Shortly before his death in 1994, at the age of 29, Absalon made his series of sculptural works, the Cellules (1991-1993). First shown at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, they constituted the core of an exhibition touring to the Hamburg Kunstverein, the Tetriakou Gallery (Moscow) and Chisenhale Gallery.
The Cellules are life-sized models, or prototypes, for living quarters to be installed in various major cities of the world, including Frankfurt, Paris, Tel Aviv and Zurich. Absalon intended them to be stopping points in his own travels. Relatively small and formally minimal – painted white inside and out, involving very basic geometry – each is different. Their structures were determined by the dimensions of the artist’s body and his movements, responding with the greatest possible economy and even in the slightest details to the functional needs of everyday existence. Each contains particular defined spaces for cooking and eating, for bathing and toilet, for working and sleeping.
Resembling bomb shelters or decompression chambers, and with room only for one, the Cellules have a hermetic quality which suggests a need for protection, for distance from the chaotic quotidian world inhabited with others. The minimalism of the work at once suggests ascetic behaviour and a desire for strict control. What Absalon was proposing existed somewhere between solipsism and megalomania, extreme secrecy and exhibitionism, but the fact that he is no longer alive – the fact that he had AIDS, and therefore could never have finished his project – potentially changes our perception of his work. Through the exhibition of Cellules we have an opportunity to put ourselves literally and metaphorically in Absalon’s place.
Absalon was the alias of Eshel Meir. He was born in Ashdod, Israel, in 1964 and died in Paris in 1993.