English Translation of Haaretz article:
Ten Things about
Felice Naomi Wonnenberg -
Naomi Felice Wonnenberg, 32, was born in Cologne, Germany. She spent her childhood in Germany, France, USA and Italy until at age 20 she moved to Berlin to study English literature and at the local art academy (HdK). Two years ago she moved to Tel Aviv and since she has been dividing her time between between Tel Aviv and Berlin. Her video art works was exhibited among other places in the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art New York), in The Israel Museum Jerusalem and in galleries worldwide. Her work "Skype me tonight, OK?" was on view in Gal-On gallery Tel Aviv this month. In addition Naomi Felice Wonnenberg writes as an art critic for the Jerusalem Post and for German papers.
How it all began
"I made my first video art work when I was hospitalized during my art studies and could not get out of bed. Boris Abel, a young gallery owner, created it with me and through his help I shot it: He came to the hospital dressed like the hospital staff, I held the camera and he moved the bed pretending to be one of the staff. This way no one came to disturb us and we could do what we wanted to do."
Berlin - Tel Aviv
"Berlin is a fascinating metropolis, especially for artists and I go on living there a couple of months every year. But it is impossible not to feel the memories that the location is bearing, something which made me, as a Jew, scared at times. In Israel I feel different. There is fear here, too, but of a different kind, more actual…my family stayed in Germany, but they come to visit a lot. My mother is in love with Tel Aviv, she loves to shop at the young designers' and when she is here she goes for a swim in the sea every morning at seven. My dad likes to chat with people, so from this point of view Israel is a paradise for him."
"At first it was not easy. I lived in a New Immigrants home in Ra'anana, even if most of the time I stayed at friends' places, and I took an intensive Hebrew language course. Just when I started to feel more at ease, my dad got ill with cancer and I had to go back to Germany for some time. It was the first time I hated to be in a plane. Eventually my dad became healthy again and I went back to my routine."
"They are the logo I chose for my visiting card. I first came across them as a sign from the Ayubides, a Middle-Eastern culture of the 12th century. Afterwards I also found them in wood paintings in synagogues of the 17th century in Germany, Poland and Russia as well as in Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Every time I was given a different explanation for the symbol. One of the explanations for example was that the three rabbits symbolize the father, the son and the holy ghost. I find the symbol very dynamic and full of vitality, and in general I love rabbits, they always seem to me filled with joy of living. Rabbits are animals that are not carnivorous, not aggressive. If they feel threatened they simply flee."
"My impulse comes from the visual side of the arts. I never work with a script that is laid out to the end. I am interested in exploring the themes of eroticism and gender, maleness, femaleness and all there is in between, where the lines are drawn."
"This is a video art work shot in Berlin and exhibited in the MoMA, it is most probably the most "Jewish" work I created. It is a "one-shot" in which you see the camera wandering over the jewels on display in a shop. Parallel to it you hear the Jewish shop owner worrying about the question how it can be, that a Jewish woman of my age has not yet gotten married. It is a topic of importance in Jewish communities abroad. The thing is that there is not really so much choice in Berlin, there are some 13 guys your age, of which two of them are already your ex-boyfriends. That is the problem."
"Skype me tonight, OK?"
"It is about a couple that entertains a relationship via the internet, through the skype program. Because of the nature of the internet program, the image sometimes gets pixilated, at times the sound is not transmitted and sometimes the program crashes altogether. It is as if somebody was editing their relationship. It remains unclear whether you are in love with the real person or with your virtual fantasy, with a fiction that does not really exist. It is a work characterized through the aesthetics of absence, insufficiency, black and white. There are things that we do not see, and this produces the basis for eroticism, like in life. When you get fed up with the guys in Berlin, you move on to those in the Diaspora…"
If I was not a video artist , I would be…
"A rabbit. No, a hare, actually. Wild, huge, running in nature."
Where would I like to have my works screened
"After the screening in the MoMA, this is a hard question. I would be happy to go work in Japan. The culture there seems interesting and fascinating to me, something that is completely different from all I know."
"Fishy Thing" a video work by Naomi Felice Wonnenberg that she made in collaboration with Yuval Yairi.
another article about the artist in David - Austrian Journal
videos & films
Naomi Felice Wonnenberg, photography: Yuval Yairi
digital video, 7 min, 2007
Between pleasure and pain - a video on gender games and sensuality.Oscillating between pleasure and pain a woman and fishes come closer to one another.
These Japanese Koi carps display an estranging desire to approach, touch, sweep and seemingly kiss and push the woman about. In the course of the video their initially mysterious shy and tender approaches change into a frenzy of sexual lust.
The borderlines between active and passive sexual behavior are smudged. The Koi fishes dazzle with their ambiguous appearance. On the one hand their magnificent colors and elegance constitutes an enchanting attraction, on the other hand their slimy touch and their ambiguous fleshy round mouth opening and pushing into the woman's face are utterly repulsive.
This is a silent video to be screened in a loop in galleries. The spectators eventually find themselves in the role of voyeurs to the erotic scene and remain puzzled whether this is a case of passive lustful consent or plain repulsive rape. Falling pray to the charm of the unearthly beauty of the Koi, it becomes difficult to condemn the aggressiveness of the erotic scene.
Putting on Make-Up digital video, 5 mins, 2008
A gesture of bourgeois every day life: putting on make-up. What starts out as a gesture of embellishment, gets out of hand. The woman falls into a repetition of the gesture, a loop, an automatism a manic ritual as she adds more and more red to her face. Slowly the red starts to expand over the lines of her lips onto her face, eyes. It transforms her once well cured face into an open wound. The situation gets out of hand and becomes a performance of auto aggression. A video touching on the border lines between femininity as society desires is and femininity breaking out into of the accepted frameworks with rituals of auto aggression surfacing.
Skype me tonight, ok?
20mins, digital video with Ariel Stern
"Skype me tonight, ok?" is a video about long distance relationships. A guy skype calls his girlfriend on another continent who is longing to see (and feel) him for real. Frustration and passion get mingled and they try their best at transmitting their romantic feelings via a webcam. Filmed through the skype program and a webcam this video work uses the esthetics of the pixilated image to visualize how incomplete their relationship is doomed to remain. The only lighting used in their love scene is the light coming from the screen of the girl's lap-top giving the woman the unreal image of the days of German expressionist cinema with its stark black and white contrasts. The man's voice in the background and the transmitted web cam video image of the woman merge into a dreamscape of longing.
digital video, 10 mins, 2006
"a delightful...wonderfully inventive film and...great addition
to our program" writes William Sloan, curator at the
MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art New York
It is a portrait of an old 2nd-hand jewelry dealer on Berlin's shopping-mile Ku'damm. In an uncut 9 min. close-up shot, the camera glides over the glittering necklaces, war medals, Jewish Hannukah candlesticks, worn-out wedding rings and other broken dreams on sale. We never get to see the dealer, but we do hear him chat about his theories on love.
Kvetshing (Complaining) to Gertrude Stein
Video performance, 1 min, 2007
"All of a sudden, there she was: Gertrude Stein, I thought I would go, say hello, and then we started to chat about the economic aspects of the art world... "The young film maker in front of Picasso's famous portrait of Gertrude Stein - the first collector of cubist art, modernist writer, lesbian, philosopher, from a German-Jewish family, 32 years old. Addressing the icon in the painting, this chat is complaint, farce, sisterhood among the two young women, full of melancholy and humor, a political spearhead against economic abuse in the art world.
The Orient through Western Eyes
video collage, 8 min, 2007
A video collage juxtaposing clips from early silent movies to modern fantasy blockbusters to show how the West has constructed its own image of "the Orient". This art video commissioned by Israel's biggest art museum The Israel Museum Jerusalem was shown in conjunction with its exhibition Eden- East and West. It is a critical visual analysis of the West's cinematographic fantasies of "the Orient". The Middle East and the Land of Israel were an important locus of Western longing, curiosity, fantasy, and apprehension of the “Other”, and these feelings were articulated visually by many artists. This art video juxtaposes clippings from existing footage of Hollywood movies, from their beginnings in the early days of silent movies (such as DeMille’s monumental biblical epics) to contemporary fantasy Blockbusters (such as The Lord of the Rings). The visual confrontations demonstrate how the West has constructed its own image of "the Jew", "the Arab", "the Orient" or -in brief - the necessary and fondly hated "Other" for its own psychological needs.
A Turtle‘s Life in the Middle East
16 mm and Super 8 black/white and color, 10 mins, 2003
3Sat / ARTE Prize for Artistic Innovation
This is an experimental documentary about fear and how to deal with it after a terror attack. The basis of the film is the childhood memory of a Palestinian, in which the need of protection turned into perverted and absurd violence. The child confronted his seeming enemies, the turtles. "I declared war on turtles...Until they were dead. Then I‘d be very satisfied.“ Contrasting this are an Israeli‘s angry comments. He cannot stand his German girlfriend's questioning him about terror attacks, which she needs for her documentary film, anymore. The images of the film stand in contrast to the interviews: a group of nervous birds and architectural shots of a prison relay the fear that the narrators struggle to repress. The film ends in bitter words juxtaposed with pictures of hope.
On the Edge of Swans
16mm and Super 8 black/white, 12 mins, 2000
In this non-linear film the male and the female are reconsidered visually, an oscillation between the sexes. Fighting swans on jet-black water with their slender beautiful necks remind us of Leda‘s seduction. Yet they also intimidate us by their aggressiveness. In a somber Garden of Eden we witness Eve‘s dialogue with the snake ( in Hebrew with English intertitles). The snake traps Eve in the first philosophical question ever: מה את עושה בגן עדן? „Ma at ossa be gan eden?“ / „What do you do in paradise?“
Weber C fracture
video installation, 5min, 2006
A video about a time in hospital. Subjective views that the bedfast filmmaker shot from bed on wheels, using the bed on wheels as a dolly. And a physiotherapy inspired performance in the hospital bed as an homage to Eadweard Muybrigde “Animals in Motion”.
Heros and Joy by Antonio Panetta & F.N. Wonnenberg, 16 mm film, 10 min, 2007
A miniature mechanical ballerina desperately tries to balance herself, while an androgynous hand shows her a mirror which manipulates her movementbut fails. This experimental film could be seen as visual swan song to classical gender representations.
article on Wonnenberg's exhibition
"Lovely Lesbians" at Jelly Bits Gallery, Bologna 1998
Klaus Eisenlohr on Naomi Felice Wonnenberg, August 2007
Naomi Felice Wonnenberg does not take the easy route with her film and video work. Her style oscillates between the tradition of Avant-garde and the realism of TV documentary. It would be wrong, however, to just say she employs different styles as a means for telling different messages. Instead, it is her curiosity for buried messages and meanings in images, a curiosity for a second and third reading, and a curiosity for the images of her own obsessions, which drives her image making and editing. She thus overcomes preconceptions and deconstructs simplified views, even if dealing with the theme of entrenched relations between the West and the Middle East.
The pronounced statement of a young Israeli against seeing tragedy in bomb attacks in Israel and the early, violent memories of treating turtles of a young Palestinian come together in the film “A Turtle’s Life in Middle East”. The two statements are becoming melted with images of dwellings, shelter and injury photographed in Greece and Tunis. The coherency of the assemblage makes the viewer follow references to existential thoughts and stimulates a rereading of the just seen and heard.
Similarly, the film „On the Edge of Swans“ opens up a realm of associations, larger than the first impression of a surrealist collage seems to convey. The suggested stories of erotic and pictorial entanglement, the ambivalence of male and female metaphors and the failing relations between sexes are being disclosed with an irresistible pictorial curiosity that urges second feelings rather than second thoughts.
Her decision to live in Israel for now 2 years (with a second residency in Germany) surely plays a role in her image production. We may detect an approximation to metaphors of the Middle East in her work and we also find a discussion of the Western views onto the “Orient”. However, we may find one other driving force in Wonnenberg’s work and, not being the least: a desire for beauty.
With her work in art and film, she thus takes (with a quote from Hildegard Knef, German singer songwriter) “den langen Weg”–‘the long route’, which weluckily may follow.