Tom Pnini

Born 1981, Tel Aviv-Yafo; lives and works in New York

Paperweight, 2017

video, color, sound, 9:13 minutes, Courtesy of the artist and Chelouche Gallery for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv


Tom Pnini, an Israeli living in New York, draws inspiration from American cinema and enjoys constructing and deconstructing cinematic clichés. His work bears in mind viewers whose mental image bank holds cinematic scenes, who think cinema while watching a video. Pnini’s short films are characterized by a look and feel of single scenes from a movie: events well directed and carefully shot, a set constructed with attention to the finest detail and, often—like in silent movies—music replaces the dialog.

The video Paperweight was filmed in a single-shot in a recycling plant in Brooklyn, where a big paper-shredding machine operates. A man is typing on a typewriter in his study, manifesting a creativity flood familiar from countless movie scenes. Meanwhile, shredded paper falls from the ceiling, burying both writer and typewriter.  The still camera, a characteristic of Pnini’s films, fixes the event in the junction where theater, writing and cinema all meet under the uniting (and in this case also destructive) umbrella of video. The actor playing the writer is the artist’s father, Avi Pnini, a theater actor by profession, and the whole film is depicted as an allegory of a creative process and a patricide through an inter-generational drama which is also a multi-medium drama. Everything that represents the past is swallowed into the episode taking place in a video film in which the video-artist son buries his actor-writer father under layers of paper, all the while inundating us with a wide range of associations from father–son American movies. The torrent of shredded paper, composed of countles words that once held a meaning, becomes a set for a video film: nurturing the life cycle of art, with one discipline serving as the raw material of another.