HEART OF LIGHTNESS

ROSANNA ALBERTINI about MICHAL ROVNER

CURRENT CROSS, 2014

MICHAL ROVNER, Current, 2014. Video projection, Dimensions variable. Courtesy Shoshana Wayne Gallery

MICHAL ROVNER, Current Cross, 2014. Video projection, Dimensions variable. Courtesy Shoshana Wayne Gallery

I wonder if time really counts in our soul, for all human beings since the beginning. No memory carries the day. Time of the dead and of those who walk on the ground. A boy – my father – doesn’t want to sleep. He is afraid the sun will never come up again in the morning. A few days before he passed away he called his friends, to announce he had already died. Does memory build who we are? Or were we built before memories?

The artist’s answer is an image, not a book. She gives a shape to the hole we hold inside for truths and dreams that vanish as we think of them. The image she has constructed is anchored in the same kind of impermanence: as if projected brush strokes would regenerate the very moment they appear. The video image is adapted to the gallery space by a computer program that keeps it visible, in real time, like a baton does with sounds, in a conductor’s hand.

No memory, no identity. “The vision of something for ever flying, forever escaping, is revealed, and time stands still.”* The current circulates in two rectangular volumes of movement. Clumps of light take a while to meet and split, as if driven by the secret desire to reconcile. Never the same combination of sparkles. They look like flames, but they are bodies, human bodies. Other tiny humans walk, scattered, all around the block of frenzy following the Euclidean patterns of our mind, a circle embracing the square.

Bas Jan Ader wanted to do a piece where he goes to the Alps and talks to a mountain. “The mountain will talk of things which are necessary and always true, and I shall talk of things which are sometime, accidentally true.”

Michal Rovner, I’m sure, talked to her white donkey. Her home is a countryside construction not far from Tel Aviv. Her family house made with stones, under a sun that splits the stones. The mountain under her feet is covered with chickens, two dogs, goats, tomatoes and eatable greens. Simple daily routines, smells, and changing colors through the current of the day shape and reshape her own sense of the big truths. But small and big must stay together. I’d like to believe it’s a feminine mark, it wouldn’t be true. “No ideas but in things,” was William Carlos Williams’ motto. By the end of the day, the stars fall from the sky, and Michal makes them human and walks into her art.

A keeper of the flame. “The poet thinks with his poem, in that lies his thought, and that in itself is the profundity.”** Rovner thinks with her visual work. She gathers feelings from History, keeps them burning, while her work lights them in other people.

Facing the version of Current Cross at Shoshana Wayne Gallery I instantly had a burst of tears, which turned into a violent crying. The monumental sculpture of human time, and the restless people joining and separating in two blocks, were the vibrating symbol of all the separations I’ve met in my life. My European and also Middle Eastern countries easily fall prey to civil wars and fraternal fights. Still they pay price to the ghosts of Empires and the blood of migrations.

But the artist has cleansed the battlefield: the big and the small, her personal way of clearing the space from chatting, and going to the bottom of the human condition, merge into the murmur of an indistinct crowd. My body became part of it as if I were water, until Michal gave a me a bunch of Kleenex.

*Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader; **William Carlos Williams, Paterson