Nahum Tevet, A Page from a Catalogue, 1998 (installation view)
|Ask the Artists: Nahum Tevet|
|Question 1: Did you intend to convey a spiritual message through your work?|
guess good art conveys spirituality by turning materials into experiences
and ideas. It is easy to associate spirituality with works of which are
reductive and purist in appearance as if they convey some essential
mysterious truth. But it may be the very process of making my work, which
has so many separate repetitive attempts to make again and again
meaningful reductivist structures. Maybe it has to do with the want for
something beyond the matter-of-fact figures (structures). I try again and
again to see if this reductivism is still valid for me.
It is not by accident that my vocabulary evokes so many references to specific tradition of 20th-century art—that of Abstraction, from Malevich and Tatlin to American Minimalism—where reduction has to do with spirituality. I refer to this project not in a hedonistic game of quotes and not as a mere formal issue, but rather an attempt to look at heroic moments in modern history and see whether they can be utilized.
It is not the lamentation of Modernism typical of the 1980s. I think there is an optimistic aspect to this work. The scope, the effort, and the pretension are those of a total work of art with Utopian dimension. Tatlin and Schwitters come to mind, but what is it that triggers their figures? Where do they come from? Out of piles of objects, signs, and remnants, everything is constructed through a simple mundane act, through colloquial language, and the total sum. The entire system is one of wealth and intricacy, of trust in the process rather than despair.
All of that is very physical and has to do with the movement of our bodies. Things stand in space. We are measured in relation to them as they are to us. Part of my project is to eliminate any clear reading of what we see. There is some kind of fusion between what you look at and what you feel. A place where you are "dying" to stretch your body a little more to see what is hidden and "get" more, know more, or understand more of the "world" represented. So maybe then you will find the "secret code" which will explain everything.
This experience—the attempt to find what is hidden—is important. You won’t find it and neither have I, as the work conveys a sense of futility—of an inability to understand. But maybe in the end it is an optimistic work. Maybe it has some "Sisyphean optimism" knowing that there has to be a secret, recognizing that failure (of trying to find it) and not submitting to it. I can not say that this is a message I "intend to convey" because I never work with a "message to convey". It surfaces through the long process of making the work.
|Question 2: Is this work assembled in the same way every time it is installed? How did you come up with the composition of the objects?|
it is installed in the same way each time. I am interested in making
time-consuming sculptures involving the slow act of reading. I am
interested in complexity but not in scattered-by-chance or or chaotic
A Page from a Catalogue was carefully built without plans or drawings. Starting a new work is like starting an adventure—I don’t know where I’ll go in the end. I work with my "given objects" in relation to the movement of my body in space through a long process of trial and error. I like it when I surprise myself. I hope the result is successful in drawing the viewer into the work offering him a rich and intricate experience on many different levels while "reading" and interpreting the work.
In all my works since the mid-1980s, I have work with the same " building blocks" as if they are letters of sort. They all grow from a basic form—a miniature/model of a table—that goes through all kinds of variations: enlarging, stretching, reflecting, duplications and mutations. With time, the forms partake in a game of sorts. I invent one shape and another; one thing gives rise to another, often incidentally, with mutations and violations as if there was a virus. It isn’t the strict formal modernist discussion of the "evolution of form" nor Sol le Witt’s variations, but rather something much more skeptical, fluid, playful, open, intimate, and less rigid. They are built in the most direct manner. They are placed very simply—one on top of the other or one next to the other—creating "events" or small scenes on changing scales with different meanings and energies. They are fragments of a larger whole.
|Question 3: Was the piece initially created for a specific space? Does it change meaning once it is moved to another space?|
|I don’t make site-specific work mainly because my work is studio-based and develops slowly. But sometimes I develop and extend given work if it is to be installed in a much larger space or very specific architecture. Late in 1998, I made Version Nimoise Pour une Page de Catalogue in an old chapel in Nimes, France. This work in the Carnegie evolved from the installation in France, but the installation in France included many additional events and responded to the site turning it into another work with new meanings and different experiences.|
|Question 4: Why are so few colors represented in the objects?|
the elements are made in my studio. They may recall real objects of
everyday objects, but none is a ready-made or found object from the real
world. Sometimes they are almost real but never functional. Each
object is painted differently with colors of painted domestic objects or
furniture from public institutions like schools, clinics, offices, etc…(from
the 1950s or 1960s).
I never build or paint an object with plans for its place in the composition. This was also the case in an earlier group of sculptures (1984-1990) The Painting Lessons which were very colorful. A Page from a Catalogue flirts and sometimes behaves like a painting of certain abstract reductionist movements of modern art. Referring to these models, my sculpture actually incorporates too many colors.
|Nahum Tevet's CI:99/00 page|