A Season in Heaven
Participating artists: Amir Nave, Dror Karta, Inna Polonsky, Andrey Lev, Guy Yousphan, Gabi Kricheli, Michael Kessus Gedalyovitch, Andi Arnovitz, Lena Revenko, Anne Ben-Or, Tova Lotan, Eti Naor, Ester Schneider, Hila Amram, Anna Lukashevsky, Michal Cole, Amir Shefet, Orly Hummel.
The idea of Heaven, Paradise, or The Garden of Eden is common to many cultures, as it expresses human aspirations for a better place-a place of morality and purity, divested of bodily and spiritual woes. Paradise is a legendary celestial land which, belongs to the ethereal, yet is made tangible through the terrestrial and the material, the here and now; the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis, watered by a river which split into four, or the Elysian Fields of Greek Mythology, located at the Western ends of earth.
In many European languages, the word ‘Paradise’ – Paradis in French, Paradiso in Italian and Pardes in Hebrew - derives from the ancient Persian word pairidaeza, which indicted a piece of land surrounded by wall.
According to the monotheistic religions, Paradise is a place ruled by peacefulness and beauty that result from a logical and mystical order, in which man and nature meet in harmony and mutual closeness, with no violence, no chaos, no death. It is an utopian construct, out of which an entire ornamental language of animals, fantastical birds and botanical motifs has sprung, guiding the architectural planning of Muslim gardens, the gardens of Christian monasteries and churches, as well as the Jewish Temple, also considered a piece of paradise on earth. The realm of Paradise is an internal-spiritual space. It is an allegory of the state of innocence, happiness and emotional equilibrium, without instincts and without passions, yet full of visual riches.
However, Paradise holds within it the seeds of Hell. Within its peaceful and serene planes, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge and thus lose innocence and eternal life. They become aware of their nakedness and are expelled, cursed forever, as the Garden gates close behind them. It is in Paradise that the rupture and alienation between man and nature occurs. Death becomes an intrinsic part of the circle of life – blooming and blossoming, erosion and decay. For man, death becomes a constant present, a determinate factor of life. With the presence of death, sexuality and passion erupt forth, formulating the Western patriarchal dominance of man over woman; God’s punishment of Eve, "And he shall rule over thee", becomes a continuous legitimization for discrimination against women.
It is in Paradise that wholeness is broken and internal serenity is torn into pieces. Hell is formulated as a mental state, intrinsic to man's consciousness. As Arthur Rimbaud wrote in his seminal work, A Season in Hell, 1873, "I believe I'm in hell, therefore I'm there." Evil is dialectically tied to good, underpinning the borders between right and wrong, between righteousness and sinfulness, between the beautiful and the damned. With the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, language itself has become inadequate, as they lost the ability to express the true meaning of words and the essence of truth through language.
The idea of Paradise, which has been a source of aesthetic and cultural inspiration to all Western and Eastern-Muslim art, keeps on thriving in various manifestations in art today. The artists presented in this exhibition are consciously and unconsciously nourishing the visual and symbolic history of Paradise, whilst sustaining a poetic, critical and humoristic dialogue between Heaven and Hell. Through this aesthetic dialogue, they establish an imagery, which reflects contemporary artistic, social and political aspirations.