Sukkah Installation by Hilik Mirankar
8 - 23 February at SquatSpace, Broadway
reviewed by Anna Couani
The recent installation by Hilik Mirankar at SquatSpace was one of four sukkah installations he has done over the last decade. The other three were at the ABC Building, Ultimo, the Sydney Biennale 1993 and the Armidale Regional Gallery. A sukkah is a temporary shelter erected by Jews on the festival of Sukkoth and recreates the shelters Jews were said to have built during their 40 years wandering in the Sinai desert 4,000 years ago.
Hilik's sukkah installations are rambling and chaotic structures made from sculpture materials, household goods, documents and his own sculptures. His sukkahs are crazy disfunctional rooms which also evoke the cluttered Australian shed and the streets of a third world city. As you walk around the structure, you are sidetracked by the myriad sculptures in the walls of the sukkah. There are carved villages which look like ones in the Middle East eroded by the weather; grotesque heads and figures like characters from Eastern European Yiddish folk lore; abstract pieces with bent geometry and lots of wonky rooms without walls – single gazebos and pillars of rooms. They constitute a strange combination of the whimsical and the abject and behind it all looms a suggestion of the holocaust.
Hilik also gave a talk at SquatSpace one night where he made connections between what the squatters in Broadway are doing now and what he and another group of people were doing in 1986 in the artists' collective gallery, The Kelly Street Kolektiv (KSK), only a block away. There are many philosophical and political similarities between the two groups. There are a number of artists and writers among the squatters who are creating an oppositional communal space for the arts with art shows, film nights, talks, music nights and importantly, studio space. This is very similar to the activities of KSK who collectively instituted an effective arts centre in Kelly Street Ultimo for a number of years.
KSK were not squatting in Kelly Street. The group of artists at The Gunnery in Woolloomooloo were though. They were later removed to make way for the institutional arts organisations who are there now. When KSK disbanded, Hilik continued an interest in the appropriation of public space for artworks and in the provision of studio space for artists in the inner city. Artists are being driven out of the inner city by rising rents. For a decade, Hilik has been exhibiting his own and other artists’ work in many public inner city spaces. He has continued to work with groups of other artists, most recently Space in the City who placed sculptures on inner city roundabouts.