Nationhood is a luxurious affront to those with no home: first comes survival. As a project with an Israeli pedigree, Adi Nes's Biblical Stories mines the Old Testament, a source of his nation's ethical substrate, to produce a remarkably resonant study of the look of dispossession as it descends on the faces of his compatriots. His Biblical Stories (fourteen separate portraits) offers a more diversified panorama than his earlier work, which focused almost exclusively on depictions of masculinity within contemporary Israel, and though the Old Testament abounds with testimonies of heroic individual and collective attainments within the saga of the Jewish people, Nes sees (and so visualizes head-on) these narratives as parables of adversity and expulsion.
The literary critic George Steiner once wrote that the triumph of modernism in Western culture could be defined in terms of the withdrawal of the Old and the New Testaments from the common currency of recognition among an educated, if not necessarily religiously observant, public. But despite Israel's uncertain, and certainly not unopposed, path towards conducting itself as a secular society, the Old Testament remains its commanding urtext, a living trove of stories and testimonies giving the nation nothing less than the origin and early history of its people. Nes reads these stories in terms of the great Jewish themes of exile and exodus, themes that would animate his Biblical Stories when he became preoccupied by the daunting extent of indigence and homelessness he'd come to experience in his hometown of Tel Aviv. — Bill Horrigan, Wexner Center for the Arts
When I started the project four years ago, I wondered what happens after everything's been erased. If I ignore that I'm gay, I ignore that I grew up in a Sephardic family, I ignore that I grew up in a development town, I ignore that I'm an artist - what is the main thing in my own identity? I thought that the first layer that would exist is Judaism-that I can't run away from my Jewish identity. But when I finished the project, I found a different answer. I found that humanity, friendship, and being generous and compassionate, these are the last things that I have as a human being. — Adi Nes