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Noa Eshkol. The Noa Eshkol Foundation for Movement Notation

The artists featured in “Dreams and Dramas”. Noa Eshkol 0

Introducing the artists featured in the Israeli contemporary art exhibition Dreams and Dramas

From October 7 to November 5, Riga's forthcoming ZUZEUM Art Centre will be hosting the largest ever exhibition of Israeli contemporary art in the Baltics. Curated by Roy Brand, an Israeli philosopher, curator, and lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, it brings together works by fourteen distinguished Israeli artists: Porat Salomon, Dor Guez, Nir Hod, Guy Zagursky, Noa Eshkol, Avner Ben-Gal, Sagit Mezamer, Erez Israeli, Keren Yeala Golan, Marik Lechner, Daniel Kiczales, Eitan Ben-Moshe, Sigalit Landau, and Yehudit Sasportas.

The exhibition is created as a special project for Riga, initiated and sponsored by the Riga-born businessman and patron of the arts, Leon Zilber.

Today's focus is on Noa Eshkol.

Noa Eshkol was born in 1924 to pioneer parents. Her father, Levi Eshkol, served as Israel’s prime minister from 1963 to 1969. Noa Eshkol studied dance with Rudolf Laban in Manchester and practiced with Moshe Feldenkrais, the inventor of the Feldenkrais Method for the cultivation of movement and self-awareness. She taught and practiced dance at various academic institutions and died in 2007. In fact, one of the pieces in this show — In Memoriam — was her last. Obviously this made it difficult for her to answer our questions. Instead, we can imagine her responses.

Eshkol was a dancer. Together with Avraham Wachman she invented a minimalist and universal system for writing dance known as Movement Notation. Movement Notation allowed a choreographer to compose a piece without moving. It could be meditated and remain free from the performance like a musical composition. The notation was not just a new form of writing but also a new form of experiencing and conceptualizing dance. Here’s Eshkol speaking about it as a way of seeing: “Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation is a thinking tool that can teach people the art of observation, i.e. encourage them to aspire for the ultimate level of seeing. It does so by organizing the ‘material’ known as movements of the human body in relatively simple categories, thereby allowing us an insight (in-sight) into the complexity of this phenomenon as a whole.”

Birds on Scaffolds, 1981. Cotton velvet, cotton-linen, cotton crepe, percale, silk, Georgette crepe, synthetic jersey, 202 x 354

The movements she choreographed and performed are both very modern and free, and highly concentrated and stylized. Looking at her disciples dance, always without music, is almost like a form of prayer. In her later years, Eshkol created very large carpets from scraps of found material. These beautiful tapestries are again very free, almost arbitrary, and meticulously constructed. They reveal the occult roots of modern art, which was never just about rationality and enlightenment but also about a turn to the strange beauty of the everyday and to the language of nature and the body.

Interior III (In Memoriam), 2007. Cotton, rayon, synthetic fibres, polyester, 196 x 149. Photo: Jens Ziehe, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

In her only text addressing the carpets, Eshkol writes: “This occupation had at first no explanation and ideology. It began as an entirely personal urge to make something, not something that involved an intellectual decision. This has not changed, except that with the passing of time, the accumulation of completed hangings, and their exhibition in public, an ideology of sorts has grown round it. It is not something that can be taught, something which can be awarded academic points, because there is nothing to teach. It has no rules, no theory—only passion.”

Strangely, these pioneer creations, so vital and inherent to the history of culture and art in Israel, as well as to the option of a Middle Eastern modernism, are not widely known. The carpets were rarely shown during her lifetime. Like Matisse’s late collages or a Dada scrapbook, their importance as an offshoot of the march of modernism is only now being fully appreciated.

Sunset in the Sea, 1974. Textiles, mixed technique. 233 x 228 cm. Photo: Jens Ziehe, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Fig Tree. 1987. Textiles, mixed technique. 201 x 142 cm. Photo: Jens Ziehe, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Exhibition “Dreams and Dramas”: Guy Zagursky
Exhibition “Dreams and Dramas”: Erez Israeli
Exhibition “Dreams and Dramas”: Yehudit Sasportas