Thursday, September 29, 2011

Violent Beauty: Operatically-Tinged Photographs of Ori Gersht

Israeli photographer Ori Gersht was born in 1967. He is a professor of photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Rochester, Kent, England. One particular series he produced that has extraordinary beauty: "The large-scale photographs entitled Blow Up 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. 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’. 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] A brief biography of the photographer and few more photos are after the jump.

"Ori Gersht engages the grand themes of life, death, violence, and beauty. His photographs and films of the past two decades transcribe images of sites of historical significance—the Judean Desert, Sarajevo, Auschwitz, the Galicia region of Ukraine, the Lister Route in the Pyrenees (on which Walter Benjamin made his ill-fated exodus from Nazi-occupied France)—into ciphers of psychological disruption. Such scenes may not seem out of the ordinary unto themselves, but, through the artist’s focused attention and treatment they evoke the emotional resonance of what has transpired—most often, violence, and, more significantly, the ghosts of war’s most egregious detritus, its refugees. Pervasive in Gersht’s work is the landscape—as a place, an idea, and an art historical trope. His films and photographs may be compared to paintings in their display—from their unhindered access (no Plexiglas separates their surfaces from the viewer) to the frames surrounding the monitors on which the films often play. Moreover, the vistas and horizons of, for instance, Between Places (1998-2000), White Noise (1999-2000), The Clearing/Liquidation (2005), and Evaders (2009), recall Romantic depictions of the sublime. They conjure precedents in both photography, such as the breathtaking vistas of Andreas Gursky and the landscapes of the American south by Sally Mann, and painting, by J.M.W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, and even Mark Rothko. In his art historical still life series Gersht investigated the relationships between photography, technology and optical perception, at a pivotal moment in the history of photography where digital technology both threatens a crisis and promises a breakthrough. Research into the early history of the medium of photography is brought together with theoretical discourse, creating, still image and films that (literally) explode the genre of still life, the beautiful and destructive results captured using cutting-edge technology. In Pomegranate, a film that references Juan Sanchez Cotan’s seventeenth-century still life and Harold Edgerton’s stroboscopic photography, a high velocity bullet flies across the frame in slow motion and obliterates a suspended pomegranate, bursting it open and wheeling it slowly into the air like a smashed violated mouth spraying seeds. A peaceful image is transformed into bloodshed, and a dialogue is established between stillness and motion, peace and violence. Gersht’s photographs and films provide a meditation on life, loss, destiny and chance. Allusions to the catastrophic violence of the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the bombing of Hiroshima, and the suicide bombs that Gersht anticipated during his childhood in Israel can all be found in this work. As such, it reminds us of our past, present, and future, and, above all, the fragility of life itself." [Source]