Genesis derives from the Greek word ᾽γένεσις᾽, which translates to birth and creation. The title of Oreet Ashery's latest solo show at the Stanley Picker Gallery sets the tone of the work, which revolves around life, death and everything in between. The show presents the series of 12 web episodes which make up Revisiting Genesis to the audience over the course of 10 weeks, premiering a new episode weekly.
The episodes follow the work of two nurses, both named Jackie, who aid people in coming to terms with death through the process of making personal slideshows, containing the people, things and memories that matter the most to the individuals. The audience also encounters Genesis, a dying artist whose friends seek Jackie's help in activating the artist's memory through the completion of the slideshow. Genesis becomes a vessel through which Ashery explores the thematics of acceptance, ethics and privacy, companionship and the portrayal of death - or perhaps life - related grief through film. Genesi’s storyline is interwoven within a series of improvised interviews between Nurse Jackie, played by a practising GP and sufferers of life-limiting conditions. The parallel stories work collectively, urging the audience to reconsider what is important throughout one’s lifetime.
In terms of filmmaking, the series so far displays a combination of blurred and multiple exposure imagery with what seems to be a smooth hand-held filming technique. Moreover, the crisp HD quality of the film is partnered with a sharp sound, which seems to keep the audience alert throughout the series, as the emotionally charged content unfolds.
The Stanley Picker Gallery space was transformed into a large - immaculate white area, which is reminiscent of both a sterile and clinical setting, as well as a soothing and meditative space, evoking the portrayal of heaven through Hollywood blockbusters and TV. The bipolar disposition of the space is accentuated through the inclusion of items found in hospitals such as padded toilet cushions and chairs, positioned amongst an arrangement of comfortable poufs - which the audience is welcome to move around freely. What makes the space even more welcoming and intimate, is the inclusion of a tea and biscuit area, where the audience is encouraged to have a cup of tea and relax whilst watching the video. I cannot help but feel that this gesture echoes the active process Jackie's patients undertake through their journeys. As a result the two contrasting attitudes that coexist within the gallery space create a complex realm, where Ashery retains a level of control over the audience's experience of the exhibition, whilst simultaneously breaking the austere gallery rules regarding the audience-artwork interface.
The spectator’s lounge area overlooks the large flat-screen television and set of speakers that broadcast Ashery's series of short films. The exhibit is accompanied by the 'Black Orchid' sculpture by Dora Gordine, which comprises of a black female head with golden features. The sculpture acts as the all-seeing female gaze which is traditionally associated with healthcare, instigating a dialogue regarding the relation between the female gender and its relation to the cycle of birth, life and death.
Overall, I was mesmerised by the relatable and humble essence of Ashery’s work, whose laid-back nature allows the audience to sit back, relax and take in the life lessons Revisiting Genesis has to offer. I thus look forward to unraveling the mysteries surrounding Revisiting Genesis and the fate of its characters. You can watch the episodes here.