Under the Chinese Weeping Cypress | Irit Tamari

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

The Chinese Weeping Cypress that grows in the large lawn of Kibbutz HaZorea is in fact a foreign plant, which over time has become a part of the local landscape – just like the Wilfrid Israel Museum, which stands at the heart of the kibbutz and presents Asian art alongside Israeli art. In this installation,Tamari explores the relativity of the terms“outsider” and “local”through the unique language she has developed over the years, transforming photography into a sculptural raw material.

The biographical background of Tamari – who grew up on Tzoraand Naan Kibbutzim and spent several years in Beijing, China –ledher to take photographs of the museum’s natural and architectural surroundings, Chinese art from the museum collection, and images from the kibbutz archive. In her installation sheaddsnew context and meaningsto the images through visual and conceptual processes of disassembly and assembly.

The columns in the museum’s foyer gives its façade the grandeur of a temple that stands out in the kibbutz landscape. Tamari creates the columns from a printed photo taken by Asher Benari in the early days of the kibbutz.The photograph found in the kibbutz archive, captures the rocky terrain that greeted the kibbutz founders when they first arrived from Germany.With that she imbues the columns with local memory, a testament to the fact that the kibbutz’s green landscape was not always there. The inherent fragility of the paper underscores the inversion and casts doubt on the columns function as a supportive architectural element.

Another inversion underlies the “greenhouse” Tamari created around the illuminated ceiling with screens of interwoven printed negatives. The greenhouse,which encloses a secret garden, is composed of close-ups of a Chinese scroll from the Ming Dynasty (17thcentury) that Tamari found in the museum collection. Traces of the scroll’s golden color glimpse from the purplish, X-ray like landscape, introducing the issue of authenticity – the source versus the copy –that emerges with the shift from painting to photography and from the negatives to a three-dimensional space.

Walking around the “greenhouse,” the viewer can continue in his imagination the brushstrokes of the sublime mountains, which are alternately connected and interrupted. Inside this habitat of Chinese landscape, the branches of the cypress,sculpted out of its photographs,can be glimpsed through the slits. The branches that grow from the ceiling downward look like aerial rootssearching for a land to take hold in – but it is in fact above them. The entire ceiling is covered with photographic transparencies of the large lawn, the heart of the kibbutz, which Tamari also know from her own childhood on a kibbutz as a safe space –an outside that feels like home. The greenhouse’s inner space remains protected – open only to the gaze that encounters a realm that is equally inside and outside: in this site Tamari’s photo-synthesis process takes place.