Tamar Latzman is an Israeli visual artist currently based in New York City. Latzman enjoys a good mindfuck, given that she explores subjects like identity, space, and time. With desired effect, she delves into the elusive and intangible to rouse you from your place of comfortable boredom. Her most recent project Awake is arrestingly political, poetic, and full of nuance. I sat down with Latzman to talk about her work and her politics.
What is Awake really about?
Awake explores real and fake fears in Israeli collective memory in five video chapters. Presented as my own dreams, I examine the state-endorsed indoctrination that all Arabs, Palestinians and non-Jews are a threat to the Jewish people and the future of the State of Israel.
(video excerpt, Memory of a Nose)
Memory of a Nose? Do you regret having work done on your schnoz or something?
This has absolutely nothing to do with a nose job. Memory of a Nose is the first chapter in Awake. It’s a real woman’s very scary nightmare of her nose growing bigger until it eventually takes over her entire face.
Here, I scrutinize the media’s abuse of the testimonial format in news coverage. It’s really become an impossible format and no longer depicts any truth when manipulated, as it is time-and-time-again. The voice-over brutalizes and alters the witness’s testimony in meaning and tone. Her blurry face protects, yet at the same time evokes shame and pity for her. The viewer experiences artifice and sensation on the right, juxtaposed against the real and actual testimony on the left.
There’s a lot going on in your work—two screens, written words, spoken language… Are we missing something? Where’s the commentary track?
Awake deals with a serious issue but I have no interest in playing Freud. My art investigates distinctions in memory, identity, and absence, which are never cut and dry. I wonder how experience shapes a person. It started as a simple collection of my friends’ nightmares. As a youth, I remember a lot of intensity around the Holocaust. Yom Ha’shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was always a really scary day. The experience ignited a constant fear within others, and me too. We were trapped by our fears and became suspicious of terror lurking around every corner.
How did your family end up in Israel? Do you want to move back?
Israel is my home. Of course I want to go home! But right now I’m in New York and I love it. I’ve sunk my teeth into this cultural epicenter and can’t get enough. My family moved to Israel in the 1970’s during a period of increased immigration from the former Soviet Union. They, like other immigrants at the time, shared the same ideology as Theodore Herzl and the pioneer Zionists. We believe in a peaceful, secular Jewish State. Back home, I’m against the Right Wing and current policy. In fact, I see it as complete opposition to the Zionist effort. There’s a huge divide between ‘religious’ Jerusalem and ‘secular’ Tel Aviv, and it’s only getting bigger.
Why is your work in English and not Hebrew?
Right now, this is where I am in my art. I came to New York to study and a lot of my artistic development can be attributed to the change of my environment. Distance and time away from home widened my perspective. I have a deeper understanding and larger outlook now. The situation is bad and getting worse, but I’m hopeful it’ll only get better. I believe in the power of the visual arts and its capacity to deal with history in the here and now. Awake should incite honest and rational thought in you. My wish is for Israelis, Jews, and the world to come to terms with the past, and hope for a better future.
Tamar Latzman holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and is the recipient of several awards, including the Nerken Scholarship and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Sharet Scholarship for Young Artists. Latzman will exhibit more of her work this month at The Loop Festival in Barcelona, Spain.
Photo by Jan Ebeling