New-York based artist Naama Tsabar adorns the spaces of the Kunsthaus Baselland with an installation comprised of three bodies of work – Transition, Works On Felt and Barricade. This grouping of works is in a constant shift between the visual and the sonic, the active and the passive. The exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland is Naama Tsabar's first big institutional solo-exhibition in Europe.
At first, when one comes down the stairs to the lower floor, the Transition canvases appear to be large-scale paintings or drawings. But instead of pigment, Tsabar uses cables, buttons, connectors and parts from amplifiers and speakers in order to create her sensuous compositions. On the one hand, they are attached simply to the wall; on the other, they still function as amplifiers and speakers and emit sound once activated. Tsabar’s description of choice is ‘sculptural paintings that have the ability to output sound’.
Barricade consists of several microphones arranged in a triangle formation. The microphones’ cables line the floor in a formal composition, reflecting the path of transmitted sound. The spatial arrangement of the microphone mount’s act as both barrier and enabler as the performative space between the microphones is physically limited. The sound picked up within Barricade expands into the different exhibition rooms as each side of the microphone shape feeds directly through a separate Transition canvas located in the first room.
Dispersed in several locations are works from Tsabar’s ongoing Works On Felt series. Much like the Transition canvases the Felt works are between the sculptural and the sonic. By the addition of carbon fiber, piano strings and guitar tuning pegs, the felt gains new features that contradict its natural characteristics. Through their visible materiality and size they engage the body, to be touched, activated, felt. One is immediately confronted with their minimal design and then given a chance to directly engage with the work itself by plucking the strings, creating sounds from them.
For some time Naama Tsabar has been interested in the shift within a given physical space and field of reading that can happen through music and sound. When they are activated Tsabar’s works’ legibility changes, as does the distance between object and subject — when the viewer stops in their tracks to interact with the works and activate them, they breach the borders between their own body and the art object. At once constituting both an intimate and performative relationship with the works and space, Tsabar does not want to present her viewer with work that should be admired only for its visual formal qualities. “I don’t like authority, to be framed — restricted,” says the artist. “These works break the borders that were set for them. They do this by possessing the potential to expand to a different field of action; they are in constant states of transition.”
Making reference to the gender roles and codes of behaviour implicit in the music and club world, in her works and performances Naama Tsabar both pulls into focus the aggressive gestures of rock’n’roll and their associations with masculinity and power and simultaneously undercuts them. Her works function like a filter for the decadence of urban nightlife with all its seductive and subversive facets. Through the energetic and sensory encounter with the works a choreography of movement and sound emerges, which draws in the visitor and extends the work across the whole exhibition space.
13 June 2018: Performance on Transitions #4 of Naama Tsabar. Composed and performed by Anna Erhard, FIELDED, Kristin Mueller, Sarah Strauss, Naama Tsabar and Anja Waldkircher.
Text by Ines Goldbach