Ambivalence: Haim Sokol

28 January - 26 February 2012

Of course, this is not a documentary film. It’s a performance; the guest workers are happy to perform the role that the artist has created for them, and get paid some token amount for it, I guess. But awareness of this only confuses us more; for in everyday life, do these people not perform the work imposed on them for money? And we ourselves — do we not sell our time and skills for a salary? And the artist himself is he not in the same situation (Haim Sokol lives in Russia, but has Israeli citizenship does that not make him also a guest-worker?) Which of us is freer ultimately? How is this freedom defined? So, even creating a seemingly social project about hired labor and the denial of rights, Sokol continues to be a melancholic, interested in the fundamentals of morality. Whatever label you apply to him, be it a red star, or the black flag of an anarchist — he will still remain a philosopher.

Anna Mateveeva, TimeOut Petersburg,16 January 2012


“Ambivalence” continues the artist’s previous work on the historicization of injury, a practice taken from the reality of materials, codes and images, taken from the history of the very material of history and making the work a chasm or a metaphor of a chasm. Sokol as a true Benjaminian, continues to seek the historical nature of our subjectivity. He now works not with material subjects, but with people excluded form History. In modern Russia it's the ‘gastarbeiter’ (guest workers), illegal assets of the total market, people who are excluded from the social system because of specific market conditions.

In the exhibited videos a somewhat surreal situation is modeled in which the artist and migrant workers play themselves. As actors playing themselves, they reveal their own life situation more naturally and more accurately than in a documentary film. As a result of this experiment, even in the indifferent spectator, painfully sharp questions arise towards the artist and the art, and the artist is not afraid to hear them.

Alexander Evangeli, exhibition curator