In this exhibition Sapir continues his ongoing project “Research for the Full Crypto-Taxidermical Index,” a coming into being lexicon of objects. The term “crypto-taxidermy” alludes to the embalming of animals that are not part of the official zoological index. Sapir’s cataloguing system undermines familiar systems of classification and distorts coherency and differentiated meaning. The objects in Sapir’s lexicon are mutations suspended between the organic and the artificial, the seductive and the threatening. One cannot always know which object was gathered from nature, which is an outcome of toiling work in the studio and which was transformed and disrupted.
“The viewer transpires in a suspended present, between a catastrophe that may have already occurred”
Tomer Sapir, Untitled, 2012. Mixed media, 174 x 50 x 44 cm, Terra
Incognita, Solo exhibition at Chelouche Gallery, Tel Aviv. Photo Credit: Elad Sarig
The second significant beat of that project was shown in the exhibition “The End of History” in Künstlerhaus Speckstraße and Kutscherhäuser, Hamburg. In it Sapir turned objects from his coming into being lexicon into two-dimensional images through a slide projection. That projection did not only function as a means of documentation, but also created a distance between the viewer and the objects and intensified the illusion of a didactic work which is based on research and knowledge.
Terra incognita is in fact the third significant beat of this ongoing project. Terra incognita (unknown land) is a Latin term used by cartographers to demarcate areas of land yet unmapped or undocumented. These territories were marked in medieval maps of the world by painterly depictions of mythological beasts, at times with the added inscription: “HC SVNT DRACONES” (Here be Dragons).
In this exhibition Sapir decided to return to intimate individual sculptures. He waived the use of vitrines and presented his cryptids focusing on a critical and compressed moment in a manner which challenges the ability to differentiate between a journey into a fictive arena, a visit to a natural history museum, and a visit to an art gallery. The world introduced by Sapir is underlain by a duality between the use or imitation of nature (the findings of a researcher, gathered leftovers or findings, traces of what once was) and what is quintessentially man-made (sculptural works, use of synthetic materials). It is precisely this dichotomy, however, which makes for a space and time where Sapir’s sculptures/creatures may exist, a gray area which sustains a tension between history, mythology, and fiction.