Robert Grunenberg is proud to present the first solo exhibition by Israeli-German artist Nadia Perlov, Floor Plan Bling Bling. A recent graduate of Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Perlov is the recipient of the 2020 Absolventen Preis. She works and lives in Frankfurt.
Nadia Perlov’s practice concerns itself with the spatial politics of occupation and colonization, which she explores through complex and allegorical narratives that employ fantasy, humor, and design tactics. With her native Israel as her recurring case study, the artist draws on her background in choreography and dance notation to materialize multi-layered research about contested space-making practices in the Palestinian-Israeli region, past and present. Just as the sociopolitical dimensions of these practices are broadly overlooked by a general local public, Perlov’s artworks cloak themselves in a clownish design aesthetic to appear as seemingly playful, innocent, or decorative. This interpretive openness invites the viewer to reconsider how meaning is created in and through the aesthetics of architecture, land zoning tactics, borders, and infrastructure, particularly in the normalization of political occupation and racial/religious segregation through urban planning and design.
Floor Plan Bling Bling is the culmination of a longer period of research into the aesthetics of modern Israeli settler houses, distinct for their Western villa-type architecture and enthusiastic embrace of baroque gardens. Israeli settler architecture follows a typology of shiny prefabricated villas surrounded by geometrically balanced gardens and lush green lawns, which pop up, sometimes overnight, on hills in the region, thus spontaneously claiming land ownership. The implicit power demonstration in erecting such “splendid” buildings and gardens – in stark contrast to the underdeveloped surrounding landscape – exemplifies the persistent cultural encroachment on the Palestinian community by means of Zionist turbo-architecture and land expropriation. By now, this battle of space has become a surreal characteristic of the local landscape, as clusters of utopian Western suburbia randomly punctuate the otherwise rural hillside. From a bird’s eye view, however, these spatial assertions of supremacy may look like little more than bugs crawling across the land, insignificant existences at the bottom of nature’s hierarchy.
Speculating various spatial perspectives and political modes of vision, Perlov literally plays out these dynamics through a speculative game of Snakes and Ladders, which stretch across the gallery as a total installation. Sculptural ladders constructed out of patchworked textile screens hang along the walls, embellished with insect origamis made from architectural floor plans; essentially foldable pre-fab paper houses. One long snake dissects the room diagonally, forcing the viewer to navigate this designated “gamified” territory. By using the metaphor of this ubiquitous flat board game where the only goal is to climb upwards, the artist allegorizes real hierarchies and power dynamics within a given space that politicians, builders, workers, and residents alike must navigate and inhabit. Juxtaposed alongside each other in grids and patterns, the textiles resemble aerial imagery of land, while their distinctly gauche quality draw the viewer back to the banal aesthetic realm of aspiration in which these profound and complex political conflicts play out.
By bridging the perspective of the insect with that of the urban planner, Floor Plan Bling Bling proposes a speculative point of view to politics and asks the viewer to – literally – navigate themselves in a field of contested objects, discourses and structures. In the process, Perlov articulates a way of approaching contemporary debates about occupation and state-building with complexity and profound ambivalence.
Text by Jeppe Ugelvig
Nadia Perlov (b. 1990, Tel Aviv), based in Frankfurt am Main, is invested in cultural history and languages. Her practice focuses on the flow of migratory cultures, exploring their narratives and complex identities in relationship to politics, architecture, and territory.
Her recent exhibitions include: Belvedere 21, Vienna; Coop Pavilion, Bangkok Biennale; Studio Bank Art Center, Tel Aviv; Parallel Gallery, Toronto; NKV Extra, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden; Galerie Christine Mayer, Munich; Jüdische Gemeinde, Frankfurt am Main. Perlov was awarded the first prize at L’Esprit, the 2020 graduate show of the Städelschule at Portikus, Frankfurt, and she is the recipient of 2021 Sammlung Pohl Marburg stipend.