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Ghost Trains
A train leaves Paddington railway station at 11:36. It is empty of passengers.
Imagine it careering along the tracks on a precise schedule, covering the distance,
mile after mile, with all its carriages empty. There is something about the image
of the train running forwards and backwards across the rails, commuter free, that
may help us grasp, if only momentarily, the faithless persistence, or the gravity and
absurdity embodied in Hadas Hassid's works.
The exhibition is centered on two site-specific works created especially for the
Jerusalem Artists' House: One, Stairs, is made of a long roll of paper folded in on
itself like a staircase in which each step is as thick as the folded paper. The roll
extends forward and back, dozens of times, folded with great accuracy, according
to a decreasing arithmetic sequence, in an attempt to create the lowest staircase
in the world, which climbs higher and higher, while remaining at floor height. These
steps, created from one continuous roll of paper, take up their concrete length
as an object in the space, and at the same time, conceal the total distance—
the continuous length of the paper folded in on itself. As in other works by Hassid,
here too, one quick gaze exposes the viewer to the long way covered with great
effort and no shortcuts.
The other work, Ghost Trains, is a penciled copy of a press article about a British
phenomenon—empty, or nearly empty, trains which are cheaper for British Rail
to operate than cancel entirely. Simple economic logic thus underlies the parade
of empty trains, trapped in their never-ending route, indicating an absurdity.
The cost of closing the line is higher than the trains' continued operation, and so they
keep moving empty in their tracks, according to schedule, not to carry passengers
to their destination, but simply to keep moving. There is also a certain beauty in this
purposelessness, a moment of independence, as it were. Contrary to the belief that
the entire purpose of a train ride is to transport people, a moment is created here
where the action is entirely dissociated from its original purpose.
Hassid's works are the result of accurate, systematic acts. Every work has its own
inner logic—a clear task which the artist imposes on herself and adheres to, as
well as a strict set of restrictions which prohibit deviation for the work to succeed.
In many cases, Hassid's self-imposed task is ostensibly simple, such as getting
from A to B by means of a line. But the restrictions she sets for herself and the path
by which she chooses to cross the paper expanses make her route the longest
possible between the given points. The simple task becomes a test, a Sisyphean
process of confrontation and overcoming, at whose conclusion the work serves as
a monument for its way of execution. Hassid's works thus succeed in being both
entirely purposeful and wholly purposeless at the same time, like climbing all the
way to the peak of a mountain, only to climb back down.
Yanai Segal
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