“When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?” wrote Mary Shelley in her Gothic-Romantic masterpiece of the 19th century, Frankenstein. Shelley’s prescient vision of feminism attacked abject female characters, and through her grotesque Promethean protagonist, she also prefigured the horrors of manipulating the body (current case in point, the who boy has had Justin Bieber’s face stuck onto his).
Compelled by the monstrous and macabre machinations of the modern world, young artists Wyse + Gabriely, (who graduated from Israel’s WIZO Academy earlier this year, and are the American Israel Foundation Scholars of 2013) transpose Shelley’s sentiments through the illusory lens of the camera. In their contemplation of the fake and fraudulent, the “void that presents itself to the soul” Wyse + Gabriely’s depictfemale subjects, with an impassive force that “curdles the blood” with an irreverent intent that’s analogous with Shelley’s.
In Yaeli Gabriely’s work, the body is the last thing the artist feels she commands, and in rebellion she conducts a series of experiments with her own body, inhabiting various dismantled and disfigured forms, from humorous to horrifying – she questions the sovereignty we still have over our own bodies, an ambivalence embedded deep in Shelley’s work as she fearing the results of the interventions of fast-developing Science and Technology in nature. In Gabriely’s work, the intervention of technology are criticized and celebrated: the artist embraces the visual language of commercial photography, and uses a complex digital technique, taking a series of pictures which are then ‘stitched’ together to form a kind of panorama, creating images that are carefully and beautifully composed. But their connection to the advertising industries is only aesthetic, superficial, alluring; disturbing expectations on closer viewing - in the way the Frankenstein’s yellow-eyed “fallen angel”, modeled on his own vision of perfect manhood, is rejected by conventional society.
From dissecting the body as a way to reassert control, Aviya Wyse’s work, meanwhile, is a rich, gothic-romantic tapestry of endless anonymous female figures. Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein is a ceaseless romantic, who wanted to manufacture his own idol, and Wyse’s work unpicks the creation of icons now – her works are also the result of a performative experiment, using strangers she meets and approaches in the street as models, but their stories are paradoxically enigmatic and voiceless, becoming fearsome tales of the unknown. Shot solely in black and white on 6X6 format analogue film, Wyse’s figures often appear in contorted or shamanistic poses – in the way that Victor’s fate was inextricably bound up with his nameless monster, who evolves ultimately as self-reflecting mirror of all of his creator’s worst fears – Wyse portrays the complex relationship between creator and creation - the invisible artist who never appears but is more present than their subject, and is more exposed by every invented image.
Frankenstein’s creation was not a one-dimensional ogre. Wyse + Gabriely’s works leave the viewer in a confounded state, somewhere between abjection and exaltation. In their video installations “Spitting” and “Hugging”, their dialectical spirit is articulated further: the viewer sees the artists, one dressed in black and the other in white, in turn spitting and licking up the spit, while “Hugging” depicts a naked embrace, in a looping sequence lasting more than 10 minutes.
NO WAY is producing the first London exhibition of Wyse + Gabriely’s photographic and video-performance work in a showcase at Neu Gallery, Rechurch Street, E1, opening 1 February 2014.