Text written for the Installation – No storm in sight – june-july 2016, Artist House, tel- Aviv.
“People’s ears interest me as objects I observe and sculpt. But beyond the physical research into the structure of the human ear, this is a research journey into truth and illusion, as heard and seen in my perception of the world.” Ruth Noam
The human body, with all its various limbs, has intrigued artists from the Classical era until contemporary times. Van Gogh’s mad act of cutting off his own ear in a storm of insanity after a quarrel with Gauguin is engraved in modern art historical memory. Van Gogh sent the severed ear, dripping with blood, as a macabre gift to a prostitute in a brothel.
The artistic echo of this passion-driven, uncontrollable act, became an integral part of body art and performance art of the 1960s for artists such as Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, and others.
The parts of the body and especially the face, were used by the Surrealists to create artworks of the absurd, imagination, and fantasy. In Dali and Buñuel’s iconic film Un Chien Andalou (1929), an eyeball was sliced with a sharp straight razor as a nightmarish image and their attempt to “shock the bourgeoisie.” Movie star Mae West’s lips became a desired sofa in Dali’s painting, with numerous current imitations in the form of hand-shaped armchairs and other ideas transforming the human body into legitimate art material.
Ruth Noam joins this group of contemporary artists, with the ear taking on a Freudian role, as it did for the Surrealists. The ear is part of the head, acting as a channel to the soul, consciousness and the unconscious.
Noam places vibrating ears on the gallery floor in an installation reflecting duality, mystery and the unnatural along with the familiar and the personal. The placement and large scale of the ears have a perverse effect that is both theatrical and vulnerable.
The artist queries the extent of the impact of the shape of the ear has on its owner’s fate, such as personality, worldview, lifestyle, and more. The response is the outcome of the gap between the existential polarities of body and spirit, physical and metaphysical.She projects symbolic meanings onto the subject of her sculptures.
Besides the rotating ears seeming to hear sounds beyond the range of human hearing, the installation comprises several silent metal flies dispersed through the space. They make no sound, but their physical presence is evidence of discomfort embedded in the human collective memory. In one corner of the gallery, water drips onto a circular, coldly geometric aluminum track. The drops flow in a tense silence through a twisting route towards a pool, in a repetitive, hypnotic rhythm. The pathway created by the artist is an allegorical foundation for the movement of each drop. They often stop to wait for another drop to join forces and continue along the long and winding road to their eventual destruction in the pool – a foretold fate. Unification and transformation for an unexpected objective are central to the work.
The dialogue created between the minimalist track on which a single, whole drop travels to slide quietly down and merge into a larger pool in a space containing the pool and the vibrating ears, unify the dualities of life and death, nature and culture, and reality and imagination.