My Childhood Album, 2022, Group Exhibition. The Gordon College of Education Gallery, Haifa. Curator: Rina Genussov.
Partisipating Artists: Ruth Orenbach, Aviva Gal, Sarith Leila Haas, Lena Zaidel, Oded Zaidel, Hiam Mustafa, Etti Chechover, Ruth Shhetzman
Grade 6A | Grove / Rina Genussov
Lena Zaidel is exhibiting two photographs of plasticine reliefs commemorating two significant events in her life, documented in her family album: a group portrait of Grade 6A in Russia at the end of the school year, and a family photograph taken after immigrating to Israel in which Lena are her parents are seen picking oranges in an orange grove.
Both photographs commemorate festive occasions and milestone ceremonies in the life of the young Lena: her last year of school in the USSR and her family’s initial time of absorption into life in Israel. Furthermore, these photographs also function as “corporate images,” photographs as propaganda to convey covert and overt messages. In the formal class photograph, teachers and students wearing their school uniform stand in block formation conveying unity and power.
The second photograph (Grove), which is also staged, documents Lena and her parents surrounded with plentiful oranges, a clearly Israeli symbol, expressing the family’s joy in realizing the dream of ‘ascending’ to Israel. The photograph also functions as a representational showcase image sent to relatives left behind and does not reveal the difficulties of settling into a new country as experienced by Lena and her parents, nor does it show the yearning for their familiar life in Russia.
Zaidel goes back in time and processes the immigration experience through observation of two childhood photographs and their transformation into plasticine reliefs. The direct touch of the fingers, kneading and gluing the familiar childhood material enables the artist to examine the ceremonial photographs with a humorous gaze, undermining the seriousness and the messages emanating from them. The return to the medium of photography and the enlargement of the reliefs restores the festive quality to these significant scenes which is absent in the photographs.