Nira Pereg

1969 | Tel Aviv, Israel
Nira Pereg — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Nira Pereg, Soil, 1999, Polaroid © Courtesy Nira Pereg and Braverman Gallery

Israeli video artist.

Nira Pereg is known for her large-scale, documentary-based video installations exploring the profane, and at times absurd, aspects of religious sites, state rituals and liminal spaces, while highlighting their daily maintenance and bureaucracy. Many of her works employ diptych or multi-channel formats to contrast narratives and visualise paradoxes, and their sound is often treated so that certain noises are amplified while others are omitted, thus attributing the represented actions and objects a unique agency.
N. Pereg holds a BFA from Cooper Union, New York (1993) and studied at Bezalel Academy MFA studio program in the early 2000s. Her early works, more conceptual and personal, already attest to her interest in issues of locality, belonging and religion: for Soil (1999) she asked passing tourists in Jerusalem to take Polaroid photographs of her mid jump, with the city’s religious sites as backdrops.

The Patriarchs Trilogy (2012-) examines the everyday routines in and around the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a place sacred for both Muslims and Jews, whose fragile division between the two religions is maintained by the Israel Defense Forces. The trilogy includes the acclaimed video diptych Abraham Abraham Sarah Sarah (2012), filmed during one of the rare occasions when the cave changes hands. The mirroring of the switching from synagogue to mosque and vice versa, and the soundtrack featuring only the noises of inanimate objects, reveal the arbitrary and makeshift attribution of religion to physical localities.

The Right to Clean, a 2015 solo show presented at Ticho House, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, focused on another contested site – Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre. Among the four videos included were Surface, which focuses on the private ceremonies believers perform at the Stone of Unction, while amplifying their kissing, caressing and picture snapping sounds, and Clare, which follows the church’s night-shift cleaning routine, performed by a nun as another private ceremony.

N. Pereg’s interest in mechanisms of separation and borders, seen in the Sabbath Project early video work Sabbath (2008) that documents the closing down of Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods by their residents on the eve of the Sabbath, is developed in her 2021 solo show Twilight Zones (Braverman, Tel Aviv) through video as well as sculpture and performance works. Optimus (2021), for example, is a sculpture made of two deconstructed and magnetised barricades that can be reconstructed by the visitors.

N. Pereg’s at times humorous while nonetheless highly critical examination of contested local territories and tropes is central to the understanding of Israeli video art. She is the recipient of many prizes, among them the Israeli Minister of Culture Award for Best Established Video Artist (2016); the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports Award for the Arts (2012) and the Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation Israeli Art Prize (2010). Her works are included in major collections, such as Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Arts at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art.

Keren Goldberg

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