The exhibition Folding Time will present for the first time the still life film trilogy titled ‘Pomegranate’ 2006, ‘Big Bang’ 2006 and ‘Falling bird’ 2008 alongside the photographic works from a series titled Blow-Up 2007.
In this body of work, Gersht explores relationships between photography, film and technology, revisiting fundamental philosophical conundrums concerning optical perception, conception of time and the relationships between the photographic image and objective reality.
All three films were shot with high definition, high speed camera technology and are based on old masters still life compositions. Whereas such paintings attempted to preserve motionless moments frozen in time, Gersht’s compositions are obstructed by fast and violent interventions. In ‘Pomegranate’, a film that references Juan Sanchez Cotan’s 17th century still life and Harold Edgerton’s high speed stroboscopic photography, a high velocity bullet flies across the frame in slow motion and obliterates a suspended pomegranate, bursts it into open and wheels it slowly in the air like a smashed violated mouth spraying seeds.
The peaceful image transforms into bloodshed. In ‘Big Bang’, a Dutch flowers still life painting suddenly explodes to the intensive sound of war sirens. The explosion disrupts the scene, which subsequently transforms into a silent, slow moving cosmic downpour of colorful flowers, particles and dust. In ‘Falling Bird’, a film based on Chardin’s still life, a hanging pheasant is suddenly unlashed of its string, free falling toward a mirror like black surface, collapsing into its own reflection, on impact the bird penetrate the liquid surface and in doing so triggers an epic chain reaction, reminiscent of a geological disaster.
In relation to the film trilogy Gersht developed a group of large-scale photographs entitled Blow Up. These depict elaborate floral arrangements, based upon a 19th Century still-life painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, captured in the moment of exploding. Gersht´s compositions are literally frozen in motion, a process dependent on the ability of the advanced technology of photography to freeze-frame action, something inconceivable to the Old Masters. This visual occurrence, that is too fast for the human eye to process and can only be perceived with the aid of photography, is what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconsciousness’ in his seminal essay ‘A Short History of Photography’.
Gersht´s films and photographs allude to the inherent shadow of death and decay hanging over old master still life and vanitas paintings. However, technology has aided Gersht in creating contemporary versions, bringing the concerns of still life masters into a contemporary context. By basing his films and photographs upon paintings within the long-established art historical tradition, Gersht draws attention to the painterly nature of his work which closely resembles these iconic masterpieces. Yet they are distanced due to the instantaneous digital process which translate every second in reality to a minute on film in the case of the moving image pieces and in the photographs, captures each shattering still life at a speed of 1/3200 of a second and stores the information immaterially as data on a hardrive until each is transcoded into a film or fabricated as a C-Type print, returning the image to the world of two-dimensional artworks.
Throughout this exhibition peacefully balanced compositions become victims of brutal terror, revealing an uneasy beauty in destruction. This tension that exists between violence and beauty, destruction and creation is enhanced by the fruitful collision of the age-old need to capture “reality” and the potential of photography to question what that actually means. The authority of photography in relation to objective truth has been shattered, but new possibilities to experience reality in a more complex and challenging manner have arisen.