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Bezalel Gallery for Contemporary Art

Roni Hajaj, Carmit Hassine, Lihi Turjeman

Curator: Hadas Maor

April-May 2024

Originating in the Bible, the term "Rephaim" carries two different meanings. In narrative and historiographic texts, it refers to an ancient race of giants, who inhabited a region east of the Jordan River before the Ammonites and Moabites settled on their land. In poetic texts, on the other hand, it is not the name of a specific people, but an appellation for the dwellers of Sheol, abode of the dead. In contemporary culture, the term is used freely to describe the spirit of things, an entity that does not physically exist, or an abandoned and emptied place. The exhibition Rephaim brings together works by three artists, who address that which was and is no longer, at least not tangibly; works in which the human body is imprinted, but other than signs or traces, it is physically absent from the space...


Roni Hajaj's work is comprised of two large units of acoustic foam, which, by its very nature, absorbs sound waves hitting it, and a delicate sound piece, which nevertheless seeks to erupt, rise, and be heard through it. An absent-present body in a non-space space. The foam units are placed on the floor of the exhibition space like two large tombs, and their surface bears the scars of previous lives. Two speakers, seemingly cast in wax which prevents the sound from being heard, are hidden underneath them, enhancing the tension between a tonal presence and a complete blocking of potential sound waves. The work's title, Venus's Flower Basket (2024), refers to a unique life form that bears this name, a siliceous sponge which resides on the ocean floor and often serves as a symbiotic habitat for a pair of shrimp-like small Stenopodidea. The glasslike structure distinguishes this sponge from other sea sponges, and, due to its durability, allows its existence even in the deepest parts of the ocean, where the water pressure is extremely high.

Between tomb and womb, the work alludes to living bodies, to disappearing dead bodies, and resonates in space through invisible waves. And so, the various works in the exhibition all echo the presence of the absent body, its touch, its ashes, its remains; as well as its calling.

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