MLF | MARIE-LAURE FLEISCH gallery is pleased to announce the first solo show of Maya Zack in Brussels. The exhibition entitled Memory Trilogy, presents the three videos Mother Economy (2007), Black and White Rule (2011) and Counterlight (2016) – all exhibited last Spring in the Tel Aviv Art Museum – and the installation Living Room (2009-2010), together with other drawings by the artist.
The tension between Art and Memory constitutes the foundation of Maya Zack's research which applies many artistic techniques including video, drawing, photography, and sculpture to investigate the fragile and elusive character of memory. She focuses on contrasting the fleeting nature of memory through her personal method of recording reality. Female figures – often the protagonists of her works – are seen trying to document, catalogue, and measure reality in an attempt to impose order and form to its chaotic nature. The psychological necessity to create order – which in turn becomes a mirror for the surrounding disorder – is placed in relation to daily routine, bureaucratic procedures, and visual practices such as drawing and writing. The result of this process are sheets of paper, scribbled notes, equations and charts; fragments that are disassembled, cut up and then reassembled with scientific rigour. Through repetitive gestures, these exasperated and compulsive-obsessive actions become self-propagating to generate a distorted and unreal reflection of reality.
The video Counterlight represents a surreal voyage, physical and mental, into the traces of the poet Paul Celan and the female figures that were also part of his life. With the backdrop Celan’s recorded voice reciting verses from his poetical work “Engführung”, an archivist-alchemist dissects maps, photographs, and texts with scissors to attribute a new existence to this material. The poet's birthplace Czernowitz is reanimated for the spectator, to then disappear symbolically under ashes. The viewer then witnesses an ideal meeting with the poet's mother, busy kneading the dough for the traditional Challah bread.
The same obsessive use of measuring instruments is also found in the video Black and White Rule, in which we see two pedigree dogs obeying to perfection the orders of their owners on a giant chessboard. Every single action from this special training camp, is recorded and monitored by a researcher in a camera obscura close by who observes the entire process. At a certain point, the calm routine is interrupted: something goes wrong in the mysterious experiment and the dogs rebel against their owners. The video intents to highlight the division between bestiality and culture, between instinct and rationality.
The first video of the trilogy Mother Economy, is inspired by the story of the artist's own family. The female protagonist – perhaps a mother – wanders around a house sheathed in newspaper engrossed with clinical efficiency in her household chores. Each objects belonging to the now absent family is classified and catalogued while in the background, the sound of a radio contextualises the scene, taking us back to the period of the World War II. Finally, with the aid of an abacus and a series of formulae, the woman prepares a Kugel cake, which is then assimilated into a pie chart, like some economic chart. Through the ritual of household activities, some form of routine is sought, a semblance of normality to contrast the dramatic occurrences of the war that is taking place outside the walls of the house.
The work Living Room is again set in a house, one which has been forcefully abandoned by its inhabitants. In this installation, the artist has sought to reconstruct and explore the interior of a 1930s Berlin apartment of a Jewish family using 3-D technology and sound to explore and remember the past. Maya Zack has interviewed Manfred Nomburg, a Jew who fled from Berlin in 1938, and based on his vivid descriptions, she has tried to create a precise reconstruction of the house, but adding her own artistic and literary touch to the rooms and to the household objects. The installation is composed of 4 computerised photographs prints in which Zack exhibits sections of the living room, dining room, kitchen and other parts of the house. This work is a caution on how ordinary life was abruptly interrupted by the catastrophic events of the Holocaust.
Maya Zack uses art as an instrument to contrast the absence and the loss of memory by a personal process of elaboration which dialogues with both reality and imagination. The women in Maya Zack's works become the custodians of female memory of culture, the depositaries of suffering and repressed sentiments, ambassadors who bear a witness that continue to nourish our historical conscience.