Review of Athena Newton on Pleader’s Prayer by Efrat Zehavi Art Amsterdam 2009
Undeniably one of the most theatrical exhibits showcased at Art Amsterdam was Efrat Zehavi’s Pleader’s Prayer. The installation presented an extraordinary amount of activity, devoid of conventionality. An Israeli native, Zehavi aimed to capture the tension and adversity many immigrants face when attempting to start a life in Holland: It’s about the power of politics; the power of religion and how it’s reflected in personal life.
Through this mixed media installation, Zehavi relentlessly explores the grueling, arduous nature of immigration policy. She provokes the spectator to question the unremitting struggle between those in political power and those who are politically powerless. Contorted figures made of wax, paint, wire, and plaster were suspended from a plethora of wooden chairs, flimsily standing on top of one another. The faces were distorted, lurid, and somewhat menacing. Their dismal appearance emphasized human struggle and tortuous emotion.
Amidst this melancholic décor, were television screens rapidly displaying these decapitated, dissembled, grotesque figures in rather compromising positions. Many of the characters represented Dutch politicians: specifically, anti-immigration politicians. Directly above the display sits the advocate: the protector of all humankind.
Another striking trait was the subtle, profound addition of A Walk to Caesaria playing in the background. Originally sang in Hebrew, the lyrics intended to highlight the political and social tension between the oppressor and the oppressed: My God, my God, May these things never end The sand of the seaThe rustle of the waters Light of the heavens
The prayer of man in both mind and heart, the exhibit evoked a plethora of emotions. If conveying a powerful message was the mission, then mission accomplished.