An essay at the second international Sculpture conference, Changchun China. September 2008
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AND MANAGEMENT OF
I am an artist and not an art historian. Therefore I would like to share with you some of my artistic experiences. Basically I specialize in constructing environmental sculptures in public places which appear all over the world. Here are some examples of works I did in China.
Bird of Paradise, 2003, Yuanyuenyuen Park, Shanghai h. 8.8 m.
Today I would like to focus on constructions of sculptures for industrial sites.
Art and Industry a seemingly impossible encounter between two different and opposing worlds. The relationship between art and industry is unknown to most people even though both are reflections of human creativity.
The machine, more than anything else, symbolizes the modern era. It has penetrated all fields of our life, changed the horizon and rhythm of life; the very sense of space and time. The aesthetics of the machine has fascinated many artists throughout the twentieth century. The mechanical movement expresses order, stability and function.
Artists have developed a duality towards the machine. They are aware of its dominating power, and, at the same time, admire the possibilities the machine offers as a way of expression. The modern artist, as an individualist, is liberated from traditional restraints, and is attentive to his own feelings and experiences. He has adopted new materials offered by modern industry. Processed materials such as plastic, glass, wood, iron and junk have become as legitimate as any previous noble material.
Within this new context I would like to discuss work I did in the Merhav Nesher sculpture Industrial Park in Israel.
In Hebrew my name Merhav means Space. Nesher is the name of the cement industrial Plant and the city where it is situated. In Hebrew Nesher is an eagle. The initial project began with a commission to erect one sculpture in the Nesher Cement factory. The manager, Yehuda Izraeli recognized the great potential of the enormous masses of iron junk that were spread all over the plant.
Junk in Nesher Cement Plant 1989
The meeting took place in late November, l989. The sky was clouded and a gentle rain was falling. It was a turning point in my life and my work. I fell deeply in love with the junk.
. Encounter 1990, h 8 m.
After I created one sculpture for the square I was so filled with enthusiasm that I kept bringing in sketches and models for new sculptures. My enthusiasm was shared by the manager.
The Haifa plant where I was working, the Hartuv one and the largest cement plant in the Middle East, the Ramle plant. They claimed that Izraeli was wasting money and manpower by constructing sculptures in the industry. Who needs works of art in industry? I was lucky. Izraeli was a very stubborn man with a tremendous vision and a power for executing his ideas. So we continued constructing more sculptures.
I think that this inspiring dialogue and cooperation between me as the artist, whose main aim in life is to construct as many sculptures as possible and the initiator, whose goal is to improve the working standards of his industry, is at the heart of the success story in constructing works of art in this environment.
Unfortunately, the company was bought by another owner and management changed. For me, it was the end of the project. No sculptures were constructed in the Greek Cement plant. This very clearly shows the crucial influence company management has in promoting art in industry.
Proposals . . . .
Creating imaginary ideas and plans are not enough even when using raw material that already exists and cost nothing. An artist alone cannot construct environmental sculpture. He needs the support, assistance and financing of a sponsor.
The installation of the sculptures in the industrial environment is not an obvious one. It is a new approach to the industrial, working place. It took great courage of the manager to execute it against the opposition in the beginning. The sculptures integrate while they confront the huge machine structures and propose an alternative to the industrial landscape in its own language.
We expanded our building activities in cultural connections with our municipal neighbors such as the cities of Haifa and Nesher and there we constructed sculptures for the urban environment. We also built other works for educational institutions.
The warm and generous connections with the community were actually one of the most important aims of the Nesher industry. Being an industry that has a reputation for causing pollution to its surroundings, improving public image was crucial. (Of course the Nesher management denied the pollution. They said that the grey smoke poring out of its huge chimneys is only the evaporation of water.)
As the idea came from him this time. I was extremely happy and enthusiastic. Better a small park than nothing. We started to work regularly and after about one year we had a big celebration and opening ceremony with the Minister of Environmental Quality as well as other distinguished guests. For me it was the realization of a dream. Many people started to visit the park. It became the main attraction of the whole area. Groups came. Couples getting married took photos in front of the sculptures and several TV programs where shot there.
Merhav Nesher Sculpture Park, 1995
An art school in Haifa asked me to conduct an educational creative project. Students from the school came to the park and I instructed them in creating sculptures from the junk. The two best sculptures were constructed with the assistance of industry and installed in an educational institute.
Student’s works, h. 5 m.
Art and industry has an even earlier history of cooperation. As early as l97l they joined forces for the Nesher Cement Plant, under another management. It was decided to create the necessary means for conducting research and experimental rehabilitation of the area of the abandoned quarry. Planned and executed by the artist Yitzhak Danziger, the ecologist Prof. Zeev Naveh and the soil scientist, erosion expert, Dr. Joseph Morin, this was a unique example of cooperation between artists, scientists and technologists.
The project intended to fulfill two aims:
very well when he stated:
The science of ecology deals with the interaction between the organisms and their environment. Ecological research deals with the serious problems resulting from the world population explosion which has aroused apprehensions of a dearth of food and natural living space, and the negative side effects of extensive urbanization and industrialization. One of the most important aims of the landscape ecology is to provide the parameters which will enable a compromise between the demands of the industrial society and the capacity of the environment to bear the burden of these demands.
As an artist I am in many ways continuing the tradition of outdoor sculpture that is as old as time. European and American cities are testimony to the importance of enlivening the environment with works as classical as Michelangelo's David (Firenze) to as shocking as Oldenburg's Clothespin (Philadelphia).
As a modern day artist I and people like Danziger have gone a step further. No longer part of the "expected" landscape for sculpture, we have actually pushed our statement into what was up to now a place that did not allow art to enter. That is, the uninviting area called Industry. We have torn down the barriers that had begun to crumble at the beginning of the 20th century; i.e. what is art, what are the permissible materials, where to place it.
works entitled "Totem,"
installed in the Beijing Olympic International Sculpture Park.
Like all my sculptures this work expresses my yearning to build a better world.
My desire is to create peace, tolerance and harmony between all human existence and between nature and all it creatures.
. Totem 2008 .