Uri Gershuni, Nir Evron, Miki Kratsman | Time After Time
Miki Kratsman told me about him being a photography technician. He continued and specified he used to work in medical photography. I think his point was that the technical aspect never left him, and in fact had become pivotal to his work in the sense that photography could be thought of as a practicum, as continuous time, as a procedural occupation – collecting, sorting, cataloguing. As I listened I immediately, thought of literature in general, and W. G. Sebald especially, in the context of his, Nir Evron’s and Uri Gershuni’s works. All three of them are not only photo technicians but are also technicians of photography. All three of them are “Sebalds”. Sebald’s books (rather than his stories) are some of the most essential books written by authors. Books for knowledgeable readers. This to say, each one of them is a workshop of a resourceful practice. His protagonists, like him, perform in many dimensions (widely, deeply, backwards), just to step forward. Time, nevertheless, is critical; but not necessarily in its inerrant hastiness to rush ahead. In Sebald’s books, time is coordinated, existing in a stretch of space. Some coordinates are important to linger on, others are not. Sebald’s “time” is the understanding of the inability to grasp it. An understanding of a subject’s inability to truly present itself. Consequently, to this predetermined failure, Sebald provides his books and protagonists with an indication mechanism; an ability to identify and to draw from a collection of details, and for one glorious moment, a second before they will vaporize into oblivion, to allow these details to illuminate, to be a part of a subjectivity, even faded one.
Miki Kratsman‘s images at the exhibition are taken from his Facebook page (Miki Kratsman: People I Met); Kratsman “cuts” portraits of non-combatants in the occupied territories from his photographic archive, and uploads them to his “page”. ‘What has become of them?’ He asks his Facebook audience. The answers vary; some of these non-combatants have already died: wanted, by-passers, shot with precision (target killings) by employing some of the most advanced military technology that differentiates between one and the other, or in any other conflict-related situation. Some of them are still among us. Kratsman’s politics are there, of course. But Kratsman’s course has additional motives. To my knowledge, Kratsman is writing a story about ‘representation’ and its fate. I use the word fate for a good reason. ‘Happened’ is a word that could mediate the banal next to the tragedy. Indeed, while bearing in mind the objectives in the photographs, it is photography in a violent and difficult place. The photographs are ‘bad’, ‘cutout’, ‘taken by’, and ‘pasted on’. They are kind of an insult to the sharp and bright fetishism of photography as we know it. Kratsman points out to a fictitious subjectivity. These are classic ‘missing persons’ photographs; those that are pointed at, carelessly at times; a partially erased inventory list. The portraits, of people living or dead, are individually a world of its own for their relatives, yet nothing to those who want them dead. Kratsman brings this dissonance to his Facebook page. This results in a softer appearance on the one hand, while reveals the poignance on the other. Facebook, if you will, is the tool-box, the workshop. These are the boundaries of his territory; his space allowance. Facebook is “cool”, quick, clean, electronic. What does Facebook has to do with Shahids? How can one draw an analogy between a ‘Bullet to the head’ and Facebook ‘Likes’? Or, in other words- who, or what, do I like when I ‘Like’ a picture of a wanted man on Kratsman’s Facebook? And what does this entire colonialist Facebook issue have to do with the horrible life under occupation? These questions do not deal with sentimentality whatsoever. They are precisely what they are: questions that arise from representation, regarding the culture of representation and the ever-growing distance between ‘life’ and us.
We are not supposed to see camouflage nets, surely- it is what they are made for! To remain unnoticed, until it is too late; until the tip of a gun barrel appears, until the trap has been activated and we find ourselves dangling in a net from a branch in a thick jungle. The distance between the moment of discovery and the outcome is almost non-existent. There is no reaction time. They are intertwined. Camouflage nets operate as part of a whole fabric. Should they appear like a jungle, a dessert, snow. They need ‘x’ parts of a whole to create an illusion; to enable the hidden to stay hid. They are meant to assimilate; to conceal the cracks between nature and culture. And so, there is something pathetic about a camouflage net without anything to camouflage. Stretched without reason, or rolled tightly. As mentioned, it is a subversion against any narrated possibility. It is advised to differentiate between a plot and suspension. A plot requires time and progression. Suspense can be the by-product of a narrative, but not necessarily. I believe suspense can just exist on its own. It is an intriguing paradox; a fundamental essence of matter (suspense). Perhaps the kind we never notice its existence, until we experience it. However, would it remain suspenseful? Evron understands the difference between storytelling and a good book. This choice, of a camouflage net camouflaging itself, a net without a nature to relate to, and nothing to hide from a watching eye, is a precise choice to eliminate the omniscient narrator; the choice to try the possibility of a firsthand experience, a witty choice that allows photography to evade from the burden of the ‘narrative’, yet stay political, poetic, narcissistic and yet generous.
Perhaps Lot’s wife just took a quick glance over her shoulder. `She could not resist’ they shall say later. ‘You see, the body moves forward, away from the event. I am not there anymore’ she mumbled to herself. `The gaze is a remote control, nothing more. It will fade eventually anyway. In any case, it is only an etching tool for a hazy memory: a memory that will be made by the growing distance between my body and the occurring event, into just a ‘good story’’. So, on she goes, with her back to the fire that probably cast her shadows in front of her. And then, a moment before she crosses the ridge and disappears into the valley behind it, she turns her chin few centimeters over her shoulder, as much as the spine allows. Just enough for the eye to catch a glimpse, just enough for the brain to process. A slight motion, not unintentional, and it is just sufficient for her body to harden, with no time to comprehend; to instantly turn into a pillar of salt. Past, present and future are imprisoned; her time is, paradoxically, eternalized. After her unsuccessful attempt to unify it (forward she went, backward she looked), she turned into a mass in space, a wasted potential energy. I can imagine Gershuni asking his models: ‘Can you become Lot’s wife for a moment?’ It makes me laugh because this look over the shoulder of a certain subject has a seductive, playful, incidental nature. So it seems. This is a surprised gaze of someone who turned their head as a reaction to a touch of a hand or a voice. Not enough to turn the entire body, but certainly a gaze. It is not the gaze, in Gershuni’s photographs, of someone staring into the fire of hell. One may say “it is just a reference”. However, that is not the case. This reference puts Gershuni’s project in a historical context; a possibility to notice the depth of his research and the abundance of his findings; to point out ‘photography’ as more than a moment in time, but rather a continuum.
Rembrandt’s painting ‘Anatomy Lesson’, that appears as a reproduction in Sebald’s book ‘The Rings of Saturn’, depitcs a scene of a doctor’s guild performing an autopsy. Those paying attention will find that the doctors bending over the dead body are actually examining the anatomy book on the bedside rather than the body. Sebald is directing our attention to the subject’s annulment in the face of science. Indeed, but not solely. The use of the Rembrandt’s reproduction enables Sebald to extend the literary boundaries; this photograph of a painting which depicts an open book, and its use as a platform for visual examination, is transformed into a modernist and moral argument. This is, by all means, a long stretch of the complexity of life as a representation. Be it a painting, photograph, story or book. This is the understanding of the essence of mediation. And this is, I believe, the understanding that Evron, Gershuni and Kratsman are sharing.
Text: Danny Yahav-Brown
Uri Gershuni (born 1970), lives and works in Tel Aviv. Gershuni holds a BFA and MFA from the Departments of Photography and Fine Arts, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Recipient of the Israel’s Minister of Culture ‘Art Encouragement’ Award (2012), and the Young Photographer Award, Haifa Museum of Art (2005). Gershuni participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Israel and abroad.
Nir Evron (born 1974), lives and works in Tel Aviv. He completed a BFA degree at The Photography Department in Bezalel Academy of Art and an MFA degree in Media Art at the Slade School of Art, London. He has exhibited extensively in Israel and abroad in museums, festivals, biennales and galleries among them the 6th Berlin Biennale, MARCO Vigo, The Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv, 25 FPS in Zagreb, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and PhotoEspana in Madrid. On 17.05.13, Evron will present his work “A Free Moment” at the ICP triennial. He was awarded The Ostrovsky Family Fund Award at the (2011), the Israel’s Minister of Culture ‘Art Encouragement’ Award (2011), the Shmuel Givon Award from the Tel Aviv Museum (2008), Israel’s Minister of Culture award for a young artist (2007).
Miki Kratsman (born 1959) in Argentina, immigrated to Israel in 1971. His photographs were regularly published in the Israeli daily newspaper “Haaretz” in the rubric “The Twilight Zone” in collaboration with journalist Gideon Levy. Since 2006 he presides as head of the photography department of Bezalel academy of arts, Jerusalem. Kratsman exhibits consistently in Israel and throughout the world, amongst them are: the Venice biennale; the 2006 Sao Paulo Biennale and MARCO, Vigo, Spain; the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Santiago, Chile; Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Witte de With, Rotterdam; La Virreina Image Centre, Barcelona; MUSAC Museum, Leon. He is the recipient of the Emet Prize for Science, Art and Culture (2011), and the fifth recipient of the Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University 2011.
Gallery Talk with the participation of Nir Evron, Uri Gershuni and Miki Kratsman, 24.05.2013