Artist Talk: Larissa Aharoni Friday, September 20

by Mario Ayala

As part of FUA’s ongoing Arty Friday program, F_AIR was proud to host Larissa Aharoni’s Artist Talk this past Friday, September 20. During her talk, F_AIR’s artist in residence presented students and others guests with her insight on developing some of her most recent projects.The first project Aharoni presented was A Jew, a Muslim, and Christian walk into a gallery, which was exhibited this year in Jerusalem. In talking about this project, she recalled the tense atmosphere in the city, all due to the religious strife that has plagued that region for centuries. The artist thought therefore that Jerusalem needed a break, a laugh, something to distract the inhabitants’ minds from the troubled times. Her work for A Jew, a Muslim, and Christian walk into a gallery consists of what she appropriately calls “humor pills”, which are various pillows of various sizes with religious jokes embroidered on them in bold text. The process of obtaining the jokes was key to the concept of the piece as it integrated students in Jerusalem, and from various backgrounds to choose the jokes. Aharoni ultimately wanted her installation to be an area where people could lounge around, even using the pillows as seats or beds, and forget the religious differences that have divided the city. She has plans to show this installation in Germany, and an Arab country.

The talk proceeded with Larissa presenting two further important projects: the Remembrance Project for the Sinti and Romani victims of National Socialism and Go Cowboys. Remembrance Project for the Sinti and Romani victims of National Socialism was commissioned for the Regionale 12, a contemporary art festival in the Styria region, in Austria. The artist designed six street signs identical to the town’s street signs, that had text relating to the detainment of about 250 Romani and Sinti who were then forced into labour to construct one of the main roads in the area. Aharoni aimed to remind the town’s inhabitants of what it took to construct the roads, and to establish awareness of the region’s history. At the talk, the artist also talked about some negative reactions to her project, exemplified by the vandalism of one of her signs. The spray painted text expressed discontent with the Regionale 12 remembrance project in general.
Go Cowboys is the outcome of a residency at the University of Texas in Dallas. Aharoni very much disagrees with Texas laws on capital punishment, and while she was in the state a man named Jesse Joe Hernandez was to be executed in Huntsville. She went to the state prison and visited the prison museum to experience firsthand the atmosphere of such an event. She later learned that Jesse’s last words were “Go Cowboys!” and thought that that was a very apt title for the piece, due to its context. Go Cowboys consists of a book handmade by the artist herself, with images of executions she found on the internet. The images are of executions from all over the world, all through history, establishing the idea of  execution as a human act.
Larissa Aharoni also presented few of her earlier works, which all use text and language to create an engaging relationship between the view and the work.