Monthly Archives: August 2011

Interview with Israeli artist Tamar Latzman

One of my friends, Tamar Latzman, is an artist who lives in New York, and I had the idea of interviewing her about her work, her time living here (she hails from Israel), and her upcoming projects. Tamar’s work Awake has been shown in Tel Aviv and New York, and her other projects have been showcased in Barcelona, Madrid, Austria and elsewhere. Tamar, and her work, is thoughtful, compelling, and humorous.

To watch Awake, you can go here: http://www.vimeo.com/22208993

RG: Tell me about your background.
TL: I was born and raised in Israel, near Tel Aviv, studied photography as my major, and came to New York three years ago for graduate school at the School Of Visual Arts.

RG: Much of your work seems influenced by photography.  Can you tell me about this?
TL: I think photography is my initial visual language. I discovered photography in my teenage years, as an initial tool to look at the world. I studied still photography as my major in college, in a highly technical department. Near the end of my college years, I started using video, searching after the boundaries of stills and moving image.  I was interested in representing and comparing the use of  time in both of those mediums.  I used the moving image from a still point of view – no movement, no sound, trying to isolate the time and to extend its boundaries, I was looking for a liminal place that exists between those two. Through the years, especially with my latest work, I’m more driven to narrative work, short-story telling, and the testimonial format in the moving image.

RG: Who are your influences? What artists or works of art have affected you the most over the years?
TL: Georges Perec, Chantal Akerman, Steve McQueen, Sharon Hayes, Matthew Buckingham, Chekhov, Peter Watkins and many more. Georges Perec, I find him fascinating in his thinking on space and time. Chantal Akerman is an endless inspiration for me in her rich and persistent use of the moving image, and by her consistent searching and observing different kinds of boundaries. I find Matthew Buckingham to be a brilliant example of looking at history at a current moment through visual arts. Lately I’ve been influenced as well by the short-story genre, such as the writings of Robert Wallace and Lydia Davis.

RG: Tell me about your work Awake, which was your thesis project at SVA and has been shown in festivals here and in Israel. What was its genesis?
TL: Awake is derived from themes of twentieth-century Jewish-European history, and as a two-channel video installation describes memories of various dreams. On one channel, the artist (me) speaks to the camera about memories of those dreams, in the form of testimonies. At the same time, on the second channel, the same dreams are presented in a quiet and poetic way, absent of people. The work observes the relationship between spoken language and text, and raises questions of identity, collective memory, and cultural stereotypes. The work is a result of thought and interest in identity and collective memory, and how systems and societies shape them.

RG: What do you like and what don’t you like about New York?  How difficult is it to be a working artist here?
TL:  I love the endless cultural richness of New York, especially coming from a very small place. New York is like a two-headed monster that hugs you and lets you be and exist and breathe, and at the same time it can bite and eat you. I love the ability to be anonymous in this city, but at the same time I miss my home and family every day. I feel my artistic development has experienced great progress and shape from being here in the last three years.

RG: Tell me about some of your current projects.
TL: At the moment, I’m working on two projects, one is going back again to photography but with the moving image. It’s a project on Muybridge [the English photographer], and one of the female subjects he used in his work. The other project is a continuation of my recent work  Awake. Both of them are now in the research stage, and I’m looking forward to bringing them to life and exposing them.

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