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Suicide is a Cultural Matter
Some Thoughts on Tamar Dubrovsky and Dov Or-Ner's Works

What is the validity of the question "Have you ever considered suicide?" when asked by an artist in the context of his or her work? What are the connotations of this question when it becomes an integral part of an artistic strategy? And how is its meaning be altered by the burial and destruction of art works? These are some of the questions that emerge from Tamar Dubrovsky and Dov Or-Ner's exhibition "Have You Ever Considered Suicide?"

Dubrovsky's 2003 exhibition "Beautiful Suicide" (which was curated by Or-Ner) included an installation of 24 human heads skewered on iron lances, and as well as numerous small, intense portraits. One year later, Or-Ner's exhibition "Leonardo's Bicycle Journey through an Insane and Beautiful World" was displayed at the Kibbutz Gallery. The exhibition was accompanied by a book that contains a series of simultaneously bitter and comic drawings, entitled "Have You Ever Considered Suicide?" This direct form of address appears on each drawing; it is surrounded by scenes of dazed revelry in which distorted, imaginary figures amuse themselves with drawn guns and Israeli national symbols (including Stars of David and cactus plants) in.

During the opening of their joint exhibition on December 23, 2005, the two artists ripped their art works from the gallery walls and buried them in a grave they had dug in the gallery's backyard. After filling the grave with dirt, they covered it with a tombstone bearing the following quote from Albert Camus: "Is this life worth living?" All that remained in the gallery were copies of the original works and filmed documentation of previous acts of destruction committed by Dubrovsky and Dov Or-Ner – which involved the blasting, burning, drowning and burial of their works.

Notwithstanding its suicidal and violent aspects, this strategy acquires a surprising and ironic twist when it is revealed to be an autonomous form of artistic action. The buried artworks are transformed and imbued with a new and independent meaning. Should this transformation be regarded as a statement concerning the death of art, or rather as a statement concerning its resurrection?

Dubrovsky and Or-Ner's series of artistic "suicides" must be seen in the wider context of political, cultural and artistic acts of suicide – which involve the refutation of cultural and moral values, a loss of purpose and a sense of meaninglessness.

This series of "ritual suicides" raises a number of artistic questions, including the relationship between the original and its copy. Dubrovsky and Or-Ner's copies are distinct from both the signed readymades created by Duchamp and from numbered series of prints. These cheap, secondary reproductions – which include simple photocopies and vestiges of the destroyed works – offer a blurred documentation of the originals, which testifies to their destruction. The tombstone in the yard, moreover, alludes to an earlier act of destruction performed by the two artists – and offers a mute testimony concerning the "scene of the crime."

Yaniv Shapiro, December 2005

 
 
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