Vik JF's installation "Translocation" creates a world populated by anonymous figures, which take their origin from universal images of war from various eras. It is a world that contains relics of various ancient civilizations, such as Egyptian, Greek and Roman, and utilizes a symbolism and iconography borrowed from the mythologies of various cultures: the ancient world, the chivalry of medieval times, the two World Wars, and wars of our own time—the Gulf War and the Lebanon Wars. In this world that the artist has created there are groups of figures each of which has a distinctive identity, all of them existing in a forest where none may enter or leave, a closed world suspended in limbo between life and death.
JF, whose family includes medical scientists, chose to give her exhibition a name from the field of genetics. Translocation is when a fragment of DNA is sliced away from its original place and attaches to a different location. This event can alter the expected genetic function within that individual and its descendants. The figures that JF creates also undergo a process of evolutionary development over the years, which involve a transition from one format to another in her various exhibitions. The word translocation does indeed refer also to the transition from one location to another, where her feelings of alienation are reflected by the installation and transition from the Israeli space to a European ambience.
The draftsmanship of JF combines the traditions of engraving, illustration and caricatures of the nineteenth-century English press, and the installation as a whole creates a closed environment simulating a Victorian parlor. The walls are covered in white wallpaper featuring thirty images that the artist drew and then duplicated into a magnificent geometric grid that repeats itself in the circular architecture. On the walls are hung framed pictures drawn skillfully in a style reminiscent of the art of engraving, using a Rapidograph artist's pen. The drawings are built up of delicate hair-thin lines, and their contemporary content concerns the tension between violence and anonymity in the history of war in various eras. Inside the installation space stands a construction that includes old white doors, which create an amorphous maze. Through them one may enter an external space, which in contrast to the albescence of the doors is characterized by the visual overload created by the clustered images appearing on the wallpaper itself, and by the drawings laden with detail hanging in front of the wallpaper.
In the site-specific installation built for the gallery space appear figures whose faces are covered in different ways. The inhabitants of the world created by the installation are divided into groups of different "races", who appear to completely disregard each other, and the absence of communication or contact between the diverse groups generates a tension between them. The artist says that the first to appear were the figures with sacks upon their heads—a sort of universal image of prisoners of war. As the work progressed, new figures were added to them, and subsequently a hierarchy of status developed among the groups, alongside games of power and domination. The power structure of this world somewhat resembles the array of pieces in the game of chess, where each piece has its own function. In this game, the figures with heads covered in sackcloth are the simple soldiers, the pawns; those with gas masks are equivalent to the rooks; and the hybrid figures of knight or swordsman are equivalent to the bishops. However, since this is a world entirely made up of the remains of lost realms, it does not include any leadership and the kings and queens are missing. The different groups exist in a static society that is inactive and ineffective, a sort of disintegrating chaos lacking direction, law or purpose. The artist took her inspiration for the design of this world in crisis from Breughel's painting The Blind Leading the Blind; from John Sargent's painting Gassed, which depicts English soldiers blinded by mustard gas during World War I; from the Theater of the Absurd, such as plays by Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot and Krapp's Last Tape; and from depictions of crisis and desolation in literature, such as José Saramago's Blindness, Albert Camus' The Plague, and Etgar Keret's Kneller's Happy Campers.
The technique used by JFto construct the figures in her work is interesting to explore. For the purpose of designing each of the figures she used a living model, a different one each time. To erase personal identity she dressed each model in costume, covered their faces, and created a uniform for each of them. The various accessories she used gave the figures a contemporary form, yet with a connection to the past. She staged the models and photographed them in studio conditions, and the photographs provided her with a pictorial bank for the installation. The artist used various photographs of forests, plant life and rocks, to design and execute a hybridized environment positing the figures in a composition of palpable tension. Therefore, the composite drawings are a fantasy originating from edited photographs recruited to serve the artist's vivid imagination.
JF's dual identity can be inferred from the exhibition. As the daughter of English parents and a family that divided their time between Israel and London, she has spent her life straddling two very different cultures. The exhibition reflects her preoccupation with questions of identity and her difficulty finding her place within the feeling of alienation that each of the two worlds arouses in her.
In this panoptic exhibition Vik JF aspires to convey to the viewer something of the suffocating feeling that the world of our times arouses in her. The passage from the clean and intimate space to the stimulus-laden milieu arouses great curiosity, but also a visual asphyxiation and feeling of saturation. The combination of mythological figures from different eras creates a super-temporal place, a globalization consisting of the remnants of worlds and the relics of different cultures and times, communities and societies in a contemporary apocalypse.
Translocation exhibition text by Curator: Daniela Talmor
video showing the five days of construction and Pictures + drawings from the exhibition: