Tamy Ben-Tor

Noah Simblist: Tamy Ben-Tor
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Testsite in conjunction with Fusebox
Austin, TX


Testsite, a project of Fluent-Collaborative, situates itself between an exhibition space, an open studio, a temporary residency program and a private home. Participants, usually a writer and a visual artist drawn from far afield or close to home, are invited to create parallel experimental projects through a shared conversation. Testsite was founded by Laurence Miller and Regine Basha.

I was invited by Testsite to propose a project and invited performance artist, Tamy Ben-Tor. The project included the exhibition of a video-performance, Time and Space (2011), which featured a monolog delivered by a fictional artist that describes her work, her process and her career. In conjunction with the exhibition, Ben-Tor also performed AVNER at the Testsite space.

Testsite is meant to create a platform for collaboration between an artist and a writer. Often this results in a text by the writer or curator about the work of the artist. Since Ben Tor is resistant to such texts I wrote a letter to the fictional artist who Ben Tor performs in her video work Time and Space. It was written from the point of view of a fictional character that I created so the resulting dialogue is between two fictional characters.

From Ben-Tor regarding Time and Space:

“I made this video as an urgent comment on contemporary art practice, specifically the so-called non-for profit art that fills cultural institutions and is funded by grants. Artists have become grey clerks who have no particular passion or obsession, nor interest of any kind for that matter. Rather, they engage in impotent so-called “research” which sounds better in grant applications than in the work itself.

There is an overflow of people who have studied and memorized this academic jargon and make a career for themselves based on it. It replaces the function of art as a source of consolement and catharsis and turns it into an exclusively elitist academic exchange, which has no need for an audience."

From Ben-Tor regarding AVNER:

“In my work in performance art over the last 12 years, I have attempted to deepen an investigation into the human presence in an artificial environment, which is the work of art. I find performance to be an exciting medium because of its transparency and closeness to the human condition, our dwelling in our bodies for our life’s duration and the decisions we make on the shape and meaning of that life are, for me, an exact metaphor for the performative work.
With all of technology’s developments and so-called advancements, man still dwells in his body and has to struggle with time, the duration of his life. The performative act is a desperate act. Perhaps it’s even a pathetic one, in which the performer lets his body and his self be pulled out of his natural surroundings and examined. I think that the role of performance, if one can speak so didactically about an art form, is to strip a person (both performer and viewer) of their cultural social affiliation and deepen their contemplation upon their existence as thinking feeling beings.”


Testsite has a convention where the curator writes an essay to describe or interpret the work that the artist presented. Rather than doing so, Simblist has written a letter in the voice of a fictional character that responds to the fictional artist that Ben Tor plays in the performance video Time and Space:

Dear artist,

I happened upon a critique (or maybe it was a lecture) in which you were presenting some incredibly provocative ideas and I was so taken by your work that I couldn’t help myself but write this letter. It seems as though your interest in perception and reception opens up the possibility for various situations of response so it seemed appropriate that I reply to the implicit invitation.

But first a little about myself:

I am a cultural practitioner, interested in and fascinated by the mechanisms of research. My practice is best described as an audience member schooled in the act of viewership as participation. Some might call it judgment but I prefer to call it “radical critique.” I am a writer and a curator and often give out unsolicited advice. This advice has a tendency to rise up from within me as an act of expression –frequently from situations of boredom – something that you seem to be fascinated by, right?

You seem to have traveled to so many places! China, Morocco, Indonesia, Europe and Australia are all places that I would like to visit too. Would it be possible for me to borrow from the verbiage of your grant applications? I know that my work isn’t that of an artist but since you seem so dedicated to maintaining no particular point of view at all, allowing for freedom and creativity, then if I were to appropriate the language that you used for these grants then I would only be extending the freedom that your work is all about. I know that I am not a gay handicapped Israeli-Palestinian such as yourself but I’m sure that I could come up with something that would make me attractive.

The grant that I am working on is an investigation of your investigation. It will be about the affect inherent in time and space –the time that it takes to fill the space of a page with words that can generate possibilities of income. After all, isn’t income nothing more than an abstract category of potential? In this sense, an investigation of appropriated time and space would allow me to experience first hand terms like globalization, neoliberalism and the politics of post-Fordism. Wouldn’t that be a great thing for us to collaborate on? It will be a grant that will be an artwork that will be a response to arbitrary categories of authorship!

Do you have any shows coming up? If so, I’d like to talk to you about your gallery.


Dr. Nisim Hosblat