Lobna Awidat: Undefined 2019
Yellow-red apples in a large wooden tub against a black plastic background spin bobble in a cyclical motion that defies interpretation. Strewn around are wooden boards so perforated as to have surrendered and lost their stiffness. Now pliable, they bend to create undulating soft malleable forms. Additional apples punctuate the slotted boards; they lay atop them, hide among their folds, and hang on transparent wires from the ceiling like beads in a piece of lace.
Lobna Awidat, alumna cum laude of the Department of Multidisciplinary art at Shenkar College, was born and raised in the Golan Heights. In her graduation project, now on display at the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, she focuses on wood and the apple—materials fraught with significance in the local social and political context—and uses them as a point of departure for formal and associative research. By combining different levels of processing of the organic material—from delicate woodwork, flush with nuances that recall architectural elements, to “simple” red apples freshly plucked from the tree—she creates a metaphorical poetic language that immerses the observer in the kind of pensivity that one typically associates with an attempt to decipher a poem.
The abstract objects bestride the boundary between the familiar and the estranged. Thus they subvert the ostensible sense of control that one has over reality and its details and signal the potential of vulnerability and instability that’s embodied in the material itself. Next to these objects, plain cardboard boxes brimming with Golan Heights apples take us back to a place of daily toil and earthiness, as if they were real crates of merchandise. Awidat oscillates freely between the clean, processed substrate, far from the reality of the untamed material, and the demanding, Sisyphean agricultural labor that has epitomized generations of farmers in her area.
By effecting this impossible integration of the conceptual, the seemingly-opaque, and the primeval quality of the raw fruit, the artist creates a sense of bifurcation that typifies Awidat’s story particularly and that of the Golan Heights Druze community generally. “Undefined” is the procedural status assigned to those among the Golan Heights Druze who refused to accept Israeli citizenship after the Heights were occupied in 1967—a “provisional” bureaucratic solution imposed on them that pegs them to this day as a community in the throes of an identity conflict. The sculptural space that Awidat creates never lets the viewer forget this context, but it also seeks to transcend it, to leave history behind as an abstract metaphor that simultaneously verges on the consciousness, and to expand into a new space of associations and interpretations.
Nurit Shamir and Noa Reshef