Inside the Artist's Studio: Lior Shvil's Military Jungle Gym in Chelsea 

Art Focus is a collaboration between SculptureCenter, Bb.U Model Project and The L Magazine

Lior Shvil is a New York-based sculptor, installation and performance artist. He gave us a tour of his recent Manhattan solo debut at Andrea Rosen Gallery and discussed the development of his practice.

While developing this exhibition you outlined three types of aggression (true, conditioned, commoditized); could you explain how you isolated those three types and how they're manifested in the work?
I think there is the very childish aggression, which is about physical power, it's not about taking out or taking over. There's violence and there's power, and violence is an extension of the childish aggression. It's about two people fighting and looking into each other's eyes, and they can overcome the aggression and become friends. It's physical, you can smell it, see it and touch it; it's more sexual.

The power is something that's commodified, it's about control. It's less about engagement. The engaging is about being masked and you can't see the real fighter—he's just a function, an arm of the bigger power. So the character Benni is signifying this kind of power, the commercial, commodified power. It's the supermodern capitalist power that sends soldiers overseas and sends airplanes without pilots to bomb certain places. That's power. I'm interested in challenging that and laughing about it through different media channels—video, performance.

You mention laughing at power, and there's a very fine line in your work between humor and violence, between violence that is very satirical and violence that is really violent; how do you negotiate that boundary in your videos, installations and performances?
It's like the difference between the oppressed and the oppressor. As an Israeli, there's a delicate balance that is continually breaking down, which has existed throughout history. So humor is something existential that you use to survive hard times, but reality is also funny. We see all these superheroes and fighters on TV, and their commodified power, and it's very serious. But the real thing is very messy, very physical, and sometimes funny.

That's my experience and that's what I'm trying to show through the exercise, or the performance—that's what I call it, exercise. To bring the viewer into the mess, but in a more physical way. I'm trying to let the viewer see the failure of the body, the failure of the machine, the failure of my exercise. That's why some of the material is very delicate and breaking down. It's not theatrical, but there is purpose for all the training. So I'm trying to train for failure.

You always perform in your own work; are you ever tempted to work with a collaborator, or is your presence essential?
I always thought of my early work as a documentation of a performance, so the camera was always static and shooting for a long time so I had a lot of material. But before it was never scripted. I see my latest work as pushing even more into live performance, so I see my body as part of a situation or a sculpture. The performance is something I need to experience; it's very physical, and sometimes even a little dangerous.

So would you say that the performance is the primary form of your work, or is it dependent on multiple media—the sculpture, the video, the performance and the installation?
I don't see myself as focusing on a specific medium, although video was always there because I think it's very easy and accessible as an everyday tool. For me, projects start from my own biography and my experience.

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