Miriam Naeh‘Hot.Stone.Massage’, 2019–2020

Artist Miriam Naeh was a guest of Outset Bialik Residency for the preparation of her installation work “Hot.Stone.Massage” presented at the group exhibition “Adam’s Rock” at MOBY: Museums of Bat Yam, created by Nogah Davidson.

Miriam Naeh created an installation comprised of a set of rocks sharing a group massage, a video tutorial on hot stone massages, and an “archive” footage of a gurgling, smoking volcano. In Naeh’s imagined vision, rocks are living beings with needs. They have a voice, they have movement – and their bodies are very stiff. Hot.Stone.Massage sheds a different light on hot stone massage. While it can indeed be perceived as luxury and exclusive treatment for the privileged, these massages are also an ancient technique that represents one of the most primitive forms of human use in nature for man’s purposes . Massage rocks are usually collected from streams- where the water has smoothed their surface. The most common rock used in hot stone massage is basalt, an igneous rock that as a solid form of lava has superb heat retention. Their warmth helps masseurs reach deep muscle tissue and relax and heal the nervous system. This technique embodies the use of the most basic forces of nature – the heat that penetrates the body also resonating the journey of the stone: from fire, to rock, to water. Flesh and rock become one by virtue of touch and connection between two bodies. This form of use of stone is relatively close to how prehistoric man created flint stones – by finding rocks and sharpening them into blades. Either way, man’s use of nature is essentially utilitarian. It demonstrates our dependency on the natural world and our longing to connect with the elements so we can alleviate the burden of intelligent life. On the other hand, our relationship with natural resources is often greedy and dominating. . Who prevails in this ongoing power play? Nature or Man? Putin, Trump, and Jinping are all in a race to seize vast lands that would allow them to quarry powerful, magmatic minerals and rocks for industrial use. Even today, power is measured by the ability to transform nature into a money-making industry.

Naeh’s rocks are intermediate creatures, a cross between inanimate and living beings. She draws likenesses between the stone and human body. Naeh offers a tongue in cheek approach to New Agey desires to connect with nature, and presents it in it’s extreme absurdity. At the same time, she points out to the repetitive nature of certain behaviors throughout human civilization. There is a lot of farce in New Age rituals to connect with nature, but there is also authentic pain there that needs healing.

About the exhibition “Adam’s Rock”:

A small island looms out the waters of Bat Yam. It is the peak of a chain of mountains that appeared above the surface long ago. The island’s age-old name, “Adams’ Rock” is taken from a dateless tale. In it, the rock is said to lie at the back gate of heaven and is the very site onto which God banished Adam and Eve. There they are, an orphaned couple standing on the rock, holding on to one another for dear life. Cast between waters and wrapped in endless darkness. They look bewildered at the land that lies ahead. They jump in the water. 

It is said that the same strand of sand was destined to become the main harbor for Jewish refugees arriving by ship to the promised land in the first half of the previous century. “The Israeli Elise Island”. There she is, the giant lady with the torch. There is a legend that tells of schools of fish arriving to kiss Adam’s Rock as they pass on their way to all ends of the world. It is said local youths have a tradition of swimming out to the rock and jumping off as a sign to their coming of age. They say that before the earth broke into different plates, this entire land was submerged undersea. Some say that in the future, this landscape will vanish once again. Thousand-year-old anchors can be found to this day lying at the bottom of the water off the city shore. There they are, the shipmen and merchants, the men of the sea. Finishing off another day of emptying and loading goods, wobbling back to the ship. There they go rumbling off at sea. In a different time, Aris San will play the stage at The Club ‘Riviera’. The drunks will go a rumbling there too. It is said that the coastal area of Adam’s Rock was once considered a part of Jaffa Port. A recent local legend tells of a man who lived in a cave on the chalk cliffs of the city shoreline. They say he was buried alive when his cave collapsed. The locals called him “Tarzan” and his cave was known as “The Caveman’s tunnel” On the coast of Bat Yam, ancient relics dating back to The Stone Age were indeed found. From north and south, here come the ape-men, settling down between river and sea. 

The artists taking part in the exhibition Adam’s Rock were invited to engage with esoteric, forgotten, and imagined narratives. The works they created to address different periods in the history of the ground on which the city of Bat Yam stands today. It is common knowledge that notable chapters in the history of human evolution occurred in Israel. This grand narrative is one of many histories that do not receive substantial attention in contemporary public discourse in Israel. Today it is well known that history was written by winners and hence delivers a very partial story. If Wikipedia is more relevant today than the Encyclopedia, and the wisdom of the crowd is more credible than the expertise of a small few – we can acknowledge the untold histories and see them as part of the fabric of life. This is an open invitation to imagine the many histories that might have taken place here and the many futures that may come.   

Exhibition Curator: Nogah Davidson

Head Curator, MoBY Museums: Hila Cohen Schneiderman

Artists: Nisan Almog, Michal Baror, Dorit Bialer, Anna bershtansky, Relli De Vries, Hadas Flayshman, Inbal Hoffman, Vera Korman Shir Lavi, Amit Levinger, Miriam Naeh, Shir Raz, Daniel Shufra, Orit Siman Tov, Meir Tati, Lia Tzigler, Maya Yadid, Ana Wild & Tal Gafny








2019, 2020