April 4 – May 26, 2019
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street
Guest Curator: Liora Belford

Spring Opening Reception: Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 7–9 PM | FREE
Artist and Curator Talk: Sunday, April 7, 2 PM | FREE

A Primary Exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Deeply informed by cultural research, the video and sound installations of Israeli artist Nevet Yitzhak rely on digital technology, combining found footage, archival and photographic materials transformed through editing and sound treatment. With a critical approach of contemporary political and cultural issues, Yitzhak raises questions about cultural heritage and collective forgetfulness within a complex local identity.

Presented for the first time in Canada, Yitzhak’s three-channel video installation, WarCraft (2014), takes as departure point the Afghan war rug, a unique product of the region’s history of conflict and foreign military presence. However, while traditional rug weaving embodies local narratives, cultural legacies and rituals, Yitzhak’s animated rugs created over the past decade, alter conventional methodologies of storytelling to confront current global matters.

The circumstances and motivations that determined the emergence of the Afghan war rug remain uncertain. Its origins can be traced back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, when weavers began to infuse traditional patterns with imagery of war. At first, the new designs were mostly hidden within a stylized iconography, and were possibly intended only for fellow Afghanis, communicating an act of resistance to the invasion and documenting the weavers’ experiences and interpretations of the regional politics. With the increasing popularity of the rugs – first among the Soviet soldiers themselves who bought them as souvenirs, and later among international collectors – this act of resistance was commercialized. The imagery of war became more conspicuous and detailed, often including English phrases. The term ‘war rug’ was then coined by rug dealers, commercial galleries, collectors, critics and commentators – all participants in this prominent souvenir industry.

Breaking with tradition to become a record of regional conflicts, this artefact came to represent a modern fissure within the cultural continuum. The Soviet invasion of the late 1970s, the civil war that followed, and the American invasion of 2001 – all permeated the Afghan rugs, introducing contemporary narratives. Formalizing a modified mythology and discarding conventions, the Afghan war rugs epitomize the counterpoint of craftsmanship and modernity. They express the fracture of the traditional object.

Yitzhak’s laboriously simulated rugs extend this fracture and reposition the artefact within a universal framework. Translated into a new medium and distanced from their original context, the animated designs relinquish cultural specificity to address global warzones and histories of aggression. Yitzhak’s own lived reality of armed conflict and territorial occupation informs the work, generating a new kind of document that seeks to communicate across borders about shared concerns. She further reimagines the rugs’ iconography, introducing 3D models of weaponry employed by contemporary armies and battlegrounds. Through visual effects, animation and sound, her mesmerizing digital patterns envelop and seduce the spectator while plainly exposing a destructive potential. Integrating gaming aesthetics, Yitzhak links the battlefield to a virtual space engaging players of all ages, reminding us of the ubiquity of war imagery and of our numbness to its violence.




Co-presented with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, in partnership with Images Festival.

Nevet Yitzhak (b. 1975, Israel; lives and works in Tel Aviv) is a graduate of the Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music (2003); and the Bezalel Program for Advanced Studies in Art (2007). Her multi-disciplinary work has been shown at the 6th Asian Biennial, Taiwan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin; SMBA, Amsterdam; Kuandu Museum, Taipei; the Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem; Herzlyia Museum of Contemporary Art; Petach Tikva Museum of Art; Koffler Gallery, Toronto; Circle 1, Berlin; 68 Square Meters, Copenhagen; Jeanine Hofland Gallery, Amsterdam; Edel Assanti Gallery, London; TSR, Miami; the 5th Mediations Biennale, Poznan; Nimac Art Center, Nicosia; SIP Institute for Photography, Tel Aviv; Mana Contemporary, Jersey City; Huashan Culture Park, Taipei and CCA, Tel- Aviv. Yitzhak has won numerous awards and her work is in the collections of the Israel Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem, the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, the Shpilman Institute for Photography, and several others. She is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC.

Liora Belford is an Israeli-Canadian sound artist, curator and scholar. She is currently a PhD ABD candidate at the department of Art History, University of Toronto, where her research focuses on the curation of sound within the context of modern and contemporary art. She is the recipient of the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) Doctoral Award (2016-2019); the Scace fellowship (2013-2018); the Faculty of Arts and Science Top (FAST) Doctoral Fellowship (2015-2018); and DIALOG – Scholarship In Honour of Michael Evamy (2014). She is half of the artistic duo Duprass (together with Ido Govrin) and co-owner of the experimental record label Interval Recordings. Her recent curated exhibitions include Image Coming Soon#1 (2015) at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (for which she received an Honorary Mention from the OAAG), Pardes (2015) at Koffler Gallery, and A Piece for Two Floors and a Corridor (2015) at the Israeli Center for Digital Art. She is currently preparing Listening to Snow for the Art Museum (Toronto), a major exhibition on the sound works of artist Michael Snow.

Image: Nevet Yitzhak, WarCraft, 2014, Installation view at Yossi Milo gallery, New York, 2015 (Image courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, Image Credit: Thomas Seely).