Hila Lulu Lin Farah Kufer Birim

1964 | Afula, Israel

Multidisciplinary Israeli artist.

Hila Lulu Lin Farah Kufer Birim’s unique voice, which was shaped during her early years as an artist, resonates in each and every one of her artistic projects. The bold and daring expressive visual language constantly developed in her video works, paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and poetry gives rise to an imaginary, multidisciplinary world that cannot be easily reduced to a single style or medium. Using a wide range of visual and sensory actions, H_L_L_F_K_B boldly explores the limits of the personal body that shaped the Israeli art discourse of the 1990s; henceforth, constitute a significant milestone in its development.

The textual and visual vocabulary developed by H_L_L_F_K_B, consolidated during her studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, where she continues to serve as a senior lecturer. She received her BFA in 1989, garnering a merit award for her graduation project. In 1992 her first solo exhibition (Bograshov Gallery, Tel Aviv) featured sculptural hybrid objects that heralded her aesthetic, which is at once inviting and repulsive. The careful inclusion of ready-mades in this series of sculptures, anchored in feminine symbolism, marked H_L_L_F_K_B as part of the movement of women artists in the late twentieth century attempting to present a different, critical voice.

These themes continued to appear in her video works, such as No More Tears (1994), where an egg yolk moves slowly on the artist’s skin: the mesmerising yellow ball sliding up and down, entering and exiting her mouth without bursting. In other video works, H_L_L_F_K_B’s body is both the subject and object: her eyes, eyebrows, nostrils and hands collaborate in ritual actions combining pleasure and pain, while participating in the conceptual and emotional deconstruction of language, identity and narrative. As the artist herself wrote: “Using the individual-independent body as a possible infinite space … allows me to explore polar states and binary oppositions embodying tension between foreign and familiar, clean and abject, life and death, external and internal, large and small, intimate and exposed.” These works from the 1990s mark the critical presence of H_L_L_F_K_B ‘s body and of tactility in her works, while exemplifying her ability to create hypnotic tension by means of a simple, concrete, material action. These works were acclaimed, and in addition to exhibitions in Israel and the United States, she received the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Grant for 1994-1998, as well as the 1998 Minister of Education and Culture Prize for Visual Arts.

Her video and performance art from the early 2000s (such as Drop of Milk, Mole) offer longer open-ended narratives, moving from the personal towards public and political conflicts. The long-term projects she created in collaboration with her partner in life, the Palestinian builder and architect Hanna Farah Kufer Birim (1960-), paved her way as an active artist. This series of ritual-like actions investigate the meaning of personal and collective belonging from architectural, social and political points of view, blurring the lines between art and life (such as Sharnaqa, Kufer Birin, 2003-2021). The solo exhibitions featured during those years (Mole, Tel Aviv of Art, 2005; She, Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod, 2006), defined her as a ground-breaking artist seeking to undermine existing conventions and to engage with her audience.

H_L_L_F_K_B’s interdisciplinary attitude is most evident in her works on paper and artist’s books (including Muscles or Shout Quietly), which combine prints, drawings and text. Her face, which has become identified with her oeuvre, the original font she has developed based on her handwriting, and the poems she has written, consolidate images and letters into a total graphic performance uniting science and art, beauty and ugliness, deliberately creating intimate yet uncanny mise-en-pages. All of which touch upon the bodily and existential foundations of identity, as well as the spirit of contemporary life.

Tamara Abramovitch

Translated from Hebrew by Talya Halkin.

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