Visiting Israeli performance artists have no qualms living in glass house

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In Tel Aviv, they turned their home into a gallery. In San Francisco, they’ve turned an art gallery into their home.

For the next two months, Eyal Perry and Lital Dotan — two of Israel’s most well-known and innovative performance artists — are living, eating, sleeping and working in an art gallery, the Marina Abramovic Institute West, located at 575 Sutter St.

The space opened last October. Named for the influential New York–based Serbian performance artist, the two-story gallery is dedicated to showcasing the best and most original performance and installation art from around the world.

Perry, 54, and Dotan, 30, artistic and life partners, have turned the gallery into their home and workspace, known as the Glasshouse Project.

At any point in the day through Oct. 2, passers-by can watch through the windows as the artists get dressed, eat, practice yoga and make art. During gallery hours, visitors can talk to the artists.

The artists follow a daily schedule while they live for three months in the Marina Abramovic Institute on Sutter Street. A video installation features Lital Dotan practicing “daily transformation,” in which she makes a dress out of a solid piece of fabric. photos/stacey palevsky

The Glasshouse Project began in their Tel Aviv apartment in 2007.

The artists wanted to create art that would be intimate and personal. So for an entire year, on Tuesdays at 10 p.m., they webcast performance art from their living room, bathroom or kitchen.

“We treated our home as one big dynamic installation,” Dotan said.

The webcasts soon felt insufficient. So the artists announced that they would organize an artist residency program, through which artists from around the world stayed in their home for weeks or months at a time.

They also decided three times a week to open their home to the public. For these guests, they projected video installations on walls and in closets, and even offered them tea during their visit.

“We’d have endless talks with people in our home who say they would never let strangers into their bedroom,” Perry said. “And when we ask why, they can’t answer. They have no reason.

“When people create walls around them, then it’s possible to invade one’s intimate space,” he added. “But when you willingly dismantle the walls, you are no longer intruding on intimate space. You’re inviting people in.”

The third step in their Glasshouse Project came when they arrived in San Francisco in July.

They spent the first three weeks setting up the gallery, which they say will evolve throughout their residency. Their clothes are hung on hangers that dangle from string nailed into the ceiling. Inside the gallery are all the trappings of a home — couches, overstuffed chairs, bookshelves, a bed, clawfoot tub and a kitchen table.

One of their projects is called “daily transformation,” which Dotan practices daily at 11 a.m. This practice consists of a nude Dotan placing a large sheet of fabric over her head and, with scissors, cutting holes and tying knots to make a dress, which she wears the rest of the day.

“It’s a way for Lital to put on her persona for the day, to say who she is and who she wants to be,” Perry said.

Both artists trained as photographers at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Their video and still photography work stems from their dissatisfaction with the realism of the medium.

“It’s something we try to challenge,” Dotan said. Many of the photographs that hang in the gallery are provocative, such as a nude portrait of Dotan on 100 small square fridge magnets that can be rearranged by gallery visitors.

Perry and Dotan are thrilled to be spending the next two months in San Francisco, where through the Institute they hope to learn more about performance art. Israel, they say, is not exactly the epicenter of the performance art community.

At the Marina Abramovic Institute, video installations are projected onto walls and from television screens, and also on the most unlikely places: in a stock pot, on a kitchen table, on their white bedsheets.

“We want art to be experienced in a home environment, everyday, not only in a museum or gallery,” Perry said. “Art is not detached from life. It is integrated into life. We want people to see the beauty in everyday functionality.”

The Glasshouse Project
will host a live performance 7 p.m. Aug. 26 and a 24-hour performance starting at 12 p.m. Sept. 2 at 575 Sutter St., S.F. For information on additional performances:


Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.