Might this thing be?
Installation, bead curtain
The façade of Wrocław Contemporary Museum features Stanisław Dróżdż’s Hour Glass, an iconic work for Wrocław and for Polish concrete poetry. It consists of a composition of the words ›was‹, ›is‹, and ›will be‹. Eli Petel’s work HYHYHY (Might this thing be?) corresponds with Dróżdż’s 1968 piece. Made of 16,000 beads, it was inspired by ornamental curtains, used to cover the front of the Holy Ark in the synagogue, and by bead curtains that were hung in corridor’s entrances in simple flats, very popular when the artist was growing up in Israel.
Eli Petel ran across the word coincidentally, not being able to read it at first.›היהיה‹ (pronunciation: ha-yihye) contains two letters making up the root of the holy tetragrammaton ›יהוה‹, i.e., the first two letters of God’s Name: Yah. They can be read in different יה (He) or ה (Yod), and יה (Jah) ways, revealing new interpretations. This word is used twice in the Hebrew Bible (2 Krl 7,2 and 7,19): in the first case, it expresses doubt whether a certain event will actually happen, and in the second case, it is a quotation of the same utterance after the event has occurred. The biblical name of God means something similar—it is a word that contains the past, the present, and the future.
For the artist, whose work revolves around questions of representation and the status of art in reality, this piece came to express his ambivalence about whether or not to engage with the spiritual traditions: ›I chose to inscribe this word on such a curtain because, at the time, I was debating myself whether I could enter this world of holiness, or perhaps the ideal status would be staying on the verge of that possibility.‹
Eli Petel (*1974), graduated from the Art Department of Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and lives and works in Jerusalem.