On the 15th of February of this year, an urgent appeal was made by the Tel Aviv museum of art, requesting the Israeli courts to prevent a video piece made by the artists Jack Faber and Gadi Sprukt, from ever being shown publicly. Despite the fact that this work , entitled Watchmen, was never seen by the museum, nor by the court judge for that matter, a restraining order was made. It remains in force to date.
Watchmen is a nine minute video work shot through the Tel Aviv Museum's security surveillance cameras. It features a masked character wandering through the empty spaces of the museum's contemporary art galleries.
Under the watchful eye of the security camera, the figure interacts with the art works on display, in ways which are far from being acceptable, in what is normally a highly regulated space : caressing the works, affectionately hugging the statues, running around in a wild amok. To be sure, no physical damage was done to any of the works. And despite the associations evoked by all too familiar look of the CCTV monitor, this video is by no means recorded evidence of an act of vandalism, neither it is the footage of a crime - but rather a visible violation of a museum's internal rules of behavior.
By showing this "crime" from the perspective of its own closed circuit system, the museum becomes exposed, revealing itself as part of a system of supervision and regulation. The surveillance camera's point of view emphasizes the fact that while in the gallery observing art, we are in fact being observed, our behavior monitored and controlled into a specific mode. We are directed to an attitude that actually affects the way we experience art. In the context of a museum, a physical distance is enforced by the security system (using guards and cameras).
But this physical distance is more than an affirmation of the traditional, established understanding that art should be observed from a "distance". It is primarily a reminder of the art object's monetary value, its financial worth.
It seems that by symbolically shattering this distance, we in fact pose a very real threat to the museum. Watchmen, it seems, undermined the museum's precious image as the guardian of this distance. Moreover , by using the same tools with which the museum usually enforces its authority to show a contrasting picture of disobedience, we revealed in a harsh and uncompromising way the museum's main function – to act as a guard, as a protector of valuable objects, as a safe keeper of commodities.
We never set out to target the Tel Aviv museum specifically. This video is a critique of the function of a museum as such. Unfortunately the Tel Aviv museum took this matter quite personally and launched a ferocious attack against us.
We now face an absurd and costly legal battle, sued by a museum that will do anything to bury this art work, and us with it. We of course, refuse to shut up.
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