Catalog of the exhibition - 2007
Going from one quotidian world to another, with a twofold experience of design and visionary creation, from the tips of his fingers Arik Levy offers us the sensation of a repertoire of objects revealed between shadow and light. Freed of their material presence and utilitarian contingencies, each element becomes the support of a possible elsewhere, between deviations of meaning and the abstraction of viewpoints.
Forms and materials become the registers of a sensorial writing in which Arik Levy dispenses an “object lesson” around the question of alterity. The pieces are conceived as series, the first becoming the extension of the other – the original and its replica, the matrix and its imprint, full and empty. In wood or mirror-finish steel, in light or in clay, in bronze or in perfume, these forms become the objects of a unique experience, to be perceived in terms of filiations, oppositions, connections or contrasts. Nothing flagrant, just an intuition, for Levy’s proposal scrupulously avoids the obvious, preferring the other in all its nuances, its possibilities and its promises, as guarantor of an essential, complementary gaze.
Director of the centre des arts
The other… Antithesis.
In the world of visual importance and sight related priority, feeling before seeing is a challenge. Connecting to the “emotional brain” through the inversion, misplacement/displacement, trans coding as well as reformation of normal functions raises the question of visual, emotional, physical and functional identity.
These thoughts projected on everyday products and objects may enhance the micro universe that envelops each one of them.
In this work I investigate the relationship between the visible and the obscure, full and empty, existing and missing, tangible and intangible. Using among others every day products, a bridge created to the idea of the other.
The other takes part in this project in a very direct way and in various forms. But first to the idea: in every work the notion of the other is present whether we want to see it or not. Sometimes it is very much on the surface and other times hidden. I express this present in many different forms.
The other forms of appearance
The other as the person that makes the pieces, the other unit, the other missing part, the other volume, the other materials, the other use, the other’s odorant, what is it made of, its function, its position, his or its age, name, color, sex…
The schizophrenia of objects?
Another aspect of juxtaposition in space ideas and objects, is my need to give physical form to the missing parts. In other words make the intangible exist and vice versa. Not only giving the empty part an existence but also giving it a function. Often subconsciously we are aware of the missing part, we use it (like in a glass of water for example). I wanted to take it one more step ahead and give it a presence and sometimes usefulness.
I believe that after looking at these visual-thinking you may look differently on similar situations and objects around you.
“The Other” – Resonances
I am thinking of my friend: We are on separate Islands. One is North, the other in the South... (or east and west, no matter!) But in this case it is a reality. There is this space which separates the two, the importance of which, at least by our perception, seems to be ever changing... fluid.
We fill up (or leave empty) this space between us, mostly via various modes of communication. Dictated more by time than by space. More by state of mind rather than geography. But still…
And so, I am on my Island where the overwhelming quiet of the fjord, not the open sea, when in darkness, seems to be without end. These watery paths seem to lead to the end of the world or another world, rather than towards civilization.
But the ships, arriving at their defined times, which I know now by heart, return from their journeys to this “other” place, and announce their presence with grandeur, with the sounding of huge horns saying, “We are here!!”. By the timbre, we can visualize their importance. But in fact, what I hear mostly is resonance. The resonance and tonality of the horn’s vibrating space. These frequencies spill out! They flow, pouring into the air until they reach the resistance of surrounding Islands. What we hear really is not that they have arrived, but rather, “listen to this space”. And we are filling it up! It is the “vide” the “other side of the coin”, this resonating which reminds you what is solid and what is not! Hang on!
And I think of my friend on his island. We always manage to close the gap, filling in, describing the space… our parallel spaces!
Leon Milo, composer
United Sardine Factory, Bergen, Norway
The Other’s Other: Much of a Muchness?
To attempt to define a designer’s personality is always a tricky exercise, especially if one is trying to avoid the prevailing criteria of taste and style. For a designer’s job is to cater to the demand, however imprecise, of a client, however detached he may be from economic concerns, and not to raise problems, not to bring up the kind of philosophical, political, social or aesthetic issues that artists are always having to grapple with. Yes, the designer enjoys a “lesser” degree of freedom, but he is also less implicated: he knows that, once a series is finished, once a certain kind of technological solution has gone out of fashion or a brand strategy has been annulled, he will set off in other direction that may be more or less close to his concerns, but that he will make his own as long as the product, experiment or idea lasts.
Arik Levy has enthusiastically covered all the ground that goes from the Other, the mainspring of “designist” solutions over the last twenty years, (through the recognition of desire on the one hand, and on the other, the legitimacy of design’s contribution, or even its “consumerist” added value), to the Other’s Other (a redoubling operation whose mathematical transitivity has not been established), which is now one of the signs that gain a designer recognition for his perspicacity. As a result, he is now in a position, not to impose “his own style”, but to propose images (of himself, of us, of others, through products) that we can easily identify with if not identify as us.
Following the biblical injunction, Arik Levy lets there be light by working on lighting design, in the manner of Ingo Maurer, playing on the subtle surrealism of the materials, but without going as far as the de-compositions of a Gino Sarfatti, juxtaposing the functional and the strange, the fundamentals of electric wire and the decorativeness of chain mail, the plug-and-play readymade and the techno-logical.
Israeli designers and Jewish design
Design is a thorny question when imperatives are no longer simply functional or even modern, but when the “pioneer” spirit of the Israeli culture of the 1960s and 70s could offer exemption from thought and from efficacy. While the label “Israeli designer” could actually mean something in the case of, say, Ron Arad and the activities of the Bezalel Academy, Jewish design, whose definition is still largely open to this day, was not able to establish the political and social characteristics that, while making it easily readable, would have endowed it with a seminal or simply remarkable singularity, which is it what has happened with Israeli contemporary art these past few years.
Modes of production and distribution
A realist, Arik Levy soon opted for self-production, which was the only way in which such demanding work could be viable in the early 1990s. Soon, though, he was getting support from Italian firms anxious not to miss the latest new talents, and then from a growing market for unique pieces or small, limited editions in the early 2000s. Consequently, the same concept could enjoy true distribution both in a Parisian gallery and in the local design store, as well as true legitimacy, both with the designer’s economic partners and with those institutions without which no work in this field can gain acceptance.
Installations, videos and culinary art !!!
Today, the designer can include in his activity pieces that reveal his sources of inspiration and his origins. The evocation of a presumed “departure” constituted by a bronze pillow is mixed with great cleverness and refinement with an almost inextricable network formed by a skein of small fluorescent tubes, just as two rocks of steel confront each other in a programmed collision, producing a “rock fusion” on one scale and, on another, the delicacy of angular yet generous chocolate.
In the end
This exhibition should be seen as a new formulation of the designer’s activity, of the directions that he opens up both to his own thinking and to the new explanations that it will allow his partners to develop.
The Smell of the Other
As Emmanuel Levinas said, “The best way to encounter the other is to not even look at the colour of his eyes.” I followed his advice when responding to the request made by Arik Levy: to create the odour of one’s other.
I closed my eyes to imagine what his shadowy side might be, his hidden face, his obscure self. I tried to think what might have slipped behind that healthy, sporty appearance and to explore a world of the unspoken and the suggested.I started by working with the smell of clean skin, just out of the shower. A simple, linear smell of white musk. Then I dirtied and darkened it to give it a more pronounced, carnal character. I worked with notes of seasoned leather to give it more body, and more animal notes to introduce a slightly brutal dimension of sensuality. I wanted to create a murky, dark olfactory world of nocturnal visions and shady silhouettes. The final smell is ambiguous, combining the sweetness of the musks and the roughness of leather, the freshness of cleanness and the sexuality of the animal.
What I have created is an olfactory portrait in absentia; the perfumed imprint of the Other Arik. An invisible, strange and disquieting other, whose smell is all we know about him.
* Emmanuel Levinas, Ethique et Infini.
Creator of the olfactive portrait of The Other
The other… The other… I rebel. The other allows me to define myself. I don’t need the other. Need… rebellion… definition. Where am I without the other? Can space contain me and the other? But, who is the other? And, how do I dare ask the question: me… who am I? what am I? Abyss. I hold on.
Who am I to the other? What am I to the other? A dance for two. Hypnosis – hypnotic – loss of self – loss of the other. Boundary. Limit. Organism and environment. The field… The field in which the other and I exist, stroll, stumble… sometimes… we meet. Meeting. Where? Between myself and the other, is there a space? observable? quantifiable? Obsession with self. Solitude, alienation, latent or marked depression. Obsession with the other. Reflection, engulfment, amniotic fogs, incest. Shadow or mirror? Both? (im)possible meeting? I recall myself. Self and the other. Relationship. Hope. Live, wrestle, at times meet at the boundary…
…in an infinite space, momentarily undefinable and delimited.
Itaka Schlubach Martignoni
Paris, Armistice 2006