The Unquittable Journey of Uri Dotan
How far are we from the moment we’ll be able to witness the 3D holograms we see in Star Trek and other science fiction movies? I hope not too far, not only for the amazing experience this would be for everyday people: to stand in front of fantastic robots and imaginary creatures, but also because Uri Dotan will then be able to take his work to the next level; the perfect fusion between his reality and our reality.
All he can do now is give us a strong hint on what can be possible, and take us inside his intricate world that I can only define of “conceptual abandon”.
At first, entering an installation by Uri Dotan (like his latest “quit_me”) gives me the impression of entering a highly artificially constructed space, almost theatrical. The real experience of the work comes after some time one is inside it, almost at the point where one is contented with what he saw and is about to leave. Here is when I realize that the images, the sound, the videos and the objects around the room have taken over my sense of reality, and I need to exit the installation space, re-enter the real world, to really experience it. It’s hard to describe the kind of lyrical experience one feels inside Uri’s space. Signs are everywhere, bombarding nearly each sense all around you without a straight forward, palpable connection.
If architecture is nothing but sculpture that one can enter and inhabit, then Uri Dotan is virtually - and it’s not by chance I’m using this word - an architect. Dotan’s grandfather was Leopold Krakauer, one of Israel’s most prominent architects, and as Michael Sand already stated, “architectural thinking is also ingrained in Dotan’s image thinking”.
In “quit_me” Dotan questions our notion of memorial monument by starting his creative process from a project his grandfather drafted for the tomb of the Rothschilds family and never built. His “memorial” then immediately becomes a tribute to his grandfather, whose concentric project drawings are reworked in a virtual space to become the starting point of an installation that envelops us, requesting attention from each of our sense. An essential part of the installation is the soundtrack by Veronica -last name- who also included key lines from their e-mail collaboration prior to the installation. A cactus stands in front a blue TV screen: gradually, as the shows progresses, the cactus bends its head towards the screen, the only light source in that corner of the gallery. As the spectator is forced to enter Dotan’s space without second thoughts, the cactus tries to enter the TV screen.
The main space has a huge computer projection of the new virtual memorial against a wall weevilled of car speakers, all around large size digital prints dealing with the monument and other concerns of Dotan artistic history, and more computer and TV screens, showing lyrical virtual environments, and more voices whispering incomprehensible thoughts. Some of these clips can also be seen in Dotan’s website, www.double-vision.org.
Even if Dotan is possibly the contemporary artist most technically prepared in his use of digital technology, his approach is quite traditional; in an interview with Michael Sand he confessed that he begins his projects drawing with pencil on paper: “And then I go into the machine, and if I have an image that I like, I build it in three dimensions. Parallel to that, I build a three-dimensional rendering of the space. Then I go and position everything: I create the skeleton, and the skin on the skeleton. I introduce light, create some interaction between the light and the skin, the light and the environment, and the environment and the object. This process describes my concept of the artist living an amphibious existence. Because at that stage, I'm losing my sense of the physical. The only thing that is left is the eye - and the brain. The eye, the brain, and the translucence that keeps coming back into my brain from the computer, and all of the information that I keep feeding it.”
This “losing sense of the physical” is fundamental in the understanding of Dotan’s work, and this is when the first idea of theatricality that his work can suggest is in reality his reality. And this is when holograms come into place: if the technology was available for Uri to take you inside his virtual space, his brain, he would with the same skilfulness and detail with which he builds these environments.
Uri Dotan is essentially a poet who decided to take the difficult path of virtual reality to communicate his visionary imagery to you. He could have chosen painting or any other traditional medium, but his bet is that digital technology in the long run will be the only possible channel for a “total communication”. For now, being able to be enveloped in his creative process is already an amazing achievement.
© Stefano Pasquini, 2001
Originally published in New York Arts, 2001.