Jarman Award 2017 shortlist interviews: Oreet Ashery
Date posted: 09.10.2017
In this week's Jarman Award interview we catch up with shortlisted artist Oreet Ashery to discuss her interdisciplinary and, at times, controversial practice spanning performances by her male Jewish Orthodox alter-ego and a web-series questioning issues of death in the digital age.
Oreet Ashery is an interdisciplinary visual artist with an unorthodox, multi-layered and eclectic practice spanning photography, moving image, text, music, workshops, performance, and mass-produced and unique artefacts. Ashery’s work confronts ideological, social and gender constructions within the fabric of personal and broader contemporary realities.
Growing up in sectioned Jerusalem, from a young age Ashery challenged the boundaries in the divided city by walking to places where she was not meant to go. These ‘trespassings’ were a practice of placing her body and gender ‘inappropriately’ in the public space. From these early interventions, Oreet’s performances as her male alter egos (such as Jewish Orthodox man Markus Fischer) developed, questioning the structures of power, access to knowledge and gender materiality.
In recent years Ashery stopped performing herself and focussed on creating work featuring other people, both for camera and as live events. The work became about potential communities – what can happen when people come together. A recent example of this approach is Party for Freedom (2013), commissioned by Artangel. The piece is a series of filmed workshops exploring freedom and freedom rhetoric. The workshops looked both at the way the far right uses the rhetoric for freedom to talk about immigration, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and the leftist perspective of liberation and avant-garde art movements. The work centred around nakedness and especially the white privilege of nakedness. The music commissioned for the piece was published as an album.
Her most recent piece, Revisiting Genesis (2016), started with Ashery feeling ‘old’ in the cycles of her practice while going through boxes and boxes of images in her archives. She selected ten snapshots and wrote about them, creating a narrative of her life and practice. This prompted her to think about longevity, women artists and what it takes to keep going. In recent years she had also experienced the loss of her brother and a number of artists close to her in recent years, which led her to thinking about death and the question of legacy, including digital ‘afterlife’. The work resulting from extensive research and collaborations is a 12-part web series centred around Genesis, a character partially based on Ashery, who is an artist disappearing or dying. The piece is about self-representation in the afterlife.