In quest of place: memories of a nomad

Talmor’s exhibition Makom investigates three types of places: nature as the site of God, in the sense of the given worldtt; architectures—man-made places—established but also demolished or abandoned by man; and finally, photography and etching as supports for language, as sites of representation. I say finally but I could also say initially, if we stand as perceivers before these images and take the inverse course to that taken by the artist (from her first encounter with the real, before she frames it with her camera, and long before she confronts it in her etching).

In Talmor’s work, distinct acts are tied to the idea of place: the act of discovering the spaces that exist in the real; the reproduction of specific geographic sites as well as others liberally imagined; the recognition of enduring domains of history and of its symbols; the construction of new domains in art.  Lihie Talmor remembers spatial experiences, but also spatial ideas and words, like those of the Israeli poet Shaul Tchernichovsky: “Man is but the form of the landscape of his homeland.”  Standing before the Indian topographies that comprise these photographs, she “recognized” the biblical landscapes she imagined as a child, uniting thus the instant of discovery of the present-real with the intimate fantasies of childhood, while at the same time summoning mythical universes only approximated in books, folktales, sacred histories.  Thus she integrates her individual perceptions with collective memory, as member of a vaster community, of humanity.  She says: “I don’t like to have a map when I arrive somewhere.  Later, yes, but at first, I like to begin by imagining the concrete places through which I pass...”

There are then in this project a natural nature as well as a cultural one.  One of the present—a two-fold present: her with her camera confronting the landscape, our own confrontation with the photographs and prints.  And another from times past that the artist glimpses and brings to fruition.  Thus, distinct time periods deposit the layers of an aesthetic crucible, like strata of a palpable density.

Recall that Lihie Talmor was born in Tel Aviv.  She comes into the world and is formed in Israel, a country with a powerful will to construct, to achieve acres of fertile territory, as seen in the planting of pines on Jerusalem’s arid slopes, in the Negev desert.  Her childhood and youth were immersed in those habitats, those ways of being, that signification which having a place always had for her people: the security of settlement, the persistent urge to cultivate an emplaced culture, but also one that could be carried (with both oral and written traditions to guard an ineradicable history of customs and legacies, that could accompany Jews to any diaspora, to any resettlement).

The etching series Password materializes Talmor’s most political, contemporary vision about the border between Israel and Lebanon as well as memories of an adolescence in a country defined by limits and warnings, wars and scars (“a life in a nation of euphemisms, which calls conflict zones “security belts” and “good fences”, a whole life reading signs of “danger, border nearby” in Hebrew, Arabic and English, fantasizing about the possibility of moving myself through those obstacles”).  An artist realizes her work as she constructs her own life.  And so, these early fantasies become reality in her adult life as a cosmopolitan woman fluidly moving between continents, from ancient Galilee to this Caribbean that connects the premodern, the modern, and the postmodern, building a life for herself between Jerusalem and Caracas.  Are there two more contrasting cities than these, the one venerated and maintained for centuries, the other always making and unmaking itself?  (More recently, Talmor splits her life between Caracas and Adamit, a kibbutz that overlooks the border with Lebanon).

[1] Hamakom: "The Omnipresent" (literally, The Place) (Hebrew: המקום).  Jewish tradition refers to God as "The Place" to signify that God is, so to speak, the address of all existence.