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The Golden Calf / Odelia Elhanani

Materials: Mixed Techniques (Plaster, Bags, Lighting, Soundtrack)


Odelia Elhanani’s installation, “The Golden Calf”, is created from a large flashlight, small size golden calf statue, soundtrack of sewing machine and tens of Louis Vuitton bags which were taken apart and reassembled to create a form of a wall carpet. The installation is minimal; the activity taking place in the space is seemingly simplistic. A flashlight pointing at a statute oppose to it, casting a shadow on the wall. The Shadow itself, surprisingly enough, is not dark but light, and in the center of the spotlight, in the contour created by it, appears a shape of a calf consisting of bag-parts, sewed to each other like a quilt. For a second you are reminded of a calf-parts portrait, hanging at the butchers shop, mapped with body parts.

The parts of the bags are shining with seductive pink colors. This beautiful bag that was taken apart can be purchased in various colors in the posh part of town for thousands of dollars. Elhanani chose to purchase it, out of all places, in Chinatown, NYC. A fake little quarter, a home to many legal and illegal immigrants. There you can find any possible luxury brand for an eighth of its price. The workmen who create the bags are identity-less, employed under impossible conditions in huge factories based all over third world countries. They make more and more of the same product, both for the actual brand as well as its knockoffs. After all, ironically, both the original as well as the counterfeit (as Kiarostami’s wonderful movie) are made by the same workers in the same sweatshops.

The light projection work, the disruption of proportions and the charged relationships between the materials all remind us of work done by the two artists Sue Webster and Tim Noble, in their piece “Dirty White Trash” where a shadow is casted from a trash pile on the floor to be projected on the wall as two lovers leaning against each other, back to back. Elhanani takes the illusion one step further: the shadow is not created by the lighting, and the projection is not really a projection. The little golden calf is made of cheap plaster and the bags are a knockoff the original luxury brand. And maybe it’s the other way around. In the current reality of Consumerism, the culture of following the luxury brands is a type of idol worshiping and thousands of hard working, work weary modern day slaves are working to continue and maintain this Paganism. The workers as well as the consumers are both slaves of the same industry. There is no real discussion of the true essence and humanity; there is only endless passion and hunger to fill the emptiness with some sort of substance as the coveted bags are being reflected in the contour on the wall.

“The Golden Calf” represent early days worshiping to a false god. Louis Vuitton represents nowadays worshipping to the consumer created gods. Both then and now it is only a distraction. For the “Golden Calf” warship the people were severely punished: The golden calf was burnt and grained and its ashes scattered on the water. The people were then to drink the water.

Today’s worship punishment is paid by those sweatshops workers but also by the consumers themselves, trapped in an endless race after the next luxury brand carrying a false sense and fake promise of happiness.


 Dana Gillerman- Exhibition Curator