stools, an entire community, appears
before the observer as an extended family, a vast tribe that shares the same last name. These are the descendents of restless tribal ancestors as well as more settled ancestors, of the emotionally complex as well as the righteous ones. The observation of this tribe of stools is akin to the observation of a group of human beings - each of us unique and special in our own way.

Joshu asked Nansen, "What is the Way?"
Nansen answered, "Your ordinary mind--that is the Way."
Joshu said, "Can it be grasped (for study)?"
Nansen replied, "The more you pursue, the more does
it slip away."
Joshu asked once more, "How can you know it is the Way?"
Nansen responded, "The Way does not belong to knowledge, nor does it belong to non knowledge. Knowledge is illusion. Non knowledge is beyond discrimination. When you get to this Way without doubt, you are free like the vastness of space, an unfathomable void, so how can you explain it by yes or no?"
From The Gateless Gate (translated by Eiichi Shimomisse)


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Yaacov Kaufman - Stools
photo: Itay Benit

 
 
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