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Video artist explores themes of war, media in series talk

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

November 6, 2015

In contemporary art culture, there undoubtedly exists a fervent push toward the application of new-age media and social activism. As part of Brandeis’ “Art, Race, Activism” integrated art project, Israeli guest speaker and award-winning author Nevet Yitzhak was invited to talk about the symbolism and meaning behind some of her most popular installations.

First and foremost a video artist, Yitzhak’s works chiefly focus on themes of war, media and global interactions, primarily those that occur between Eastern and Western nations.

The first piece introduced was Yitzhak’s 2014 installation, “WarCraft,” a culmination of three projected panels, harboring an intense amount of detailed imagery designed to resemble the “war rugs” first created during the decade-long, Soviet-Afghan war of 1979.

“One of my goals was to maintain and to preserve the composition, to preserve the colors to preserve the visual image, but I do have my own tools, and I can do something else with it. I can make the pictures move, interact them with each other and, of course, create fire,” Yitzhak said. Most intriguing, however, was Yitzhak’s incorporation of three-dimensional animation of war within the tessellated images of tanks, aircrafts and other various combat-themed figures. The mixed-media vibe of the installation was reminiscent of Linda Bond’s “Reconnaissance,” another installation that harmoniously meshed the beauty of art with the cruel hardships of war, which was on display in the earlier this month at the Women’s Studies Research Center in Epstein.

Another important theme that Yitzhak discussed was the desensitization and dehumanization of violence within the cutting-edge world of videogames, as well as the ever-present shift in popularity toward games focusing on aspects such as first-person shooter and other senseless acts of violence. Yitzhak reflects this in her work through the utilization of three-dimensional graphics and audio that were taken directly from the videogames themselves. With her evident mastery at manipulating digital graphics, Yitzhak was able to have each of the three panels interact with each other on a perfectly-timed loop, creating a synchronized, 270-degree view, punctuated intermittently by an occasional explosion and, subsequently, an animated fire also taken directly from a videogame.

“When you enter the gallery space, it’s actually surrounding you in a way,” Yitzhak said. “As a viewer you are in the middle of the situation; you are experiencing the video not as an outsider.” At first glance, one is almost certain that the audio coming from the installation is a combination of recordings from the numerous battlefronts of the Middle East. However, in order to further perpetuate her idea, Yitzhak again uses only computer-generated sounds of violence.

The second installation introduced by Yitzhak was titled “Orient Express” and featured various forms of Eastern artifacts, from Israel to India. Like “WarCraft,” this installation was composed of individual, synchronized projections that flaunted Yitzhak’s extraordinary editing skills and keen eye for detail. Each individual projection was a black-and-white animated rendition of specific historical artifacts that Yitzhak had originally encountered which, at the end of the loop, would burst into vivid color, reminiscent of and inspired by the first full-color movies of Egypt.

In contrast to her previous installation, “Orient Express” featured numerous effects and videos that were not created through animation. One of the pieces, “Beggar’s Bowl,” features a dancing street performer, whom Yitzhak had encountered through one of her regular visits to YouTube for inspiration, superimposed over the picture of the artifact. Other pieces featured videos of animated, three-dimensional models, as well as clips from classic Arabic films and American television shows. Likewise, there was a wide variation in the audio portion of each piece, again, blending classic Western tunes with traditional Israeli music, signifying the intercultural influence of Western nations in times of wartime violence.

If you missed this event, be sure to attend the four upcoming talks part of the “Art, Race, Activism” series, starting next Thursday, Nov. 12 in the Alumni Lounge from 12 to 1:30 p.m. These talks will feature interesting and contemporarily significant subject matter, with topic names like “Contemporary African Art as a Paradox: Is ‘Afropolitan’ the Answer?” and “The Fugitive Present: Sweet Sweetback and The Mythic Being.”

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