Of Three or Four in a Room

 When Lihie Talmor is invited to participate in this year's (1997), La Habana Biennial, which has memory as its theme, the observer familiar with the artist's work realizes that this decision is the product of a conscientious evaluation of her artistic concept. For part of her creative process is a continuous "seeing and re-seeing" of the experiences, lessons, recollections, and images the artist has accumulated in the course of her "being". And this awareness, this recognition of herself as the bearer of a past which is personal and individual, but which simultaneously relates to a quantity of references, which form part of a collective memory, makes of her personal experience a universal vision.

It is a phrase "kept" in the memory of the artist, which served as the trigger for the conception of the work we are now observing. This phrase, like memory itself, plays with the limits of language, and therefore, with its multiple interpretations. When we hear the expression "of three or four in a room", we are unclear as to how we should read it. Literally, it implies to us an uncertainty, a not knowing how many there really are in that room. On the other hand, as a metaphorical expression, it defines a room in which the fourth is a product of the other three. It is the latter sense which art allows us, knowing as we know the artistic creation is not slave to a language, since in itself it is creator of its own language, through the appropriation or invention of other "languages".

It is for this reason that this phrase transmutes itself from language into artistic expression in the work of Talmor, resorting to three elements laden with meanings which to each one of us, according to his or her experiences, will appear to be "made-to-measure". It is here, through a marvelous game of associations and inferences that the fourth appears in the room. In our intimacy, we close the circle the artist has opened, nearing our fourth, understood as a living space, without witness nor presence, having only memory as an accomplice.

 Ivan Correa
Dialogue with the artist in her studio in Caracas
November, 1996

Of Three or Four in a Room

There exist an overriding need to distinguish between the ephemeral and the essential; the ephemeral wounds, the essential yet endures; until the day when the ephemeral will have corroded the essential, will have destroyed its very nucleus, its hard nucleus…


Saul Freidlander

In our time, artistic manifestations seem to affirm their social validity with the same painstaking tenacity of those who know that they are sleeping, but nonetheless do not cease to feverishly continue to incite our reflection with their elaboration and ingenious machineries. This tenacity has characterized the work of Lihie Talmor, who has not hesitated to tackle one of the most controversial arguments since the very beginnings of her work.

  All of Lihie Talmor’s work seems to revolve around a single but inexhaustible theme: memory. This term, as is indicated by its Indo-European root, stems from memore, which means preoccupation. This simple and in nuce clarifying etymology can serve as one of the best clues for understanding the work of the artist. Her work, I would dare to say, is not nostalgic; there is no shadow of idealism in it; her search has consisted of an ample and incessant preoccupation with that with that which unites us as a group, and which dialectically implies the most intimate and personal of legacies. It is due to this that in her work, personal mamories go hand in hand see the forms, the infinite faces, of memory. And what seems most important to me, her purpose is to light the spark of memory by way of subtle and sophisticated mechanism.

Talmor’s new project inevitably brings in interpretations of the symbolic type, either because the spectator is tempted to discover the individual or collective experiences which the artist appears to have synthesized in these few and bare forms, or because the viewer ingeniously attempts to attribute to these forms a personal or familiar meaning. In either case, this work functions as kind of “memory trap” capable of provoking connections and associations in each one of us. A changing, pluralistic symbol, its function is to join unconventional, abstract entities corresponding to the emptiness in each of our souls.

“Of three or four in a room” is an expression, which in its literal sense indicates the uncertainty of not knowing how many there are in a determined space. But beyond this literal sense, it can refer to the strange hesitation felt when one is aware of being watched or judged, or perhaps to that equally embarrassing moment when he that looks on discover that what he sees, that what he himself sees, includes and surpasses him. As in the poem by Yehuda Amichai which lends the installation its name: “there is always one standing beside the window / his dark hair over his thoughts / behind it, the words”. This state of consciousness, to give it a name, transcends the particular moment, to situate us in the vast domain of memory. The eye, the window to the soul, traverses with a penetrating thoroughness something that is not among us but unifies us as a group, sometime that has been molded by oblivion and has memory as its accomplice. Even though Lihie Talmor’s work is marked by an unmistakable legacy, Hebrew, this does not mean that her work is tinged with any short of nationalism. In her work, Hebrew and the Hebraic are converted into the well-known universal metaphor of collective or individual uprooting, and here stems the importance of the figure of the immigrant. This compatriot of all the word’s bones, as he was called by Wallace Stevens, is a pioneer of memory and of its broken architectures, he for whom any harbor, however wonderful it might be, would inevitably be shrouded by the warm and vaporous veil of the past. No distance, station or limbo is sufficient to separate him for single moment from his land, which will become a magic circle, a small wall of ashes, which will eternally surround him its infinite diameter.

It is thus that immigration, memory and pain tend to be inseparable, as Leah Goldberg says in her poem: “Perhaps only the migratory birds- / when hanging between earth and sky- / know this pain of two homelands”.    

Nevertheless, the immigrant’s condition is not only that living a past condemned to the present; he also loves the now, and in it, constructs the bases of the future. There is no uprooting which can flee contingency . New smells, colors, flavors will be the raw material of novel harrmonies. It is for this reason that where memory endures, there is always imagination and creativity.

When memory, underpinned by the present, runs the risk of crumbling, when its slow and candid march does not attain the roots of its origin, it can go astray, as has happened with may cultures past and present. It is then that memory must be rescued, rebuilt, or perhaps, replanted. How can we remember the deaths of those we did not know? What place can they occupy in our lives? In short, when does memory arrive? Apparently, this happens only when the most eloquent pessimism reigns, in that precise moment when getting, when unexpectedly, a new springs arise. From the deepest part of the soul, a tenuous light emanates, which lights the darkness, giving meaning to what had become a more rumor, an incomprehensible scribble.

In many cases, the urge to rescue, to live within it, can lead to the construction of delicate and ingenious shelters: be it the diaphanous perfection of a bubble, that of a rich and mysterious nut, or that of cruel iron cage. In all the dwellings, fragile in their respective ways, there is the risk isolation, abandonment, and decay, when it ceases to be a weak voice, the companion of loneliness, and becomes an unbreakable order, a blind, exclusive counselor.

In the final analysis, if Lihie Talmor’s work endeavors to present us with the refuges of memory previously described, it is at no point her intention to examine a specific historical or human situation. Her work, made up of remains, fragments, bit and pieces, shows us the beauty and the terror which make up memory, without adopting a moralistic tone.
The delicateness of her work is based on a grave harmony made of paper and metal, of the fragile and its rigid adornment. There, everything is silence. Only in each one of us, within the enclosure memory traced before retreating, is there room for words.

Juan Carlos Lopez Quintero
Presentation text from the catalog for the exhibition
“Of three or four in a room”
Sixth Habana Biennial
March, 1997.


Still Life

A set of sculptural forms made of welded iron in combination with other materials such as resin, fiber,and metallic mesh, acquires the appearance of testimonies and found objects. The pieces are incrusted in a mound of sawdust which refers us to the archeology of the place.  Thus, the artist seeks to establish the metaphorical correspondence between technology (progress), nature (origin), and history (memory), in relation to the ambivalent nature of the Guayana region: territory of vast natural reserves and source of  materials for technological progress.
Ruth Auerbach, Nelson Galvis
Fifth National Guayana Art Biennial
Jesús Soto Modern Art Museum
Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela

Click Click

The most significant innovation of the 23rd Aragua National Art Salon was the incorporation of a group of artists invited to make an intervention in the space of the old slaughter-house, future home of the Mario Abreu Museum of  Contemporary Art of Maracay, […] that building in ruins, so well-known for the history, culture and stories it bears, where collective soul and memory dwell, whose solid walls and metal labyrinths have won over abandonment and the passing of time.  Lihie Talmor re-shapes the space  of the central patio with a gigantic path, a mosaic of metal pieces created especially to be transited and enjoyed by the spectator.  At the foot of the path, visitors are invited to play with a recycled machine incorporating pieces by the artist, manipulating it by means of a big lever, and thus participating in the work.  At the end of the patio, another interactive structures welcome the public and a new game begins.

Talmor’s work is philosophically engaged in a profound reflection on people’s relations to space. This is seen in the work, which not only dominates fully the immensity of the scenario, but also enables the spectator to become part of the creation.



María Luz Cárdenaz
Curator of the 23 Aragua National  Art Salon
Maracay, Venezuela
May-July, 1998