joshua neustein texts
Locus (Excerpt)
by Shlomit Shakked

Since the late 1960s, all of the conceptual works and environmental projects by Joshua Neustein concern them-selves with fragmentation, including his Minimalist paper works which deal with removal and replacement. His carbon papers act as cinders of culture suggesting sentiments of minimalism, just as the hay stacks he arranged in 1970 on the floor of the Tel Aviv Museum could be defined as cinders, remnants of nature. The carbon papers (Figure 331 also function as found objects, indicating the fragmentation derived from categoriza-tions, classifications, and their filing in a bureaucratic/analogical archive, the goal of which is standardization.

The present installation, The Wedding (1990-92) (Catalogue 24j, includes a narrative rolling on o screen. It corresponds with Frederic Jomeson's definition of the video text as "fleeing fragments," fragments constantly altering their location.' This installation also corresponds with The Jerusalem River (1970), a project dealing with displacement as a formulating identify of o refugee exist-ing in o constant state of transition, thus reflecting Neustein's own biography. Born in Danzig, he was reared in New York, then moved to Jerusalem and returned to New York where he is still yearning for Jerusalem. In both projects a foreign element represent-ing a state of transition is implanted.

The Wedding contains a simple narrative which is open to endless interpretation and is unbound by specifics of ethnicity, incident, or person. "A man marries off his daughter in a form town," opens the narration. "He invit-ed his neighbors, the local people as well as on old friend of the family, a doctor from the city-" A gust of wind disrupts the wedding ceremony and the doctor is subsequently asked to leave. 'After the guest had left the wind stopped and the celebration resumed.` The doctor (on emblem of healing/remedy) is considered a stronger (instigator of suspicion and fear) who disrupts the unifica-tion. The doctor is o stronger (the 'other') in spite of the fact that he is a friend of the family; he is the eternal cul. prit.

The Wedding consists of fragments acting as allegories or metaphors. The video (narrator) invades a rural instal-lation: hay stacks (industrial objects or former ("nature") act as a seal (emblem of authority) from which ethos emanates, The Persian rug functions both as o "hosting" emblem and a territory, like the one signified by Neustein's project of Territorial Imperative, Golan Heights (1975) (Figure 7): a urinating dog alluding to the occu-pation of territories. The rug, which in Middle Eastern folktale inspires o means of transportation, is 'at home" everywhere. It is associated with voyages, colonialism, interaction with strangers and the fear trey evoke. The geographical mop on the wall is o painting which is like-ly to suggest the maps and Oriental rugs featured in traditional paintings by Hans Holbein and Jon Vermeer. These mops might serve the purpose of reminding the col-onizers that they were not necessarily at the center of the world. Foreign elements (metal boards( which ore annexed to Neustein's mop obviate o sense of harmonic "assimilation," preventing the view of the totality and negating its conception as a specific territory.

The installation's components act within structural and the-matic aspects. Each object in this hermetic installation is assigned a clear function-o code-bringing to mind the way in which the Bug Glass served Morcel Duchamp: a process where each element represents o specific code In The Wedding, however, each object is also o re-telling or an echo of something else. The video serves as narrator, anthropologist, as well as "invader," a stranger standing by as witness. The voice belongs to o mole. In Neustein's words "The fear of strangers is more domi-nant in men. Men have no visible continuity except through property (territory.)      Women retain territory within their psyche and continue the line biologically," Turned upwards and on its back, the monitor functions as o book /generator of culture]. The monitor-book offers an illustration of Jacques Derrida's comment that the "sub-ject's death" necessitates the transformation of the posi-tion of the word whether read or observed) as supersed-ing the subjective voice.2

This emphasis on the transformation of the subjective voice, coupled with its title The Wedding, suggests o comparison with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner 3 In the poem, the "sub-ject's" voice supersedes the word: An old sailor barges in on a wedding and recounts the !ale of his journey which has been interrupted because he violated the laws of nature, As punishment, he is compelled to endlessly tell his story, in a Sisyphean motion, from a stranger's point of view (us indication of both o physical as well as an emotional assignment. The living subject, in Coleridge's poem, turns     in Neustein's The Wedding, into a deed object who is unconditioned by reality, into a continuity of words on an opaque screen (is this a refer-ence to the wedding act being no longer valid in this period of bankruptcy of values? Or to the act of art2(. A person who s incapable of experiencing is incapable of distinguishing between o tested friend and on enemy "4 writes Walter Benjamin on the dialectic inversion where aesthetics turn from o conscious modus of being which is in touch with reality, into o means of blocking reality,

The Wedding touches, indeed, upon the central argument in art, the significance of resuming the preoccupation with the subject and the subject's supposed emotional ties with the world and with the history of art, while at the some time denying that very possibility. The rolling narrative nullifies any possibility of relating to a romantic, creative.

This narrative acts as the anthropologist of a marginal zone, existing between "nature and "culture," much like The story Teller by Jeff Wall I 1989J. Neustein's Nature Morte p 983) (Figure 341, a giant model of an airplane made of rubber tires which were set on fire at the Israeli-Lebanese border, functions within the threshold between technological culture and the sensibilities of the Third World. By simulation of a Third World act of protest, Neustein burned tires, the very product of capitalism, Thus he defined the location where he acted. Through the shadows of a fake plane representing the cinders of the in rated matter itself, Neustein raised the question of marginality, as a starting point for challenging the proprietary language. The fire in Neustein's Nature Morte calls for Michel Tournier's definition of it as the symbol of bliss and abyss .5 Religious purification, political and racial cleansing, writes Tournier, are variations on the some abhorrent subject, yet they all appear, with monotonous permanence, in innumerable crimes whose favorite tool is the fire.

Shlomit Shakked curator, critic,
1993 Fisher Gallery
University California Los Angeles