It is the year 1982. We, postmodern in retrospect, are walking in the Pompidou Center in Paris visiting an exhibition called Les immatériaux, curated by Jean-François Liotard. According to thisprophet of postmodernism, the work of art has lost in substance, in both senses of the word: it dissipates, just like the fragmented talk that surrounded it the minute before it disappeared – talk fragments that are the sole witness to its ongoing extinction, to an existence no longer possessing a body to hold on to, save the slippery surface of its surrounding discourse It is the year 2015. We, rhinoceroses to come, are walking in the Inga gallery in Tel Aviv, visiting an exhibition by Merav Kamel and Halil Balabin (a two-named artist?). Huddled in the gallery space stands are propped up on either side, carrying paper statuettes: figures and divinities, some dancing some castrated; bodies swaying and distorted, erections. Call them what you will, but to us they are all rhinoceroses. And you might ask, quite sensibly, how can we tell that these rhinoceroses are reveling in a till-Jerusalem’s-bitter-end party? To that we answers simply that all of these – a perforated Hitler, an excommunicated Shabbatai Zevi, cavorting magavniks (Israeli border policemen), a banana in a state of undress, as well the oozing pallid discharge, the leg spreading, the dismemberment, the cries of anguish, the unlikely penetrations – all share in the frenzy and flurry of a celebration without end, in the sensual abandon of the Dionysian mysteries of ancient Greece beyond the good and bad so fervently adhered to by the Grecians.This celebration will have no ending, just as it had no beginning; which is why the end of the world – the end of all ends – isn’t a precise moment in time, the culmination of a history drawing to an end as it were, but a state of mind where the body is experienced in its longing for an utter and total release. It is a longing for apatheticness, for moral abandon, indifference, callousness: for the hard shell of the rhinoceros. Yet this state of mind, this shielding-in of the rhino – much as in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, with its comingling of lust, obscenity, beauty and the grotesque – is a way of breaking open the limits of reason, of exposing the human body, wrongfully held as the embodiment of perfection and harmony, to a realm of perversion which, so it seems, had always inhabited it. This accounts, perhaps, for the rhinoceroses’ deranged ability of sabotaging the very reason for which the body and its part came to be; this accounts, perhaps, for the scenes of dismemberment and mutilation, for a Hitler pointing a gun to his head, for an ejaculating penis held like a charged weapon, or yet for a Shabbatai Zevi morphing into the animal hidden in his name. By their very bodies, each of these rhinos tests the limits of permissiveness and interdiction, like harbingers of a reality that Israeli society has been trying to obscure, or by But despite this carnage, despite the clamor of lusting, horror and indulgence, each of these figures now frozen for good, carries its own fate, arrested in the joy of its own particular, consuming passion a passion that, washing through their stitched-up bodies, overflows the space where we too, the viewers, stand The exhibition Rhinoceroses involves a craft performed by hand, a close attention to detail as well as the joy taken in the intimate contact with matter. It is possible that here, over and across those figure, matter becomes not just a support for such statements or others, an object to discuss or a tool in the service of beliefs and ideologies, but rather an entity all its own, immune to, and inrefusal of any attempts at co-opting or interpretation.
Eden Gerber and Arianne Mintz