Signals from the Studio… Artist Ofri Cnaani on New Measures of Closeness

Audio interview with artist Ofri Cnaani, conducted in the spring of 2020.

Ofri Cnaani, Leaking Lands, 2020, video still from video installation work-in-progress.

In this segment of Artis’ audio interview series, we speak with London-based artist and educator Ofri Cnaani about the experience economy and digital accessibility in museums.

Ofri critically unpacks assumptions about museums as storage spaces for memory, trauma, and digital heritage. Using performance as both a research method and medium, Ofri interrogates physical spaces in museums that are not dedicated to displaying artworks, such as entryways, or educational spaces—what she calls the “soft tissues of the institution”—that are used to craft unique experiences for visitors. Ofri also discusses questions that arise when museums make their collections, resources, and programming available on digital platforms, enabling the fantasy of a virtual museum. She is thinking about which museums are able to provide virtual experiences for remote audiences, and how? Who can actually access these resources, and by extension, who cannot? In a new project, Leaking Lands, Ofri examines, as a case study, a fire that destroyed a significant portion of the collection at the National Museum of Brazil in 2018, prompting us to think about what happens when a museum that doesn’t have a virtual collection, loses its physical collection? And how and which cultural materials and histories are retained?

This interview was conducted in the spring of 2020, and edited for conciseness. It is part of Artis’ audio series, Signals from the Studio… where we speak with artists from Israel, and delve into current topics in contemporary art and culture that they address in their practice. Signals from the Studio… is produced by Artis and made in partnership with journalist, urbanist, and writer, Yonatan H. Mishal, who hosts the interviews.

Participant Bios

Images (left to right): Ofri Cnaani, You Are My Statistical Body, 2020, digital image. Yonatan H. Mishal, photo by Yuli Gorodinsky.

Ofri Cnaani is an artist, currently living in London. She works in time-based media, performances, and installations. Cnaani is currently a Ph.D. researcher and an Associate Lecturer at the 'Advance Practices' program in the Visual Cultures Department, Goldsmiths, University of London. Cnaani’s work has appeared at Tate Britain, UK; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; Inhotim Institute, Brazil; Israel Museum; Amos Rex Museum, Helsinki; Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; PS1/MoMA, NYC; BMW Guggenheim Lab, NYC; The Fisher Museum of Art, L.A.; Twister, Network of Lombardy Contemporary Art Museums, Italy; Herzliya Museum of Art, Israel; Moscow Biennial; The Kitchen, NYC; Bronx Museum of the Arts, NYC; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Arnolfini, Bristol; Tel Aviv Museum; Prague Triennial. Prior to her recent move to London, Cnaani was based in New York City, where she was faculty at the School of Visual Arts’s Visual and Critical Studies. At SVA, she also ran the 'City as Site: Public Performance + Social interventions' program and co-founded the ‘Unforgettables Reading/Working Group’ at A.I.R Gallery. www.ofricnaani.com

Yonatan H. Mishal is an urban explorer and writer, based in New York City. He currently works with the United Nations, in the department of global communications, and as a correspondent for Erev-Rav arts and culture magazine in Israel. His writing includes investigative journalism, commentary, reviews, interviews and art critique. His ongoing project in the past ten years of conducting interviews with curators and artists, aims to draw a real-time, first hand picture of the Israeli art scene.

References & Recommended Readings

Selection of references from the audio interview, and readings, recommended by Ofri Cnaani, that influence her art practice:

The Dizzying Experience of Visiting Virtual Museums
by Sophie Haigney, Art in America (April 2020)
Google’s Arts and Culture Collection
10 Museums you can Explore Right Here, Right Now.
A Pre-emptive History of the Google Cultural Institute
by Geraldine Juárez, Mondothèque
Brazil museum fire: ‘incalculable’ loss as 200-year-old Rio institution gutted
by Dom Phillips, The Guardian (September 2018)
What Was Lost in Brazil’s Devastating Museum Fire
by Ed Yong, The Atlantic (September 2018)
Luciana Achugarg
Brooklyn-based choreographer, from Uruguay, and collaborator with Ofri Cnaani
Care-full Thoughts in a State of Too-Muchness
text by Ofri Cnaani, reflecting on our current moment and the COVID-19 pandemic
ICA Daily: June 15, 2020
compilation of resources about solidarity and care, co-edited by Ofri Cnaani, Institute of Contemporary Art London (June 2020)