Maya Zack, Acting Memory. Video works, 2007-2017

From Saturday 3 October 2020, to Sunday 22 August 2021

At the mahJ and for the first time in a French museum, Maya Zack shows a trilogy of films made over a decade. Comprising Mother Economy (2007), Black and White Rule (2011) and Counterlight (2016-2017), this series is the result of a long period of research and creation, formalised in a language combining drawing, sculpture and video. Recurrent figures in this trilogy are women dialoguing with the past and giving it substance. As the last survivors of the Holocaust are disappearing, the artist questions the risk of forgetting and the processes of memory.

Mother Economy pays tribute to women, actresses of stability and continuity in a world in the grip of war and violence. A woman draws the outlines of objects with a pencil, identifying and localising memories of family members. She carries out this inventory in the confines of the home while radio broadcasts evoke the chaos and destruction in the outside world. Imperturbable and precise, using an abacus and formulae from her notebook, she systematically compiles the instructions for baking a kugel, a traditional pudding, which she then ceremoniously cuts.

Black and White Rule shows us a strange laboratory in which a dog trainer is directing poodles on a gigantic chessboard. A scientist observing the scene is recording and monitoring the experiment using antiquated equipment. Everything seems to be going to plan until this apparent order is suddenly disrupted.

Video, 17 min 45

In Counterlight, Maya Zack immerses us in the world of the Romanian-born poet Paul Celan (1920-1970), one of the greatest authors writing in German in the post-war years. With the aid of the poet’s texts and photographs, the artist confuses the frontiers between reality and fiction to bring Paul Celan to life. In doing so, she enters the space of an old photograph of a street in Celan’s hometown, (now Chernivtsi in Ukraine).

Video, 23 min 30

Maya Zack was born in Israel in 1976 and lives and works in Tel Aviv.

She studied at the University of Tel Aviv, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee in Berlin. She has had solo exhibitions in London, Rome, New York, Paris, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Her videos have been acclaimed at European festivals at Clermont Ferrand (2017), Greece (Patras, 2017), Italy (Conversano, 2008), Ukraine (Lviv, 2008) and Hungary (Pécs, 2007). She was awarded the Celeste Prize in Berlin in 2008.

Her works are in the collections of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum in Vienna and the Shpilman Institute for Photography in Tel Aviv.

Actes Sud and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art copublished a monography, Maya Zack : La Mémoire en action (Arles, 2015). Trilingual French, English and Hebrew edition with texts by Nili Goren, Maya Zack and Rachel Verliebter.

Solo exhibitions  

2017 - Maya Zack: Memory Trilogy, MLF – Marie Laure Fleisch Gallery, Brussels, Belgium 

2016 - Counterlight, Galleria MLF, Rome, Italy 

2016 - Counterlight, Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Curator: Nili Goren

2015 - Broken Horizons (with stuben21) in Bibliology, Petach Tikva Museum of Art

2014 - Outlined Absence, Manifesta 10's Parallel Projects, Taiga Space, Saint Petersburg

2013 - The Shabbat Room, a permanent installation at The Jewish Museum, Vienna

2013 - Maya Zack: Videos, at the Moving Image Art Fair, London. With Galleria Marie-Laure Fleisch.

2012 - Made to Measure, Galleria Marie-Laure Fleisch, Rome, Italy

2011 - Living Room, The Jewish Museum, New York, U.S.A. Curator: Aviva Weintraub.

2011 - Camera Obscura, Galerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris. Curator: Marie Shek.

2010 - Mother Economy - video and drawings, CUC Gallery, Berlin. Curator: Avi Feldman - Living Room, Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv.

Black and White Rule – Open Set, Yaffo 23, Bezalel Gallery Jerusalem.

2009 - Reading Room, Bialik House Museum, Tel Aviv. Curator: Marie Shek.

2008 - Mother Economy, The Jewish Museum, Media Center Gallery, New York. Curator: Andrew Ingall.

2005 - Videos + drawings, Alon Gallery, Ramat Hasharon

2004 - Concrete and Cement, Noga Gallery, Tel Aviv (with Raya Bruckenthal)

2002 - The Baron E.T. von Home, Artists’ Studios Gallery, Tel Aviv (with Raya Bruckenthal)

Publication

Maya Zack. La Mémoire en action

Copublished by Actes Sud and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Arles, 2015)
19.6 x 25.5 cm, 160 pages, 35€, hardcover

Introduction by Rachel Verliebter
Interview with the artist by Nili Goren

Excerpt 

“In the exhibition and film Counterlight, I will propose an audio-visual experience translating Paul Celan’s powerful and enigmatic poetry, enabling viewers to move between the facts of the artist’s life – his photographs, documents and poetry – and scenes and visions in which I hope to penetrate the secret of his creative process and examine how the substance of reality and “the events of consciousness” are converted into poetic matter. In addition to the radicality of the ideas and themes explored in my previous work – memory, history, testimony, reconstruction and art as a research tool – there will be an important new element: the poetry of Celan, one of the greatest poets of the modern-postmodern era. He directly witnessed the Holocaust and the atrocities of the war and his work is essentially an “act of witnessing” in construction, which becomes increasingly radical as his poetic oeuvre takes form. I intend to draw on the long poem Engführung (Strette, 1959), which questions the role of poetry in the face of memory and trauma by creating a new poetic and memory reality that contains consolation and even redemption (also regarded as a new version of his famous Death Fugue).

Celan’s world is shown in the film through the eyes of the main character – a female archivist obsessively following his poetry, the man and his life, which unfold and project themselves in front of her like little films inside the camera she inhabits. In her work, she infiltrates the poet’s soul, revealing the layers of pain and pieces of his biography and familiarising herself with the female figures in his life, his wanderings and exiles: his mother and his hometown, Czernowitz (Romania); his beloved poetess Ingeborg Bachmann and post-war Vienna; his wife, the artist Gisèle de Lestrange, and Paris; his friend Ilana Shmueli and Jerusalem; the poetess Nelly Sachs and mythical and biblical figures such as the Shekhinah cited in his poems.
The researcher struggles to discover information, put it in order and formulate a memory. She can resurrect the past by fabricating a new existence emanating from factual fragments and with her own creative power. The acts of the women in the film echo female archetypes – the capacity to embrace reality, give life, give meaning, care, awaken the dead, invent, combat and protect. These acquired a meaning in my own mind as I worked on the project and wrote the scenario, which grew out of a dialogue with The Shabbat Room, a process that strengthened my consciousness of the maternal/female quality of the Shabbat and the image of the Shekhinah in Jewish mysticism.

My implication in the questions of absence and memory also link me to Celan’s work through the experience of the loss of his mother, who was murdered in a labour camp, and the farewell he was denied and which we sense in his poems. My mother died when I was twenty. Although the circumstances of her death were very different, she was a long way away from me when she died (shortly after falling ill, she left for Venezuela and died there). Her death left me with a permanent desire to illustrate the event, as if to say goodbye to her. The different scenarios that have haunted my dreams, in an attempt to fill this void, could indeed resolve themselves in Counterlight.

In the film, the artist/researcher/alchemist oscillates between her scientific, university existence and an esoteric, mystical, surrealist and hypnotic inner world. To her systematic catalogue of authentic photographs and documents she adds and mixes facts, documentation and imagination, reliving the past as if by magic. Her growing solitude confined in the archives and the scene of Celan’s mother’s murder, repeating time yet again like an obsessive memory, accelerate and end the task of documentation. She leaves her room and enters the world of the objects of her study, merges with them and annuls herself.”

Excerpt from the interview with Maya Zack by Nili Goren in Maya Zack. Acting Memory, p. 36 and 37.

Exhibition scheduled on the occasion of the Nuit blanche Parisian event

See also

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© mahJ collection, gift of Ariel Fenster
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Amedeo Modigliani, La Chevelure noire, dite aussi Jeune fille brune assise, détail, 1918
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