Rotem Linial

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Artist Statement

In 1895 psychologists first used the word projection to describe a psychic operation in which internal images are cast onto the world. That same year, the first movie theatre opened. Developing in parallel, cinema and psychology offered each other powerful metaphors and models. In those early days of film, the projector was not always considered a distraction to be hidden, but rather an object that was an integral part of the cinematic event. Theatre owners would often set seats on either side of it so that audience members could attend to both the flickering picture and the mechanical device responsible for it. Such simultaneous focus on projector and projected, understood broadly, is at the heart of my practice. The videos and sculptures I make scrutinize and give form to the underlying mechanisms of projection—both filmic and psychological.

While in my earlier work this investigation took the form of jerry-rigged projectors in which an abstract film and its mechanical source are combined into a kinetic sculpture, my current video work extends it into an exploration of narrative. I am interested in film’s unique position as a mass medium equally bound with ideas of truth and verisimilitude as it is with fiction and illusion—and video’s ability to inherit or undo that dialectic. I examine the inscription and stabilization of narrative, be it art-historical origin stories, national myth or, as in Chiasmus (2014), my own family history. The correlations between the mechanics of film and the deep structures of the psyche become more than mere metaphor in my work, as I explore how one maps onto the other. Using simple formal structures (particular camera movements, sculptural limitations, rhetorical structures), I construct physical and conceptual frameworks that become analogues of psychic experiences.

For example, in Chiasmus, the titular rhetorical device structures the shooting and screening arrangement of a video installation. In a chiasmus, the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is inverted in the other, taking the structure A—B—B—A, or:

A    B
B    A

My video attempts to give form to the conceptual construct of a chiasmic X, seeking a crossing over as strange as holding one’s own hand in the other and feeling ourself feeling ourself as a feeling thing feeling a thing feeling. It considers how changes to the order in which one sees a series of objects or their relative position changes the meaning we ascribe to them, exploring and exploiting tensions between narrative and description, still-life and moving-image.

Chiasmus is presented in a custom-built screening room. It is a two-channel looped video presented in a space bisected by a screen. Two versions of an hour-long one-shot video panning over a set of work desks are projected on either side of the screen. The two version are identical in all but the direction of filming—one pans left-to-right, the other right-to-left. Over the hour, the camera describes six 360º pans of a set displaying various objects, images and texts. Sixty subtle changes occur between each circumnavigation—the hands of a clock move, a postcard of a still life is now an image of an execution, two pencils rest where a pair of scissors lay before. The projections share a single soundtrack consisting of music, phone interviews, encyclopedic definitions, stories of family members whose eyes were plucked out by birds and the familial transmission of fears. The double projection, different pan directions and changes to the set force different, at times contradictory understandings of causality, connection and diegesis depending on which room one enters first and when. The chiasmic structure makes the impossibility of experiencing the entire work all at once—or in the same way twice—visceral. The story is never complete, one eye is always missing. The consolidation of binocular vision into a coherent image of the world serves as a metaphor both for the structure of the work and for the emotional terrain it explores.

Chiasmus is the first in a trilogy of videos (to be completed in 2016). The next work in the series, Ekphrasis (in production), will also take the form of two single-channel videos showing two shots of a single round table. The set will be filmed twice, once from within on a rotating rig and once on a circular track, from without. The two cameras will move over the set simultaneously, but at different speeds, like the inner and outer edges of a spinning record. The set will consist of various objects and materials reminiscent of key works of Modern sculpture. The resulting videos will be primarily abstract, creating shifting compositions that evoke the history of avant-garde film as well as various traditions of abstract painting. Turning to the rhetorical device of ekphrasis—the description of a work of art in a medium other than its own—this piece shows sculpture described as video. Following the long tradition of ekphrastic descriptions of imaginary or nonexistent works of art, the videos will at once be a documentation of a sculpture that no longer exists (the sculptural set) and an evocation of Modern masterpieces that have no concrete source. The work explores this act of transformative translation as an allegory for the act of making itself and for the encounter (aesthetic or inter-personal) with another consciousness, seeking out the limits and failures of such exchanges.

The soundtrack in Ekphrasis is based on several intertwined narratives centered on private and collective trauma and fear and will include interviews with psychoanalysts, film theorists and members of my extended family. The work’s structure gives form both to the Freudian psychological operations of traumatic repetition and sublimation—circling, quite literally, around a core that cannot be grasped as a whole—and to the irreconcilability of subjective and objective experience. Ekphrasis, like my work as a whole, attempts to activate modes of viewing associated with different media, whether the phenomenology of sculpture in-the-round or the immersive social viewing of cinema; it aims to create hybrid experiences in which a movie may be viewed as a sculpture, in which a sculpture may operate as film.



b. 1981


2011-2014 MFA, Hunter College, Studio Art Program, Sculpture Concentration, New York

2005-2008 BA (Suma Cum Laude), Columbia University, double major Art History and Visual Art, New York

2004-2005 The San Francisco Art Institute, New Genres Department. San Francisco

2000-2003 The School of Visual Theatre, Jerusalem, Israel


2015 Another Place,  Cinema Balash event, curated by Sophia Alexandrov, Lindsay Aveilhé and Samantha Best, 205 Hudson Street Gallery, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York, NY

2014 Chiasmus,  Spring 2014 Thesis Exhibition, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York

2014 Liminal Languages: Complexity and Emotion in Art , co-moderator, panel discussion with Jennifer Doyle, Sarah Schulman, and Dawn Lundy Martin, New York, NY

2013 Kool-Aid Wino , Franklin Street Works. Curated by Claire Barliant, Stamford, CT

2013 International Color Symposium , panelist, moderated by William C. Agee, Hunter College Times Square Gallery, New York, NY

2012 After the Cinema , Yaffo 23. Curated by Roee Brand and Sagit Mezamer, Jerusalem, Israel

2011 New Wave , Sommer Gallery. Curated by Eden Bannet and Adam Abulafia, Tel Aviv, Israel


2015 Winner, C-12 Emerging Artist Prize, juried by Tim Griffin, Richard Flood, Lily Wei and Clarissa Bronfman, New York, NY

2012 Winner, Oma’s Soup Grant, New York, NY

2008 Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society

2008 Winner, Judith Lee Stronach Prize for Art and Art History, Columbia University, New York, NY

2003-2005 American-Israeli Cultural Foundation Scholarship, Interdisciplinary Art and New Media, (Keren Scharett), Tel Aviv, Israel


2012-present Founder and director, Cinema Balash  artist-run screening series dedicated to experiments in film and video, New York and Brooklyn, NY

2015 Co-director and curator, “Bob ,” artist-run gallery and project space, Brooklyn, NY

2013 Co-curator, Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013,  Hunter College Times Square Gallery, New York, NY

2010-2013 Co-editor and contributor, Machol [The Dance] , art magazine dedicated to artists’ writings, Tel Aviv, Israel


2013 Pirate Press , Issue 3, Contributor, Brooklyn, NY

2013 Color Film/Film Color , catalog essay, in Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013, New York, NY

2013 Review of Kool-Aid Wino at Franklin Street Works , Aesthetica Magazine, by Nickolas Calabrese

2013 Considering Errors, Omissions, and Mistakes in Art , Hypreallergic, by Mostafa Heddaya

2012 Ein Ha’Cyclops [Eye of the Cyclops] , Machol [The Dance], Tel Aviv, Israel

2012 Halilit Shel Etzem, Mangina Shel Etzev [Stone Flute, Sad Melody], Machol [The Dance], by Maayan Elyakim