״A.I.R. Gallery is proud to announce Bat Levi, a performance developed for A.I.R. Gallery by Ye’ela Wilschanski during her residency in the gallery space from March through September 2020.
Wilschanski’s performance practice unravels through the artist’s body as she assembles and dismantles pseudo-sculptural costumes which alternately constrict her motion and give new, iconographic meaning to her gestures. Drawing on Jewish storytelling traditions and Western performance, Wilschanski’s wearable sculptures expose the ideological weight of clothing and the way that communal beliefs shape the body’s movement. In the artist’s words, “An article of clothing may be worn by one person, but the codes that it reinforces suggest the presence of a chorus.”
In this vein, Bat Levi depicts a generational progress of forms. Each of the constructs that Wilschanski moves through in the course of the performance represents a different character, related but distinct, tied by the materials that bind them—gossamer cloth, opaque swathes of fabric, and the sweet points of date pits used as buttons. These figures commune and exchange places as Wilschanski adopts and adapts tradition to her own uses—the cloister-like dress turns into a knapsack, the bed into an adventurer’s raft.
In Jewish orthodox communities, like the one in which the artist grew up, recitation and ritual play a key role in public and at home—however, leading these ceremonies is not a role that belongs to women, whose singing voices are thought to be as private as their bodies. Herself hailing from an ancient tribe of performers—”Ha Levi” or The Levi—Wilschanski has only ever been “Bat Levi”, or the daughter of a Levi, amongst her family and people. The artist is swayed by an unwitting conflict between the parts of her history to which she is heir: her chosen and inherited vocation standing at odds with the strictures of her religion and the way of life she has always known. In an irreverent twist, Wilschanski’s choreography dramatizes her own path and the difficult balance between following her ancestor’s footsteps and repurposing these rituals to construct her own performative language.
Developing the work in a direct dialogue with the white, unhung walls of A.I.R.’s galleries, Wilschanski draws a correspondence between the malleability of the exhibition space and the many identities that the artist herself has donned in the passage to her present self. Reflecting this close dialogue with the space, Wilschanski has also made Catchment Basin, 2020, a video work that poetically evokes the voice of the space itself and its unruly activity in the seemingly quiet hours."