Artist: Hilla Toony Navok
Exhibition title: Rounding Up the Hours
Curated by: Chen Tamir
Venue: The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
Date: May 20 – July 18, 2015
Photography: Images courtesy of the artist, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv and Noga Gallery, Tel Aviv
Hilla Toony Navok tracks high modernism and abstraction in popular Israeli consumer products in a practice based on fantastical constructs. Known for her playful sculptural use of vernacular materials, Navok interrogates the very notion of display. Rather than simply present ready-mades, she pits consumer and industrial products firmly within abstraction, voiding functionality in favor of highlighting design.
Rounding Up the Hours is a large-scale kinetic installation bustling with raw materials such as aluminum rods that reference storage spaces and manufacturing factories, and office furniture, which references administration and desk jobs. These two pillars of contemporary work culture, known colloquially as “blue collar” and “white collar” work, uphold a system so refined that it seems to function on its own. Indeed, this machine-cum-sculpture is an active work site, but devoid of human presence. Instead, objects such as chairs, molded to the human body, are anthropomorphized, and move through a choreography that seems to be dictated by the materials themselves. The objects are the ones at work, toiling away after work hours without us, yet producing nothing. Their lack of utility is evidence that they are on display, art objects; they can even be considered to be drawing in space.
Although Navok’s installation empties found objects of their utilitarian value and focuses instead on the elements of design, it isn’t simply about the aesthetics of work. Nor do the basic shapes and colors, which can be traced back to the birth of modernism a century ago, refer only to their design origins. The slow and monotonous movement betrays the Sisyphean nature of labor itself, as alluded to in the title, Rounding Up the Hours, and the many components that make up the workforce in which we live. Rounding Up the Hours questions the very connection between labor and creation, the cultural and ideological underpinnings of design in the consumer production process, and the assimilation of the history of modernism in contemporary consumer culture and our place within it.