Omri and Rotem Zin-Tamir "Maybe A Horse" at LIT [Interview]
MH: This is your second collaboration together. What are some of the prior skill sets both of you bring to the table that balance or contrast each other?
Omri: One of the perks of collaborative work is that not only the array of skills
expands significantly, but also the degrees of patience and sensibilities. But we are also very much invested in the process and, at least in this work, we were very determined to follow what was happening in the process and not follow specific skills or aesthetic tastes that we already have. Actually, if we need to learn how to do something, that is usually a good sign for us that something interesting is going on.
Rotem: I remember that when we first decided that we wanted to collaborate on our first project together, one of the parameters that we set for ourselves is that our joint practice will give us the freedom to do things that we would not necessarily be willing to do in our individual practices.
MH: How do you begin to collaborate with another? How do you start a dialogue?
R: As an artist couple who worked quite close with each other and also lives together, it will be hard to point at exactly where and how ideas arise. We are constantly in conversation, sharing and showing each other new things. We did it since we met and through the years we are together and I think we shared more with each other as our relationship grew. So eventually, it was almost inevitable to try and work on a project together.
O: For us it was a very natural progression, not that it was an easy birth, but we both understood very clearly that we at least owed it to ourselves to explore this avenue. If there is a good solid basis for the collaboration, the dialogue begins the moment you commit to the process. Committing is the hard part. It is very easy to say: “this isn’t working…”, “we’re not getting anywhere…” etc. but just like in an individual practice, sometimes you sit in the studio for a whole day and nothing happens except for a few mediocre drawings. But you have to come back the next day to continue the conversation and eventually something takes off.
MH: The art was made with various magic tricks. Are you willing to reveal the magic behind the work? If so, what were some of the processes that you went through?
R: We started the project knowing that we wanted to put our viewer in a state of
unfamiliarity. Where you look at something that, perhaps in a different context, would most likely be very familiar to you and you may even not notice it at all. We wanted to create conditions that will encourage a viewer to question the realness of things. With this in mind, we turned to stage magic and used some of the tools stage magicians use, such as reflections, projections, and other tricks as a means of creating the same type of experience.
O: Through this process we really got a deep sense of how magic really works and the degrees of engineering and deception involved in it, in order to create a perfect image of something that seems impossible. Both of us are always very intrigued by the mechanisms and the ‘behind the scenes’ of how things are actually held up, so we tried in this work to create something that gets you to ask “how it works” as part of understanding the contextual meaning of the work. It is very much about the mystery and deception of images and how images are fabricated to be registered as these coherent surfaces, when in fact, if you step a little to the side, the image breaks up and everything collapses in every direction. We wanted to make viewers aware that there is a back side of the image, an armature in a way, that is as important as the front surface.
R: Right, there are also many elements in this work that from one hand, reveal the mechanism that creates the image, but at the same time create more confusion. For example, when you walk behind the box, you see the back walls of the space the image exists in. We did not want to hide the space because we wanted to give the viewer the information that you are looking at a real place. The back walls also reveal the exact size of the space but since the whole experience is of what is real and not real, what is the illusion here and what actually exists, the viewer begins to doubt even the things we do reveal. The whole thing becomes like a riddle, how the illusion is made?
MH: Can you talk about the materiality behind some of the photographs?
O: I am assuming you want to know what certain things are… so to continue the line of thought from the previous question, even if we gave out a materials list, who’s to say that it has to be honest? I don’t mean to sound rebellious, but I think the important question for us is whether it really matters if you know what something is or not. I think materials matter because they stimulate experiences which have little to do with what we know about them, and more to do with how we are moved by them.
R: The materials list for the clouds would be something like: ice, dust, steam, pump, acrylic paint, plywood.
O: I think that minus the pump, acrylic and plywood, that’s pretty much what clouds are actually made of. But again, I’m not sure this contributes in any meaningful way to the understanding of why clouds are fascinating objects.
MH: As the creators, what does the title “Maybe a Horse” mean to you? Its ambiguity seems to challenge the viewers’ ways of seeing.
O: The title addresses a state of looking at something which might look like one thing but could possibly also look like something else, and you can’t really tell what it is. This idea, on one hand, has roots in some early forms of abstraction that aimed to do away with a literal subject matter, but it also addresses a more contemporary idea that relates to how we process visual information, and the idea that not knowing what something is implies that maybe it isn’t meant for us. We are trying to think of the image as more of an entity or organism that exists a little bit outside the visual
encounter, and more as something physical that actually has a body and a backside, and that perhaps is not so conditioned by the existence of an observing subject. The title functions as an invitation to a space that offers the mental state of “maybe” as way to interact with images and objects.
MH: Why orchestrate the viewer to observe in a particular way? Is voyeurism a theme in the work?
R: It is interesting, in our first project together, "Larval Acceleration: a Conversation in Chunks," we created a space in the gallery that allowed us to continue the conversation between us. We left the viewer to be an outside observer intentionally. In this work, although we ask for participation, we still keep the viewer physically out. When we work together, we intentionally think about our relations, our intimacy and how it comes to be expressed in the work. Although this is not the only reason, the work in that sense, expresses the way we look at relationships of others, always from the outside.
O: Yes, and we also wanted to create some discomfort for the viewer so that looking becomes a physical strain on the body. This again has to do with the idea that the image is not simply on display for us, but it needs to be reached for. There is also a reference to Sartre’s depiction of the indulgence of voyeurism where the curse of the voyeur is that he is also susceptible to being looked at. The box in the center of the room places the viewer on display as an extension of it, and by this, adds a psychological discomfort to the physical one. An important difference is that Sartre’s voyeur is lost in looking in on the object of his desire, whereas the viewer looking into the image-box is confronted with ordinary things such as clouds, balls, windows and soap bubbles.
MH: There were many layers that went into each image. Do you think any of the layers could exist on their own, or is it important that all of the layers were stacked on top of one another in order to create a particular reality?
R: Due to the nature of our processes, we are always thinking about relations, and, in this work, we asked ourselves if different things can exist simultaneously in the same space and time without interrupting or blocking each other? We found that it is possible with layers. The layers in this work express not only spatial differences, but also different times, mediums, materiality and actions. All those layers create together a new thing, that is richer and more interesting from each layer individually. So, once the layers are combined in the image box, they cannot be separated anymore except in a different medium – photography. We felt we can separate the layers through photographs on the walls to allow a closer look at certain points in the process. The photographs allow you to look at certain things as if you would observe them in a microscope.
MH: Where do you see your practice going next?
R: Although this project created many paths for us that I think both of us are
interested to keep exploring, we also love to not know what we will do next. it always changes once you begin working anyway.
O: Some of the things on the table are: radio talk shows, underground sculptures and Japan.