Up and coming photographer Michael Liani is a true breakthrough artist in the Israeli art world. Since completing his MFA in 2016, his work has been exhibited in The Israel Museum, The Biennale for Young Art in Moscow, UCLA Biennial, Eretz Israel Museum, and The Negev Museum, among other institutions. We asked Michael to tell us a little bit about himself and his upcoming projects.
Currently living and working in: Tel Aviv
We’re very excited for your first museum solo show coming up at Herzliya Museum Of Contemporary Art! Can you tell us a little about the works you’ll be showing?
I’m also very excited, especially since I’ve been working on this exhibition for the past 3 years, and now the works are more relevant than ever. The exhibition was planned to open in early summer but was postponed several times due to corona related restrictions.
The exhibition is titled “All Inclusive”, and it focuses on the remnants of the pan-Israeli psychedelic and discordant experience that is the southern resort city of Eilat in the summer months, when tourists vacation there. Eilat is a kind of yearned-for illusion of recreation, heat, entertainment, and luxury, where everything goes and anything is possible. This body of work looks at the town through a hermetically sealed and compressed filter, which surrounds us inescapably. I aim to peel away the face of Israeli internal tourism and examine it, take it apart and reassemble the Eilat holiday, in a bid to reveal the disparity between the ideal of freedom and liberation and the sense of detachment epitomized in this experience.
The exhibition presents the false illusion of luxury of the city’s hotel culture, and reveals the side that is less spoken about: the working conditions of the service staff, the town’s permanent residents, including lifeguards, street cleaners, beachfront stall-operators, the staff at the entertainment arcades, and restaurant waiting staff. The exhibition gazes at these people, who are forced to turn themselves into consumer products and attractions in order to survive, who together make up a one-off “mashup” tableau of humanity.
Your recent project photographing LGBTQ couples made a lot of waves, how did this project come to be and what were the reactions you received?
This is an ongoing project that I’ve been working on during the Corona crisis, with the cancellation of gay pride events. The project was born out of a desire to show what equal love is. Love that is not related to others or to any institution but only to love itself. In this project, I photographed LGBTQ couples from all over Israel. I wanted to carefully step into their life and to have the most authentic experience. I photographed each couple in their own home, which all of them opened so kindly, and shot everything on films to let the moment be, not more than 4-5 clicks. This archive shows Israeli gay love, unfortunately, still an unequal love in 2020. I have 100 couples so far.
I’m very happy that the project has gotten so much attention, since my intention was to spread LGBTQ love, which locally we’re not necessarily used to seeing in this quantity and from this kind of point of view in the flood of web browsing. It even made it to ID Magazine!
Who’s an Israeli creator you recommend following that’s not a visual artist?
Riff Cohen is an israeli creator that really inspires me. Riff is a singer songwriter that works a lot in Israel but is also popular in Turkey and France. I often feel that we have a lot in common, like the will of connecting Middle Eastern culture to Western culture for example. I also had the honor of working with her and she is an amazing person.
Riff Cohen in Joseph Dadoun’s Universes, 2003
Who would be your dream subject to photograph?
I would really love to work with Violet Chachki. She’s a well known drag queen (she was the winner of season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race). In my eyes Violet is a very important, new and fresh voice in the art of performance and in the way she deals with gender. The art of drag really evolved thanks to RuPaul, who won an Emmy for his show. For me Violet Chacki was the most interesting and diverse artist on Drag Race in many aspects, and I hope that one day I’ll get to work with her.
Can you recommend an artsy spot in Tel Aviv?
I think that there is no one place in the city that is especially artsy. I feel that in Tel Aviv (and maybe in every other city) the amazing and inspiring people are those who make the city so unique.