Alona Rodeh is an Israeli artist based in Berlin who is in touch with the notion of safety and the material culture within our modern societies. In often room-spanning installations, viewers are taken into a sensory experience of light, sound, space, video and sculpture. The works often experiment and explore LED and neon lights, blending familiar and unfamiliar symbols of safety in a play with light and dark. The installations are often informed by Rodeh’s experience with theatre set design and act as performances without performers.
When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Around the age of 12-14. Growing up in a family of computer scientists, it was clear I had to break the family tradition. I did not want to be an artist; I just became one since it was clear it was the thing I was best at.
Your work is so unique in the way that it focuses on safety and the landscape of our world surrounding it, what was the original reason that you began to ask questions about safety culture and observe it so closely?
What I describe as the Safe and Sound Meta-Project (which is ongoing since 2014) started in my first year in Berlin. It had to do with a change of environment and things I observed that grabbed my attention during that time. But looking back, it’s a subject that is very much present in earlier work as well. Visual expressions of safety are present wherever humans are stationed. The aesthetics may vary from one place to another but lately, safety and security methods get more articulated and less improvised everywhere. It’s fascinating!
The Long Stretch installation is a full-scale experience that showcases your interest in playing with light and space, as well as with safety regulations – could you tell us a little bit about the ideas behind this project?
It is a recent solo show at Christine Koenig Galerie, which was heavily influenced by the pandemic when it was all new and completely overwhelming. The show opened half a year after it was originally scheduled, which seemed wild at the time… but this suspension gave the show more depth and complexity.
The Long Stretch is indeed a warp and weft of historical and contemporary anecdotes on subjects such as control and safety. Beyond the works themselves, I made some bold decisions concerning the limitation of movement in the space and the usage of artificial light. That made the ideas behind the works appear with more clarity and intention.
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Safe and Sound Deluxe Edition Cover 2015. Photo: Aya Wind
You have an installation showing at La Casa Encendida Madrid this year, could you tell us about that?
You got to get in to get out will open in October 2021, it is curated by Carolina Jiménez and Sonia Fernández Pan. In their words, the show “takes techno as a cultural, social, historical and material entity.” I will show Dark Ages 2020, a large-scale sound and light installation, alongside excellent artists such as Tony Cokes and Cyprien Gaillard. As described well by Seamus Kealy, the director of Salzburger Kunstverein (which showed the work first in 2019): "A variety of LED lights, products of the booming vehicular light industry, are embedded in these vertical architectonic sculptures. These all illuminate intermittently, behaving as coded signals communicating with one another in a choreographed chain reaction."
Over the course of your career you have constantly been responding to the ever-present changes in what our societies look like and our different concerns about safety shifting, how do you think your art has evolved with this evolving world?
The industry of safety gear and material technologies is going through constant progression in response to the high demand from the private and public sectors. I guess that, in a parallel process, my work is evolving similarly. Since I have become more knowledgeable with time, my research and production go more in-depth; my interest in the world around me keeps growing, though always with the safe distance of an observer.
This fascination with bright, neon colours alongside darkness is a really interesting one, what attracts you to high visibility colours?
I am interested in what is highlighted, what is camouflaged, and what is hidden in our urban landscapes. High visibility colours have a fascinating history, in the conjunction between magical tricks and entertainment and army industry. I described it in my Safe and Sound Deluxe Edition in detail. Darkness, on the other hand, allows disappearance. The two correspond to one another in a kind of Yin and Yang fashion.
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The Dragon Teeth of Jerusalem Installation view Kunstpalais 2019. Photo: Ludger Paffrath
Even your own website is set up kind of like a safety information page, with the yellow ‘tape’ along the bottom and straightforward layout, how important is this sense of playing with a viewer’s expectations and associations to you?
The potential viewer is the missing part of the puzzle; without the viewer, the work is not complete. Therefore, all the decisions made concern the physical and sensory aspects that my works propose, in any format suggested (including web). They all lean on the human perspective.
I read that you use your experience as a set designer for theatre in your work, and describe these installations as ‘performances without performers,’ could you tell us how working with set design influenced your sculpture?
I’ve been doing work for the stage, on and off, since my studies and I feel fortunate to have gained this experience. There are countless things this type of work allows: working with such diverse teams, working on large-scale formats (which is the thing I love most), having a different type of responsibility than I have as an artist, and much more. What is most important for my practice is the choreography of time, which does not thereby default in visual art. How much drama time can create!
Lastly, our sense of feeling safe or unsafe has drastically changed and evolved since the pandemic hit, for example now we have even more very real precautions and new worries that most of us didn’t have before. I wondered what is the next step for your art with regards to those concerns?
This year has been a rollercoaster for me, as for so many. I and my practice will not be the same when this nightmare is finally over. But I feel fortunate to be able to do my work nevertheless. I’m currently focused on more content and more public space. By content, I mean depth through research. By public space, I mean creating work that people who are not necessarily interested in art can be exposed to.
The artworld is currently in a dissolved state; the bubble exploded and shed into pieces, and I am saying this without exaggeration. From here, we can only grow and expand.
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The Long Stretch General View. Christine Koenig Galerie 2020. Photo: Philipp Friederich
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Blinders 2015
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The Long Stretch General View. Christine Koenig Galerie 2020. Photo: Philipp Friederich
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Dark Ages 2020 detail KAI10 Duesseldorf 2019. Photo: Achim_Kukulies
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The Lonely Gatekeeper 2020
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The Long Stretch General View. Christine Koenig Galerie 2020. Photo: Philipp Friederich