The Creativity of Evil: Urban Space and Spiritual Space

The hybridization of means, the breaking of technical frontiers and the exercise of complete freedom of discourse, conditions that have determined the development of the art in our time, become manifest with particular expressiveness, sensitivity and coherence in Lihie Talmor's work. Trained in the field of graphic arts, Talmor has been, for a few years now, transcending the paths of two-dimensional expression to take on three-dimensional space, integrating into her plastic work, which is endowed with great communicative effectiveness, the techniques of photoengraving and metalwork. Images taken out from reality, blurred, transformed and re-invented by engraving, contained in metal boxes, form a recurrent iconography in the work of this artist: an outcome of exploratory work within the ambiguities of sight, we find spectral characters in it, widows illuminating desolate dwellings, architectural ruins and, more recently, urban holes, that is, an imaginary associated to the idea of devastation.

As a result of her most recent investigation, "The Creativity of Evil" constitutes an installation whose fertile semantic richness offers us different levels of signification, from which at least two are quite diaphanously discernible. This work integrates a series of engravings, organized inside a metal structure, containing images from photographs of gas, water and electricity manholes. This is complemented by a set of sculptures displayed on the floor, some of which seem to allude to a fractured ground, dislocated and unsteady.

As it was mentioned before, in a first level of signification the work is presented as a metaphor of the urban space that explores the multiple perceptive relationships established by the common passer-by with the uneven topography of the city: subverting the empirical concepts of spatiality (frontally / horizontally), Talmor leads the spectator to elaborate a re-reading of his social environment and to become aware -managing to take them away from the ocean of collective memory- of some of their unconscious cultural gestures. Simultaneously, the artist emphasizes in her work an underlying sense of order, of organization, in life's ups and downs (the random accumulation of litter inside a manhole), re-discovering the poetry hidden in cultural vestiges, giving a new value of the "aesthetics of ugliness" and revealing the ritualistic character entailed in certain everyday actions.

But in a second deeper level of signification, the setting seems to be structured by an open symbolic system, a subjective one, whose reading could take us to a reflection in an existentialist vein which could be associated with the idea of the fragility of material life. Thus outside their context, the images of the ruined manholes, stripped of their lids, evoke the image of open graves, funeral niches containing or waiting for the corpses of civilization. Meanwhile, the small number of lids recorded suggests tombstones or memorial tablets with inscriptions on them. The graphic images, on the other hand, are seen as if through windows (formed by the metal frame structure). These elements, dear to Talmor, constitute one of the most characteristic existentialist symbols of Romanticism. However, within the same concept, the most surprising trait in this work is the parallelism that could be established between one of its components, the cracked platform, physically unsteady, divided into angular fragments, and one of the most dramatic works of Romanticism: "The Glacier Sea" by Caspar David Friedrich. If this German creator represents in his canvas a broken ice ground, shattered and crowned with sharp edges (an image that has been interpreted by historiography as a modern symbol for absolute desolation and death), Talmor, by cenesthesic association, creates in her passable installation an analogous aesthetic experience that moves us to experience pain, fear and attraction simultaneously at the sight of  (or the idea of walking on) a fragile, irregular and broken-up ground (a feeling emphasized by a pinnacular element, just as in Friedrich's cutting froze sharp edges) conceived by the artist as an integral part of her metal platform.

Independently of the fact that these considerations have a basic justification or are only speculations, they account for the extraordinary capability to suggest, to bring about queries, to provoke multiple readings that the interpretation of Lihie Talmor's work can generate: this is, in short, one of the main conditions that every true work of art should comply with.


Adolfo Wilson
Extract from the catalog of the exhibition
"The Creativity of Evil"
Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas
May-August, 1996