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VALS Artist Review: Naama Tsabar

Written for a visiting artist's lecture review.

I was thoroughly perplexed by both the concepts as well as the multidisciplinary interests that were presented to me by Naama Tsabar’s presentation. Moreover, I also began to wonder if I have a fascination with Israeli artists (I had never thought of this prior to Naama’s talk) as I consider one of my greatest role models to be MIT’s Neri Oxman. With specific regards to Oxman, her interdisciplinary research led me to further investigate the ramifications of my own practice. Therefore, as I sat there listening to Naama’s lecture of the multifaceted investigations of nightlife - I was awed by both her anthropological, and sociological approach to art as well as the sheer range of her explorations.

The first characteristic that stood out to me from Tsabar’s artwork was the fluid interest of material anthropology that was evidently displayed in her installations. For example, the sculpture she had made of rubberized mats (she later explained that these were used to blanket the floors of bars whilst being one of the worst appliances for a bartender to maintain) was both a critique of the functionality of the material as well a critique on society itself. In other words, by rendering an item that was deemed both vile and burdensome into a visual spectacle of admiration - Tsabar subverted the industrialized functionality into a by-product of artistic examination.

Moreover, Tsabar vivaciously pointed out that the major divider between audience members that chose to interact with her sculpture (in contrast to those who did not) rendered to her a physical graph of those “who had been served and those who serve”. Here, it became quite clear that not only was Tsabar interested in manipulating, investigating, and extending the functionalities of materials but the interactions with the materials themselves was a larger indicator of society than of pure product capability.

Furthermore, I was also fascinated by Tsabar’s acute conceptualizations of the relationships between commercialized products and the communalized experiences we share with them. For example, she presented an installation that included the confluence of bed sheets, bed frames and alcohol bottles. The bottles used in the artwork were ones that she and her past lover had shared, and in this ‘dedication’ to her lover, I read a searing commentary on the memories that can be awoken by products that goes far beyond the utilization of the product itself.

In the last portion of Tsabar’s portfolio - Naama delved into a conversation of the fragmented experiences of visualization, architectural structure, as well as sound as an independent moving agent. She was interested in how sound and movements can ”activate [a] space” and sought to push these inquiries through performance. For example, the performance of her breaking a guitar turned into an exhausted performance of duration rather than the breakthrough climax she had originally configured. In conclusion, all of Tsabar’s work were deeply rooted in multifaceted concepts that was later extended through layers of artistic technique, examination, and experience. She pushed the limits of her materials, and as a result, expanded the psychological landscapes of her viewers.