The prototype and the Monolith / Dan Handel

In Stanley Kubrick's allegorical vision, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the black monolith that appears in the heart of the wilderness ignites a struggle, specifically due to its opaque appearance, which traces, through ultimate alienation, the boundaries of man, as well as the invisible differences between one social group and another. The monolith's uniformity on the one hand, and its singular presence in the landscape on the other act as the source of a new political consciousness. This powerful image resonates in another object, enigmatically positioned in the dusty landscape en route to the town of Yeruham. Curiously, despite its essential otherness, this object seems to be at peace with its environment: one can not expect crowds to gather around it, and all potential struggle appears to be far from sight. The manner in which an object devoid of any contextual features is perceived as an almost integral part of the landscape, should in this particular case be associated with its being a kind of prototype, which is not only a fragment of a larger whole – but a meta-object of cultural marking. 

The prototype is, of course, a fundamental category in the construction of the Israeli environment, inherently linked to the modernist logic of production and reproduction. In architecture it is also a key concept, bringing together the rejection of the “unplanned” built environments of previous centuries alongside with embedding of industrial conditions in the architectural ethics of the time. Le Corbusier's Dom-ino house, as a constitutive exposition of the logics of architectural modernism, is but a reminder of a mindset which aspired to turn the abstraction of architectural types into reality: to replace "type" with "prototype”. The subject of this spatial practice – a supposedly homogeneous modern man – was sent, in the Israeli context, to inhabit, and in fact define, the national living space. The prototype thus became both the ultimate expression of this practice and the most effective mediator of its ideological motives with material reality.

If on one side of the spectrum one can find the individual object, uniform and resistant to human empathy, then on the other side is the serial element, harboring implied multiplicity and speaking the language of the system to which it belongs and the processes it designs. But what happens when one becomes the other? When singularity approaches repetition and when industrial reproduction manufactures individual difference? In this situation one finds an entire range of transitional positions of cultural communication and political formation. This dual operation is explored in the series of photographs – in which the camera orbits around the object which is painted differently at every instance – exposes the spectrum of ambivalent observation. The changing dimensions of the wall fragment in each perspective, and its implied processional circling , invalidates the understanding of the object as a repetitive, a-contextual item originating from an institutional system of space organization. In addition, the painting the object in pastel colors disassociates it from the space of serial production as well as from the cultural space of pop art imagery and serves as to resist the flows of unifying globalization. With these moves, the object is repositioned in real space and its disturbed singularity is activated through the framework of a muted realism. In other words, and back to the landscape: the monolith that once started a war and sparked a process of differentiation, separation and self-recognition, now resides in a post-political environment of silent ambivalence.

Translation: Daniel Zilberberg