by Vatsala SethiSep 21, 2022
The harmony found in nature has made it an uncontested fond subject in the artworks of a variety of art movements. An extension of this, the flowers and fruits could not escape the canvas of still-life painting or the film of a photograph. The multiple metaphors – magnificence, recreation, and oneness – clung to the flora could explain the frequency with which creative minds have contemplated it as the embodiment of the life experiences. British-Israeli photographer and video artist, Ori Gersht, uses the elements from nature to revisit the personal histories, only to represent a distorted view of nature. Unlike the thriving perfection of the Dutch still life painting or Romantic landscape, the flowers and fruits of Gersht’s photography and video work capture the intensity of the moment of breakage.
The photo series Fragile Land is focused on the flowers available in Israel, which are on the road to extinction. The flowers, carrying both Israeli and European cultural histories, through the choreographed studio session were made to explode from a bullet fired from a customised air rifle. Tracing the historical, political and ideological value associated with the flowers such as cyclamen, Iris Atropurpurea, and The Madonna Lily, the series relooks at the event what the British artist mentions it in an interview with STIR, “The program was developed in Israel, a particular ideological initiative, to translate the names of the flowers from Latin to Hebrew names. In addition to that, people were encouraged to go to the bed of flowers and to pick those in an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the flowers, the land and its citizens. Over the years, pastime activity became so popular that the flower became endangered.” However, this intimate exercise instilled a need to draw an environmental or ecological responsibility towards nature, in a way it also invigorated the sense of belonging to a place, which goes beyond the particular narrative of ‘a’ land.
The contemplative works of the modernist Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, known for still life paintings, for Gersht is open to be exploited to visually talk about the violence and destruction in the series Evertime. The photographer commissioned crafted replicas of the vessels and bottles regularly found in Morandi’s paintings. Against the orchestrated settings, he leads the destruction of vessels and bottles with fire from the air rifle, and at the same time records that moment with a camera. The idealist world dotted with harmony fails to find refuge in Gersht works.
The duality with which peace and disruption are captured in the imagery of Fragile Land hints at the stubborn gaps that lie between the two realities- geological time and human time. Gersht’s photographs are an attempt at capturing the reality of the non-absolute, to talk about it through the power of digital photography and its inability to capture a time gone by, Gersht says, “My work explores the relationship between the present and the past. So, when I travel to a certain place and look at the landscape with some historical knowledge of it, I see this gap between human history and its beauty.”
He continues to add, “As a photographer, I often refer to three historical moments or three revolutions in the discipline of photography. First, the scientific revolution belongs to the 17th century. The second belongs to the 19th century, which is called the Industrial Revolution. And currently, we are in the middle of the technological revolution. What is interesting about each one of these revolutions is that it changed the way we perceive the outside world. Since the invention of photography, it has always played a significant role in capturing and recording historical events in an indisputable way. A photograph can capture a moment in a grid with great accuracy.” But as a photographer, Gersht is interested to know about the gaps that lie between “what was there” and “what it is now”? This is what he tries to explore especially with his landscape photography.
The series Floating World was created when Gersht visited Japan and photographed the Zen gardens of Kyoto. The sites of meditation and serenity are manifestations of both real and metaphysical spaces which traverse through the “utopian ideal and an everyday reality”. He selected a particular spot at the location where the natural forms are sharply reflected in the water. To add complexity to the world of perception and absorption, at the stage of the post-production, Gersht fuses the reflection with the reflected objects. The original photograph is inverted to oversee the coming together of material and virtual realities. The Floating World, as the title suggests, opens the world of multiple realities to let the viewers seep into the works in an effort to understand the many possibilities of a single representation.
Gersht elucidates on his attempt to “communicate the fragility of our being, the thought of desperate relationships that exist between destruction and creation, between consumption and regeneration.” What catches the attention of the viewers towards Gersht’s work is the moment of the tension that borders on the creation and the destruction without pressing upon the lopsided view of the two extremes.