וגם לינק לקריאה מקוונת
Velvet Underground, Interview by Yonatan Amir
Originally published in Timeout Tel Aviv, 30.01.2014, extended version at Erev Rav: Art. Culture. Society , as The Visual as the Experience Monster 10.02.2014
Kitsch and prostitutes, glam and porn- Aline Alagem tests the limits of the image in a new solo show
The painter Aline Alagem stands next to a large scale, hyper-realist painting depicting fragmented images form porn films. The images are partly concealed by a pack of flamingo birds, through which a woman’s eye is showing. In another painting appears a fountain, ornamented with galloping horses' sculptures as a sort of a climax moment. Here as well, one horse looks directly in the eyes of the spectator. “The eye that watches you is the political moment”, says Alagem. “As a painter I'm less cautious when I'm making eye contact. It's as if I tell the spectator: stop, pay attention, ask a question”.
The conversation with Alagem is taking place prior to a solo show that will open next week at Artstation Gallery in the Thana compound in Tel Aviv. We meet at a studio in the Florentin neigberhood to which the Alagem recently had moved after years of working in keriat Hamelacha (an industrial area in the south of Tel-Aviv, that despite it being a primary location for art studios and small industry- is known for prostitution, drag traffic and violent nature) and after feeling she can no longer stay in a place lurking with prostitution and drag traffic. “It became an impossible place to work at, with condoms lying around everywhere and the need to lock the studio from the inside in every hour”, she tells Timeout. “I found myself trying to work at the studio meanwhile on the other side of my door a pimp is getting his way with a prostitute, and to top that I have to clean up the leftovers. On the one hand- the city's municipality sends detection companys to investigate whether or not artists are teaching in their studio against the city law, and on the other they ask the same artists to hang sings promoting their “love at, make art” events. Of all the things that are being looked away or made off the record in this city, they choose to witch hunt the ones that are in the margins and are unable to make a living.”
Do you feel that you're in the margins?
"If I wasn't in the side-stream, the street lights by my studio would probably have been fixed and the police would have bothered to come when I call them”.
In your past shows you kept it separated- art in itself and public busyness in itself. On the surface, this time is no exception, and still it seems that experiences from working in Kiryat Hamelacha had penetrated the canvases.
"Days will tell how things are interlacing one into the other, but they clearly have an influence. It's very unsexy to worry for the realistic living and to sweep away after a basic distress. There's a more alluring way to speak about the paintings than to say that the whores in kiryat Hamelach had influenced me to work with images from porn. But it did help me to clarify the nature of the gap between the hermeticity of the pornographic image and life itself. Maybe life itself, portraid in asphalt, condoms and cum in Kiriat Hamelacha are not present, but the moment where another smoothed, bleached, tempered pornographic image appears in it, it is the abundance that creates the volume and the impossibility of this.
"when you enter a porn site you get tags for everything: one black with one Asian, with an aunt watching from the side and so on. There's a specification of so many narratives characterized to the micro details, and you can't help but feel that this is apocalypses.”
Because it's so characterized?
"because of the nature of the place that the need to characterize come from, when the visual aspect has turned into a monster that becomes the experience itself. I don't mind something specific turning on someone specific, however the inflation is only at image level and not in credibility. Porn actors don't become better actors- everything stays still, while the images clone themselves like cancer.”
Alagem pulls out another painting, highly different, that's based on a satellite picture of iceberg movement. “It's an image from a perspective that I’ll never have”, she explains' “And since eventually, in a very analogical manner, I have to decide how to translate its stains, it undermines a little this hyper-image in the other paintings. This painting is like a lullaby, while the rest of the paintings our a state of snorting-whether cock or Ritalin.”
If the kitsch, emptied image deters you so much, why choose to paint horses galloping out of the word Dior on the background of a stormy sky?
"This is a romantic, childish image. The fact that it's an oil painting makes it even more so, but to me it's also a bit of a voodoo act on an image that existed in past time, when people meant it with no irony.
Do you want to go back there?
"I understand that I'm not free of it as I'd like to think. I too am looking for the flash beneath the stretched skin. It's pathetic and desperate, sure, but the only way to be in a place that creates a feeling, is to go deep enough in order to find an image that touched you before you dulled it. Unfortunately this means that your like regressing to being pretty dumb. When I was 12 I painted horses and suddenly I go back to them.
When looking at the whole of the paintings we understand that this isn't at all a show about porn, it's about the meaning of an image.
"porn is everything: It's your profile pic, it's the food photographs on instagram, it's the fact that everybody knows where you are, what you ate and how you arranged your schnitzel and how everybody “likes” it though no one cares. Earlier I herd a noise from the window and when I approached I saw a group of parakeets siting outside chattering. It was an amazing sight to look at, but instead of experiencing the moment It immediately came to my mind to take a picture of it”.
Your basic thrill from screaming parrots is also an environmental product.
"I don't think that we must get excited from/in the moment, rather than we're chained to the anti-moment. The branding is the moment, not the thing itself. If there's no title to the experience- it is not happening, and through porn I can talk about that. When you eat, you don't need to look at “sexier” food in order to eat. In eating as well as in sex, all the senses are active. But porn- despite being totally flat, and thanks to its visual availability- has become a leader and a formulator of a script that's one sense based: uber sense. And now this script is enslaving us, people try to act like the porn stars they saw in sub-genres, like the step grandma with the Asian girl and the pool guy. But, the in scripted orgasm is banal at best, so in the end of the day when a man cums like a porn star, it doesn't really excite him, on the contrary- it intensifies the emptiness that follows. This is an emptiness that grows bigger and bigger turning into violent energy that looks for other drastic scripts to manifest through, and so the loop goes on”.
And still, knowing your passion for glam from past works, I can't help but feel that there's also a yearning and love to the glittery, fake, exaggerated world, to its mega production and its spectacle.
"When I was 14 I was a punk. Punk wants to undercut the granted, the consensus and the structured. So you walk around in your Mohawk hairdo and you put on the studs and the patches, then the question can be asked- if it's all done in order to despise something, why make it such a big, colorful deal? But this is an idea of volume- you turn it on and by that you create a dissonance. It's the same in my art, I turn on the images, the pinks, the kitsch and the sex. You could say that if my work responds to asphalt it necessarily means I accept it's authority- the one of gray and sewage. But I guess it isn't like that, cause hey, punk manages to remain alternative with the purple Mohawk and all the power that comes with it.