Places That Were Not

Ori Gersht / Places That Were Not

Opening: 29/04/2010   Closing: 04/06/2010

Places that are not, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2010
Places that are not, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2010
Places that are not, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2010
Places that are not, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2010
Drape 02, 100x100cm, 2008
Green Swamp, 150x120 cm
Swamp 02, 120x150cm, 2008
If Not Now When 02, 100x240cm, 2008
Ashes, 150x120cm, 2008
Swamp 01, 120x150cm, 2008

The artist is showing photographs from two bodies of work made in 2008 and 2009, Hide and Seek and Evaders.

 

Hide and Seek

 

As in previous series, Gersht’s depictions of landscape address ideas about memory, history and identity. They are images of places or journeys that are simultaneously physical and metaphysical, partly real and partly mythological. Photography’s claim to truth is questioned and rather than being presented with the depiction of a specific moment in time, the viewer is left instead with images that are suggestive of something that happened in the past, or might happen in the future.

 

The photographs in the series Hide and Seek depict hidden swamps and marshes located in the remnants, on the borders of Poland and Belarus, of the vast primeval forests that once covered most of Europe.

 

Gersht was seeking locations that at times of political conflict, during the Second World War, had become places of refuge for partisan communities.

 

Hide and Seek attempts to explore the dialectic between metaphysical and real places. Photography can only depict the reality that is physically present in front of the lens, and Gersht was interested in finding places to photograph that do not, or did not exist on the map and that therefore may be referred to as ‘nonplaces’ or voids. In doing so he attempted to take the photographs out side of the physical confinements of a place or a time and to relocate them in a subjective psychological space. This journey in search of the remote and historical hides was realized in a series of images that attempt to depict absence.

 

In these large-scale panoramas the horizon line is often dissolved and the special perspective is compressed, this visual approach enabled Gersht to unify the spaces and blur the distinction between reality and its reflection causing the images to liquefy and reappear like a mirage out of fragile stained colours.

 

In conjunction Gersht also took photographs in the vicinity of Sobibor forest where the sobibor death camp once sited and quickly replace by trees, whose routes thrived on the ashes below the surface. The photographs were taken through net curtains that traditionally are used by the local villagers to delineate public and private space. In doing so Gersht diminished the perspective and created the illusion of the lace and the landscape melting into one another while disguising and revealing each other.

 

Evaders

 

The long panoramic images in Evaders were photographed in the Pyrenees along the Lister Route, on the border between France and Spain. This route is symbolic as a place of transition, suspended between past and future. It has a long history of smuggling, economically motivated migration and the search for refuge from political or religious persecution. During World War II many used this route to escape Nazi occupied France. One of these was the critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide after he found the border closed on the day he attempted to cross it in September 1940. Benjamin’s failed escape has become tagged with a prophetic forecast of the impending cataclysm in Europe.

 

The clear visual references to German Romanticism in Gersht’s photographs, particularly to the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, are suggestive of a fatal attachment to German culture that prevented Benjamin, like many others, from grasping the horrific scope of the Nazi agenda until it was too late to escape its consequences. Since the introduction of the Single European Act, the physical borders are no longer there, but Gersht’s work raises questions about the continued existence of cultural and psychological borders.

 

Ori Gersht was born in Tel Aviv in 1967 and studied at the Royal College of Art in London. He has exhibited internationally since 1999, including solo exhibitions at the Art Now room at Tate Britain (2002) the Tel Aviv Museum (2002), The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2005/06,) the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (2008) and in the Black Box at the Hirshhorn Museum Washington (2009). He lives and works in London

Folding Time

Ori Gersht / Folding Time

Opening: 04/09/2008   Closing: 24/10/2008

Folding Time, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2008
Folding Time, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2008
Folding Time, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2008
Folding Time, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2008
Folding Time, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2008
Fallin Bird, Still from video, 2008
Untitled 11, 100x100cm, 2007
Untitled 7, 240x180cm, 2007
Pomegranate, Still from Video, 2006

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.

Liquidation

Ori Gersht / Liquidation

Opening: 14/09/2006   Closing: 27/10/2006

Liquidation, Installation view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2006
Liquidation, Installation view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2006
Galicia, c-print, 120x150cm, 2005
Pistine, c-print, 120x150cm, 2005
Time Slice, c-print, 120x150cm, 2005
A Long Way, c-print, 120x150, 2005
Three Winters 2, c-print, 150x180cm, 2005

Photographs titled “Liquidation” and a film named “The Forest” are two complementary parts of a single body of work, which is represented in a new Monograph titled “The Clearing”.
The works, which were created in 2005 at the remote southwest regions of Ukraine, will be shown simultaneously at two venues, the photographs at Noga Gallery while the film at the Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

During the past year this body of work was exhibited at The Photographers Gallery, London, CRG Gallery, New York, Angles Gallery, Los Angeles, Marco Museum, Spain and will soon be presented at the Architecture, Art and Landscape Biennial of the Canaries, Canary Island.

 

“Crammed with memories, and at once filled with forgetting: his memories, even recent ones, were faded, they had hazy outlines, they overlapped in this effort of his, as if someone were making drawings on the blackboard, then only half erasing them, before making new ones on top of the old. Perhaps this is how a man remembers his life when he is a hundred, or how the patriarchs, who were nine hundreds, remembered. Perhaps memory is like a bucket; if you want to cram into it more fruit that it will hold, the fruit is crushed.”

 

(pp 213-214, If Not Now When, Primo Levi)

 

This exhibition features new photographic works that were created over the course of a series of journeys to the small towns of Kosov and Kolomia in the region of Galicia in southwest Ukraine.
As with his previous work, Gersht is exploring landscapes imbued with personal, intimate and historic resonance in a journey into the unknown, into the past, and into the private flitting memories that refuse to fade away.

 

The photographs were taken in areas that were for many generations a home to prosperous Jewish communities and where once Gersht’s relatives found a brief but harsh refuge from Nazi persecution. In his photographs Gersht attempts to look at the surrounding landscape in the light of the historical events, to confront pastoral beauty with the atrocities of the past, the concrete experience with the subjective, psychological one. Consequently, the photographic process becomes a struggle between recording and erasing, describing and forgetting. In order to achieve such visual dialectics, Gersht exposed the film for long durations of time attempting to penetrate the surface and capture the essence of these places. However, the effect is reverse: the long exposures bleached the film; the light of the sun first created and then destroyed the images, erasing them from the surface of the celluloid. This process of creating and destroying aims to redefine the relationship between objective and subjective, and to highlight the helplessness of photography in relation to the past.

 

In addition to the photographs, Gersht also shot “The Forest”, a 13’ film,
that was inspired by the German Romantic movement, and particularly by the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. Romanticism that was later adopted and distorted by the Nazi regime is the trigger for a discussion about culture and nature, memory and forgetting, and the marking of an epic catastrophe. In contrast to the ephemeral and gentle photographs, the visual appearance of the film is sharp and concrete accompanied by an immense threatening sound. Through such formal opposition the photographs and the film converse and complement each other.