Gil & Moti: Future Line Tours
Mariette Dölle,artistic director of TENT, Rotterdam

Published in: PROTOCOLLUM's 2nd issue- 2015/16, Dickersbach Kunstverlag, Berlin, pp.136-139. and in Socialisme & Democratie no.4, 2011, The Netherlands, pp.32-43.

In the summer of 2009 Gil & Moti spent some time in Israel at the invitation of a museum that was preparing an exhibition of their work. During this period they undertook a tourist trip with the Swedish museum curator Catrin Lundqvist, a friend of theirs. They showed her the sights, but also encountered the ugly side of Israel on their journey. A number of the photos that Gil & Moti took on the trip formed the basis for a series of etchings. The holiday snapshots became art, made by hand by the artists themselves, with the occasional enhancement of reality.

In the etchings, the 'tourist gaze' repeatedly clashes with the fraught history of Israel. It is significant that Gil & Moti have not represented themselves in the etchings, while they are usually omnipresent in their work. They know that they have a part in the conflict; they grew up in Israel and do not want to present themselves as an example to the audience. In every picture, the same female figure returns. Her hair is done in an elegant bun and it looks like she is looking in our place -- often we see her from behind, or only a portion of her face is visible at the edge of the picture frame. She leads our gaze and we look at the landscape with her. It is a well known technique introduced by the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. He painted mountain landscapes, hills and valleys and in the foreground placed a hiker gazing out over the landscape, about to resume his journey or perhaps break it off. Looking at the landscape as a way of looking at external reality is a visual concept with its origins in the humanism of the Renaissance. Land becomes landscape and is discovered as a projection screen for universal moral values.

In the etching Peres Center for Peace the woman seems sunk in Friedrichian contemplation. She gazes across the water at a port city in the distance. We see her through the elegantly turned spikes of a fence separating her from us. To the left we see the rigid form of a box-like building, the Peres Center for Peace -- Jaffa, built by the foundation of the Israeli president and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres in Jaffa in 2008. The aim of the foundation is to promote good relations between Jewish and Islamic residents of Israel. In the Peace Center, the foundation offers activities for Jewish and Arabic children, and runs an extensive library.

The scene in the etching is peaceful. The panorama of the bay even offers a bit of aesthetic experience. Is this altered by the knowledge that the main character is standing on an historical Muslim cemetery? The Peace Center is situated directly next to it. This information is not mentioned on the website of the Peres Center but is immediately visible on Google Earth. It is a place where the country's dilemma becomes apparent: where the landscape has absorbed the story of Israel's political situation.

The other etchings also point to Israel's social problems in a similarly understated way. Like the etching where the woman looks at the skyline of Jerusalem -- two Muslim women in traditional garb walk by. Together the three women represent two separate worlds, which nevertheless belong together. In the etching Keep Jerusalem Clean, the tourist spreads her arms against the background of a picturesque cityscape. She does not pay any attention to the garbage man filling a container.

The wall where the painter is fastidiously carrying out maintenance work (Painter in Jerusalem) is the West Bank barrier, the concrete wall along the West Bank of the River Jordan. Especially around Jerusalem the wall encroaches significantly upon the West Bank. The woman watches, the man works, in the distance lies the city. What could perhaps look like a sunny landscape in a holiday snapshot, becomes a somewhat uncomfortable encounter in the sober black lines of the etching technique.

In this digital age, it is a near anachronism to employ a technique as traditional as etching. This classical, traditional medium is not particularly evocative of social engagement. Why do Gil & Moti choose this classical art form in particular to show us the complexity of the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Where a photograph has the character of evidence, of proof that the photographer was present at a certain moment, this newsworthy quality is also its vulnerability: that moment is already past. In choosing etching as a medium, Gil & Moti seem to want to escape the momentary effect; in using this technique they are immortalizing the situation. In this way the images are removed from their anecdotal aspect and they are allowed to refer to the more universal theme of the relationship between self and other. By etching the images, Gil & Moti are posing the question whether the situation in Israel will ever change.


Selected Essays
Catrin Lundqvist- When Personal Becomes Political
Hans Günter Golinski- Who Makes Whom the Minority?
William Easton- Gil & Moti in the Kitchen
Elisabeth Delin Hansen- The Triple Heart
Mariette Dölle- Social Dynamics as Agents for Artistic Practice
Tali Tamir- (Israeli) Artists at Your Service, or In Praise of Exile
Maaike Bleeker- Let’s Fall in Love: Staging a Political Marriage
Selected Reviews