In 388 BC, Plato asked for the sentence: "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter" to be engraved above the gates to his academy of philosophy and science. Since the dawn of human history, there have always been scientific and philosophical attempts to explain the world and its mysteries through geometry, and geometric calculations have been used to understand astronomy, astrology, optics, aesthetics, mysticism, and healing. Geometry has had many iterations over the centuries: In ancient Greece and Egypt, the golden ratio was determined to be a geometric formula that is the key to all that is beautiful in nature and human creation, a claim that gained particular prominence in the Renaissance. In the late 16th century, the German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer Johannes Kepler suggested that the distances between the planets correspond with geometric shapes like pyramids, cubes, and spheres. In the 17th century, Newton formulated geometrical optics, and in the 20th century Einstein published his Theory of Relativity. Mystics from different cultures describe light as a geometric manifestation, Jewish Kabbalah portrays the divine presence in reality through the geometric structure of the Sefirot – Tree of Life, and refers to structures like the Star of David, and in the Mexican shamanic language of light healing is carried out at energetic frequencies encoded in various geometric shapes.
In the reality of our life over the passing year during the pandemic outbreak, when it seemed that reality has become chaotic and unpredictable, order has been disrupted, and suddenly there is also more free time to think and contemplate, many have returned to the historical, perhaps futile, attempt to explain the cosmos and its mysteries with these laws. From atoms to galaxies, from conches to architectural structures, from chemicals to energetic bodies of beings and souls and their light.
The desire to find order in a disrupted reality, one measured in lines, degrees, distances, laws, order and symmetry, is also found in contemporary art. The artists featured in the exhibition examine or use geometry in different ways, some use it as morphological, almost mystical inspiration, like in the works of Liat Elbling and Henny van Hartingsveldt, Nitzan Satt and Eden Bannet examine its cultural and everyday contexts, and Shai Halevi and The Analogue Front: Arik Futerman and Ariel Snapiri look into the possibility of moving inside it and the deviation that the modern world allows from the restrictions of predetermined aesthetic and mathematical theorems. An examination of the meticulous construction and cold geometric exercises uncovers the deviation that alludes to the chaos that was left outside, as well as the freedom of choice and the possibility of remaining with an unsolvable existential enigma: is there or is there not order?
Eden Bannet creates installations from found materials, some of which undergo sculptural interventions. In Diagram, the artist chose domestic and playful materials, fabric scraps, hooks, a hoop, pieces of wood. Insignificant and familiar materials, like the ones that usually make up the aesthetics of the domestic and urban environment but are seldom the object of direct attention. She organizes the materials as a geometric diagram, which has movement, imbalance, and tension, as though they were a puzzle that needs to be solved.
Normally, a chart points to the organization of objects in a different space and is usually executed in a meticulous line. Its meaning is constructed from the indication of scale and function. In the installation at Beita, the chart is comprised of flat, soft, changing and familiar three-dimensional objects, without indication of the space to which it relates. Is it an outline of everyday life? Of the city, the landscape or home? Of the relationship between the built and the slumped in the public space? After all, it is made of its actual parts. Can it point to itself? As the rope spills to the floor, the chart moves into the three-dimensional space, into movement and sensation, forcing the visitors to measure the distance and scale relations between themselves and the installation.
Henny van Hartingsveldt, a Dutch artist who moved to Israel a few years ago, creates conceptual and symbolic outdoor sculptures influenced by Cubism. In the exhibition she presents a series of sculptures that bring to mind prayer or sacred structures, each referencing a different spiritual school. These look like miniatures of fantastic, futuristic or ancient temples of unclear time and place. Geometry is used as a spiritual tool in various cultures: the Star of David, the Kabbalistic Sefirot – Tree of Life, the pentagram, the cross and other shapes all serve as models for organizing the sacred, spirit, and light in their various manifestations in the world. The combination of basic shapes, the material, texture and earthy colors of the sculptures are reminiscent of sacred historical sites. These sites were often planned according to the movement of the stars and geometric calculations of distances, creating paths that pilgrims followed over the generations. This raises the question, which geometric paths do we follow today, without knowing, while wandering through the exhibition or strolling down the street?
In her years teaching at Bedouin villages in the north, Nitzan Satt learned about “ethnomathematics,” an applied method for learning geometry based on everyday life computational practices in various ethnic groups. The installation Social Constructivism, a part of which is displayed in the exhibition, is made up of wooden frames, each demonstrating a division based on the decorative scheme of a Bedouin dress. The frames can be used as a base for a caliper, helping students solve geometry exercises. Together, the answers form the full pattern of traditional Bedouin embroidery. The gradual constructivism that draws the eye to search for development and completion, the close link between art, mathematical thinking, social consciousness, and applicability, create an aesthetic catharsis in human as well as visual terms, in the intersection of 8 grade geometry, dress embroidery, and the sublime.
An interactive low-tech outdoor caliper is placed next to the work for the visitors’ use and experimentation
The project was created with the accompaniment and advising of mathematician Tomer Peleg
Photogrammetry is Shai Halevi’s everyday work method in his role as documentarian and researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority. The photographing and mapping method is based on geometric and other calculations, using thousands of photos to compose a 3D image of a site that can be explored. In The Space of the Dead Sea Scrolls created especially for the exhibition, Halevi chose to photograph his lab, a gray room that does not reflect the light, where he photographs thousands of archeological findings discovered in recent decades in Israel – fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, amulets, and other charged artifacts sacred to the different faiths – using a comprehensive and unique multispectral technology (imaging that measures light in a small number of spectral bands). The documentation of the room is accompanied by a technical, almost endless, list of items photographed in one day’s work, and another, and another, and so on. Halevi asks what is left of the sanctity and meaning attributed to these archeological findings? Does their effect linger after they are brought back to the conservation laboratory, gallery, or storage? The gray room, impervious to light and the climate outside, is revealed as layered, stratified, and crumbling, a detached space that seems like a site for enigmatic digital archeology made of light and idea. It seems that like the sealed box photographed on the floor of the room, the answer remains inaccessible but crumbling, clear but elusive, moving in a constant motion with the zeitgeist.
Liat Elbling sets up models in her studio, illuminates and then photographs them. She arranges basic shapes, examining the relationship between them, their affinity to architectural structures and domestic spaces, and the relationship between light and shade inside them. All these make up compositions full of grandeur, places that are simultaneously foreign and familiar, without human presence but full of quiet presence. The light travels through them, revealing secrets and concealments. The photographs bring to mind form and shading drawing exercises, the foundations from which each artist and student's artistic observation begins, the early training of the eye to discern between near and far, large and small, round and polygonal, dark and illuminated. The large-scale prints, the color choices, and the calmness that Elbling creates allow for a meditative, deep, and relaxing observation. These seem to be the openings into an endless space, a parallel, almost utopian world based on principles that while similar to those underlying our familiar reality, do not include change and decay.
The Analogue Front is the duo of artists Arik Futerman and Ariel Snapiri who specialize in analogue technology in a digital world. For the exhibition, they created Nonagon, named after the 9-sided polygon – an installation comprising analogue television monitors. The monitors are connected to a module, “a brain synthesizer” if you will, an oscillator that feeds the monitors with visual data. The entire installation, which can also be viewed from the street, responds to the movement of visitors and the sound in the gallery and on the street.
The light waves respond to different signals that the artists have fed into the module, creating geometric shapes that move rapidly on the monitors. In dialogue with the notion of closed circuit photography as a geometric shape, the artists chose to open the closed circuit. The movement of visitors captured by the video camera is integrated into the fixed image and influences it so that the entire installation becomes a kaleidoscope of sorts, fragmenting and merging geometric shapes, figures, the surrounding artworks, time, movement, and sound. Unlike the flatness of digital LED monitors to which we have grown accustomed, where the image appears detached, whole and uninterrupted, The Analogue Front operates from a more real and material approach, one connected to the moment, the place and the viewers, and the outcome is a type of dynamic sculpting with light and signals.
The display window features another work comprising three analogue mini monitors, which relates to various geometric images and the installation Nonagon inside the gallery.