Ella Littwitz
Ax Bear Crow
Nov 21, 2019 – Jan 18, 2020
Art Port, Tel Aviv, Israel
with works by Ella Littwitz, Gil Yefman, Dor Zlekha Levy, Yael Frank, Merav Kamel and Halil Balabin, Ruth Patir

curated by Vardit Gross


In 1837, following a successful career as a painter, Samuel Morse repurposed the wooden fixture he had been using for stretching his canvases in order to build the first ever telegraph receiver. Unlike what he had initially hoped for, fame came not from his elegant brushstrokes and finely-executed large format paintings, but rather from an entirely different system of dots and lines. Once translated into letters, the individual electromagnetic signs of dots and dashes came together in words, allowing for the first time in the history of mankind to communicate remotely. Off with the drums, bonfires and wind instruments – Morse gave us a way of delivering messages over long distances. And we haven’t stopped ever since.

Since the invention of Morse code, numerous attempts have been made at creating mnemonic systems to easily memorize it. These varied from visual mnemonics, such as drawing each letter of the alphabet with its corresponding dots and dashes, or mapping out the individual Morse code characters onto pictures, to syllabic mnemonics, based on a system of words or phrases assigned to each Morse code character. One such technique is the Bahr Method, where each letter of the alphabet is represented by a word (Ax, Bear, Crow etc.), which corresponds to its pattern of dots and dashes. The words are then joined in short narrative sequences which the user can memorize based on association.

The dots and dashes – among the most fundamental tools that artists possess – are made to represent letters, then words, and finally a story.

In “Ax Bear Crow,” the artists of Artport’s residency program articulate lines and dashes, dots and connective threads, constantly transitioning from verbal to abstract concepts and back. Like a ship deep at the sea and calling for help, or the protagonist of “Parasite,” the Korean film, signaling his son, these artists use their dots and dashes to point to a concept, allowing it to then continue and evolve to become their own new line, freestanding and independent.