Frequently referencing art history, Ori Gersht's imagery is uncannily beautiful; the viewer is visually seduced before being confronted with darker and more complex themes, presenting a compulsive tension between beauty and violence. This has included an exploration of his own family’s experiences during the Holocaust, a series of post-conflict landscapes in Bosnia and a celebrated trilogy of slow-motion films in which traditional still lives explode on screen. In his evocative and innovative films and photographs, Ori Gersht weds the past and the present. With the latest technology he takes a discerning look at multiple histories and the ways they are communicated: histories that have shaped his own identity and helped define the state of contemporary society. Gersht's images, with sources ranging from 19th century still life painting to the Holocaust, reveal the links between history and memory, creation and destruction, and beauty and violence while exploring the passage of time.
BioOri Gersht was born in Israel in 1967, but has lived in London for over 20 years. Throughout his career his work has been concerned with the relationships between history memory and landscape. He often adopts a poetic, metaphorical approach to explore the difficulties of visually representing conflict and violent events or histories. Gersht approaches this challenge not simply through his choice of imagery, but by pushing the technical limitations of photography, questioning its claim to truth.
On Air: Ori GershtThe ikono On Air Festival is showing three of Ori Gersht's films: Falling Bird (2008) Courtesy of Mummery+Schnelle Gallery, CRG Gallery, Noga Gallery, Brand New Gallery, Angles Gallery 'Falling Bird', is based on Chardin's still life painting titled ‘A Mallard Drake Hanging on a Wall and a Seville Orange’. The film reveal a hanging mallard, suddenly free-falling towards a mirror like black surface, collapsing into its own reflection. On impact the bird penetrates the liquid surface and in doing so triggers an epic chain reaction, reminiscent of a geological disaster. The film is part of a body of still life works, which are related to seminal old masters paintings. In these works, Gersht explores relationships between pho-tography and technology, revisiting fundamental philosophical conundrums concerning optical perception, conceptions of time and the relationships between the photographic image and objective reality. Excerpt The film 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 master-pieces. Yet they are distanced due to the instantaneous digital process which translates 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 harddrive 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 body of work 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. Big Bang (2001) Courtesy of Mummery+Schnelle Gallery, CRG Gallery, Noga Gallery, Brand New Gallery, Angles Gallery In Big Bang, Gersht explores relationships between photography/film and technology, revisiting fundamental philosophical conundrums concerning op-tical perception, conceptions of time and the relationship between the photo-graphic image and objective reality. The film depict and explosion of an elaborate floral arrangements based upon 17th century Dutch still life paintings. Dependent upon the advanced techno-logy the film depict an event that was 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 technological devices, is what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconsciousness’ in his seminal essay ‘A Short History of Photography’. Excerpt Gersht´s film allude to the inherent shadow of death and decay hanging over old master still life and vanitas paintings, complete with moths hovering above the explosions. Technology has aided Gersht in creating contemporary versions of frozen life, bringing the concerns of still life masters into a contemporary context. By basing his film and photographs upon paintings within the long-established art historical tradition of still life painting, Gersht draws attention to the painterly nature of his work, which closely resemble these paintings. Flowers, which often symbolize 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 and film 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. Extracts from Big Bang at Times Square, April 2012 Dew (2001) Courtesy of Mummery+Schnelle Gallery, CRG Gallery, Noga Gallery, Brand New Gallery, Angles Gallery The video was filmed in the Negev Desert, the camera was stationary, and the entire film was created in a single shot. While filming a Bedouin camp I realised that the viewing was obstructed, when turning the camera to an auto focus mode, I figured out that the obstruction was caused by condensation of dew drops on the lens. Since the camera was focusing on itself the dew drops were sharp in focus. I filmed the process of evaporation ( over 2 hours, which were later compressed to a 4.5 minutes film). When the lens finally cleared up, the camera automatically shifted it’s focus of attention to the background ( the Bedouin camp and the landscape). The transition in this film is very slow, while watching, the viewer is unable to detected the temporal changes, however, at the end, when the film loops on itself the viewer is becoming aware of the visual journey. Apart of its political and geographical evocation, the film is exploring the relationships and tensions between the still and the moving image.
Links- Book by Al Miner: History Repeating - New York Times: Beauty, Tender and Fleeting, Amid History’s Ire - Guardian: War - X-tra: Ori Gersht - Lost in Timeblossoms into art: Ori Gersht at the Imperial War Museum – in pictures - "Ori Gersht". Information Center for Israeli Art. Israel Museum. - Art of Ori Gersht at Europeana. - Ori Gersht at the Noga Gallery
VideosHistory Repeating: A Conversation with Artist Ori Gersht and Curator Al Miner On the occasion of his first major survey exhibition, Ori Gersht: History Repeating at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (August 28 - January 6 2012), Gersht and exhibition curator Al Miner discussed Gersht's evolving body of work and the diverse threads of history woven throughout his oeuvre. With a special introduction by Norman Kleeblatt, Chief Curator of The Jewish Museum. In the Artist's Words: Ori Gersht on Violence and Beauty Ori Gersht: This Storm is What We Call Progress Artist's insight: Ori Gersht | Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present Artist Ori Gersht talks about his book "History Repeating" Ori Gersht: History Repeating published by Lund Humphries in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is the most comprehensive survey of the photographs, films, and videos of the Israeli-born artist to date. This richly illustrated book presents the best of Gersht's achingly beautiful work and explores how he intertwines spectacles of painterly and narrative imagery with personal and collective memory.