Outset Israel supported Voyage to Cythera, a solo exhibition by Aya Ben Ron (b. 1967, Haifa, Israel) curated by Galit Eilat (Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven) at the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité (Berlin Medical Historical Museum/BMM).
In a lyrical journey through the historic permanent collections held at BMM, Ben Ron echoes the journey made by Baudelaire’s pilgrim in his poem A Voyage to Cythera, a subversion of the 18th century painting, Embarkation for Cythera by Watteau. In Watteau’s celebrated fête gallante, an elegiac and bucolic fantasy of carefree love and seduction is played out on the island birthplace of Aphrodite, Goddess of love. For Baudelaire, however, the discovery of Cythera is imbued with a nightmarish scenario of pain, death, decay and self-loathing. Both Watteau’s painting and Baudelaire’s poem have been subject to countless interpretations, but Ben Ron does not offer an interpretation; rather, she seeks to highlight the visceral and emotional narratives of human experience that Baudelaire expressed so movingly in his verse.
Ben Ron’s practice is anchored in a profound understanding of the human condition rooted in the morbid body, illness and injury, mortality, perceptions of self, and the unconscious memory of physical and psychological pain. Additionally – and crucially – the artist sympathetically explores the role and experiences of those who are also frequently anonymous: the care workers who aim to alleviate suffering and support the rehabilitation of the sick.
An avid researcher into the supportive mechanisms of medical knowledge and health care such as medical manuals and the daily routines of hospitals and clinics, Ben Ron has been fully immersed in the microcosm of medical orthodoxies and its challenges. Her facility to embrace and accent the practicalities and realities of medicine underline her creative pursuit of universal and human concerns. A Voyage to Cythera expands Ben Ron’s practice into the realm of museum collections and display by means of a creative intervention.
The BMM comprises a permanent collection of around 750 pathological anatomical specimen arranged in impressive didactic displays. There are three floors of temporary and permanent exhibitions; these include models, historical illustrations and photographs as well as specimen, offering insights into the history of medicine over the last four centuries.
Outset Israel supported the sound work accompanying the exhibition. Special sounds and effects lead the visitor throughout the exhibition, interfering and enhancing the experience.
The work Rescue that is part of the project will be exhibited at the Israel Museum (October 2012) and in 2013 the project will be shown at Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv and at the University’s Gallery in collaboration with Holon Digital Centre.