Single channel color HD video with sound; 7:00 min in loop
Camera: Elad Asulin ; additional cameras: Max Lomberg, Shachar Freddy Kislev
Editing: Yoav Shafir ; special effects: Yahav Michael ; sound design: Gadi Raz; Alarm: Yitzhak Yitzhakey; the "Cleaner": Ira Shalit ; car stunt: Gilly Karjevsky
Barking Dogs Don't Bite was commissioned by the Arts Department, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, for group show 'Province: Visitor Center' (Curator: Leah Abir). The video won 2nd prize of the Ostrovsky Award for Video Art, Jerusalem Film Festival, 2013; Special selection of VIDEOHOLICA Film Festival, Bulgaria 2013 and screened in various Film festivals. It was exhibited also in "Emergency Measures", The Power Station Dallas; As a solo at AC Institute NY as well as at Arch2 Gallery, University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecure; NutureArt NY; "Under the Weather", duo show with Florian Neufeldt at Hezi Cohen Gallery.
Read Hila Cohen Schneiderman's text:
Alona Roden’s video Barking Dogs Don't Bite was originally created in 2012 for Province, a collective show and research project on notions of the urban public domain (curated by Leah Abir). The work follows a chain of events unfolding at a commercial gallery situated downtown, at a notoriously seedy area rife with drug dealing and prostitution. The video features a series of automated actions which all seem self-propelled, as if performed from start to finish by the space itself.
The video opens with an exterior view of the gallery in long-shot, its windows shut behind the automated security grille. As the grille starts to lift up the camera angle switches to an interior view, now showing the street through the gallery windows. When the grille has stopped the focus changes abruptly. A moment of utter silence – after which a cloud of smoke suddenly hits floor: a column of smoke descending on the gallery from above as if delivered by some divine hand, its indignation slowly dispersing throughout the empty gallery space.This unexpected occurrence unleashes a chain of self-protective measures automatically 'performed' by the gallery. Its blunt detection mechanism mistakes the smoke for a fire, setting on the alarm: a harrowing, continuous blare like a distressed call for help accompanied by jets of water shot from sprinklers above, until the fire that never was has finally been extinguished. The smoke is cleared, water fills the floor and the silence is restored. An elderly woman is seen walking down the street, uninterested. The security shutters now go down as if nothing at all has happened. The street is irritatingly silent.
The same chain of events is played out once more at nighttime, but instead of the elderly woman we see a dark-skinned man crossing the street, probably a work immigrant residing nearby; and as a comical epilogue we see the assistant of Rodeh's, who arrives on the scene to wipe the floor and 'eliminate' the evidences, while at the background we hear a segment of a song by The Doors, a modern take on a bluesy, chain-gang chant.
This whole self-defense operation would seem quite pointless, considering that the gallery was empty to begin with and no art whatsoever was hanging on the walls. But it is precisely this emptiness that makes us rethink for whom, and against whom, this protective system is intended. Is it meant to safeguard the art on display, or maybe to vouch for the gallery in case of an insurance claim? Or yet is it the space itself that autonomously performs acts of self-preservation, involving the walls, ceiling, windows and floor, the overall architecture and infrastructure, the void between walls? The space has remained intact, as shown in the video's concluding moments, especially that there was no real physical danger in the first place, only the enacted semblance of a disaster, the adrenalin of it. But whose adrenalin would that be? Throughout the video the camera angle continuously switches between in and out, between the drama and mechanized choreography taking place within and the indifference against which it is played outside, where life seems to continue as usual. We are led to believe that had such a fracas taken place uptown, crowds would have gathered outside the windows – but here, at this overwrought part of town, nobody seems to mind the sound of a fire alarm, people simply walk on. The simulated drama within can hardly compete with the bustling exterior. The gallery is clearly disconnected from its outside environment: it alone commands the frame, a scope that is narrowed and delimited.
It should be noted that Rodeh does not often work in video; so far she has made only two videos in the course of her developing career. Barking Dogs Don't Bite, the latter, was preceded by a work titled Fire, Work, which she made as part of an art project for Kav 16, a community gallery operating in a working-class neighborhood in south-east Tel Aviv. Rodeh collaborated with children of the area, teaching them how to make smoke bombs. Flames – but mostly smoke – is a recurrent theme in her work since its beginning. It features prominently two of her works, On Fire? and House of Fire, both of which are based on mock-guerilla actions that render the illusion of a fire. But as the smoke clears it reveals itself to be only the synthetic and saccharine variant that it is. Rodeh obviously considers disasters in their fascinating aspect, as tribal fires able to attract and hypnotize large publics. All it takes is a bit of smoke.
Although it would be hard to cast Rodeh's works under the heading of a socially engaged artistic practice, they clearly seek to agitate and arouse in some way, pointing at the volatility of a state of affairs about to burst. In this respect, the smoke motif undeniably represents an essence that is both physical and symbolic. It simmers without fire, generating only the effect of it. Smoke stands as a metaphor not for a disaster but for the fascination of the public with it, representing the disaster in fantasized form rather than the thing itself, which – as we see in Barking Dogs Don't Bite – is anyway absent. It lends itself, therefore, to the fantasized image of a gallery's destruction – a fantasy that, while indeed remaining immaterialzed, surely attests to the crisis the gallery space currently finds itself in.