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Yael Katz Ben Shalom | Western Time and Eastern Time


Eastern Time – Western Time

Israeli photographic exhibition

byYael Katz Ben Shalom

Photographing the Israeli landscape is a most political act. Those who do it engage in questions about Israel’s borders, in questions about whose land this is. The artists participating in the present exhibit came out of the 90s. Theirs is a highly critical perspective. They belong to a discourse that includes Israel’s “new historians” whose work is closely related to post-modern ideas. Their intention is to apply a critical gaze to the Israeli place and try to understand it.

What are the visual structures to be found in the urban landscape? How is Israel built? What is the meaning of the pastoral in the context of building in natural settings? What is to be said about ecology? What will the fate of the Israeli desert be? Or the water question? All these issues are connected to structures of place. One can discern the influence of the German photographers, evident in the objectivist views such as those Beacher and of the next generation that was influenced by them such as Ruf, Strut, and Goreski.

For an American example: the new topographers who are engaged in a remapping of the landscape, such as Louis Bultz and Robert Adams. In Israeli aesthetic terms, landscape is seen as romantic, oriental, ideological, and inseparable from the country’s wars. The attitude towards the landscape and towards nature derive from political views and from how one defines the Land of Israel. These photographers take pictures of illegal settlements and of Arab villages. They examine the status of these villages in the ongoing conflict over land. There is a new generation that looks at the land as part of the greater conflict. The present exhibit addresses the urban aspect of the city in Israel.

This is about the fragmentation of Israeli urbanity into several paths: Jerusalem as an ancient place; Tel Aviv and its modernity and its international and Bauhaus styles; the new city of Modi’in; the southern cities that are located in nature, in a desert region, and the questions this raises about the city’s limits and the limits of nature. The photographers develop a critical perspective in which the motto of fragmentation is most significant. This is the fragmentation of the Israeli landscape into parts that can be examined.

This is a process of mental deconstruction. We will deconstruct the landscape as a visual project but will preserve it within the framework of a single photograph. This is a perspective that proposes to develop a critical view that is not tied to a single, monolithic approach, but that seeks to disassemble the place into units and so reveal an architectonic infrastructure.

There is a photographed image here whose deconstruction is to be found in a single picture, the deconstruction of the gaze within it. This is critical work vis-à-vis the environment, guided by the question: How is an environmental construction built? One picture that reveals the structure by which society built its environment. Looking here, at this, is looking with a holistic gaze at the entire landscape.

The gaze comes apart within the photograph. This is not collage, or montage, but a fragmentation of the gaze inward. The photographer shows me how society built the landscape. That is to say – since we’ve already mentioned collage – that society has created a collage based, gaze through which it organizes the environment. The architect created it in a building and the photographer points to it. This is the “there” that speaks to us. Meaning is to be found in it, and in me. This is the objectivist gaze: that is to say, not to show you who I am namely the photographer ,– but to show you the gaze that is directed towards “there.” And this “there” returns a gaze, showing us what it looks like.

The photographer exposes this view in the most objective form possible. This is an act that repudiates the construction of an artistic subjective style, or, as Jameson has said, it is the breakthrough that leads to the end of style in capitalism. A new art is needed that will engage the social-political fabric. Contemporary photography seeks to do this, to act in relation to society and the political. This is the project undertaken by Artneuland. This means to realize the notion of the artist who engages in the social-political sphere. As Jameson argues, that is the new politics of late capitalism.

Engagement in the temporal is an important aspect of the deconstructive process. Time is not one. Jerusalem, for instance, includes in it historical times. In Tel Aviv one finds, in contrast to the past, futuristic perspectives. the new city Modi’in simultaneously presents the future and the past. We live in an age of simultaneity. We move within time with the aid of digital technologies.

Subjectivity fragments as a result of the structural transition. Like a hybrid. Subjectivity is hybrid and structure by means of nature. If the relationship between West and East in the twentieth century was one of orientalism, hybridization has today changed that equation. Now West and East are encompassed in each other. There is no separation. Thus, too, religiosity and secularism are united. Tradition and progress are united.

// Octocer 2006
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