Michal Rovner discusses issues of dislocation through Night, a series of video-frescoes reflecting on the fragility of human existence.
Installation view of Michal Rovner: Night, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery, New York. | Right: Anubis embalming from the tomb of Sennedjem. Tomb Wall Painting from Deir el-Medina, ca. 1295-1186.
During the 2020 lockdown, Michal Rovner adopted wild dogs from the desert and spent extended time in nature. Rovner’s simple house and surrounding field bring to mind a nature reserve. The artist’s ties to nature come out organically in her life, her process, and her work, including her 2016 Night series and her 2018 work Nilus which she discussed with Shifting Vision.
‘The time of the coronavirus made me realize something about the relationship between humans, humanity, and nature,’ said Rovner. ‘Something unique happened in the pandemic – so many people around the world had a shared experience. Sometimes I felt that I am a human particle in a big picture of humanity that is experiencing a similar experience. When did we have such a thing before?’
Michal Rovner, Nilus, 2018. © Michal Rovner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
‘In a lot of my work, including Nilus, when I deal with the human presence, I’m looking for the non-specific person, stripped of identifying features, in an unidentified location, erased of details to the degree that sometimes they’re reduced to only a few pixels. It relates to questions of identity, but I think it’s also about looking for a common denominator, something that we share.’
Michal Rovner, Night. Exhibition view at Pace Gallery, New York (2016). Courtesy of the artist.
To create the Night series (2016) and Nilus (2018), the artist spent extensive time at night in dark fields. ‘Jackals are nocturnal animals. They have a parallel life to ours and we almost never interact - they avoid us, and we don’t want to encounter them. In 2016, there was a great deal of dislocation in the world, especially with the refugee crisis. Refugees were treated with suspicion, as strangers.
I wanted to have an encounter with the other, with the stranger. I waited to meet the jackals in the field, in an uncontrolled, unpredictable situation, in the darkness of the night.’ said Rovner.
The artist described her encounter with the Jackal saying; 'That's probably how the first man, many years ago, felt when he saw a big animal and wanted to preserve the moment in a cave, to engrave it on a stone, in a safe place. So here I was in the era of cave painting in some way.’