Mrs. Ballpit’s Stage Widgets (2019) Curator: Avital Katz

Chana Anushik Manhaimer’s site-specific sculpture installation on display in the museum library is part of her performance art exhibit titled Mrs. Ballpit. During the performance, which arouses ambivalent feelings ranging from attraction to revulsion, Manhaimer in her role as the Great Mother archetype wears coveralls filled with balls. Manhaimer is a multidisciplinary artist who examines the impact of technology on gender. Her installation considers existential and social reality as well as questions of gender and the components of identity in the era of transhumanism.

The three sculptured objects on display serve as tangible testimony to what is being shown on a screen. They are placed in hanging positions to represent mutations of the changing human body. Their names are taken from the world of technological terminology and computer systems, and are also multidimensional expressions of the notion of gender: Skin resembles the female body, an inflated suit of sorts that fills with air and is emptied of it, a casing that changes according to the user’s choices. The Core is a sculptured heart-shaped object hanging like a chandelier and placed in a kinky-looking entanglement of belts and straps. The heart is the emotion that bridges between body and consciousness, just like the core bridges between computer software and the hardware that processes the data. Motherboard depicts preserving fluid inside a transparent plastic container in which a lamb suckles from the rinsing tubes, resembling the symbiotic relationship between a woman’s womb and her overall sense of gender. From the technological perspective, it is the base that unifies all the electronic devices in the computer. These three objects join together into an animated drawing that serves as an index of the artist’s self-portrait.

At the outset of the era of reproduction, Marcel Duchamp publicly challenged the Mona Lisa, Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. By means of a witty drawing trick on a cheap postcard reproduction of da Vinci’s painting, Duchamp blurred Mona Lisa’s gender identity. Around one hundred years later and with the help of the many options provided by contemporary technology, Manhaimer brings up issues that challenge perceptions of gender, which she sees as an expression of desire and free choice. She expresses her viewpoint using three components: Skin is external and can be chosen and changed. The Motherboard is internal and cannot be changed. Finally, the Core changes according to one’s emotions. According to Manhaimer, “In computer games, we have the option to choose who we are and to select images with different skins, while the essence of the human body is much more deterministic.” Therefore, so long as the question of whether gender is dependent on the body has not been resolved, in Manhaimer’s work the sense of gender fluidity stands at a critical juncture between physiological fixation and absolute freedom.