Ayelet Carmi: A Visual Manifesto for a Cyborg
Dr. Ktzia Alon
In her new exhibition "2,000 Feet" Ayelet Carmi distills and epitomizes the formal inclinations which characterized her oeuvre in the past. Ultra-thin transparent papers are placed one atop the other, rendering present the utmost refinement of the drawing juxtaposed with the brutality of the image. Her work appears like a sculpture compressed into two-dimensionality, as if striving to break through to a different formalism. Carmi's impressive sculptures are absent from the current show, but their three-dimensional spirit hovers overhead, alluding to the ultimate representative of three-dimensionality, the film Avatar and the fusion it introduced (in confrontational mode) between basic existence and a mega-technological existence.
This very fusion seems to define the current zeitgeist, with its "New Agism" and "Return to Nature" versus hypertechnology. In her previous exhibitions too, long before Avatar burst into our lives, Carmi had already conducted a fascinating dialogue in painting and sculpture—the conservative aesthetic modes of plastic art—with this specific blend, which turned out to be the visual zeitgeist of our time. Carmi presents a different world, illusive, beautiful, entirely based on hybridization and crossing. The technological and mechanical worlds of science fiction seem to crash into the painterly frame, leaving us with scenes or figures ostensibly "cut off" therefrom. We are struck by boundless curiosity: What is the narrative thus eluding our eyes?
The key to deciphering Carmi's work is, to my mind, the notion of the "cyborg" as defined in Donna Haraway's celebrated essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,"1 Haraway presents the revolutionary female subject which is a cross between machine and a female body. "Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert,"2 she writes, putting forth a radical approach which generates a different systematic architecture than previously known. Carmi offers a dazzling visual specification for this new ontology, with the repressive aggression and emancipatory options equally embedded in it.
"A woman … owes her existence as a woman to sexual appropriation,"3 Haraway cries out, and the call to rewrite the social order draws on the repressive position of women and femininity today. Carmi is likewise well-aware of feminism. All the figures depicted in her works, from the very outset of her career, have been women. In the current exhibition a mesmerizing painting stands out. Its composition is based on the Expulsion from Eden, the prototype of all masculinity and femininity. In Carmi's case, however, it involves two women.
The inquiry into femininity, performed through the technological perspective, offers an entirely new universe of daring possibilities, conducting us with uncompromising force and courage towards a future vastly different from the past. "The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity,"4 Haraway maintains, thereby signifying the repertoire which accurately sketches the outlines of Carmi's work.
1. Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy (eds.), The Cybercultures Reader (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 291-324.
2. Ibid., pp. 293-294.
3. Ibid., p. 299.
4. Ibid., p. 292.
[Originally published in Erev-Rav, 11 July 2010, http://www.erev-rav.com/ (Hebrew)]