Home / About / Lectures / Catalogue / Education / Italian
Artists: Tamy Ben-Tor / Marnix de Nijs / Mark Formanek / Marzia Migliora / Julius Popp / Reynold Reynolds / Jens Risch / Michael Sailstorfer / Arcangelo Sassolino / Fiete Stolte

Still from Normal, 2006
DVD, 4’20’’
Edition of 5
Courtesy Zach Feuer Gallery, New York

Tamy Ben-Tor
Normal, 2006
Exhibition view at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Firenze
Photo: Valentina Muscedra

In the case of her videos, Ben-Tor makes her recordings in such a way as to give the impression that they are amateur ones. Their central tool is language, a distinctive element by which each character becomes a strongly defined psychological archetype. Ben-Tor plays with the viewer. With her rough and aggressive aesthetics she never seeks to win viewers over, but rather subverts their expectations, crossing the boundaries of "good taste". While early on in her career Ben-Tor focused on the themes of Jewish identity and the Holocaust, her works over the last few years have engaged with other topics, interpreting various characters-frustrated, depressed or hysterical. In manners often compared to those of Cindy Sherman in the field of photography, Ben-Tor focuses on the depiction of grotesque, bizarre or ugly subjects with a style that is both shocking and controversial. When asked about the origins of the characters in her videos, the artist answers: "At times they reflect the demons within me, while at others they are characters I have personally seen in action." Ben-Tor is not afraid of making even a radical break with the typical aesthetic conventions that are usually expected of female artists. The artist's fixed poses, disinterest in beauty and the importance she assigns to the use of slang words, different accents and marked facial expressions can also be explained on the basis of her research in the field of experimental theatre and as references to the genre of stand-up comedy, as well as low-budget television productions. The video entitled Normal shows the artist transfigured by a funny wig into a character with a strong New York accent reciting an uninterrupted monologue-a real torrent of words-listing his future activities and appointments, as well as all the emails he has received and sent. Emotionally absent, the character in the video displays a constant aspiration to take part in a reality that is way beyond him. He acts in a mechanical and neurotic manner, as if his ability to plan the immediate future were the only way for him to validate his own existence. The character is engaged in incessant communication-by email with an external and imaginary world, and by a continuous flow of words with himself. Ultimately, though, he remains shut up in himself, a victim of his own neurosis, while the public becomes a sort of silent voyeur who cannot fail to recognize some traits of everyday life, brought out by a biting satire that transcends the comic tale of a neurotic tension portrayed to become a metaphor of man's alienation in the modern world. As in other works of Ben-Tor, what we are presented with here is not a finished narrative, but fragments that grotesquely define the identity of an individual. The theme of the video is found not in the banal content of the character's appointments and deadlines, but in the very creation of an apparently normal character who when portrayed in his everyday life reaches a high degree of estrangement, becoming a metaphor of people's loneliness in an accelerated world that is always linked to the Internet. In a cold and merciless light, Ben-Torn illustrates the everyday perspective of modern society, which is characterized by a paradoxical phenomenon: on the one hand, the use of digital technologies and scheduling makes it possible to save more and more time, but on the other time itself is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

Tamy Ben-Tor (Israel, 1975)

Tamy Ben-Tor's work focuses on the creation of characters that embody clichés of stereotyped figures from different national and cultural contexts. In her videos and performances, the artist renders each role with sharp accuracy and attention to detail, providing sarcastic interpretations that tend to disturb viewers and make them somewhat uncomfortable. For the representation of her figures-which almost always takes the form of a monologue-the artist adopts simple, direct and almost brutal aesthetics marked by an utter rejection of all compromise.

Palazzo Strozzi