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The City Square By Liav Mizrahi

One by one they gather and walk to the city square. In her new installation at the Tel Aviv Artists House, Hava Raucher presents a group of mortals – all together, but each one separately. In our first encounter with the installation, we see a space with nude figures standing in the center. At first glance they appear identical, most of them pelvis high. Human statues, males and females, apparently adults but of small proportions. All of the figures are as naked as the day that they were born. Another look at the figures reveals their tranquil faces. The artist’s handprints are evident on the statues, her statues bear the pattern of her fingerprints, like lumps of clay that dried and was painted in a flesh tone, virtually all the same color. The genitals do not merit individual treatment. This aspect is alienated and emasculated. The eroticism of the nude is not the central point of interest inthis installation. The figures are Raucher’s acquaintances, friends and family.They are invited to the artist’ studio to be alone with the artist and get to know her, but a long stay in the studio simply conveys her existentialist viewof the models. This view connects the installation to the statues of Alberto Giacometti. After the Second World War, when art developed an existentialmanifest, i.e. abstract art that isolates man from his material environment, Giacometti began to sculpt long, gaunt, featureless figures. Sometimes man high, usually miniature, and virtually all cast in bronze. Raucher’s sculptures are also aluminum castings created using the lost wax technique. After the casting is completed, Raucher paints and even draws on them: Skin, veins, hair and texture, as if they were portraits on canvas. Giacometti often sculpted andworked with his wife in the studio, making repeated attempts. Raucher invites acquaintances, artists, relatives and even her gardener, to stand before her in the studio and submit themselves to her gaze.

Another significant aspect that connects the initial figurative distinction in Raucher’s statues to Giacometti's lean abstract is the sensation of loneliness that appears in both. Giacometti searched for the essence of the person standing in his loneliness, nude. Raucher’s statues also look that way. Her statues look firmly planted on the
ground, by virtue of the fact that they are standing on their own, with the material that they are made of covered and concealed. However, like Giacometti’s fragility, Raucher’s statues are actually on the verge of falling, and touching them is liable to send them crashing to the ground like a row of dominoes.

The installation is peopled with individuals who do not encounter one another in the artist’s daily life. In a frozen and almost archaic composition, the statues look like shabtis. Their gaze is reserved, one could even say moral, and does not set well with the naturalistic body inRaucher’s statues.  The spacious hall in the Tel Aviv Artists House condenses the air in which the figures are embedded. They are at a loss. A third glance reveals that some of the figures are duplicated – the same body,
but in a different color. The figures stand like soldiers at ease, with their legs slightly apart and their arms at their sides. The light, which falls on the statues and reveals the brushstrokes and hand marks, causes the disintegration of the figure’s inner strength and the collapse of its existence.  Her statues are blind. In the final chapter of his book, Blindness, this is how José Saramago describes the blind: “…They crossed a large square where groups of blind people entertained themselves by listening to speeches from other blind people.  At first sight, neither group seemed to be blind, the speakers turned their heads excitedly towards the listeners and the listeners turned their heads attentively to the speakers.”[1]And so Raucher’s statues stand, near each other yet avoiding one another.

And now let’s return to Giacometti and Raucher. The light falling on Giacometti’s statues emphasizes the bumpiness of the
unfinished bronze. The figures are featureless. All this is in complete contrast to Raucher’s statues, as we have already noted. However, Sartre’s writings (The Search for the Absolute, in Albert Giacometti, 1948) about Giacometti’s work reveal a few more common elements. Sartre wrote that Giacometti’s work is engaged in an act of subtraction and rebuilding. In his art, movement effectively paralyzes the figure.  This aspect bestows an eternal element on his figures. This is echoed in Giacometti’s work and its connection with Egyptian statue, which is manifested in the position he sometimes chooses for his statues, with one foot ahead of the other. With Raucher it’s the uplifted gaze (a clear element of Egyptian art).  With both Giacometti and Raucher there is a stubborn silence, and a gap between the living model and the material visible in reality. Sartre calls this the “terror of emptiness”. With both of them there is an appearance of sterility; yet there is also an obsessive passion to lead man to a utopian existential state. With Giacometti man is but a schematic figure; with Raucher he is a distorted replica.

The crowding of the statues in the open space, the blurring of identity and the inability to read these figures due to their nudity and cleanliness reverberate against the backdrop of recent events in Israel. Everybody wants social justice. Political organization regardless of race, color and gender. Everyone comes to the city square to demonstrate. Later, in the last chapter of his book, Blindness, which was mentioned above, Saramago writes:  “…They were extolling the virtues of the fundamental principles of the great organized systems, private property, a free currency market, the market economy, the stock exchange, taxation, interest, expropriation and appropriation, production, distribution, consumption, supply and demand, poverty and wealth, communication, repression and delinquency, lotteries, prisons, the penal code, the highway code, dictionaries, the telephone directory, networks or prostitution, armaments factories, the armed forces, cemeteries, the police, smuggling, drugs… Justice, loans, political parties, elections, parliaments, governments, convex, concave, horizontal, vertical slanted, concentrated,diffuse, fleeting thoughts, the fraying of the vocal cords, the death of the word.”[2] This glossary is hidden among Raucher’s statues. We are all similar and different, living in an inner world enveloped in a fragile soap bubble, with just one figure out of all the sculptures has its arms raised at its sides, as if trying to protect the others, but its hands are drooping and limp, as if also trying to accept its fate.  
[1] José Saramago, Blindness, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, USA, 1998,
  translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero, page 294
[2] Ibid

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