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”
March, 1997.