The Creative Act of Barricading*
Virtual becomes real. Times change. The script remains the same. A mechanism is set in motion. The only possible interaction is our gaze, shedding light on what is around us. Each movement threatens our stability until a new nature is constructed, a space for our collective unconscious to reveal itself, an invitation for art to step in.
Over the past two decades, Nira Pereg's work has explored the various systems and structures that shape our daily lives. Her works question the authority of the 'real' to conceptually echo the very essence of the medium she utilizes. Based on her documentary practice, Pereg disrupts conventional perceptions of space and time to challenge the reign of dominant, yet often veiled, ideologies.
Rescheduled several times due to the Corona crisis and following security warnings, Pereg's solo show at Depo emerges as a product of her research into the subject of restrictive territorial paradigms.
The exhibition The Script Remains the Same revolves around an algorithm tailored to the precise parameters of Depo's ground-floor gallery. Pereg's new body of work extends the artist's preoccupation with the act of setting boundaries from public spheres to private space, turning the Art Gallery itself into an active participant in a territorial discourse. Her research suggests that generic police barricades are the new ornaments of our cities. Whether used to corral participants in political demonstrations, marathons, parades or structured to enforce social distancing, barricades function as a physical language, a syntax for the movement of society, or more precisely, for the restriction of movement.
Their nature is exposed when discharged from their temporary duty and abandoned where they used to reign. Dormant, weak, and almost transparent, no one stops to look at them. But Pereg does stop to look. Her extensive photo archive of barriers from all over the world reveals a clear distinction between the single barricade and its multiplication into groups.
While barricades spend their lives in packs, enacting a festival of prohibitions, the lone barricade emerges as a new subconscious readymade, purely ornamental: this is the creative act* of barricading. Virtual Reality is examined by Pereg as a political medium; commonly an escapist device with a strong and tempting potential of offering a sterile 'cleaner' picture of reality. In fact, the immersive VR work The Script Remains the Same places the viewer inside a realistic replica of the exhibition space, kettled* by a chain of barricades. The work’s scenography is based on a specifically crafted algorithm executing a protocol of control in the form of a virus, a modular setup that can easily be adapted to any given space. This uncanny dystopian algorithm choreographs its own performance of endless barricading formations, creating a restless shifting impasse. The interdependent movement of the virtual barricades substitutes manned barricades with an unnegotiable mechanism.
Accordingly, the show is an assemblage of artistic methods surrounding the question of actions and ownership of one’s fate. In the work, Guardianess of the Walls, a ready-made sculpture from barricades appears as a prop in a video documenting the futile attempts of a dancer to construct her own ‘art object. Don't look In depicts the point of view of an imaginary viewer looking into the closed gallery at night. In Don’t fly a twisting, swirling hazard tape, a flimsy, thin plastic thing with infinite authority, calls the spectator to
look at what is prohibited.
Through the VR experience, The Script Remains the Same turns the viewer and the gallery itself into passive participants corralled inside a dark Beckettian set. When there are neither possibilities outside nor alternatives inside, all that's left is to reflect whether, in such a set, one feels locked in, or perhaps protected…
*"The Creative Act" (1957) is a text by Marcel Duchamp in which he describes
the act of creating art as a dialogue between the artist's 'mediumistic being,'
as he terms it, and the spectator.
**Kettling is a controversial police technique used for crowd control in which a chain of police officers encircles demonstrators for an indeterminate period.