The Material Memory is Made of on the work of Hagar Cygler / Yakir Segev (From 1280 magazine, March 2014)

Among all other denials that we wake up to in the mornings and postpone handling with them to the next day, there’s a painful space for the humble chore of documenting our memories. In our contemporary world, verbal and pictorial documentation of experiences and memories have lost forever its fragile reality, and became no more then a random output of electrical signals. Our computers, charge of storing memories, replaced those old photo albums with leather or plastic binding, which seems to become more and more like items that belong to archives or flea markets. Who has not vowed repeatedly that this week will be the time to arrange / backup / print the images stored on the computer? Only when disaster strikes - in the form of an accidental deletion or an unexpected crash of the computer - destroying forever our collection of photos and letters, we are remorseful and hope for a few moments only, for some physical materials that will cover our memories and will make them real.

Hagar Cygler's work relates directly to the raw nerve of this potential trauma and refuses to let us sink back into the great repression, as if our memories are really securely saved with us. Cygler takes advantage of the illusion and the feeling of reality loss for a moment that the trompe l'oiel (French: tricking the eye) technique allows her, and makes with printed ceramic casts an illusion of piles of “old” photographs (meaning photographs “from just the other day”; real, printed, tangible), waiting with their backs to the viewer - maybe for sorting, perhaps for storage, perhaps for one last look, or maybe to reminisce. Cygler's work is thus a fascinating and contemporary link, almost obvious, in a long chain of works using the trompe l'oiel technique in ceramic material, that force us to ask questions about the different levels of representation of reality - two and three dimensional - and on the ability to distinguish between them, and the ethical conclusions derived from that.

An early example of such works, that Cygler's work is kind of a contemporary answer to, are rare faience plates of French ceramicist J. Deutsch from the eighteenth century. Deutsch's plates are drawn in such an illusory way it often seems they are not made from ceramic material but a wooden board that has a pinned paper with romantic scenery drawn on it. Deutsch (as Cygler) obscures virtuosity the initial character of the ceramic material, and through those illusory shifts seeks to deceive the ability to decrypt the reality of the viewers and actually ask questions about the relationship between art and reality: Is the plate of an applied art only or has it turned into fine art for view-only? And which of the shifts is in more responsible for this - the deception of camouflaging a plate as a wooden plank plate that has no artistic value, or the addition of fine art, the landscape drawing which was already done by an artist, attached to the wooden plate?

The works of Deutsch in the past (painting) and Cygler here (printing) therefore uses the trompe l'oiel in a clever and subversive way, that it is not only a means of entertaining showcase designed to fool the audience and remained at the level of visual joke; They utilize cleverly the momentary sense of confusion and lack of orientation and interpretation of the objects before us just to turn our attention to the painful and disturbing questions. In Cygler’s work, although it a classic and fine trompe l’oiel, there is nothing funny or amusing in it. The meticulous and modest execution and the realistic photographic papers back prints, produce stacks of photos molded and sculpted, glued forever one into the other, photos that no one could look at them anymore, not even the last time.

These are our insubstantial memories, that the artist gave them last and painful substantiality in its fragile materiality of the ceramic clay, a painful reminder that the memories accumulated and pilling slowly within us through our lives, will never be fully accessible to us. Also Hagar Cygler’s installation in the Ceramics Biennale - piles of photographs blocks that cannot be viewed at any more - reveal the true attitude for memories which we believe photographs capture, as it reminds us more of a cemetery and its gravestones; a mass grave for photographs, that the installation utilizes it as a monument. (Also the work of Deutsch, the drawing painted on paper like "on top" of the plate depicting a ruin and desolation and a bridge leading to nowhere).

Therefore Cygler's work is a silent and courageous indication, painful and extremely accurate – thanks to its visual reducing and its use of deception – on the illusion that we all share, that in materialistic, technologic and substantial methods and even through art, we can hold on the memory, encrypt it in our laps. 

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