Israel Patrons Circle

Michal Heiman‘Radical Link: A New Community of Women, 1855-2020’, 2019

Outset Israel supported artist Michal Heiman’s solo exhibition “Radical Link: A New Community of Women, 1855-2020” presented at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington DC. Following this support, the work “Radical Link: A New Community of Women, 1855-2020, Mask: Virginia Woolf (b. London, 1882-1941), writer, detail from a photograph by George Charles Beresford, 1902” was donated to the collection of the American University Museum on behalf of the artist and Outset.

 In her current exhibition at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Radical Link: A New Community of Women, 1855-2020, Michal Heiman produces her most generous and radical work to date, resisting institutional injustice, offering sanctuary to women of the nineteenth century and today, and inviting museum visitors to do the same. 

 This on-going project is deriving from two encounters: In 2012, Michal Heiman saw her younger self in an 1855 photograph by Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond of a woman in the Surrey County Asylum (London), in the book The Face of Madness: Hugh W. Diamond and the Origin of Psychiatric Photography. In 2017, Heiman encountered her own gaze in a 1880s photograph by Oreste Bertani of Maria Dominica D’Alberto at the San Servolo Asylum (Venice). 

 Struck by these moments of recognition, Heiman has created a project in which she explores various tactics for re-entry into the nineteenth century and its asylums. She has produced her own checkered dress, resembling the one worn by the women in the Surrey County Asylum, where Diamond photographed his patients. She has photographed and filmed women, as well as some men and gender non-binary individuals, to be her fellow travelers through time and space. 

These individuals include family members, artists, human rights activists, and attorneys, migrant workers, writers, professors of law and history, asylum seekers, Knesset members, psychoanalysts, an Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, doctors, security guards, poets, and curators. A selection of these images — on view in an expansive grid in the Katzen exhibit — show an array of unnamed sitters against an identical, dark grey studio backdrop. In these staged portraits, Heiman repositions the checkered dress as a symbol of solidarity, rather than a tool of compulsory conformity.

 Small monitors in the Katzen exhibit show recordings of Heiman’s earlier performance Can You Help Me?  from her 2017 exhibit at Israel’s Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, where she donned the checkered dress and engaged visitors in discussions about Plate 34 and the other themes of her project. 

 Meanwhile, larger monitors show short films like Plate 34 Line, London, 2016, where Heiman filmed her daughter in the checkered dress riding the London tube, and Doublecheck, 2016, which presents a tour of the former Surrey County Asylum, now the Springfield Hospital in London. A third monitor plays her more recent short film Female Infiltrators, Venice2017-2019, which represents Heiman’s expansion of the project to include considerations of 19th-century female patients of the San Servolo Asylum in Italy.

 In Radical Link, photographs, films and display cabinets filled with primary materials comprise a visual record of an artistic practice whose foundation is ultimately conceptual rather than tangible or material. Photography, rather than an end unto itself, is a tool for Heiman to create imaginary realms in which to envision meetings of communities through space and time. 

About the piece “Radical Link: A New Community of Women, 1855-2020, Mask: Virginia Woolf (b. London, 1882-1941), writer, detail from a photograph by George Charles Beresford, 1902”, donated to the American University Museum collection:

In 2012, Michal Heiman saw her younger self in an 1855 photograph by Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond of a woman in the Surrey County Asylum (London). In 2017, Heiman encountered her own gaze in a 1880s photograph by Oreste Bertani of Maria Dominica D’Alberto at the San Servolo Asylum (Venice).

Struck by these moments of recognition, Heiman has created a new project in which she explores various tactics for re-entry into the nineteenth century and its asylums. She has produced her own checkered dress, resembling the one worn by the women in the Surrey County Asylum, where Diamond photographed his patients. She has photographed and filmed women, as well as some men and gender non-binary individuals, to be her fellow travelers through time and space. These individuals include family members, artists, human rights activists, and attorneys, migrant workers, writers, professors of law and history, asylum seekers, Knesset members, psychoanalysts, an Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, doctors, security guards, poets, and curators. In some of the photographs, the subjects are wearing masks of other female artists and activists, amongst them this one, depicting Virginia Woolf.