Night Writings* - Eretz Israel Museum

Night Writings*
Dafna Shalom

Dafna Shalom, Silver tools, 2024. Photograph archival print
Dafna Shalom, Silver tools, 2024. Photograph archival print

Opens 31 May 2024

The tension between the traditional and the contemporary is visible in Dafna Shalom’s multi-disciplinary work, which deals with issues such as otherness, gender, spirituality and identity. The exhibition Night Writings combines early works by her with others which were created specifically for the exhibition, and which incorporate items from the Museum’s collection.

At the center of the exhibition is an edition of the Book of Exodus in Braille, surrounded by pages of Braille covered by Shalom’s photographs and mixed-technique drawings. This edition, one of several created by Shalom, encapsulates elements of power relations and collective unconsciousness. The encounter between the viewer and her works, she says, evokes two parallel experiences that do not meet: the blind cannot see the images and the sighted cannot understand the text written in Braille.

In the work Silver Tools Torah pointers from the Museum’s collection are placed on a Braille page from the Book of Exodus. The pointer, normally used to distance the reader’s body from the sacred parchment which is forbidden to be touched, is imbued with a new material and aesthetic significance. The pointer is transformed from a utilitarian ritual object to an irrelevance.

Another work in the exhibition is a piece of jewelry that Shalom made in the form of the name “Godot” in sign language. This hanging jewelry stresses the fracture of modern times and the associated sensation of the Theater of the Absurd.

Screened in the second room of the exhibition is Hamavdil, a two-channel video work filmed during the transition between day and night. During the screening four passages can be heard by the vocal artist Victoria Hanna. The choreography formed via the female voice and body invites viewers to a sensory riddle, a contemporary ritual outside the familiar.

*The title of the exhibition is a reference to “Night Writing”, a form of writing invented by a solider in Napoleon’s army as a method of passing messages in the dark by touching patterns of dots. Louis Braille used it as the basis for the famous writing system that bears his name.