Haimi Fenichel 1972, Israel “Horror Vacui” /Vacuum Horror/ , 2008
‘Ventsislav Zankov’ Grand Jury Award , 2008 ‘All About Him’
Vacuum Horror & the Crypt of Total Absence
It’s seems ordinary and dull: there’s nothing UnUsUaL about the shelved wall, where all sorts of gadgets and widgets have been neatly arranged. Running my eyes over them, I unwittingly start guessing about their use. The next moment I am getting curious and want to know about their owner, and how he puts them to use, I want to hear about the results, and then about his intensions…
I am, in fact, facing a puzzle of intentions already: somewhat silent, yet pronounced in the functions and the capabilities of the tools, covering the wall. I want to see them in action. I am already trying to figure out their purpose, trying in fact to make up the owner’s psychological profile. It can’t be a woman. It’s definitely him, a man. The leads start right there, with the heading itself: ‘Vacuum Horror’. It could be a metaphor. The picture of the shelved wall, covered with gadgets all-over, may well be a self-portrait in its own right. The way a still life may selfportrays the artist.
It’s a still life of the meticulously arranged tools of a man. There is a true craft to it. Each tool suggests a specific role, resolve and a particular approach to reality /nature/ in an effort to make it human. Taking care of tools and tool maintenance belong to man power: they are marked by the intent to invade, to explore, to measure and to perceive, to process, to cultivate and master the world around. The intent to…? I don’t have a single clue how to provide a timeline for these tools, impeccably arranged on the shelved wall. Should I place the intent at the start of it, with the desire for action, or should I save it for the end, at the mission-complete point? The tools seem to hang still, in a timeless order - inside a limbo and a depression which crack-opens between what has already been done and what has not yet started – giving away to the vacuum in-between the end and the beginning. The perfectionist desire for excessive order and total control over the impeccably arranged reality can not hide the face of chaos: in a moment, frozen in time, a bottle got knocked down as if by chance, stirring time into motion. Running slowly out of the bottle, in rhythm to the time running out again, the thick liquid comes to a standstill. What happens next when time’s run out? It’s the still life, silent and still amid timelessness where death belongs. It’s the life of melancholia-depression: the everlasting moment when meaning got lost, slipping in the crack-after-end-and-before-the-beginning.
This man seems to have withdrawn: leaving his tools, his items that is, behind, in the void after the end of and before the beginning of the action which only can bring them back to life and meaning. Being absent, he still is the only person who could map out the leaving-behind. This is his way to reclaim his presence and seal it with is own cryptic reflection. He is in there: there is a mirror ‘casually’ placed on a shelf somewhere and a reflection of a man’s face can be seen in it. This is his face: it’s the face of an artist, present in the room, and suggesting to us that it is through his eyes that we see the world already. Are we with him? A few paper clippings and drawings pinned up above his desk can help us guess about the funny features of this suspect: is this the Renaissance insatiable urge to grasp the universal inside the abnormality of the flesh? Or it is rather the vacuum terror painfully manifested by overgrown interest in pure presence perceived as shaping – overgrown human figures. The few hand-written in Hebrew notes will be of little help here: Hebrew is a code, hard to crack…Still there, a small photo has captured this same wall in the beginning, empty and naked, with the untidy, messy floor, before the beginning of it all. Pinned up on the wall, as part of the elaborate subsequent arrangement, this photo witnesses the beginnings of a world, it’s a man’s world. It’s the world of intent and depressions, of drawers and tools, it’s the controlled effort to set priorities, and to translate them into words and actions. This is the still life of a man’s world, suggesting that we need to look closely into what is seemingly trite and find the key to it, in order to grasp the elusive presence of men today. ‘Horror Vacui’ may well be the key that we need…should we brave to get over the vacuum horror and find the missing figure of man in the grisly power of the timeless void, crack-opened between what has already been done and what has not yet started.