Written by Julia Scherer
The Al Ma’amal Foundation for Contemporary Art, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is an old tile factory converted into a contemporary art space—no place could be a better site for Benji Boyadgian’s newest solo exhibition, The Discord, co-curated by Basak Senova and Jack Persekian.
Boyadgian, a Jerusalem-based artist, started this project six years ago when returning to Jerusalem after studying architecture at the ENSAPLV School of Architecture (L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris La Villette) in Paris. Specializing in urban sociology in post-conflict areas, Boyadgian works on research-based projects, exploring themes that revolve around heritage, territory, architecture and landscape. The artist uses painting and drawing as the main tools in his practice, while often incorporating other mediums.
The Discord explores patterns of classic decorative ornamental tiles, and while this subject has been explored frequently in Middle Eastern aesthetics, the artist’s approach is fresh and thoughtful, expressed using the fragility of watercolor. Watercolor exposes every content of the painting, with its incapacity to conceal neither the past nor mistakes. Assuming errors are a part of its conception, the original purpose of Boyadgian’s tiles becomes subverted, no longer simply coating another physical surface, but adding new stories to it’s history, layer by layer.
In addition to paintings, a video and three installations at the Al’Mamal space—and a fourth at a neighboring site—compose the exhibition. Each piece Boyadgian presents is associated with and brings the tiles’ functions to the surface in an empirical manner: grids, expectations, layers, identity and multiplicity.
When it comes to discord in Jerusalem, it is virtually impossible to just ‘be’. Every object or action is immediately filled with meaning and starts to symbolize an idea or an identity. Similarly, it seems as though no surface in Boyadgian’s exhibition can be left without a projection upon it.
The Discord attempts to defy subjectification by engaging the viewer into a visual conversation with the grid of the paper itself—sometimes letting this grid define the shapes at the forefront of the work, and at other times refusing to let them be limited by it—as if the ink denies the possibility of such limitation.
Boyadgian focuses on surfaces in order to go deep beyond them in The Discord. For those who are willing to unveil yet another reality and layer of this city, are not afraid of it’s complexity—this exhibition comes highly recommended.
The Discord runs until April 28, 2017 at Al Ma’mal Center for Contemporary Art, 8-Al Jawalida St, New Gate, Old City of Jerusalem. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-17:00.