The Shape of Scale
Doron Rabina
The comment "It's a wonder all that evil doesn't wear a moustache", which appears in one of Shai Yehezkelli's drawings and is the Hebrew title of this book, implies the expectation that an interior (an evil nature) will have an exterior - an appearance that will manifest itself on the body as a symptom. In other words, implicit in this comment is the expectation and the belief that the hidden, the concealed, what is unseen or lies in wait under the surface, will have a face; that even the most latent of contents will eventually present itself in visible form.

In this context, Yehezkelli's drawings bear the nature of a symptom as they perform an enactment of his inner world and illustrate a heterogeneous set of desires, fears, exhilaration and inanition, which assume a distinct form through confessional rhetoric, as a trail of exposure and disclosure. In his casual drawings, inspired by quotidian dramas, both the medium (quick sketchbook drawings with blue or black ballpoint pen) and the wording (references, quotes, texts and confessions) reveal and declare: the mind has a trail and on these sheets of paper it leaves its impressions.

But let us not confuse between confession and honesty, or between admission and truth. The range of authenticity in Yehezkelli's drawings is similar to the interspace between speaking in the first person and the customary bumper sticker on commercial vehicles, asking (in the first person) "How am I driving?". That is to say, the direct expression (the drawing) in the first person operates in a realm that is extraneous to the self yet speaks on its behalf (and the two don't always share the same interests).

Although the drawings do seem like a direct trail of the consciousness which conceived them, they manage to evade the aura usually surrounding any type of "personal expression" - of direct projection of emotion. The drawings possess a deliberate, declarative crudeness and an heightened awareness of their future visibility. They are conceived with a built-in addressee; like the home preparation of a protest sign, the personal handwriting (the drawing) is shaped for the purpose of being seen, delivered, acting as transmission.

All of Yehezkelli's drawings range from authenticity to the appearance of authenticity. Like the old joke claiming that only refrigerators have "inner light", the drawings are also a humorous display that ultimately relies on the acute distinction between an interior and an exterior. They range from the scribbled to the stylized; from what tells its own story to what stories are being told about. They range from wallowing in misery and indulging in self-pity, to the greater indulgence of broadcasting one's misery (see "Suffer Suffer"); from being a place where one sketches out an extreme personality, to being a ballot where one votes for or against a bi-polar personality. The drawings have the appearance of a "personal memory" that seeks to be remembered as a "collective memory"; like the symptom of private thought that wishes to become an heroic voice of its times.

Yehezkelli creates his drawings on various occasions in a sketchbook, which he always carries with him, and with an available pen. A photographer who always carries a camera with him is ready for an opportunity to present itself- ready for what reality might offer snappily, suddenly and unexpectedly, as a wholeness that can be sampled, as an event that can have meaning extricated from it. An artist who always carries a sketchbook with him perceives himself as an emanating entity - a responding, recalling, framing, prophesying, conceptualizing entity, which scouts and discovers meaning. The continuum is the frame and the format is the limit. This is an abundance that relies on a response to stimulus (which in turn, gives birth to an idea) and on the production of a stimulus for evoking a response (from the viewer). However, in Yehezkelli's case, this is an abundance that gives birth to reduction and subtraction. The drawings are not only a trail of what took place in the past, but also - and in equal measure - a documentation of what didn't and probably never will (the fantasy drawings).

What kind of world is reflected through the artist's life? Faced with loss he immerses himself in masturbation ("Ways of Dealing with Grief"). The masturbation scene, instead of being a site for self-gratification, becomes the admission of settling for a substitute. Yehezkelli lists the various varieties of existential mundanities and works diligently to describe and document his fantasies. Creating, documenting and fantasizing intimate moments in full view of all, he reminds himself of what the drawing won't allow the viewer to forget. It's a world where irony and pathos are employed in an endeavor to elicit emotion; a world where compassion is not superior to self-pity and fact is not preferable to rumor ("50 Dollars for a studio space in Leipzig"). It is a decentralized world, consisting of all varieties of disengagement and detachment: penis from a mouth, fingers from a palm, turds from a bottom, hairs from a head, head from a body, sensibility from sense, desire from its satisfaction. The word "Papua", with or without the drawing of a hand, appears in many of the drawings and refers to the Papua New Guinean practice of amputating fingers when a family member or beloved one passes away. Like in many other contexts that exist in Yehezkelli's work, attention is focused on the manifestation of loss on the body. What the heart has lost the hand will lose as well; what broke inside will manifest itself through external imperfection.

And what kind of artist persona is reflected through the drawings? It is the persona of a "non-happy form" ("All the Forms are Happy but Me"); a persona whose somberness provides a prolific position for attracting attention and sympathy to oneself. It is a helpless artist with an erection, lying supine in his own excrement and looking up to the sky, impersonating as a dynamic person but immobilized by his own apathy, craving honesty but tempted to put on a show, seeking attention but hoping for identification, declaring truthfulness but succumbing to confusion, all-knowing but ever-perplexed. It is an artist who in his frantic fidgeting of the drawing pen, is anticipating the return of the repressed in order to give it form.

"It's a wonder all that evil doesn't wear a moustache".

Evil, for that matter, will have a face, and it will wear a mustache - an emblem of the unmatchable Hitlerian evil; the indescribable, immeasurable evil that has no proportion. In this sense, form - the embodiment in form, is a measure, a measurement, a means of measuring. Like a Hitler mustache on the face of evil, Yehezkelli's drawings perform as an attempt to set a scale for reality; as a medium for begetting a self from the pathos (what went beyond measure) and ofr self-deprecating (what's too small to measure). The self shapes the forms, and the forms, in turn, shape the self ("All Forms are Happy but Me"), even though "it's the abstract that doesn't get me".

English: Inbal Strauss.
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Travel Alert: On Shai Yehezkelli’s Works
Anat Danon Sivan