٠ featuring: ‘Finder and Keeper: a Conversation Between Rotem Rozental and Yaron Lapid’ ٠

This is not one of my usual posts. In conversation with Rotem Rozental, the editor of the Shpilman Institute for Photography blog, she suggested I should take a look at a couple of her posts and that’s how I came to encounter Yaron Lapid‘s work. Featured here is Rotem’s conversation with him, along with images from his work.

07© Yaron Lapid, Not only England, but every Englishman (is an island), from Original stories from real life

Rotem Rozental: Let’s start where our last meeting ended: it was in Jerusalem, and you talked about the reason for you being there and how the experience of returning to the city affected you. Can you describe what you were doing there and share that experience?

I also wonder how this complexity became an active participant in your work. It seems Jerusalem and her conflicts influenced your works at various junctures. You began your career as an artist there, as a student in Bezalel Academy. I’m wondering if this complex city became an active participant in your work and how your first years there influenced your critical approach?

Yaron Lapid: We met in Jerusalem last, and you would be right in saying the mixture of extremes in the city fascinates me. Perhaps it has to do with my biography. I grew up in a religious family, although I had a strong science-based education, with all the inherent contradictions that entails. I went on to travel in South-East Asia for three years. On my return Jerusalem was the only place that could offer the complexity I sought.

As a former religious boy with an interest in science, nothing was further from my thoughts than the arts, except literature. This might be why it was easier for me to pick up a camera, which I first did to try and capture my experiences. I stumbled upon the art world and found that it allowed me to engage in storytelling, which is a central element in my practice. Some of my works could be considered a piece of a story, like You Have not Found his Riddle and, I think in all my works, even the more abstract ones, a narrative is implied through the connections I create.

Jerusalem was, of course, full of stories. I lived there for six years including the mad times just before the Millennium, when the city was buzzing with religious highs and anxieties that permeated down to street level. Night Meter is a work from the end of 1999, made as a response to that time.

yaron© Yaron Lapid, still from the video work You Have Not Found His Riddle (left); still from the video work Night Meter (right)

I also lived in Jerusalem during the bloody years of 2001-2003, where as students we were either doing blatantly political work, or work that was completely escapist. I have always felt the need to deal with what is directly in front of me, but I felt that “the conflict” was molded in such a finite way. I didn’t want to limit myself to the immediate political situation but rather was interested in the broader human landscape, which inevitably includes political content. The more conceptual type of work interested me less; I wanted to make work that one has to experience with its value rooted in the finished piece, not only in the artistic idea.

RR: To continue with the theme of context and location, let’s discuss the project The New Zero. Ayesha Hameed writes about the alternative documentation of the city that these found images might suggest to you and the viewer. I was wondering about your role here, first as the collector of the images and then as archivist: utilizing technology to intervene in private, lost histories, while manipulating the images themselves.

YL: In part, The New Zero was created as a response to the impossible contradiction that Jerusalem signifies for me. The piece satisfies my attraction to the found, the abandoned and the cast aside. The images are simple yet beautiful and touching, and in my interference I tried to echo the frustration and fascination of living in Jerusalem at the time: a place where history is unfolding before your eyes.

Image-379-in-The-New-Zero1© Yaron Lapid, from The New Zero

Although my website is called Finder & Keeper, I am of course also a manipulator. I see the documentary as an art form, through which an aspect of reality is conveyed, but like Werner Herzog says, facts per se do not constitute truth, otherwise the Manhattan phone directory would be the book of books.

Francis Bacon says “You can see an advertisement, you can see something lying in the street.” I see people lying in the street, but also advertisements interest me as an artist, in an attempt to figure and mediate reality. I would like to reflect an inner truth, one that doesn’t rely upon the surface, yet is connected to quotidian reality.

RR: How did your interest in English family archives develop and how do you approach such intimate, private material?

YL: History is a slippery process, which is hard to pin down in the present. The photographic archive is a great source of visual knowledge, although I am not interested in nostalgia, but rather the similarities and differences between times, and the reasons and effects of that. It is not only images I find and use; other human footprints could be utilized to reveal something about a time, a place and a person. Full. Stop. is made of two flyers found in the streets of my neighborhood, and is titled after the anonymous writer’s preference with punctuation.

RR: So now your work is in constant dialogue with and is invested in a very different urbanscape, which necessitates a different viewpoint. I was wondering about the relationship between your status as an immigrant in London and an artist in a new surrounding, and your critical view of that surrounding as it is conveyed in your work. I am thinking, for instance, about your exhibition at Alfred Gallery in Tel Aviv, where these works, in a sense, also “immigrated” out of their original context.

YL: Living in London has changed both my life and my practice. I see parallels between photography and being an immigrant. A photographer is a person who distances him or herself by using the lens as medium, like Perlov’s soup dilemma  – to eat it or to film it. In that sense, a photographer is somewhat of an immigrant: half here, half existing a different context – through the prism of another culture or through the edit.

London is not an easy place for an immigrant, especially not an Israeli one. I am not like any other “ethnic minority” in this cosmopolitan city. Some regard Israel, with some justification, as a problematic country, although often their understanding of the situation is poor.

Some of this is reflected in the Alfred show which was centered on family. The family I see in London is quite different to the one I know from Israel. The show was composed of works I found as part of my research, when I started working with found photos from Britain. My interest in images of British lives also derives from the insight it gave me into family moments, in a society where separation between inside and out is very present. One of the resulting works is Partial moments from which the SIP image is taken.

06© Yaron Lapid, from Partial Moments

[…]

RR: Your camera also finds its way to other private spheres. I was surprised by the intimate nature of your work in the series Dad and I taking each other after Mum Died. Beyond the traumatic experience, the physical comparison between yours and your father’s bodies (the naked torsos, the beards) is striking. The two of you seem to be unified by pain, limited by it and by the dense physicality of the neutral space. However, you were also divided as soon as each of you assumed the photographer’s position, documenting the other.

YL: Yes, this is probably my most personal work to date, and the mental process you have gone through is the one I hoped for. On top of the raw emotions in the images and the reference to my mother’s death, I was also considering the nature of photography: how we look at someone when we take a picture, never the same as someone else will, and really never the same as we have looked at them at any other time before.

Dad-and-I1© Yaron Lapid, from Dad and I taking each other after Mum Died

[…]

RR: What is your next project? What are you working on now?

YL: I am working with footage I shot in Jerusalem, which will hopefully become a movie. I must admit I am a bad artist, in that I do not work as a trained professional is expected to work. At any given moment I have up to ten projects I am playing with. Every now and then – usually late at night – something falls into place and a project gets nearer to completion.

In art school one talks about research subjects as a result of critical thinking, but this is not the case for me. Instead, I would describe my process as finding a set of connections by doing what I need to do, and then gradually, the theoretical framework surfaces. I create work because something draws my attention, and I think about it critically because that is inevitable. Although I am conscious of the critical aspect of my work, what ultimately pushes me to make it is curiosity.

signal-failure1© Yaron Lapid, from Signal Failures

٠ The political function of landscape-family photographs in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ٠

The Brownies in Palestina© Gil Pasternak, Esther Pasternak, 1970s. Esther Pasternak collection of family photographs, 1946–99. Description: The defiant lion is a tombstone monument erected in 1932 to commemorate a group of eight Jewish pioneer settlers who, as the Israeli version of the story goes, fell to Arab village militias in the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 while defending their homes and community. The lower part of the monument lists their names. Immediately above them, another engraved Hebrew inscription reads “tov lamut be’ad artzenu” (It is good to die for our country).

[…] The role landscape and family photographs play in occidental societies, and the meanings one might associate with the information they mediate, has been greatly informed by state politics and capitalist ideologies. Preserving (and imagining) cultural, historical, and human landscape was a role officially assigned to the medium of photography when its invention was reported to the people of France by François Arago, in the Chamber of Deputies in 1839 (Sekula 1981). This resulted in photography’s widespread participation in European colonialism; in representing and shaping Otherness in compliance with European imagination, fantasy, and desire. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Kodak company further cemented this role, enticing individuals to travel with cameras and participate in the depiction of landscapes. Kodak thus invoked the nuclear family to partake in the production of geographical knowledge within the domestic sphere (Olivier 2007).
To fully grasp the operation of the photographic apparatus in family life, its involvement in politics, in landscaping, and in negotiations of power relations, one has to remember that historically, it was the invention of the one-dollar Brownie camera that enabled the practice of family photography and the production of family photographs in the way that one is familiar with today. First manufactured and sold in 1900, the Brownie, one of the first easy-to-operate cameras for amateurs, brought about the notion of the democratization of photography, and of snapshot photography in particular. It allowed virtually anyone to take photographs regardless of whether or not they possessed any photographic expertise. As Marc Olivier notes, “Beforet the snapshot, photography was largely a gentlemen’s hobby, a pastime that required technical skill and costly equipment” (2007: 1).

The Brownies in Palestina2 © Gil Pasternak, Dorit Pasternak, 1971. Dorit and Ephraim Pasternak’s collection of honeymoon photographs. Description: memorial for Moshe Levinger and Arye Steinlauff, […] two Israeli road workers who were shot dead by a group of Palestinian militants while paving the road to the Dead Sea in 1951. The memorial indicates the Hebrew date of the workers’ death alongside their names. Above these, a short inscription reads: “galed chalutzim mefalsei ha’derech le’yam ha’melach she’lo zachu le’siyum” (A monument for the pioneers who had started paving the way to the Dead Sea but were not fortunate to complete it).

[…] The experience of the physical environment and that of psychic life may be perceived as interlinked, as well as being two reciprocal conditions of the family photograph. However, I would like to suggest one encounters the family photograph as a post-memory; not purely as something of the past, but also as an informative image and object existing in, and constantly reshaping the present understanding of, the physical conditions it both portrays and materializes, whether these are credible or fabricated.

The Brownies in Palestina3The Brownies in Palestina4© Gil Pasternak, Seffi and Gil Pasternak, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89 (above and below).

[…] From the late 1980s, a new understanding of landscape emerged in the field of cultural geography, treating and discussing landscape as text. The collaborative work of Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels (1988) is an exemplar of this approach. According to their research, landscape must be understood as a system of authored signs working to narrate the terrain in which they are found. The narratives that landscapes present are predetermined by their principal makers or authors, whether these are individuals or groups. Prior to the late 1980s, the predominant approach toward landscape had been derived by the theories of Carl Sauer and the Berkeley school of geographers. Landscape was thought of as a blank sheet to be overprinted with traces of human activity, a by-product of cultural practices where culture was thought to have agency. The new understanding of the term, however, suggests landscape is a product of intentional activities carried out to determine geographical features and meaning (Cosgrove and Jackson 1987; Kong 1997). Accordingly, landscape needs to be considered as a linguistic experience, writing and communicating meanings in a particular language. A capacity to engage with and read the signs used along the geographical terrain renders landscapes legible, allowing the equipped viewer to absorb the information imparted by the landscape’s designer while depriving the less privileged viewer access to its intended meaning. Those who cannot read the signs used are bound to bestow different meanings upon the very same landscape, to read it in a way that may compete with, or even override its projected significance (Jackson 1989).

The Brownies in Palestina5© Gil Pasternak, Seffi and Gil Pasternak, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89.

[…] According to Benvenisti (2002), at the end of the nineteenth century Zionist pioneers brought with them from the diaspora the desire to reclaim the landscape of their longed-for, lost homeland. Upon their arrival in the region, they faced a different reality. Although popular Zionist historiography often presented the Promised Land as a deserted, unoccupied territory, the land was occupied by non-Jewish people; its landscapes did not live up to the biblical primordial images that appeared in the pioneers’ dreams. Having searched the visible landscape for residues that might echo their collective imagination, they worked to alter its physical features and conceal threatening scenes. The second generation of these immigrants, Benvenisti explains (2002), turned to archaeological excavations that gradually exposed the past sites of the ancient homeland, creating the country’s landscape anew. By the time a third generation was born, they could not possibly experience the landscape intimately. Its alteration had rendered it a collective landscape of a nation, and the location of this nation’s identity. Yet, as Ghazi Falah (1996) reveals in an article on the cultural landscape of Palestine, some sites of past villages still contain rubble, abandoned olive groves, cactus bushes, and other indications of their previous inhabitants. Some of these stand untouched, others are hidden among thick plantations of forests “planted apparently after the houses were leveled in the early years of the Israeli state” (Falah 1996: 271). Such locations turn this landscape into a site for Israeli amnesia, where some aspects of a non-heroic Jewish-Israeli history are hidden or camouflaged.

The Brownies in Palestina6© Gil Pasternak, Untitled, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89. Description: This expansive view is captured from a tourist observation point located at the top of the Mount of Olives. The sitters appear comfortable, at ease within the environment and with the photographic gaze pointed at them. The background, however, is loaded with political meanings, as dominion over the Old City of Jerusalem and its sacred places has been a matter of public, regional, and
international dispute since the state of Israel captured the city from Jordan in the war of 1967.

[…] I would like to suggest an understanding of the photographic relationship between sitters and landscapes in comparison with sitters against artificial backgrounds in studio photography. […] If subjects against painted landscapes had to imagine their relationship to the background, when positioned against actual landscapes, family photographs narrate the group as directly involved in, and related to, the landscape surrounding them. This further complicates the reality of the photographic, for if both the subject and the background appear authentic, they are capable of shaping each other’s identity not only historically but also ontologically. Yet, while it could be argued that the two-dimensional painted background draws much of the viewer’s attention precisely due to its visible fabricated qualities, it also serves as an indication of intentionality. It is those already theatrical properties of the background that trigger the spectator’s interest in its symbolic value, and thereby in the possible affinity of the painted background with the sitter. Following the logic of Walter Benjamin’s historicization of photography (Benjamin 1985), it could be suggested that whereas the painted background gains prominence by alienating the sitter from a nonrepresentational space, in family photographs actual landscapes become casual through their photographic replication, allowing the sitter—a person familiar to the viewer—to stand out as the ephemeral element within the photographic image, thus imbuing the background with other significance. This recorded ephemeral encounter of the familiar figure with the inanimate surrounding has the capacity to concurrently familiarize and de-familiarize the viewer with the depicted environment, instilling in the viewer altering visions of conflicting political and social realities.

excerpts from ““The Brownies in Palestina”: Politicizing Geographies in Family Photographs” by Gil Pasternak, published in Photography & Culture Volume 6—Issue 1 March 2013, pp.41–64

٠ Israel, the first fur free nation? Yes, you’re allowed to laugh about the irony ٠

20110124 FurFreeFashion 0016webHester Vlamings, in Amsterdam’s Fur Free Exhibition, 2011

Fur free events took place this past Friday worldwide. The video below is from a “performance” (aka bleeding fashion event) that took place in Tel-Aviv. During the rally, people used slogans such as “Fur is a dead fashion,” “we don’ t want furs in Israel!” and “Unethical, Unaesthetic – Wear Synthetics!“. Apparently, Israel might become the first fur free nation in the world. If you think this is ironic, listen to the lyrics on the soundtrack (by Goldfinger) which in this context serve the animal rights purpose, but could easily be used to support human rights. Is this irony intentional? Are they aware of any symbolic meaning of this act?

“Open Your Eyes”
Open your eyes / To the millions of lies / That they tell you everyday
Open your mind / To the clever disguise / That the advertisements say
How do they know / What’s good for you?
Wake up, wake up, whoa  / Wake up, wake up, whoa
A shot to the head  / They’re better off dead  / Will you wake up, wake up, whoa
Destroy all the land  / And kill what you can  / Just to make the profits rise
Sell you from birth  / For all that you’re worth  / The money spreads like lies
[…] Don’t wanna hate you / Don’t wanna blame it all on you / I’m out of options
If you don’t look I’ll force you to  / If you don’t look I’ll force you to  / If you don’t look.. I’ll force you to
Wake up, wake up, whoa / Wake up, wake up, whoa
A shot to the head  / Just so you can be fed  / Will you wake up, wake up, whoa
Open your eyes…
Open your eye

Guest blogger João Henriques ٠ Another brick in the wall ٠

A person is more holy than a land, even a holy land, since faced with an affront made to a person, this holy land appears in its nakedness to be but stone and wood. Emmanuel Levinas.

Josef Koudelka has become a mythical name for photography. A myth not only associated with the quality of his photographic production, but also with the fact that he is a member of Magnum Agency, that influential bastion of documentary photography, which brought him an iconic status of the photographer that is also a hero, engagé et résistante. However, the problems that came to be associated with photojournalism and other types of photography are well known. Not only did television ruin the need for long photographic stories, but the ubiquity of the digital capture is also propelling the extinction of a professional approach to the way photographers document events. Nowadays, what matters is the immediacy of the work, more than its quality or the thought that was behind it. If the photographer owned a certain iconographic power, such power was attributed to him not only for his skills, but mostly due to History’s slow pace. However, History has changed gears; it can do without big narratives (or rather, the media exempt her from such burden), connections and ideologies are lost. The event itself lost its importance in favour of a continuous unroll of events, preferably disconnected from any sort of thread between them abstracting and stupefying  reality.

The point of this prologue is to introduce Koudelka’s recent interview for the New York Times. I came across it via an article by Colin Pantall, where Colin dissects Asim Rafiqui’s hot reaction to Koudelka’s interview. The plot is relatively simple: Koudelka was invited to photograph the wall that separates Israel from Palestine and though he initially refused, we was then convinced to do it (at least that’s what  he says to say). The result can be seen in the book “Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes”, which serves has a motto for the NYT’s interview.

Koudelka begins by stating that he doesn’t usually do many interviews and in the end he also says that what photographers say about their works is of no importance, which is one of two things, either sharp irony or acute ingenuity, since what is done along the interview is precisely constructing and contextualizing his work, precisely one of the vectors that gives way to the emergency and validity of any photographic work, either one agrees with what Koudelka proposes or not.

And what does he propose? First of all, he seems to tack an understanding of landscape that is worthy of someone who has spent the last decades sleeping under a rock. Landscape as the promise of an experience conveyed by the photographer is nowhere to be seen, unless you think of a touristic phenomenology that usually neglects further reflection about the place. “I hope my book is not about my experience”, Koudelka says, an affirmation that appears here contextualized nevertheless shaping the general discourse about his work .

On the other hand, Koudelka needs facts, more on the surface than at a deep level. Such pragmatism values the optical and descriptive qualities of the image but ignores its subjective and narrative dimensions. In his words: “I don’t like picture stories. In fact I think picture stories destroyed all photography.” Such apocalyptic statement seems to be supported by a belief in photography’s lack of narrative potential. However, and here is the source of some confusion, the potential to tell a story is more a result of the way the photographer explores the medium’s capabilities – how he manages to use it in order to convey the way he experienced the place -, than of the story the image “tells”, since an image can only show facts but not interpretations, and facts without interpretations are of no use other than being mere documents, as the Israeli secret services (or Mr Rumsfeld, btw) could have explained. One might think that stories are also made of the possibility to explain something, but such explanations are precisely what kills the story. Contrary to Koudelka’s conservative beliefs we need interpretations in the form of stories instead of explanations, but all this rant against «stories killing photography» might be a position Koudelka holds towards his colleague Alec Soth (and others?), who might be accused of imploding Magnum with his “crazy” quests about the power of narrative, denoting an intestine battle inside the agency.

ba-gaza_SFCG1262911017image by Joe Sacco, from Footnotes in Gaza

Koudelka also seems to ignore landscape from different perspectives of use of the territory, as he considers the main function of the wall erected between Israel and Palestine one of destruction of the landscape. “I found that the destruction of the landscape is very bad” or “I call what is going on in this most holy landscape, which is most holy for a big part of humanity, is the crime against the landscape.” These comments seem to pertain to the aesthetic side, that of the landscape as a “sight”, being the only job of the photographer that of aestheticizing  the entire “mess” that way “fixing” what was formally wrong.

The remaining questions underlying the building of the wall will have to be disconnected from the images just because the photographer says so and others too. Leaning on third party legitimation to defend his idea, Koudelka says: “What is interesting for me is that I showed these books in Israel and everyone told me this book is not a political book — that this is about man and the place. This book is not about conflict”. In landscape photography there are usually no dead bodies, and as Adorno said «the beauty in nature is history standing still and refusing to unfold», adding the fact that Koudelka seems to not have listened a single dissenting voice, but was it supposed to expect any different answer from the Israeli side? As if in denial, Koudelka seems oblivious to the “implicit” contract he signed, that the images from his book are only another step towards the pervasive necessity of legitimacy from the Israeli state, not to mention the legitimacy of the violence and oppression against the Palestinians, who, nevertheless may also have their share of responsibility in the scenario. If the pictorial side of the landscape is served in the book both ways, from the perspective of its uses and consequences the wall seems to be totally one-sided, a sight worthy of the fiction proposed in Truman Show.

Koudelka is evasive whenever the questions denote a political dimension, putting all the History of engagé photography under a tabula rasa, genre where his images fit and where he is considered a carrier of the humanist approach. In the beginning he says that he would never have gone to those territories, but he did (with a little push, he says…); he also affirms that photographer’s statements are of no matter but he goes on talking about his images – which surely have the formal beauty we are used to see -, almost completely ignoring the reality they represent. At the end, Koudelka says, almost in a glamorous tone, how he dismisses art: “I never use the explanation of ‘art,’ as a matter of fact every time there is the Magnum meeting and they start to talk about art I say: ‘Can we eliminate the word art from the annual meeting? Let’s just talk about photography. What is this art?’”. He might have some reason here, in anthropological terms art and images are different matters but the discourse (and practice) that supports his work in Israel is grounded in the utmost artialization of nature through the use of landscape photography. A landscape given only as a sight, heir of painting, stripped away from use, experience, of any other meaning beyond his private world, “For me it is just enough to look at the pictures.” Unfortunately, such deflection looks like a strategy relegating the focus on the technical and formal capacities of the image (and on authorship, of course…) but not on what they represent. In the end, no more than a modernist position that rests in overall trustworthiness in an understanding of the world through its appearances.

A certain philistine attitude from some photographers, generally supported by the anguish that results from the absence of non-commercial work and of being published at any cost, might lead them to escape the problematic dimensions of the commissioned works, hiding behind the technical aspect of the support, paying homage to the forms but forgetting the content. This sheds a light over Koudelka that could be seen as «give me some money for a book, don’t ask too many questions and it will all be ok», an approach that may be uncomfortable to some of his Magnum partners, with a lesson for future generations that rests mainly on a pragmatic materialism but not much else.

I hope to be mistaken about the romanticism and theatricality of this work about Israel and Palestine. Although we can recognize in the surface of the images their potential to become icons, and so to become triggers for political action – where on the contrary their depth may only unveil falsehoods and selective memories -, Koudelka’s images (and discourse) seem to be of a detached nature which codifies landscape in terms of a romantic and contemplative poetry, a somehow naïf and insufficient approach, concerning a territory and its implications that have been threatening the world peace for far too long.

text by João Henriques.

٠ Yaakov Israel’s quest for the man on the white donkey ٠

yaakovisraelqmwd11yaakovisraelqmwd22yaakovisraelqmwd44yaakovisraelqmwd45yaakovisraelqmwd71yaakovisraelqmwd76yaakovisraelqmwd34yaakovisraelqmwd67© Yaakov Israel, all photographs from the series The quest for the man on the white donkey, 2011

“As referred by the Jewish tradition the Messiah (the Prophet) will arrive riding on a white donkey.
Few years ago, as I was taking photographs near the Dead Sea a Palestinian man rode past me on his white donkey.
It is after having developed this plate that I’ve realize that I had encountered my “Messiah”; this meeting brought me to initiate the body of work that carries the name: “The quest for the man on the white donkey”.

(…)

As my “Messenger” revealed himself, the search for a deeper understanding of my Country and what defines me as an Israeli became an urge to look for the in-between places, the non-usual; suddenly a detail requested my attention as I stood for hours waiting for a meaning to reveal itself: or pushed me away, puzzled. But in the end I had to hold to it. I cannot let go until that detail is made mine, until the allusive and enigmatic find their place in my understanding of what I deem as authentic, real.
The “Quest” is an attempt to relay a personal take to the Israeli reality with a broader sense of belonging to the global human collectivity.
Because here the evidences of the past are so strongly intertwined with the marks of the present and the questions about our future: sometimes it is possible to see all this revealed in front of one’s eye, and all at the same time.
Part of my identity as Israeli is to question everything, not to leave anything for granted: to show the tensions that constantly exist, to convey the truth behind the construction of the reality.
Religious, social aspects filter into everyday life and their meanings are exposed as the journey moves on. Jewish missionaries, lost souls and individuals living in the fringes of the society: all blends in to form this landscape of humanity.”

Yaakov’s statement

┐ Photographs from inside the Israeli army └

osher_naked_gun_in_crotch

“…Israeli soldiers’ use of social media has given a unique insight into an “army” that functions more like a rabble – with soldiers misusing weapons, breaking laws, and expressing violent and extreme views and posting images of themselves doing it online.

A case in point is Osher Maman, another 20-year-old Israeli soldier currently enlisted in the “elite” Golani Brigade.

Maman’s Instagram account currently includes 549 images which show, among other things, images of him mishandling weapons and breaking military laws. The earliest date from April 2012 and the most recent from today. An illustrative selection – with tags where he included them – are used throughout this post. Maman also expresses deeply racist and even genocidal views towards Palestinians and Arabs. (Note: following publication of this article, Maman has deleted his various social media accounts).bullet_art green_tips_0

What does it mean that the Israeli army recruits a soldier, with a dubious history, who is stupid enough to post images of himself committing more criminal offenses?

Is this a man who should be handling – playing with – lethal weapons in any circumstances? Or does it mean that this Most Moral Army so lacks discipline that soldiers like Maman can break the law without fear of consequences?

A lust for violence and genocidal hatred of Arabs

Osher Maman freely expresses his deep, even genocidal hatred of Palestinians and his desire to see them oppressed and killed. Responding to a comment on one of his images, for example, Maman told the commenter

Lmao for all I care you can comment all my pictures, you’re still a fucking Arab pile of shit, you even smell like it. You’re never going to win over israel (the chosen people) bc you’re a bunch of slaves, shit I probably am the slave master of some Arab who’s related to you… An you all will stay trapped in gaza and every little shittt village that you Palestinians have inside of israel. And you will continue to go to our jails and to have your houses broken in to. Basically your life will be shit until you all die, so go ahead and have fun commenting on my pictures of that’s going to make your death a little better…”

excerpt of the article Stoned, naked, armed and dangerous: more disturbing images from an Israeli soldier’s Instagram, by Ali Abunimah on electronic intifada. continue reading here

Another interesting article about the use of pictures and social media in the context of war The Instagram War: Gaza & Israel, 2012 byMichael Shaw here

┐ Shira Klasmer – Walk the Line └

© Shira Klasmer, Walking the Line, 2012. 10’34” in loop

“The ‘painting’ is performed by the artist holding a ‘brush’ made up of a line of LED lights. The act (of painting) is photographed by two still digital cameras creating a single still frame of long exposure, capturing the traces of the action on to the camera’s sensor. A sequence of frames is edited to a video format, where each frame is the recording of one act of ‘painting’. Transforming the still frames into a video format was done by exposing; scanning each frame from left to right, similar to the direction the images where made.


When working on these sequences in the darkness of the car park, ‘painting’ is transformed to a work of performance. With no physical material engagement and resistance, ‘painting’ becomes a work of memory and repetition – the reconstruction of a mental imprint, counting steps, rhythmical gestures, movement – a task in the memorisation of the act which was never seen.”

kick3© Shira Klasmer, from English National Ballet (3D)

kick2© Shira Klasmer, from English National Ballet (3D)

“I met choreographer Itzik Galili in London while working on a shoot at Rambert with photographer Chris Nash. He explained he was putting together a show with the English National Ballet called ‘And the earth shall bear again’ and invited me to photograph a rehearsal in June 2012. I have been wanting to test out my new method of photographing in 3D and dreamed of doing so with dancers. These are some of the outcomes. You will need to view these images with a pair of Red/Cyan glasses.”

Snow-stroll-180© Shira Klasmer, from the series Abbreviations, 2009, Lambda print, Diasec, 20 x 180cm

Snow-forest-180© Shira Klasmer, from the series Abbreviations, 2009, Lambda print, Diasec, 20 x 180cm

“The ‘Scroll’ photographs began as a fascination with the transition of time, I have been exploring the etching and interpretation of movement within the still image. The works focus on motion within landscape photography and as a perpetual narrative that integrates the elements of time and space within the image.


The original image (the scroll photographs) extends beyond the standard frame dimension and provides the viewer with a visual horizontal narrative. I work with my old fashioned Pentax camera which I have modified by attaching a motor and in pulling the film through the camera while the shutter is open, I create a long exposure (up to 4min minute) of the entire roll of 35mm film. The result is a photograph that is one frame – the entire length of 36-frames, and reveals an elasticity to time where the future, present and past co-exist as one image.”

┐ Assaf Shaham – in the gap between the comma and its following letter └

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1© Assaf Shaham, Untitled, from the series Time After Time and Again

“The work Time after Time and Again deconstructs photography into its components and reassembles them on one surface that encompasses the essence of the photographic act, the fundamentals of color photography, and the marvel that combines light and time into a photograph. At the same time, in a kind of an aside, Shaham also subverts the concept of freezing the moment which religiously accompanies photography and differentiates it from cinema. In a simple but not innocent still photograph, Shaham records movement on a timeline: a landscape depicting a kind of a sundial while simultaneously recording it as it becomes a photograph. In three exposures timed over one hour, in which three filters using the RGB color model, three colored projections were made, marking the location of the stick’s shadow through the sun’s movement over one hour.

Unlike 19th-century early photographs—where the limits of the photographic material’s sensitivity necessitated long exposure to light, making the details that had moved during the exposure into a pale blur or a dark color patch in the photographs—in Shaham’s photographs the movement is recorded with three clear, sharp projections whose location marks the exact time in which each of the color filters was used. The sundial on the sand demonstrates, through a single photograph within one hour, the process that the medium underwent in 170 years, and clearly and succinctly formulates the conceptual differences between continuous and fragmented movement; it is also the conceptual distance between photography and cinema and the gap between the analogue and digital worlds. This is a decisive phase in the evolution of man and machine and in the history of science and ideas, in the technological revolution of knowledge-rich industries, which is, of course, a social and cultural revolution.”

excerpt of the article Assaf Shaham: New Ways to Steal Old Souls, by Nili Goren, as in the Shpilman Institute for Photography. Continue reading here

scan2 copy4print© Assaf Shaham, Full Reflection (700dpi), 2012, from the series The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

scan3© Assaf Shaham, Full Reflection (500dpi), 2012, from the series The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

“Regarding The Emperor’s New Clothes

Imagine two scanners facing one another as they perform the only function they are capable of performing: scanning. They embark on an intense seductive mating ritual. One head moves up, the other one down, they both go down and simultaneously go back up again; In movement, whether in or out of synchronization, they exchange fluids and perform a discursive sexual act.

Susan Sontag claimed that photography is “not such a successful form of intercourse” 1 because the camera maintains a distance between that which is penetrating and that which is being penetrated. Assaf Shaham’s scanners will never feel each other. There will forever be that distance between them, rendering actual contact impossible. The resulting works of this sterile intercourse are yet surprisingly fertile. Flat, mechanical and technological to the extreme, these color fields are exemplary sons of a formalistic dynasty: they are Mondrian’s grandchildren, Rothko’s nephews and Walead Beshty’s adopted children. The yellowish light of the projecting bulb used in the darkroom is here replaced with the bright white light of the scanning device and random strips of lights, the sharp and accurate inkjet prints are favored over chemical photo paper and the ready-made was chosen over the artist’s darkroom.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Shaham’s work is concerned with the very space between the king’s death and the beginning of his successor’s reign, precisly in the gap between the comma and it’s following letter it happens after photography has been repeatedly murdered; after it died, was re-born, fell down, rotted from within, was salvaged and brought back up on its feet again.

What appears like a large-scale replica of an Ilford photo paper pack leans against a wall, basking in a realistic glory of sorts. It is a marvelous reproduction of the original with a three dimensional appearance that was only altered as the original motif was replaced by the artist: where a harmless consensual image once appeared, Shaham has implanted a photographic rape scene.

In a small piece, dark silhouettes are burnt within a split of a second. It is a black footnote at the endpoint of a prolonged history of power and violence. American radiation in Hiroshima scorched out an eternal memory in real time. The gesture of the original photographer of this image – equally created by the bomb – is reactivated here by Shaham. That photographer is dead, long live the new photographer.”
TEXT BY YAIR BARAK.

┐ Yanai Toister – Toward a Brief Manifesto on Photography └

10_ytoister-register-bouy_v2© Yanai Toister, Bouy (From Register of Facts), 2004, C-print, 156/120 cm

10_ytoister-straits-horse© Yanai Toister, Untitled (from Straits), 2002, C-print, 80/100 cm

10_ytoister-straits-aerial© Yanai Toister, Untitled (from Straits), 2002, C-print, 65/80 cm

“In order to formulate a binding stand with regard to the photographs in the exhibition, one must first acknowledge that the word “photography” today refers to a very broad spectrum of rather loosely connected practices. Any attempt to define photography as a differentiated, independent ontological category can no longer rely on the Barthean scheme of “that-has-been” or “that-has-been-there” with regard to the photograph; it must refer to photography itself as a “has-been-there” and also, perhaps, as “has-been.” Hence, all the works in the exhibition—as reflexive, dynamic, and universal as they may be— outline not only feasibility, a state of mind, or a cross section, but mainly the possibility of Israeli photography in relation to adjacent disciplines and in relation to itself.

And if it “has-been” at all, then in most cases what has been here is not an act of photography or an instance of being photographed (these are all restricted to an anecdote and are bound to the here-and-now, to the there-and-then). The sole event that has been and may be again in the future, is the emergence of a photograph (sometimes as a tableau), and the way in which this event and the circumstances that preceded it were registered in matter; for when we dub the photograph a mere image, we are confusing one real world with another, one concrete universe with another. Ultimately, every photograph transpires in a three-dimensional world (or four-dimensional, if we consider the temporal dimension as substance), and is made of real materials. It cannot be reduced to a state of semblance only. As a mere image, every photograph strives to lure the viewer into a rectangle, a frame, as an extra-spatial, extra-temporal pillory, as an experience whose apathy captures every viewer in the limbo of a vectorial world.

The most important question that ought to be asked about photography is not a question of inherence (What is the meaning? An infinite presence, according to aesthetic formalism, or an ideologydriven, use-dependent mobile state), but rather a question of specificity: What kind of physical space and what kind of social space do different photographs generate and sustain around themselves? An image space? A material space? Or a space of diffusion where these work together like two lobes of a single brain? Oscillating like a pendulum between appearance and disappearance, as concurrent presence within and without a picture, as both the part and its maker—the exhibition, through the works it brings together, strives to lay the groundwork for reading the use of abstraction tools in photography not necessarily as a reference to the real world, but mainly as concretizations of the pictorial possibilities contained within photography. Every image needs a real existence, and a real world cannot be transformed into a world of images only. It is here that the true significance of these photographs lies, for they embody the understanding that every image always and necessarily relies on its constituent materials.”

written by Yanai Toister, Tel Aviv, July 2009

┐ Blindness └

all photos © Adam Hinton in Gaza, 2012

all drawings © Joe Sacco, taken from Footnotes in Gaza, 2010. An interview with Joe Sacco about the book and the massacres reported in it here

Articles about the Palestine/Israle conflict can be accessed via Stop the War Coalition

┐ Michal Heiman └



CRITICAL IMAGE: MICHAL HEIMAN, By Dr. Ariella Azoulay

Michal Heiman chose the position of the spectator looking at someone else’s photographs taken by someone else, in which someone else is photographed, which someone else collected. Heiman turns this quintessential position of spectator (in a museum, but not only) into her own, elaboration and giving it back to it to spectator, whom she transforms not only into the subject of the artistic image but also into the subject of the psychological image. This is the spectator who is asked, on several levels, to assume Heiman’s position and to reproduce it. When Heiman looks at these photographs of her mother-in-law, she is following classifications which are latent in the family album, acting within the framework of the restrictions and advantages of her family relations with the photographed (her mother-in-law), attuned to the route she traced on her meticulously planned journeys as well as in random rambles. Though Heiman does this without relinquishing essential activities of the subject’s position, such as sorting, selecting, classifying, etc, she performs these activities as an accumulative sum of activities familiar from two institutions and practices – the musial and the psychological. The images she presents to the “subject” of her “test” are mediated through these two institution/ practices. They are presented in a “test” box by an “examiner”, who also duplicates Heiman’s positioning, obviously without the possibility of identity between the two of them, between them and the photographed, or between them and the “subject” of the “test”. These relations of similarity and difference between the personae/ positions dissolve the established hierarchical relations which institutions/ practices such as the museum and the psychology apparatus seek to preserve, and point to their fluidity. Heiman is attracted to these two systems, seduced by one and functioning within the other, but at the same time she criticizes them, especially by turning one against the other. She bypasses the museal apparatus by way of the psychological apparatus. Within the framework f the museum institution she develops exchange relations borrowed from the psychological apparatus, rather than those practiced in the museum I which the boundaries of the subject are predetermined by the way he or she is placed in front of the artistic object. The relations of replacement that Heiman proposes are those existing in the psychoanalytical situation, with one crucial difference: they are not continuous in time, and the analyst cannot gain knowledge relating to the analysand and take an active part in subjectivizing her. Thus the therapeutic situation is divested of its characteristic power relations. The activating of the general patterns of the structure of the therapeutic situation in a museum setting through the “test” mode of the M.H.T., provides an opportunity to disrupt the museum order. This order is based on complex relations of silence, both on the part of the museum object and on the part of the museum subject, and on the distinction between the different subject of art – -the artist and the spectator. The museum spectator is invited to induce the mute object to speak, but only later, and outside the boundaries of the site. Heiman’s spectator is invited to induce the scene to speak at the site itself. The existence of the images Heiman offers for viewing and voicing violates the standard norms of presentation, and serves as a point of departure for unexpected encounters with conveyor of parallel, contradictory, other images, encounters in which she finds herself being led no less than leading.

Michal Heiman’s “test” is intended for women. It suggests that they look at a number of pictures of a woman-a mother figure and her own mother-in-law – and a few pictures of women who were inscribed in a history which is not only theirs. The first photographed figure is like a magnified stereotype of the (Jewish) mother figure. She is more (and less) than a citizen of the (Jewish) state. She doesn’t tour like a tourist, looking rather like the proprietress who comes to collect the rent or to be nice to the tenants and improve their conditions of living. She embodies much of what is repressed in that State, and precisely the close relationship to her presents an opportunity to take a straight look and see how it “really” looks. How the overbearingness, excessiveness, and unusefulness of this figure looks. She has herself photographed incessantly, in any place, on any occasion. She is always ready with the camera “just in case”- this may be the decisive moment, so she had better have proofs, evidence, in her hands. For one mustn’t let destiny rule the world alone. Together with her, in the same box, there are seven other women. These are women whose “decisive moment” indeed caught up with them. Each of them experienced a “crucial” moment, performed an act, and this actually justified a portrait, an image, an immortalization, but there was no camera to immortalize the moment. The portrait that they bequeathed is thus a portrait which does not bear witness to the incisive moment but keeps manifesting the decisive relation between them and the social order they disturbed and whose rules they sought to suspend. It thus constitutes a double portrait- a portrait of them and of the social order they challenged. The first one is of the three (surviving) quintuplets the Dionne sister, who having been put on public display as children together with their two other sisters, eventually broke the silence to bring this glaring abuse of a child’s body to light (and to claim damages for themselves). The second is of Ulrike Meinhof, leader of the Baader Meinhof group, from whose portrait it is always possible to revert to the boundaries of the rules of the game of the democratic state, a game in which everything is negotiable, except the rules of the game and so allowing the exclusion o any player attempting to put those rules I question. The third photograph is of Leila Khaled, the Palestinian freedom fighter who became famous for skyjacking in which she was involved. Khaled expropriated the time of the flight passengers to point to the time and the place of which her people, the Palestinian people, had been robbed. The fourth portrait, of Eva Hesse, an artist who put her body in the center of her art long before the artistic discourse could have contained such a manifestation, evidenced an apparatus saturated with violence and the tensions between an individual, a body, and a position from which to see, speak out, and act, and the last portrait, of Kochava Levy, who found herself in a hotel that was occupied by terrorists, and masterfully played – with her unprecedented feat of conducting negotiations with the terrorists – the role assigned to her by history.

(Dr. Ariella Azoulay, D’Israel: Barry Frydlender, Michal Heiman, Efrat Shvily, and Dana & Boaz Zonshine, Le Qartier, Center of Contemporary Art, Quimper, 1999 [pp. 33-34] )

More of Michal’s work here

┐ Sheffy Bleier └

© Sheffy Bleier, Organs,, from the series Organ Gardens, 2007

© Sheffy Bleier, Internal Landscape in the Pink Outside, 2009

“Ultimately, the question that lurks in these images is that of the possibility of reaching the sublime, the spiritual through the medium that appears wholly antithetical to it – body’s inner organs. True, the organs are not “raw meat” – which borders on the horror of the formless – for they retain well-defined forms and texture. And it is precisely their form and texture – mysterious, yet troublingly familiar – that turns them into visual medium of something utterly different from their materiality. They become an “alien body”, the body that offers another route to the beautifu,l that manages to escape the bodily materiality while remaining wholly embedded in it.”

Jerzy Michalowicz, Jerusalem, August 2008; full text here

More of Sheffy’s work here

║ Elad Lassry ║

© Elad Lassry, Burmese Mother, Kittens, 2008

© Elad Lassry, Two wolves, 2008

“Rarely is there enough visual information in a photograph by Elad Lassry to quite tell what is going on in the picture. Thatʼs the reverse of what most photographs intend, dedicated as they typically are to delivering data selectively plucked from the quotidian world. Since we live in an engorged image-environment, where we are continuously hectored by photographs that purport to be telling us stuff, the subtle absence disorients. (…)”

source: Knight, Christopher, “Photographs that ask questions” Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2009

More of Elad’s work here

║ Ori Gersht ║

© Ori Gersht, Blow up No. 14#06, from the series Time after time, 2008

“The latest digital technology has enabled Gersht to create contemporary versions of frozen life, bringing the concerns of Fantin-Latour and other still-life masters into a contemporary context. His photographs echo the appearance of oil paintings and allude to the inherent shadow of death and decay hanging over traditional still-life and vanitas painting. Yet they are distanced from them due to the instantaneous digital process employed, which captures each shattering still-life at a speed of 1/6000 of a second and stores the information immaterially as data on a hard drive until each is fabricated as a Light Jet print, returning the image to the material realm of two-dimensional artworks.

Flowers, which often symbolise peace, 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.”

Source: Mummery + Schnelle

More of Ori’s work can be seen here and here

║ Gaston Zvi Ickowicz ║

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© Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, Untitled #2, from the series August 06, 2006

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© Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, Untitled #6, from the series August 06, 2006

“The images in the series “August 06″ were taken in the summer of 2006, during the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon.
These photographs portray Ickowicz’s view of the war  a dark cloud that is at once present and absent. The images in this series examine the traces of a war that faded as quickly as it had begun  the vestiges of its contaminating presence.”

To see more of Gaston’s work click here

║ Adi Nes ║

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© Adi Nes, Hagar, from the series Bible, 2006

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© Adi Nes, Untitled, from the series Soldiers, 2000

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© Adi Nes, Untitled, from the series Soldiers, 1998

“Staged photography, the style which I’ve adopted, demands complex production and exacting direction, if for no other reason than a great deal of money and energy are poured into it. This is a style that, actually, developed when photography was invented. Later, people like Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson and others brought staged photography to a certain level of artistic perfection. Some view photographers as “hunters” who go out into the streets with their 35mm cameras and zoom lenses in an attempt to “catch” some situation. I work a little differently, perhaps more like “gleaner”. The sources of images I build, the world in which I travel, they are like snapshots for me: personal memories, experiences, impressions of body language or some texture that fascinates me. Frequently I’m aided by documentary photographs by others – whether taken by professionals or amateurs. From tidbits I collect here and there I weave my ideas for a picture and transform them into physical sketches that give me a common language with other production people like those involved with makeup and lighting. With the aid of the camera I bring back the image that has been built from different sources so it becomes a new picture, which tells a story and is part of a series of images which I create. Now that I have the privilege to stage a shot and not rely merely on what reality presents, I can be more picky about the quality of the lighting and the picture, the staging, location and costumes – which are, in a sense, the artist/photographer’s palette. This type of photography fits someone who is, essentially, a control freak. I feel I also have this perfectionist side and desire to control everything down to the smallest detail. For many years I earned a living working in the television and film industry and suspect that much of what I learned in these fields sunk-in to my consciousness and influenced my style of working as a stills photographer. One who looks at my photographs clearly knows they’re staged, yet the experience is akin to entering a movie theater when the lights are dimmed: for a moment you may believe the images that tell a story which is entirely allegorical, a story which may be about you.”

Adi Nes (part of an interview by Jess Dugan which can be read here)

To see more of Adi’s work click here

║ Yuval Yairi ║

Yuval Yairi - Photography2 copy

© Yuval Yairi, from the series Forevermore

Yuval Yairi - Photography copy

© Yuval Yairi, from the series Forevermore

“Yuval Yairi’s (b. 1961) body of photographs, Forevermore, focuses on the Hansen Hospital in Jerusalem, the abode of Hansen’s disease patients, an illness which had erroneously been identified with biblical leprosy. Originally called Jesus Hilfe, the hospital was founded in 1887 by Protestant missionaries from Germany on a remote hillside, nowadays the Talabiya neighborhood. The massive stone building was designed by architect and researcher of Jerusalem, Conrad Schick (1822-1901). It represents late 19th-century Jerusalem architecture, combining European and Middle Eastern styles. The structure contains evidence of the social and political transformations the city has undergone in the past century. A small part of the compound now serves as an outpatient clinic for treatment of the disease, while most of it stands unused; some of the rooms remain as left by the last patients and staff to inhabit them.
(…)
Yairi photographs the leper house with a digital video camera in still mode, constructing the image from hundreds (at times thousands) of frames. The pictures are taken in the course of several hours, during which the artist slowly and accurately documents every detail in the space from a single position, like the viewer’s observation movement upon entering the space. He selects details, which he then combines into a final unified photographic image containing a wealth of information, one that no single still photograph can contain. Thus, in fact, Yairi overcomes the temporal and spatial limitations of conventional photography.
(…)
Yairi’s works, mainly interiors, deconstruct the cohesive space swiftly captured by the eye and the camera. He juxtaposes one image with another, frame with frame, so that the spaces which are mostly small (a room or a section thereof) appear wide and outspread as in David Hockney’s 1980s works, and especially the Grand Canyon series. Hockney creates a photo-collage comprised of a large number of individual photographs laid side by side, so that the landscape reflected in them is panoramic, wide-angled, containing several concurrent viewpoints and perspectives. Hockney thus transforms the landscape and the frozen photograph into something dynamic that conveys the experience of the monumental scope. Yairi, on the other hand, opts, from the outset, for an intimate, domestic space which he deconstructs into hundreds and thousands of images, so that the viewer loses the sense of the small space. Via deconstruction and reconstruction, both artists attempt to address the experience of the space, to photograph the unphotographable and trace the viewer’s movement in the space.”

Raz Samira (To read full article click here)

To see more of Yuval’s work click here

║ Vardi Kahana ║

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© Vardi Kahana, Yael, Safed, from the series One Family 2007

Editorial01

© Vardi Kahana, Tal R, Copenhagen Denmark, from the series One Family 2004

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© Vardi Kahana, Cousin Rina, Groningen, Netherlands, from the series One Family 2004

To see more of Verdi’s work click here

║ Inbal Sivan ║

baroque
© Inbal Sivan, Baroque, 2003

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© Inbal Sivan, Nude, 2007

“Inbal Sivan’s images borrow heavily from traditions in art history, including aspects of the “male gaze.” It entails inactive women looking at some vague point off-camera suggesting that they are not engaged with their audience (or with anything) but rather have appeared, conveniently, to be looked at. Ironically, the art Sivan references in her work has been made almost exclusively by men. The images created by these men are laden with burdens; long-standing conventions of art history, sexual interest and social gender roles. As a female artist, Sivan feels less encumbered by these things. While her awareness of the “traditional” female archetype influences her aesthetic, she takes hold of the freedom to transcend that aspect of art featuring women. For example, in Untitled (Nude), Sivan is in control of all facets of her photograph i.e. posing and placing her model in a contrived setting thus enabling her personal vision of what a portrait or a nude should be: simply a personal investigation of beauty.

Source: Gallery 10G

To see more of Inbal’s work click here