Surface / Area / Volume
The group exhibition Surface / Area / Volume seeks to examine an artistic phenomenon that becomes increasingly common in recent years: works of photography that stray from the two-dimensional photographic medium and ask to reconnect it to the three-dimensional world.
Since its invention, photography has been characterized by flatness: the photographed picture is always presented to us on a surface, whether it is a photographic paper, plexiglass, metal, some kind of screen or projected on a wall. The photographic image combines layers of material, physical and three-dimensional reality, all of which fuse to the same plain, clinging to one another and producing a flattened record of reality.
Regarding this, alongside other technological developments that allow the creation of images almost out of nothing, various photographers wish to bring back the medium to its material infrastructure. The three photographers participating in the exhibition seek to stretch the familiar boundaries of photography and reexamine the relationship between flattened documentation and its physical origin, between the levelled paper and the realistic space, between the two-dimensional product of the camera and the possibility of the image becoming an object again. They take various methods of documenting, disassembling, reattaching, and repositioning their photographs in such a way that make the photographic works become real physical environments.
The light installation by Shiran Yitzhari, Death Comes Even to Stones and Names, follows the outline of an architectural structure that no longer exists: the Khoury house in Hafia, built by Salim Khoury in the beginning of the 20th century, and where his family lived, until it was sold and then rented to the Palestine Railways. The building was damaged during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and afterwards by fire until eventually it was demolished, and a new building was erected instead, known today as Hanevi’im Tower. The silhouette of Khoury house, that Yitzhari created using old photographs of the building, is projected onto another of her work, Site, a wall made of plaster decorated with concaved elements, reminiscent of the curved windows of the building. The old building, which is no longer there, is surrounded in another projection of a larger silhouette, that of the Nevi’im Tower. The tower, built during the ’80s as a modern, luxurious office tower, stands today almost empty, most of its floors unoccupied and it has been slowly abandoned in favour of newer buildings constructed through the city.
Through the projection on the walls, Yitzhari seeks to examine the photographic mechanism and decipher it in light of the sculptural aspect in several levels: First, the creation of the arched shapes in the plaster wall, which resemble the windows of the old Khoury house, constitute a kind of sculptural negative - A mould, to which materials can be poured in order to produce the volumetric sculpture. The concept of the negative in analogue photography works similarly: in order to produce the photographs, the negative - the film itself - must be used, on which the image is obtained in colours that are opposite to reality. The process of developing the film and projecting it on the photographic paper brings back the original colours to life, just as casting the material into the mould is intended to produce the ‘original’ sculpture as an object that occupies a real place in the world.
The photographic action of Yitzhari is almost metaphorical: she has no need for a real camera here, since the two buildings are documented and recognized, and there is no need for additional documentation in order to become familiar with their form. Moreover, while photography is freezing one particular moment in time, Yitzhari captures several layers of time and process in her work: the two combined projections point to two different moments in time that occur in a linear sequence, one after the other; Aalongside this, the screening also offers the possibility of seeing the projections as a simultaneous existence of history and the present, since the projected images appear intertwined at any given moment. In this way, the work of Yitzhari preserves a certain collective memory, but it also reveals its current existence.
Untitled (Abigail), the large-scale work by Mati Elmaliach, is a concise example of the practice that characterizes his work, which deals with the dissolution and re-integration of portrait and landscape photographs. In a Xerox print that is adapted to the gallery wall, Elmaliach spreads a well-known Israeli landscape of a beach strip. On top of the local landscape is a fragmented, disrupted portrait of a woman: the old photograph - taken from the artist's mother's collection of photographs kept for years in a shoebox - crumbles into square pieces placed on wooden blocks. The dismantled photograph appears before us like a blocks tower, presenting itself at multiple angles that fail to unite into a coherent, uniform identity. Documented in the old photograph, is the face of Abigail Abergil, a friend of the family who grew up alongside the artist’s mother in the transit camp (Ma’abara) in the Krayot area. The dissolution of the portrait seeks to point to processes of undermining and obscuring the identity of the new immigrants who arrived in Israel during those years, and placing her picture against the background of the sea seems to indicate her stubborn attempt to plant herself in the heart of the Israeli landscape and to belong to it at any cost. Her shattered image, formed only partially from fragments of the image, is also devoid of eyes: her eyes do not appear anywhere on the cubes, and their absence hints at the process of identity erasure and hiding the cultural and traditional roots that many immigrants experienced.
In a different work, hanging on the back wall, Elmalaich is allowing us a peek to another portrait who is visible to the viewers through a cluster of convex and concave mirrors. The image - an acquaintance of the artist's family - is placed in a wooden box, similar to the jewellery boxes that were common in the past. The box hangs in front of us so that we can’t look at the picture itself, which faces the wall, but only through its reflection in the square mirrors facing it, echoing in their shape the cubes that deconstruct Abigail's portrait.
In his works, Elmaliach uses both existing photographs, such as the portraits in the exhibition, and images he himself produces, such as the landscape image that forms the background to Abigail's disjointed portrait. Through the materiality of Xerox printing and linking it to tangible objects such as the wall and the cubes, and through the use of the box and mirrors, Elmaliach seeks to recreate the images as elements of sustenance and place in the physical space. Like Yitzhari's work, here too the play between the flattened photograph and its three-dimensional position raises questions about memory, history, and convergence of the layers of time.
The work of Irit Tamari consists of photographic papers on which a photo of one of the gallery walls was printed. Toward the exhibition, Tamari documented one of the inner walls of the gallery, which is covered with Jerusalem stone. The stones of the wall are well-dressed, cut and particularly flattened so that they can adhere to the building and provide it with appropriate cover. In her sculptural installation, Tamari seems to want to revive the rocky material as it was before it underwent a metamorphosis and was placed on the wall. The photographs she took are printed on photographic paper, from which she creates sculptures that deviate from the shape and artificial texture imposed on the stones. In her work, the smooth stone slabs become rounded and jagged, folded in a variety of shapes, gaining volume and emerging from the wall. Some of these photographed stones stand as piles of bricks in the space, while some are attached to the wall itself: the photographic paper that documents the wall looks as if it emerges directly from its genuine origin, stretches the texture of the stone into the gallery space and deceives us due to its flat-volume quality, its simultaneous existence as an image and as a three-dimensional object.
The term Surface Area / Volume is borrowed from the world of exact sciences, where there are different formulas for calculating the ratio between the surface area of certain forms and the amount of volume that those shapes occupy in space. This relationship, between surface and volume, is embodied in the work of the three photographers by their reference to the concept of the area as a given space. Through projection, dissolution, cutting and various manipulations applied to the flatness of photography, each seeks to create a physical place, a volumetric image that has the right to exist in a three-dimensional world. It is the complex play between documentation and presence, visual and tactile, and memory and the present that shapes the place through photography - and gives it the right to exist, both as a surface and as a volume.
 “Mors etiam saxis nominibusque venit” – “Death comes even to stones and names”. Quoted from Decimus Magnus Ausonius: Epitaphia 31: De Nomine Cuiusdam Lucii Sculpto in Marmore. London 1919-1921, vol. 1, p. 159.