Bela Gold's Archive


Karen Cordero Reiman, May 2012


Bela Gold’s work is astonishing due to the beauty of its workmanship and the ominous quality of its sources. Working with images obtained from documents linked to the Holocaust, traces of individual human presences long gone, she produces objects which transmute their material nature on a formal level. She uses traditional media as well as new technologies in order to give renewed significance to graphics, inscriptions and visages which allude to the memory of the unspeakable, thus facilitating the viewers aesthetic compenetration with these images, through a connection based primarily on texture and color.

 

Although absence is her conceptual starting point, the center of Bela’s work is the body and the senses, the basic elements of presence. The materials she uses —stone, paper, animal hides, recycled wood and leather— refer us to the nature and richness of the sensorial experience, while at the same time evoking the inscription of time in matter by combining sophisticated procedures of digital manipulation with artisanal elements and processes. The spatial disposition and the dimensions of her work demand an involvement of our whole body in its perception: not only our eyesight but also our sense of touch and our physical movement.

 

In this context, Bela’s archive becomes a virtual reference that is reactivated by means of its inscription in visual art. In this sense, it is no accident that graphic techniques are the mainstay of her artistic production, although it moves away from traditional techniques, dimensions and vehicles. In a similar manner, what her work activates in the documents is not their historical value nor their legibility, though both are implicit, but rather their aura, the human presence they reveal as well as the communicative value of forms that have been rescued from oblivion. Books, one of the expressive vehicles frequently employed by Bela, in formats ranging from traditional bound volumes to long embroidered cloths, receive a deliberately complex handling —due to their size and materials— which makes their legibility difficult, giving way to an experience which is more like sculpture or installation art, more like a vital experience than a narrative. Thus, in Bela’s archive, history is not diachronic but rather synchronic, involving us, by means of aesthetic reception, in a dialogue which results in a renewed ethical consciousness, a living archive which cannot be banished to the bookshelves in a library, cast off in a garbage dump or relegated to collective amnesia.