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The Museum as Marketing Temple - Mike Bouchet & Paul McCarthy at the Portikus, Frankfurt
Walk the Line - A visual journey at the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle
MACHT KUNST - The Prizewinners - Washed Geometry: Rebecca Michaelis's Undogmatic Color Field Painting
Shared Visions - The Rise of the Johannesburg Art Scene
Dark Metamorphoses - Victor Man Is Artist of the Year 2014
The Question: Who or What Should We Keep an Eye on in 2014?
"I want my art to put people on edge" - An Interview with Clare Bottomley
No Escape - Idan Hayosh´s Suggestive Threat Scenarios
Let´s talk: Ingrid Pfeiffer & Bernhard Martin on Philip Guston
MACHT KUNST - The Prizewinners - Longing: The Photographic Works of Nicolas Balcazar
MACHT KUNST - The Prizewinners: Sonja Rentsch´s Imagination Space for the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle


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No Escape
Idan Hayosh’s Suggestive Threat Scenarios

Between elegance and aggression: Idan Hayosh arranges chainsaws, jet engines, and generators into strictly symmetrical installations. In December, the Israeli artist will be active in Zurich. He is designing a billboard there for the project 17ZWEI, initiated by the Zurich University of the Arts and Deutsche Bank. Daniel Schreiber met Hayosh in Berlin, where the artist has resided for six months.

Idan Hayosh normally doesn’t give interviews. Ours is his first, says the serious-minded 34-year-old. He never talks about his work, has never seen the point. He wants his works to speak for themselves. And they do. The installations with which Hayosh made a name for himself do not need to be explained or put in a context; no art-historical references are required. They’re simply there. They cannot be overlooked, are unmistakable. You can’t escape them. And you’ll remember them for the rest of your life.

Hayosh’s installations are so compelling because they embody an audiovisual strategy that has an effect on a pre-reflexive level. They appeal to your senses and put you on your guard before you can even comprehend what you’re seeing and hearing. In visual terms, they are relatively innocuous. Their rigid symmetry, their virtually compulsive sense of order, is puzzling but nothing more. Acoustically, however, Hayosh goes on the attack. When you enter his installation B52 Display, for which various glass bottles are arranged in the shape of an arrow, the sound of leaking gas can be heard so clearly that you can only stay in the room if you consciously disregard your inner neural warning signals. In the installations in his Lamps series, Hayosh amplifies the electrical sounds of the headlights on exhibit to such an extent that you are intuitively afraid of an explosion. The ventilators in the installation AH64a affect viewers like the turbines of an aircraft taking off.

It is no accident that viewer’s associate Hayosh’s installations with the military. All of the artist’s installations emulate the layouts of photos in which aircraft, helicopters, bombs, tanks, missiles, and machine guns of arms manufacturers and armies of different countries are arranged into tableaus – for advertising purposes, to flaunt their strength, or to provide military buffs with collector’s items. The Internet is full of such photos. In a certain sense, the installations enable these photos to be truly experienced, translating them into an abysmal theater of deterrence.
Hayosh grew up in Ràanana, a town not far from Tel Aviv. During World War II, his parents fled from Slovakia and then Romania to Israel, which, in an ironic twist of fate, provided him with a European passport. After studying photography in Tel Aviv, he moved to Amsterdam to study at the Rietveld Academy. Subsequently he moved to Berlin, where he has lived for a little more than half a year. But he still thinks about his experiences in Israel every day. Without them, it would not have been possible for him to explore the aesthetics of militarism.   

“Growing up in Israel,” says Hayosh, “is quite a militaristic experience, in general. The overwhelming majority of the mature population goes to the army. Already in high school you’re brainwashed to accept this. And also, your father did it, your grandfather did it, your siblings do it. It’s the normal thing to do. You simply grow up with the aesthetics of militarism there. One out of four people carries a gun in Israel. You see guys with M16s on their backs on the street. You learn how to shoot a BB gun in high school. Today’s kids have posters of Rihanna in their rooms. Kids my age had posters of airplanes, bombs, missiles, and bullets hanging on their walls. The most popular magazine back then was Betaon Hail Hàavir, the air force magazine, a kind of National Geographic of Israel, that documented the development of state-of-the-art weaponry, airplane designs, and the future of aviation.”

In spite of these experiences, the self-proclaimed pacifist does not make explicit political art. Unlike many of the Israeli artists of his generation, he does not want to make statements about his country’s occupation policy and complex political conflicts. Rather, he is concerned with the visual power of images and with how easy it is to be captivated by them. He is not interested in the issue of social or national guilt – whatever that may be – but in the possibilities of a very personal responsibility.

Most of the military advertising photos that Hayosh finds on the Internet and uses for some of his works today no longer come from Israel, but from Russia and China, though they adhere to the same aesthetics as the posters that Hayosh hung in his room in his youth. They depict the psychosexual might of the military, the macho superiority of the respective owners of these weapons, the phallic power of deterrence. In the radically symmetrical order of the military objects in these photos, objects viewed by their manufacturers and users as tools for creating order, Hayosh makes use of one of the oldest archetypes of human communication: the threatening gesture. It is a suggestive gesture that is just as important psychologically for the one making it as it is for the one who sees it; a gesture that in evolutionary terms appeals to much older areas of the brain than the regions used for thinking and feeling. In addition, Hayosh’s works are artistic meditations on psychological violence emanating from such gestures and their consequences.

Hayosh has not only experienced this kind of violence; he has perpetrated it himself. He was a soldier for three years, he says, right after he finished school, from the age of 18 to 21. “Only after I got out, I realized that there is an actual life out there, a secular, a non-governmental, a non-militaristic life. When I was in the army, it was more like going to sleep for three years. You just obey orders. It was very serious. I felt very responsible. I was in a combat unit, and it was very demanding. Bodily demanding, you don’t practice free thought so much there. I did one tour in Hebron and two tours in South Lebanon as part of the occupying force. I didn’t kill anyone, I didn’t shoot anyone, but the things I remember doing there I cannot ever forgive myself for. Even for only being there as a soldier. One day I might be able to forgive myself for that, but not yet. All I can do is live with it and also talk about it. All I can do is to live with the shame and to express it.”

You get the impression that his art is not only a way of expressing his shame. It is also imbued with the intensity of a compulsion, a disciplined wish to process. The collection of military photos on the Net has long been an obsession for him, says Hayosh, something he does without thinking twice. He is still online five or six hours a day, looking for images and plowing up the visual unconscious of our culture systematically. This is part of his daily routine, as is the thirty kilometers he runs every week and his thrice-weekly workout sessions at his health club and his regimen of cooking healthy food and not drinking any beer.

Hayosh’s most recent work, his project for 17Zwei, the commercial space leased by Deutsche Bank in the Hardbrücke station in Zurich, also explores the visual archeology of the military the artist is so fascinated with. The 17-meter wall work is Hayosh’s first purely visual work.  In a neatly decorative yet uncomfortable way, he lists the diagrams underlying the photos he found on the Internet of symmetrically arranged weapon tableaus. Meter for meter, the viewer walks past military logos and codes; past threatening aircraft, bombs, missiles, and machine guns; past formations that recall science fiction movies yet are real. The pedestrian tunnel of Hardbrücke station, one stop from Zurich’s central station, is one of the most-visited places in a country considered one of the world’s safest. Tens of thousands of passersby use the tunnel daily. Against this backdrop, Hayosh’s wall work is a veritable visual bombardment.    

The sad truth is that none of us is safe, not even in Europe. The militarism Idan Hayosh grew up with is present here too. But it’s pushed to the fringes of collective visual consciousness, no longer part of everyday life except in video games played by adolescents. Maybe someone like Hayosh is needed to burst the bubble of our abstract feeling of safety, someone with his horizons, someone with his life experience, which for most of us is inconceivable.

Idan Hayosh

Underpass S-Bahn station Hardbrücke, Zurich
December5, 2013 bis January 14, 2014

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