Unpacking the 3Package Deal 2016: Ronit Porat & Klara Ravat
In the upcoming months, we’ll be catching up with the fifteen eclectic, genre-bending participants of the 3Package Deal 2016 as they work on their craft and prepare themselves for their final presentations in the wide-ranging fields of visual arts, fashion, film, theatre, urban dance, social design and even olfactory art. This time, we spoke to photographer Ronit Porat and olfactory artist Klara Ravat, both multidisciplinary artists with an affinity for analogue techniques and remembrance art.
Digging for stories
Ronit Porat (Kibbutz Kfar Gil’adi) moved to Amsterdam to be part of the 3Package Deal’s Transhistoricity Coalition. Being away from Israel offers her plenty of personal and political reflection, as well as a new historical environment to explore. So besides pondering projects back home and exploring collaborations in the Netherlands, Porat is also diving into the Amsterdam archives, such as those of her coalition partners - Castrum Peregrini, Oude Kerk, the Reinwardt Academy and Museum van Loon. Before the year is over, she’d like to find a hidden connection between them - though she knows there may not be any - and do an exhibition on their histories.
Porat describes her work as a “constant dialogue between the past and the future,” shaping narratives from (shared) history through photography, collages and installations. Photography remains her medium of choice: “Just picking up a camera starts your brain. It’s how I think, how my memory works.” She has a strong interest in biographies and archival material, especially in today’s image-laden society, believing history serves as a prelude for the present and the future. “Some historians say: don’t compare. But I’ve been focused on the Weimar Republic recently, and right now - it’s repetition. It’s scary, but that’s why you need to keep making art.”
Her latest project Mr. Ulbrich and Miss Neumann, for instance, which was shown in Israel in January, is about a 1920s Berlin watchmaker who doubled as a soft-core photographer and was killed by one of his models. She showed his pictures in a ‘casa Kaizer panorama’, a sort of peephole installation that allows for a collective viewing experience. This tension between the personal and the communal is often present with Porat, who enjoys working with people but also spends long stretches by herself. She stumbled upon this subject as she was researching the connection between forensic science and early photography, and went through piles of mugshots. “I found a strange picture of a naked woman. Turned out it was the girl that murdered him. He was a sick man, but it’s interesting to see his influence on later photographers.” This is indicative of Porat’s approach: she researches history through what is left behind, placing it into context. Who knows what Amsterdam secrets she manages to uncover.
Scratching the surface
Olfactory artist and experimental filmmaker Klara Ravat (Barcelona) also works with what is left behind. In her case, it’s smell. Through focusing on the connection between smell, social structures and memory, she fuses fiction and reality, heritage and surroundings. On 9th March, she’s opening an aroma lab at Mediamatic - also one of her Bio-Art coalition partners, together with Waag Society and VU Amsterdam’s Toby Kiers - after having organised events on the scent of a city. How does she go about making something so complicated and invisible, visible? Ravat: “You need to understand that smell is subjective. Amsterdam smells different to me than it does to you. So you talk to people, and you try to figure out which smells stay over time.” After ‘distilling’ the city through extracting smells from the vicinity, Ravat then adds elements of performance and analogue film and photography, her first love: “I use film to express things about smell. The process in the lab and the darkroom is similar. It’s like cooking.”
Working with her nose since 2012, Ravat has always been interested in smell - she even used to make her own perfumes as a child. But it wasn’t until her Art Science studies at KABK that she really got into it. “A teacher told us about the effects of smell on dementia. It triggered something in me. I love that smell is invisible, but so powerful.” Like that time a certain bar of soap brought back memories of her primary school friend. She took the bar home and smells it sometimes. “I like how it makes me feel.”
The psychology behind smell has led Ravat to her current project, which is about transplanting a person's body odour - which she calls a “finger print” - onto someone else, so as to better understand that other person. “With lovers, it’s the differences,” Ravat says. “Making babies with a different immune system will lead to healthier offspring. But empathetically, I think it could be the similarities. Our smell discloses our identity. It doesn’t only come from bacteria but also from what we eat and where we live.” After considering an ‘Eau du You’, your own perfume in a bottle, she now feels it’s more realistic “to transplant your own bacteria onto someone else and let them grow. Of course, it could turn into something entirely different.” Ravat’s research-driven approach discloses her innate curiosity, also for this 3PackageDeal year: “It really helps to open doors. For instance, I visited someone who’s researching which hormones and pheromones plants and moths release in order to communicate. There’s so much we don’t know.”
About the 3Package Deal
The 3Package Deal talent scheme - a collaboration between the AFK and Bureau Broedplaatsen (BBp) - assists and encourages exceptional young artists through affordable live/work spaces, a development budget of € 22.500 and professional encouragement from a coalition of renowned Amsterdam art institutions. Ronit Porat is part of this year’s Transhistoricity Coalition, with Castrum Peregrini, Oude Kerk, the Reinwardt Academy and Museum van Loon. Klara Ravat is part of the Bio-Art Coalition, with Mediamatic, Waag Society and VU Amsterdam.