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The Dolls' House

Adva Drori

Curator: Sari Paran


"Drori’s exhibition contains felt works as well as sewn dolls, some displayed inside a glass showcase and others on stands throughout the gallery space. Each of the dolls functions both as a part of a group and independently, thus representing the position of the individual within the collective. Addressing the question of the actual position these dolls represent, we recall previous projects by Drori, whose interest in dolls has accumulated and grown in the two decades of her artistic work. Over the years and in various ways Drori’s dolls embody the tension between the destructive, de-constructive urge and the aspiration for harmony and wholeness.

Drori’s interest in dolls revolves around the question of constituting identity and the conditions for possible self-determination. Sewing the doll, whose essence is the combination of its various parts, resembles the constitution of identity - an act that involves unifying the different conflicting forces of the mind, and directing the ego amidst one’s contrary urges. Unifying human identity and the ability to manage it amidst such poles are demanding objectives. The unity of identity and mind is not easily reached. Moreover, even the unity of body involves great effort. The human newborn, unlike other newly born mammals, needs a long time until it can manage on its own without being dependent upon its mother for mere existence. Newly born, it cannot yet stand and synchronize its own body parts as a whole harmonious organism. The initial state of the baby is rooted in the experience of imperfection, fragmentary and uncontrolled. Drori’s insistence upon assembling the dolls and taking them apart expresses the pendulum motion of the subject between the urge to return to its disparate primordial state and its aspiration to achieve harmonious wholeness, the need to survive as one autonomous entity.

In addition to her work as an artist, Drori is active in art therapy, a vocation that combines art and therapy and relates to art as therapy and to therapy as art. Her works occupy the seam line between the work of prying open the wounds from which she draws inspiration for her art work, while her work as a therapist aims to mend the rift and tend to it with compassion. The dolls displayed in this exhibition are situated along this seam line. They are inspired by the DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the American guide to psychiatric diagnostics aimed at diagnosing and classifying various mental disorders according to their symptoms. The dolls placed within the exhibition space are in dialogue with the different definitions of disorder or disturbance. Each of the dolls does so in its own unique way. The essence of the dialogue which receives its visual expression is not to create an illustration but rather to raise questions as to the possibility of defining, classifying, mapping and evaluating the subject. The DSM defines and classifies diagnoses of mental disorders. It represents psychiatry that observes mental expressions and pretends to classify them as disorders, observing the human mind from society’s point of view which judges the individual according to his/her functioning within limits and rules. From such a point of view, mental expressions that transgress such limits set by society are interpreted as disruptions of the normal order, disturbing normative behavior. Unlike the prism of the psychiatric guide, one may observe each human situation, strange as it may be, as a persistent attempt on the part of the undefined subject to constitute itself as such. Outside the framework of psychiatric diagnosis, one may regard mental disorder and disturbance as a personal, even political position in view of apparatuses that attempt to classify, define and map the subject while sacrificing the unique self that refuses to fit into the framework of preset definitions. The position of the disturbed or disordered personality upsets the external order which imposes a pre-defined identity upon the subject. This position subverts the illusion of a subject with a defined identity, and upsets the utopian wholeness of “the melting pot” which constructs society’s identity as a whole. The position of “disorder” or “disturbance” breaks the promise and the aspiration for a homogenous society, and disrupts the possible existence of a unified group under a collection of uniform norms. It protests the form of existence that excludes anything that is not normal.

Drori’s dolls embody a singular position which diverges from an accepted order, a political position that raises the image of the subject not given to definition and representation. Such a position points to physical existence in primordial states that precede the subject’s identification, prior to shaping itself along codes of gender body images, prior to constituting itself in the imaginary wholeness of identity. Drori’s dolls are a collection of parts, a multiplicity remaining outside the fabric of normal society. Placing them all together in space indicates the predictable failure of constituting an illusory unity, both personal and national. The group of “weirdos” that are showcased as dolls in the exhibition or as case studies reminds us that the personal and national melting pot project will never be completed. Someone or something will always stand there – like those dolls – to indicate that which will forever remain outside the project of melting, sewing, felting." 

Dudi Brailovsky

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