Shufuni Ya Nas

1/5

Installation view at The artists Residence Herzliya 2016

The work "Shufuni Ya Nas" features a Middle Eastern male (seen only in close-up) as he drives a big, expensive black car late at night. The windshield is a lens used by the driver to view the city as he cruises slowly through its streets: Yefet Street, Yehuda Hayamit Street, Jerusalem Boulevard and more. The car slices through, and the driver's lens serves viewers as well, creating a continuous shot of close-ups and passing urban scenes including the side view mirror, the black and shiny roof fin, the reflected shot of eyes. What seems initially as the driver's viewpoint is revealed to be the car's perspective, surrounding the driver, protecting him. Inside, he remains invulnerable, but also alone and isolated from the world around him.

The driving experience references the iconic opening scene of "Taxi Driver", directed by Martin Scorsese (1976). In the original, the film hero, Travis Bickle, drives his taxi through the filthy and wet streets of 1970s Manhattan, a grim representation of post-Vietnam America. Travis is a broken man, defeated and lonely, incapable of interpersonal relationships, a man on the verge of a violent outbreak that does indeed appear at the end of the film. He is the mirror image of the Western movie genre hero, the primal and violent alter-ego of the naïve and trusty lone rider.

Instead of the flickering lights of a hellish cinematic New York, Tati's works present the lights of a weary and silent Jaffa as they reflect on the body of the car. Tati creates a double portrait of a disintegrating city and a roving anti-hero in a dark and gleaming metal envelope, attempting in vain to find his way out of the inferno.

Bernard Herrmann's Jazz soundtrack for "Taxi Driver" is replaced with deep bass music on very low frequency. The melody disappears; it is unrecognizable, and actually unnecessary. The sound in the gallery is exactly as it would be if heard from just outside the vehicle – a disturbing, threatening and vibrating throb that culminates in a sound that shakes the very room. It is a dominant and unavoidable sound that pervades the objects in the room and suffuses them; it is dense and representative, serving as the pulse of the installation, creating the anticipation that something is about to happen. Something bad. The low frequency hum fills the room, pressing and squeezing the air and elements within it. 

The fragmented envelope of sound that leaks out around the driver is accompanied by a video sequence, positioning the viewer at the driver's side in an enclosed world, on the edge on an abyss. This is clearly not just a pleasure drive – the driver's seat is occupied by the subconscious of the Middle East, a bedrock of manhood rooted in a make-believe glorious past, revealed in full to be oppressed and rebellious. The figure of the driver, just like Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver", fights a lonely battle against giving in to forbidden urges. It awaits the seminal moment, one sure to arrive.

 

In the reasoning of Western consumption culture, vehicles serve individuals to present themselves to the world, they are a means of communication. The raw materials of "Shufuni Ya Nas" are an appealing and intimidating male fantasy, combining the allure for luxury items (and the social status promised to their owners) with the revulsion from this flagrant male-capitalist excess on its sure path to violence.

The car pistons, the growl of the motor, and the screeching wheels, as well as the glory of motoric technology, all raise to the surface the established truth of masculinity in its most primal and beastly form.

Ran Kasmy-Ilan