Signals from the Studio…Artist Alona Weiss on the Dream Machine

Audio interview with artist Alona Weiss, conducted in the spring of 2020.

Alona Weiss, Kiss a Statue, 2016, video still.

In this segment of Artis’ audio interview series, we speak with New York-based artist Alona Weiss about monuments, movement, and memory.

I’ve been thinking about memory and about the idea of movement, movement of the body, in relation to the stillness of [monuments] that are supposed to capture ideology and ideas, but are bound to change. -Alona Weiss

In her practice, Alona critically examines the transient nature of belief systems, and interpretations of public monuments, to create opportunities for social re-imagining. In Israel today, there are over 3,000 public monuments. Alona talks about these monuments as representative of ideologies and power structures that reinforce narratives and collective memories in the public sphere. Using performative interventions to interact with public sculpture, Alona ruminates on the physical and conceptual ways that monuments uphold legacies. In Alona’s video Kiss a Statue (2016) (pictured above), two performers practice acrobatic yoga on the site of a brutalist public sculpture, created in 1968 by the artist Yigal Tumarkin. This sculpture, Mitzpe Mo’av, is located in a remote location in Arad, Israel. The performers engage in balancing movements that require a precise distribution of weight, given the uneven surface of Tumarkin’s work. Closeness, communication, and trust are key components of the choreography, alluding to shifts in the ways we treat and relate to one another, and address the past, in public space.

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): Alona Weiss. Yonatan H. Mishal, photo by Yuli Gorodinsky.

Alona Weiss is a visual artist born in Israel and based in Brooklyn, NY. She works with video, performance, text, graphic design, and installation, to explore the transient nature of belief systems, and the interpretation of public monuments. Recent presentations include: The Hall of Fame For Great Americans (Bronx, New York); 601 Artspace (New York); Lesley Heller Workspace (New York); The Haifa Museum of Art (Israel); Columbia University School of The Arts (New York);The Beijing Film Triennial (China); Arad Contemporary Art Center (Israel); El Museo de Los Sures, (Brooklyn); The Kitchen (New York); Genia Schreiber Gallery (Tel Aviv); Local Projects (Queens), and Fikra Biennial (United Arab Emirates). She received an Master of Fine Arts from Parsons, The New School, NY, and a Bachelor of Design from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, in Jerusalem.

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.

Readings recommended by Alona Weiss

Reading that influences Alona Weiss' art practice:

On the Concept of History
by Walter Benjamin (originally published in 1942)

Recent articles and discussions on monuments and history

Recommended by artist Alona Weiss

Monumental Reckoning
by Daniel Tucker, A Blade of Grass (August 2020)
Artists Imagine New Monuments and “Otherwise Worlds”
by Thea Quiray Tagle, Hyperallergic (August 2020)
What Does It Mean to Tear Down a Statue? Interview with an art historian who studies the destruction of cultural heritage
by Jonah Engel Bromwich, New York Times (June 2020)
Monument Lab
a collaborative platform for critical texts on reimagining monuments
All Monuments Must Fall: A Syllabus
crowd-sourced assemblage of materials on monuments and history (assembled in 2017)
Monument, Myth, and Meaning
panel discussion at Cooper Union in New York (October 2017)

To learn more about monuments and public sculpture in Israel:

Monument Action
online catalog and archive of an exhibition series, curated by Udi Edelman and Yael Messer, at the Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon, Israel from 2016-2018.
Towards a Lexicon for Neo-Monumental Thought
by Udi Edelman
Monuments that Move Us
by Julia Keren Turbahn, Maarav (Winter, 2018)
Everything Flows and the Monument Remains: Dani Karavan’s Negev Monument and the Passage of Time
by Adi Englman, Maarav (Winter 2018)
No Monuments Will Be Toppled Here
by Edan Ring, Haaretz (June 2020)