I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire
Boaz Yosef Friedman’s & Jihye Rhii’s at AURA Kunstraum, Düsseldorf 2022

The title of the exhibition, borrowed from the eponymous song by The Ink Spots, creates paths to various topics, all of great intensity. Those who recognise the lyrics might think of deep love and burning desire where the vocal group repeats throughout: I don't want to set the world on fire / I just want to start / a flame in your heart . Others might think of the ecological discourse and its impending danger and take the title as a cautionary plead. But what these paths have in common, and what the works explore, is how to move dynamically within internal and external landscapes, how to conceal enough but reveal enough without losing the grip, without setting the world on fire. As the song builds depth by layering one verse in different vocal notes throughout the song, both Boaz’s and Jihye’s work present layers, of images, bamboo curtains, colours, objects painted, as in Boaz’s greyscale paintings, and physical, where Jihye’s two tier silver fountain sits atop a television. The petals of the fountain seem as frozen, while the object it rests on shows the fountain in movement and function. This creates an exciting dream-logic in the space, where object and image merge. The layers are revealed and hidden simultaneously in Boaz’s white paintings where lines across the canvas reveal that there are colours underneath the top layer, it is not one colour but many and it is hard to tell whether green is covering orange or orange fading into green.

There is nuance as well as magic to the exhibition and one could think of Shakespeare's Tempest when moving through the space. Like Prospero, the works use their magical elements or tendencies to find ways of survival. Jihye’s buckets of bright yellow Ginkgo balls suggest collecting or foraging. Boaz’s shadow on sand paintings suggest capture and the sand itself of course a direct signifier to the beach and tide. Finally, the ocean twirls, it seems endlessly, into a belly button in Jihye’s video projection, which presents us with a constant movement not going anywhere, the constant friction in the turning axis, the navel of the world.

And if we might have, like the Ink Spots, lost all ambition for worldly acclaim , there is plenty of hope in this exhibition; there are potential worlds, magical and mundane, vibrating worlds collapsing inwards, expanding outwards, having the potential of starting a flame in our heart.

Exhibition text by Karólína Rós Ólafsdóttir