By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
The world has seen neither hide nor hair of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon ever since he suffered from a mild stroke in the winter of 2005. Another more serious stroke in January 2006 rendered Sharon immobile and forced him into a coma from which he has never risen. However, a recently launched art exhibition has, figuratively, brought Sharon out of his deathbed and into the limelight.
Controversial Israeli artist Noam Braslavsky has created a life size sculpture of Sharon, as he might look today, in a fully catatonic state. The rendering is eerily life-like right down to Sharonâ€™s graying hair, hospital gown and look of quiet desperation on his face. The sculpture sits in a real hospital bed complete with side rails and an IV drip bag attachment with a line leading directly into the cloned former prime ministerâ€™s arm. The chest expands and contracts to further give the impression that the replica is actually breathing. The materials used to create the sculpture include soft plastic which resembles human skin in both appearance and touch.
Currently on display at the Kishon Gallery located in the heart of Tel-Aviv, Braslavsky has revealed part of his reasoning behind the controversial art installation. In a recent interview he said, â€œThe most important thing as an artist is the ability to give to the viewer the possibility to be in a personal moment with this figure that had so much impact in the life of every Israeli — and everybody who lives in this area.â€ In Israeli politics, Sharon was both beloved and despised amongst his constituents. The sculpture gives Israelis, whether they loved Sharon or hated him, the ability to gawk at a realistic symbol of him in his weakest state.
Quite notably, Braslavsky has never met Sharon and has never been privy to seeing him in a hospital setting. The artist has not lived in Israeli for the past twenty years and instead calls Germany home. The artist relied upon past images of Sharon to concoct his own rendering of what Sharon might look like in an utterly vegetative state. Braslavsky is, however, currently in Israel to promote his sculpture to the masses.
Critics of Braslavsky have labeled him a â€œone trick ponyâ€ and chalked his Sharon sculpture up to nothing more than a blatant attempt to create a name for himself in the art world. Detractors aside, Braslavsky holds a noose-tight grip on every aspect of the exhibition right down to the way visitors are permitted to view the sculpture. Small groups of visitors are led into the viewing area and are forbidden from speaking above a whisper. Clearly, the experience of actually being in a hospital and hovering over someone on their deathbed is part of the reality that Braslavsky has molded with his own two hands.