The world belongs to those who set it on fire

Mircea Cantor’s most recent solo exhibition, occupying two floors in the new Dvir gallery space, looks into Israeli identity brands. The difficult reality overlapping a traumatic history is a creative source that allows Cantor to symbolically and aesthetically recreate the subjective image of the Hebrew year 5775 in Israel.

Cantor processes vernacular Jewish symbols and builds narratives that simultaneously open various possibilities for interpretation. For a better understanding of the either exhibition, I chose to talk about the wall filled mandalas, made by burning dynamite powder. In the Kabbalah tradition the mandala has the role of guiding the viewer to the ultimate conscience, only found through contemplative meditation. The rhythm of the mandalas is interrupted here and there by gros-plan photographed palms in black and white. A preliminary conclusion: Cantor is observing contemporary Israel and is refining a discourse about delicate subjects without explicitly criticizing, denigrating or praising. He remains an apparently passive observer, neutral yet lucid, that raises questions and allows the viewer to further build following the suggested formula. He uses mixed media along with installations that strongly question the aesthetic potential of art in the contemporary era. Each work has a political as well as an aesthetic concentrated content.

He has a perspective on society, mythologies and conflicts, choosing referential and subjective motifs that could be seen as defining for Israel. Placing all that in a work of art is a semiotic process that has been totally fulfilled. Everything is symbolic for Mircea Cantor: the matter, the shape, the way it is exhibited, the title. The dynamite powder, the shofar (a horn used in the Yom Kippur ritual), the Western Wall, the pyramids, etc. are iconic motifs than could reveal Israel. The works remain open and makes every viewer feel the need for a dialogue.

I was intrigued by the Israeli map, written in smoke on paper, where Gaza and the West Bank territories are more openly represented as opposed to the rest of the state. The work’s name, The world belongs to those who set it on fire, is deliberately appropriating the facile mythology of present anti-Semitism. This idea is further explored in another work with the same title and technique that shows the world map uniformly smoked up… the world belongs to the people, those people who slowly destroy it using fire.


5775, a solo show by Mircea Cantor, is at Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv between January 31st – March 7th 2015.


Valentina Iancu

Valentina Iancu (b. 1985) is a writer with studies in art history and image theory. Her practice is hybrid, research-based, divided between editorial, educational, curatorial or management activities ...

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