Oreet Ashery is a London-based performance and video artist, originally from Israel whose work uses strange moments of social contact to explore and dissect cultural and gender dichtomies. She plays along the dangerous and contested border of Jew/Gentile, orthodox/secular, queer/straight, man/woman/transbeing using the street and the hotel room as well as the gallery as her site of encounter.
In Oreet's latest work, 'Occupation I and II', the artist asks how violence and desire perform the body. Oreet disguises herself using a grotesque rabbit mask, while also exposing herself by masturbating in real time to images projected above her. These images include Nazi porn, a shopping catalogue, medical images and images of the Israeli occupation. As if over-exposed to a glut of desire, the rabbit figure cannot achieve climax and mechanically interchanges the series of images searching for an erotic peak.
The piece brings together some of Oreet's earlier concerns about the assertion and insertion of the self. As Marcus Fisher, her Orthodox Jewish alter ego, Oreet inserted herself into maleonly spaces in Berlin, London and Israel. In a more utopian moment, Oreet as Fisher could go almost anywhere. Her performance acted as a cure for her fascination and fear associated with the Hassidim. As in homeopathy, her body developed resistance through taking on likeness. She became both the patient and the doctor: she was the lost, wandering Hassid and the female artist crossdressing as the alter-ego and determining his direction.
In 'Occupation', the cure of masturbation fails. The subject cannot reach orgasm, cannot form enoungh of a relationship with the images to provoke desire. Just as Fisher provided Oreet with a disguise, in this piece, the mask and the screen provide a split between the seen, the obscene and the revealed. The invasion by the images blunts until an aura of deadness invades the spectator, our eager voyeurism defeated.