126 recently hosted the exhibition Beyond Guilt Trilogy, by artists Ruti Sela and Maayan Amir. These works have previously been seen in Vancouver, Berlin and Istanbul, either as a whole or just on video. On entering 126, viewers are greeted with three immaculate and expertly installed viewing rooms, a projected video piece in each one. Before each film there is a small text giving a very loose context to the work, something that isn’t completely necessary, but adds an anthropological element to the work. The first video, Beyond Guilt #1 is nine minutes in duration and starts with the text:

During 2003 we filmed encounters with guys and girls we met in bars. We filmed the whole movie at the toilets of the bars.

This piece has a shallow perspective, due to the cramped filming conditions. The subjects are groups of young men and then young women. The voices of the artists, unseen behind the camera are calm, nonchalant with just the right amount of wide – eyed naïveté. We hear a question that we subsequently hear over and over again in the other pieces, a sweet voice enquiring, “What do you mean?” The artists press their subjects for more revealing information without any explicit manipulation, or any reason as to why they want this information. There is an uncertainty from the viewer’s position: exactly just how involved are the artists? They take off their tops, repeatedly question and provoke their subjects but nothing further is shown. The same also happens when discussing the army. The artists claim not to recognize the army symbol, something as familiar as the alphabet in Israel. When they are incredulously asked ‘Were you not in the army?’ they repeatedly claim not to remember. It is this vagueness and blurring of boundaries that keeps the viewer uncomfortably intrigued.

Beyond Guilt #2, eighteen minutes long, begins with the text:

During 2004 we made contact through a dating website on the Internet with the men seen in the movie. Every evening we started the chatting at eight o'clock, $om ten o'clock and forth we arranged with the men to arrive to the hotel room in intervals of thirty minutes with each one.

This part of the trilogy begins with grubby techno music and people dancing. The artists are smiling and participating: more explicitly connected to their subjects than the previous video. We encounter the heroes of the trilogy: brutally honest and open men, divulging not just their sexual preferences and desires but information about their lives. There are some darkly comical moments: an extremely confident young man becomes slightly embarrassed that the sex toys he has are not the best – his partner has the better ones tonight. Another visitor is so delighted to show off his tools to tie people up that he ends up bound and blindfolded by the artists and is still there when another man enters the room. There is conversation about being in a submissive or dominator space and how to get both power and pleasure from these two spaces. The man is clear that he prefers to dominate, and we must presume he has a very persuasive personality, as his baggy Spiderman underwear is not the uniform of a man in charge. We could learn a thing or two from him when he claims, “It’s not that I’m vain, I just know exactly my worth.” There is also a man who cannot wait to get naked but is shy about explaining a scar on his shoulder. He also gets nervous when it is clear that he won’t be the only man there; whether it is because he wants to remain dominant or whether he is worried he will have to do something he isn’t comfortable with is not made clear. When asked why he enjoys the army reserve he explains casually that it is like a vacation: it breaks up his routine, he laughs a lot and the other men are really nice. It is easy for us to jump to conclusions about there being solidarity, a gang mentality and a sense of belonging. However the artists do not stretch this out, they move on with their questioning.


Beyond Guilt Trilogy

126 Artist led gallery, Galway, Ireland, May 26 – June 18 2011

Ruti Sela and Maayan Amir
Beyond Guilt Trilogy

126 Artist led gallery, Galway, Ireland, 2011 Image courtesy of artists.



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