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Homelandscape, 2021

Watch the lecture of Professor Gidi Rachavi, director of the Sheba Center for Cancer Research. The lecture was given at the opening events of the exhibition (Hebrew with English Subtitles).

Ariela Wertheimer’s exhibition “Homelandscape” connects landscape to the body, the physical to the spiritual, wistfulness, and memories to reality. This is a follow-up exhibition to “Skin,” which she showed at the Palazzo Mora at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The starting point for this exhibition, the same as the previous one, is biographical. “Skin” was about the connection between inside and outside, between mental trauma and the sheath of the enclosing body. The trauma is present here, too, through masks that have been part of the medical treatment of Eitan, her partner, and have become the central motif of the exhibition. They are stacked at different heights on the floor, concealed under a sheet of netting and creating a desert vista.

The installation on the gallery’s floor is site-specific and has been installed as a performance. Its documentation is part of the exhibition: a video work that shows the lengthy physical process of laying down the masks and arranging them. The masks, all differently sized, are designed to the dimensions of the faces of dozens of men, women, and children. While each mask is prepared for a specific recipient, it is also part of an amorphic mass, buried under camouflage netting. The covering was created by a physical action of dipping the netting in paint and dragging it over the scattered masks.

The masks’ materiality resonates on the surface of the photographs on the walls. Wertheimer sanded their surfaces, exposing marks and evidence of an ancient layer. The grains of colored matter accumulated in the act of sanding were collected in test tubes, a testimony to the layer of dead skin a moment before its regeneration.

Layers and acts of covering and uncovering are repeating motifs in Wertheimer’s work. Sometimes the surface covers what is underneath, and at other times the mask or the canvas poke through, announcing their existence. This landscape reveals the layers that construct it. On the one hand, a nostalgic view of a limitless space full of yearnings for the homeland, and on the other hand, a vista exposing ancient internal layers, at times suppressed, seeking recognition and healing.

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