Installation: Andi LaVine Arnovitz
I’m Not is a grand, visual statement: a graphic manifesto that celebrates independence and stands in defiance against a world that increasingly blurs boundaries and denigrates tradition. Over one thousand porcelain fish, each one hand-made and hand-painted, are suspended as a response to the world of plastic mass production. The fish swim en masse in schools, with each fish sticking to its own kind, suggesting an isolation from, or perhaps even exclusion of, the other. There is a sense of a massive surge, an aquatic stampede of blind conformity. Somewhere in this teeming, undulating sea of porcelain there is one lonely fish swimming in the opposite direction.
The artistic choice of fish as subject in this installation has vast iconographic roots. From as long as 14,000 years ago, fish have appeared in art in ancient cultures, including Egypt, Greece, and Rome. These civilizations, as well as others from the Far East, used fish to represent religious, economic, political, and social motifs. In cultures across the millenia, fish are mythological symbols, astrological icons, and religious metaphors.
Because fish swim under the water, Jewish tradition considers them immune from the power of the evil eye. Like God, fish never close their eyes, and because they lay their eggs one at a time and in great quantity, fish are considered to be the ultimate symbol of fertility.
Fish figure predominately in Jewish art: in kettubot, synagogue art, folk art and amulets. Fish can even be found in Jewish funerary depictions. In Beit Shearim, fish decorate many sarcophagi. In the synagogue in Bet Alfa, fish are a graphic element in the border of the mosaic floor. Fish have been featured in ancient amulets worn by Jews from all over the Middle East.
I’m Not draws on the rich, visual tradition of fish as a nuanced, historic symbol, while the labor intensive manufacture of the fish is in stark contrast with today’s mass-production methodologies. The installation can be viewed in the continuum of the symbolic use of fish or simply appreciated as a colorful, visual commentary on today's world.
Jerusalem International YMCA
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