Identity Cards

The Art House, Wakefield
15th – 29th June 2009

The Art House invited 12 Israeli artists to be resident at their studios in Wakefield for two weeks in June 2009. Each artist was paired with a UK based artist to work together to produce work on the question of identity. The work could be collaborative or simply informed by the relationship between the two artists. The project culminated in an exhibition of the work produced on the last Wednesday of the month.

The following is a transcript of email communication between myself and my collaborative partner, Zeev Parush, to generate ideas prior to the start of the residency:

Hi Zeev,
My name is Louise Atkinson from Leeds, UK and I’ll be your artist partner for the upcoming residency. My main interests at the moment are in communication and I have been studying the cultural significance of hand gestures and animal idioms. I have a blog and archive that you are welcome to have a look at, it’s still very much a work in progress but might give you an idea of what I do: http://louiseatkinsonblog.blogspot.com.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas,
Louise

Hi Louise,
I am very happy to hear from you. I took a tour of your blog – it’s interesting (loved your drawings by the way) with a lot to digest. I found very interesting what you called “slippages of meaning within language” and the reference to the word Différance. It relates to the fact that our all perception is context sensitive (something I know and use in my work… the one I do for living 🙂 ) Your current interest and focus in communication and the emphasis on visual aspects of it, sound like subjects where art and science goes great together – I love it.

I use my art in the last few years as a way to express some of my inside world, thoughts and ideas. Currently I’m interested a lot with the question of Identity and the way we perceive each other by visual look. You can see work I did about it in my gallery here: http://www.pbase.com/zeevpg/vagueness_of__identity.
I use photography as the tool for my art work, but I don’t see myself as a photographer. You can see also the work I do on Self Identity in my gallery I call Bittersweet Chocolate: http://www.pbase.com/zeevpg/bittersweet.
Looking forward to our collaboration and the upcoming 2 weeks.
Cheers
Zeev
p.s. Hope my English is not too bad (I do use the speller a lot…)

Hello again Zeev,
First of all please don’t worry about your English, it’s perfect, and definitely much better than my Hebrew :). I’m also intrigued to know more about your job and how it relates to the topic.

I enjoyed looking at your pictures very much and wondered how you would feel about us exploring this collaboration using photography as a primary medium, at least in the first instance. I was also wondering if there was a particular line of enquiry you wanted to follow in this project.

Some ideas I had previously with the hand gestures specifically involved exploring cross-cultural dialogue and meaning, basically using photography to depict hand signals from different countries/cultures to create a ‘conversation’, perhaps from the left hand to the right. Not sure if this makes a lot of sense but let me know what you think or if you have any other ideas. I’ve attached some pics of my hand drawings.
Louise

hand gestures
hand gestures
hand gestures

Hi Louise,
Whats up? First of all using photography as primary medium for our collaboration is perfect for me since in the last few years all my artistic work is based on photography and the digital dark room. I don’t really have a particular nor “must” direction for the project, so I’m coming with an open mind and willingness to collaborate. In Hebrew slang it is called “to flow” 🙂 I love your drawings and I like the subject of hand gestures and the part it takes in dialogues and feelings externalization (hope it’s the right word…)

I’m not sure I understood your idea. Did you mean creating a kind of “conversation” by connecting a series of hand gestures in a panoramic view? One area that I’m exploring as part of my own self “Identity” project is the relationship between the creator and his subjects or viewers. Like this image:

photography crowd
I think this is also a kind of “conversation” and it made me think that maybe there is a way to embed hand language within some kind of a “show” or “play” – like shadows show with the back of the viewers in front, as a symbolic of “conversation” – now I hope I’m making sense 🙂 :). Now I’m sure this is collaboration is going to be fun and inspiring.
You also asked about my job, so here is a bit about it. I am a Human Factor Engineer working as User Interface designer. My role is to bridge the gap between the users and the technology, making useful things usable for human beings. This involves taking into consideration things like memory, cognition, vision, mental, etc. One very important aspect of our perception is that it is context sensitive, and the meaning of things changes by the environment and situation. For example (very simple one) – underlined text in a web page is perceived as a link to another page, but in a Word document, it is usally perceived only as a kind of emphasis. And this relates to the different meaning of things in a relation to cultures.
Well, that’s all for now.
I hope this was not too serious… I can be funny also 🙂
Cheers
Zeev
Hey there,
How’s it going? I’m excited about the opportunity to work in photography. As for the specific visual elements I haven’t really considered much about that. I thought that it was something which we could work on together if you liked the initial idea. I particularly like the photo you highlighted. It seems like a kind of postmodern staging (how we present ourselves, how others perceive us). I also thought it was interesting how you interpreted the idea into a number of possibilities and I think it would be exciting to play about with those. I’m also open to any other suggestions you think might be interesting.
Reading your email also gave me a few ideas, maybe a little off the wall or time-consuming but I’ll mention them anyway and see what you think. As well as, or encompassing the photography, I thought it could be interesting to incorporate your profession in some way to create an interactive web resource. I understand if you want to keep this separate or if you think it may not be possible in the time, but perhaps if your interested it could be a way to elaborate on the work after the residency. Again, I haven’t considered specific aesthetics.
Another thing I was thinking was about what you said about the relationship between the creator and subject/viewer. I’m quite interested in relational aesthetics, which gives the audience the opportunity to interact with, add to, manipulate, etc, the artwork: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_art.
Now, I’m being too serious 😛 Ok I’ll stop talking now.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts,
Louise
Hi,
Shalom Louise, Ma shlomech? (Hello Louise, how are you – in Hebrew :)) It is very interesting the way ideas and views drift to all kind of directions, and I’m very happy about it because this associative artistic brain storm is something I hoped for in this project. It’s a bit difficult to do it via mail, but we’re doing a good job aren’t we? 🙂
If I understood you correctly you see an interactive web resource as a possible platform for Relational art – This is very interesting idea which I’m not sure can be implemented in the time frame we have , BUT I’ll be happy to discuss about it with you. Actually I was playing with this sort of interactive art idea in my project vagueness of identity. In some point a thought to let the audience in some way to make the pairing themselves. The only problem is that it can become a sort of a game… That’s the biggest challenge in this relational aesthetics – to stay an art work, which brings up the question – can art be a game?
When I talked about the relationship between the creator and subject/viewer, I meant that the art work deals with this relationship, “talks” about it, brings up thoughts in the viewers about the interaction they see, and what it can mean. For example, take a look at the attached image (not mine).

artist studio

There is a relationship there, who exposes and who is being exposed, which to my opinion is not trivial at all… I actually have a plan (one day) to create an homage based on this painting where I myself (or the same person) play both roles, because a lot of art work is actually exposing one self.

I hope I didn’t drift too much.
Have a great day
Zeev

Hey again,
I was thinking that maybe for the Identity Cards project, we can work together on combining the hand gestures language idea with my own self identity project, especially in the images of my interaction as artist with my subjects and viewers. This can be a good connection between our work – what do you think?
Cheers
Zeev

Hi,
Sorry for the delay. I’m busy installing a tactile show and finishing some sculptural work for that. I’m working on a reply with some possible answers for both your emails and will send that through soon. I wanted to ask if it was ok with you if I publish the transcript of our emails on my blog as part of the documentation process cos I think it is quite a valuable part, both for us to assess and review our creative decisions and also perhaps for people to understand how we arrived at particular solutions and conclusions.
Hope all’s well with you 🙂
Louise x

Hi again,
Thanks for the Hebrew lesson. I love learning languages! Do I say it back the same way? Or does it change for a female speaking to a male?

Re. the idea of art as a game, I definitely think the two are not mutually exclusive and I love to embrace humour and playfulness in life and art as much as possible. I’ve recently been working on a Tate Britain project called Visual Dialogues, creating gallery interpretations to allow audiences to engage with historical artworks more easily. One example of this involved placing signs around the gallery in response to the paintings, challenging the meaning of the work as well as the identity of the gallery space. The feedback was extremely positive and produced interesting audience interpretations which were both humorous and poignant, sometimes for the same piece. I felt that these contrasting responses were equally valid as it showed that the intervention managed to break down fixed meaning and allow the audience to respond to the work on their own terms.

gallery sign

 

gallery sign

 

gallery sign

Anyway, back to the idea of games. When I was looking at the Vagueness of Identity project it reminded me of a kind of card game and I started to think about the game Top Trumps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Trumps.

Looking at your pictures, I started to think about the judgements that we make about people from appearances and how true they are. So I thought we could devise a grading system and display alongside photographs on cards that people could play with. This raises a number of questions: Who grades? Us? Them? An independent party? What are the categories? How quantifiable? eg. artist v lawyer, politician v estate agent? This also allows players to decide their own grading structure and argue which card is more valuable.

I realise we’ve already discussed quite a number of other options previously including specifically the hand gestures/self identity work and I’m more than happy to expolore any or all of these ideas. I was also wondering whether we need to do more practical preparation or if you’re happy to keep having these conversations. I wouldn’t like to contrive the process but I think we could easily talk forever! 🙂 I don’t mind either way and I’m not sure what practical prep we could do but if you have any thoughts…
Louise xxx

Hey Louise
Ma nishma ? First of all let’s conclude the Hebrew lesson (that can be a bit of a headache in terms of gender :))For male you say Ma shlomcha? For female, it’s Ma shlomech? Or you can just say Ma nishma (it is more like what’s up, then How are you) which is good for all gender.

The project you did on Visual Dialogues, where text can take or give different meanings to visual work, is a great way for the audience to express their associations and feelings regarding the art work, without the need to give a methodic opinion about it… This reminded me of another idea I started to explore with a friend of mine, to create a kind of duet where I supply the images and she will add her associative text. Our first try was really very surprising and funny for me to see the direction it took the image… Here it is. What she wrote is beneath the image.

photography old woman
Have to roll out the pastry… have to pluck the chicken… must fix Aron’s ripped trousers… and it’s already very late… the sun is almost setting
You are right, we can easily talk forever, isn’t that great? 🙂 Anyway, I do agree that we need to get a bit more oriented and practical towards the Identity Cards project, so here are some thoughts about it. Maybe we can connect some of the ideas we talked about – Identity in terms of private and cultural context, the relationship between the artist and his subjects/viewers, and the involvement of the viewers as part of an art work. We can use images from my Identity project to provide a personal side, with your images of hand gestures (or ones we will create together) that portray some cultural side of Identity. Then we can add a way for the audience to kind of interact with our work.
Since it’s all about Identity, one way to involve the viewer is by providing him/her with their own image (a visual aspect of identity) as part of the work, and for this I think that what triggered my own self journey can work here too – it’s the mirror… we can find some way to embed actual mirrors between (or within) the images, so the viewer will be exposed to his own image within the context of identity related images/work, which can raise questions like “How do I fit in?” or “How much ones identity is really unique?”
Hope it was not too much practical… 🙂 What do you say?
Have a wonderful weekend.
Zeev
Ps. we can keep drifting with our thoughts in any case …
Hi,
Forgot to say… I just love your idea of putting it all together in your blog. I looked at it and even gave it to a friend to read, and it is doing a great job describing the interesting interaction and process we’re having.
Cheers
Zeev
Hey Louise
Our organizer in Israel is going to come out with publication in Israel about the Identity Cards Project, and part of it is the information about the Israeli artist participating and any relevant information – so the question is if it is OK with you that I will give them the link to your blog that will be attached to information about me and my collaboration with you.
Have a nice day
Zeev
Hi Zeev,
Yeah no problem at all. I would love to get a copy of it when it’s ready if that would be possible?
Louise
Hi,
Thanks – and of course I’ll send you the link when they publish it (it will be in the internet)
Zeev
Hi,
I’ve been thinking about the ideas you outlined and it seems that we’ve got a good basis for collaboration sorted. Hope you think so too. I’ve also been considering the possible formats and outcomes that we can apply these ideas to. Not sure if this is too premature but see what you think.
Obviously it would be nice to present the work as wall mounted images for the initial accessibility but depending on particular idea streams we could also incorporate the work into multiples ie. books or sets of cards, to create a more interactive and tactile experience. I have a strong interest in artist books and multiples which has led me to set up an international project called Artist Book Collective. It started as a facebook group and you can view it here:http://www.facebook.com/artistbookcollective. There is also a blog with links to past projects here:http://abcarchive.blogspot.com. I’m including this information for examples of possible formats but also to invite other people who may be interested to join as a separate issue.
With regards to other books/multiples I have also attached some different images as I am interested in exploring and expanding the book format to incorporate narrative, objects, etc. Again, these are just suggestions but I would be interested to hear your feedback.
Hope you’re well and enjoying life 🙂
Louise

artist book

 

artist book
Hi,
The artist books is a field that I have no experience with, but it looks very exciting with lots of creative possibilities, both as a whole conceptual work and as a way of presentation only – got to give it a try :). It does give a different experience and I think it is definitely something that we should explore as one possible outcome of our collaborated work.

On a more conceptual point of view, I think that artist books is more like an intimate centered kind of experience (within a context of one work) as opposed to regular images on the wall kind of experience, where space, size, spread out images, layout, light and even the audience, creates a powerful overall look & feel of the entire work.

Back to our collaboration, I think we can find a way to combine both experiences (not sure if this is what you meant). I have no specific idea yet, it can be a kind of drilldown per topic as you suggested, or any other creative way we’ll come up with. (hey, that’s why we joined this collaboration project in the first place :))
Cheers
Zeev

Hi Louise,
I just found this link on artist books, I’m sure you familiar with it already but just to be on the safe side here it is: http://artists.arts.lt/1artists/artistsb0.html. It’s full with some great art books examples. The all art books idea is very exciting and I hope we’ll find a way to incorporate it somehow in this project. I plan to create such a book from my own Bittersweet self identity project in any case – but I guess this will be later on.
Hope all is well with you.
Zeev

Hi
What’s up? Here is the Internet catalog that was published here in Israel by Amili Gelbman: http://israblog.nana10.co.il/blogread.asp?blog=404212&blogcode=11054415. In my page there is a link to our correspondence in your blog.
Cheers
Zeev

Hi Zeev,
Thanks for the links, both to the online catalogue and the artist books. It’s always good to see new work. I’m really glad that you are interested in this medium and I hope that we can both get a lot out of it. I’ve also been thinking more about interactive possibilities relating to perception and it brought up memories of the kid’s game ‘Chinese Whispers’. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but the idea is that a group of people pass a secret message between each other and it gradually distorts as each person perhaps hears it slightly differently. It reminded me as well of your collaboration between words and image. Visually, it could be represented by the Surrealist game ‘Exquisite Corpse’ which we call ‘Consequences’:

artist book

Not long to go now. Are there any more practical preparations we can do? eg. prototypes, recruiting participants, etc?
Louise x

Hey Louise
Yes, not long to go now and I’m eager to get there… Work on Identity can vary from being very personal on one side, to conceptual meaning of it on the other side. It can express one’s personal point of view, feelings and thoughts that define his own identity (like the path I’m exploring) and it can on the other end deal with the notion of Identity and the relativity of it (like the hands gestures you explore). I think that connecting these 2 ends is our biggest challenge, and the way we’ll do it can influence some how the visual implementation and presentation. So, I don’t know what more preparations we can do. I plan to bring with me few printed images from my Bittersweet work, in case we’ll find a way it can feed into what we’ll create together.
What do you think? Am I making any sense? 🙂
L’hitraot (See you)
Zeev

Hi Zeev,
That sounds great. I guess we just need to meet and discuss the ideas we’ve had and see how we can implement those. I could bring a few images of my work and bindings for books in case we decide to use any of those in any of the work we produce. Bring as many of your images as you like (could have some digital as well as I’m sure we’ll be able to get access to printing facilities through Art House).
Look forward to meeting you next week,
Louise

Hello Louise,
This all project sounds great and I’m sure we’re going have a fruitful (and fun) collaboration. So will meet next week, and to help you recognize me amongst the crowd (It’s all about Identity after all) here is an image of Me, My Family and Other Animals
See you there 🙂
Zeev

Photography family

The Project…
The Israeli artists arrived on Monday 15th June and met up with their collaborative partners the following day to discuss their respective projects and eat Indian food…

photography friends

 

photography friends

 

photography friends

 

photography friends

 

photography friends

We set to work the next day and, after discussing many possibilities and directions for the project, we decided to use a photograph that Zeev brought with him as a starting point for exploring the politics of identity. We walked around looking for locations to shoot and then Zeev played about with the images incorporating some Origami cranes from a Japanese architecture show preview…

photography
photography

 

photography

 

photography

 

photography

After a busy day working we were invited to participate in some kind of meditation labyrinth created by Linda King at Westgate Studios. Some people were more into it than others…

meditation
meditation

 

See no evil

Back in the studio we finished making our work with a slight detour to see what the others were up to…

making books
artist book
making badges
head mask
artist studio
artist studio
artist studio

The finished work ‘Birds to the Parliament’ with statement:

‘Birds to the Parliament’ mixes Israeli political satire and British slang as a starting point to explore social identity. The triptych incorporates cultural symbols from history and language to discuss the nature of democracy and class within different systems.

Birds to the Parliament
Birds to the Parliament

 

Birds to the Parliament

After a hard weeks work, we went for a well deserved break at the pub; the girls thrashed the boys at pool, Roee showed his competitive side, and Zeev defied gravity…

in the pub
In the pub
playing pool

The install was hectic (as usual) and we posed for photos…

 

press release

 

exhibition
exhibition
…And that’s it!
If you want to see the catalogue of finished works, click on the Issuu link below:

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