Photography Visual Art


About Gabriella

Gabriella Willenz works in photography, video and installation to probe the tension between the construction of reality and its representation as natural and neutral. Her artworks critically interrogate how knowledge is constructed, delving into the mechanisms of how we get to know and relate to the world around us. She incorporates theatrical means such as story, props, character, and actions to explore the performance of/in public and private institutions and the intersections between belonging and othering. She was a fellow at the Art and Research Center at UC Berkeley, won the Eisner Prize in photography, was an artist-in-residence at Ox-Bow School of the Art, Michigan, and is an Asylum Arts and Lincoln Center Directors’ lab alumni. She has been commissioned by The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life; Asylum Arts; Jewish Arts Collaborative, Boston; and the Graduate Theology Institution Berkeley, among others.

How You Can Work Together

“I often collaborate with other artists or professionals from a wide range of industries on my projects as a way to practice listening, empathy, dialogue and negotiation. I’m always open to work with people – on a range of subject matters – if they are interested in examining and challenging myths and the powers of socialization.”

Discover Gabriella’s Work

IMAGINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, 2019. Installation. Vinyl, thread, canvas, net, rope, D-rings, wood, 2’x6’x8’ and  4’x2’x6’.

This installation consisted of two sculptural elements: a wall-tent and a stack of pillows which house a video piece (featured below). It explored the tension between the home and the homeland, and examined how covert and overt forces incubate ideologies in citizens. The sculptural elements of the installation brought together forms from the military, home, and children’s fort-making. All the materials used in the installation were purchased from a company in LA that makes tents and equipment for the US military. Some were new materials and some salvaged, thus holding the residue of deployment. The strong smell of the military canvas further confused the viewer while perceiving this domestic scene.
STANDARD DEVIATION SERIES #1, 2015. Photography. Installation view, Inkjet print, 4 panels 34″x47″ + 4 panels 34″x10″.

These inventory panels are part of a larger project that incorporates photographs, a sculpture and a sound work. Gabriella worked with the local community of an Arab-Jewish town in Israel, employing policing or archaic classification methods in a subversive manner to dissect the multitude of voices and histories existing in the neighborhood. This in turn exposed, ridiculed, and questioned the human need to catalogue and categorize, as well as the validity of the methods used to do so. Here, the participating subjects were photographed as suspects, using the familiar mugshot format. Underneath the images are codes consisting of numbers and letters, a private bureaucratic method invented by the artist, to reflect variants such as gender, age, religion, ethnic origin, profession and social status. However, these remain ambiguous to the viewer, and are a mere statistical representation overshadowing the human behind it.

IMAGINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, 2019. Video, 18:13 min.

Directed and written by Gabriella, this film features actors depicting a family involved in seemingly mundane scenes. However, their dialogue is replaced with direct quotations from United States’ more canonical texts, such as political speeches, Hollywood movies, folklore, and others. The uncanniness that emerges underscores the ways people reinforce hegemony and nation-state ideologies in the domestic space – one that is idealized as nurturing. These scenes take place on the stage of a theater, which emphasizes the performative and mediated qualities of the family structure itself. The scenes are intercut with footage from the auditions Gabriella held for this project. The actors were requested to audition with a monologue by Iphigenia from the Greek Tragedy Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides, in which she announces she is willing to be sacrificed to satisfy the gods and enable her country, Greece, to engage in war against Troy. The work, paired with the sculptural element of the installation, suggests that the foundations of the nation-state are implanted at home, eventually rendering the military and its violence as indispensable, valorized, and normalized.

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