Consistency, convergence, innovation and constant renewal are among the most fundamental qualities in any artist’s creative life. Nir Evron who works in photography, video and film installations can be counted among the younger generation of Israeli artists endowed with such qualities. Through his complex, innovating and investigative approach he not only looks, but observes, reexamines and interprets through a multi-faceted creative arsenal. While exploring the boundaries of the medium his photographs stimulate a new and deeper examination of the images he creates forcing the viewer to rethink the medium’s status through the visual and intellectual challenges he presents.
Evron’s creations seems to fit Marcel Proust’s description of the function of art: “By art alone we are able to get outside ourselves, to know what another sees of this universe which for him is not ours, the landscapes of which would remain as unknown to us as those of the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists as there are, so many worlds are at our disposal, differing more widely from each other than those which roll round the infinite…This labor of the artist to discover a means of apprehending beneath matter and experience, beneath words, something different from their appearance, is of an exactly contrary nature to the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit.” (From In Search of Lost Time - Vol. VII: The Past Recaptured, 1927)
Evron’s works which could be called figurative abstracts are the result of expert manipulation. Like an illusionist he confuses our senses. However his actions are evident and they reveal to the viewer the codes to decipher and understand the alterations of the image. As illusions, his fabricated photographs carry spectral qualities that remind of the widespread practice of spirit photography in the 19th century. The images of so called ghosts or spirits were a gross manipulation of the public's credulity and the belief that a photographs reflect absolute reality.
In his work history and memory are combined in single images that remain largely hermetic. As a historian/researcher (his work is always based on extensive research) he transforms the past into present before our eyes and yet, instead of disclosing evidence and unfolding the plot, his stories play tricks on the viewer’s imagination and deceives his established values and preconceptions. From the phenomenological angle in Evron’s works the appearance does not match reality and the fundamental empirical knowledge of the viewer, as he cannot form a meaning deriving from understanding. In the same pattern the viewer is forced to adopt a different mode of consciousness unfamiliar to him and in the impossibility to form the required phenomenological intentionality.
His images instill in us new memories totally different than the historic facts lived or remembered, thus confuse our senses through unrealistic and impossible multi-layered representations. Unrelated to personal or collective memory and in dialogue with almost all media in art and history Evron's photographs distance themselves from the conventional modes of direct representation and expression, which he finds unsatisfactory. Saying so he seems to join cinematographer Abel Gance who declared that reality is not sufficient. His images do not depict the reality or a reality. They have no connection to the real world, as by using elements and aspects of the "real" world he creates new fictional veracities that more a historic meditation on the moving image and the relationship between cinema and photography. The work is based on nine of the eleven episode politically militant film created in 1899 by French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès (1861-1938) and depicting selected scenes from the Dreyfus affair. Convinced of Dreyfus’ innocence Méliès conceived the movie and went as far as playing the part of Dreyfus’ lawyer Fernand Labori.
The use of existing films is not new to Evron’s mode of action like in his earlier video Revisiting Lawrence (2008) in which he added cross-dissolve transitions on all the edit points in David Lean’s 1962 epic film Lawrence of Arabia. However in this new work the cinematic sequence is abstracted to barely recognizable images where the still backgrounds retain a resemblance while the “action” registers as a series of superimposed ghost appearances. These films act for Evron as objets trouvés, just as in earlier practices like Man Ray’s invented movies in which there was extensive use of common objects and artifacts, yet the final result was unpredictable and relied on chance.
In Dreyfus/Méliès Evron projected the film and photographed one by one all individual frames of the film’s episodes and subsequently superimposed them in single prints each representing one episode. The resulting images retain few recognizable features of the scene yet blurs the action and the narrative. Compressing the cinematic sequence into one single frame becomes equivalent to compressing time, which creates a visual fold in the continuum of time, and image that contains all yet discloses nothing. Time is a relatively simple concept that is rather difficult to visualize or conceptualize. In Evron’s case it becomes a philosophical meditation on the relationship of the two abstract ideas of time and image resulting in one object/picture: the final photographic print.
Traditionally photography is commonly considered as the medium dedicated to capturing the external and superficial appearance of things. In other words, it documents an existing tangible reality, a world that is and conveys the fascination of abstracting the three-dimensional world into flat resemblances. While the medium by its very nature eliminates the third dimension, Nir Evron in this series eliminates the fourth dimension too: the cinematic time.
The combination of two narratives: the time based narrative of the film and the direct and still, timeless narrative of the photographic image is akin to revisiting history (as part of the artistic practice and creative arsenal) and flattening it into a unique cell. Evron compressed the moving time based narrative into a semi abstract still image that contains all of the events and actions in the filmic sequences thus creating a new visual entity. Film was the direct sequel to photography. Through the creative artistic and intellectual action Evron reverted the process and collapsed back the cinematic work in to its originating medium. The resulting work challenges the viewer and forces him to reconstruct a new and different narrative through his imagination. In his unique images a whole sequence and series of actions and movements simultaneously coexist and compose a new visual order which is equivalent to reducing history into one single word or sentence. Yet one has to remember that traditional film is but a fallacy of movement transmitted through a sequence of still images. It is as if Evron transformed the film strip into a Möbius strip where there is no beginning or end in a recurring continuous flow ad infinitum.
The second series titled Composite (2013) are four images of camouflage nets. Individually titled as Woodland, Jungle, Pacific, Desert and Ocean they correlate to the environments they are supposedly meant to conceal. Apparently straightforward photographs, they are based on real nets Evron cut up, scanned and then rearranges and composed using digital software. These new entities he reconstructed digitally are no doubt part of his ingenious artistic processes. They create apparent illusions, deceptive yet compelling visual statements. The viewer is left wondering whether these camouflage nets do or can hide anything or not. Whether they are simple visual decoys not hiding a reality but the artist’s deeper intentions.
The fact that Evron settled for only four images in this series while he could have created concealments for innumerable objects or situations testify to his artistic economy, restraint and control in elaborating a theme and a concept without repeating himself endlessly. Thus, the works remain essentially an illustration of an idea rather than a representation of tangible realities. Each image tells a fictional story in which the viewer is asked to imagine a non-existent reality and the possibilities of concealing them.
Finally the series Threshold (2015) one of Evron's latest projects is a sequence of composite images of the future city of Rawabi, a new and extensive housing project north of Ramallah in Palestine and sheds light on his relationship with architecture. Not free of political opinions it depicts a utopian new environment in the difficult reality of the Palestinian state. Although the subject matter is modern housing and apartment buildings of a new standard the images he created are chaotic and confusing and point to a new situation in impossible conditions.
Placed in context, the new town of Rawabi with its modern planning could be considered as a utopian project in the history of the Palestinian people. Evron’s new photographs are a sequel to an earlier “visit” to this environment when he created a cameraless 16mm film Endurance (2014) based on the architectural plans and space measurements of the new apartments. This black and white film shows simple graphic representations, abstract shapes such as rectangles that symbolize architectural elements and furniture. Using a simple conversion formula he adopted the artist transformed the metric measurements of each object and space into cinematic slices of time: the length of a wall for instance became the length of a filmic sequence creating thus a different space/time relationship.
The stills in Threshold replace the simple abstract geometrical forms of the film with actual photographic images of the spaces and structures of the buildings. Through a series of multiple exposures, where chance also played a major role, he superposed spaces, planes and angles of view resulting in multi-vision images that combine an array of different realities into one visual entity. In these unnatural architectural representations of Rawabi the abundance of layers and the mix of indoor and outdoor views in one single image, where some of the elements have a ghostly presence, create hallucinatory effects that take the viewer off-guard and disrupts the normal process of reading the images. This confusing uncertainty he created forces a different mode of deciphering the photographs, as the sum total of the parts in it impose a new and impossible reality. The images suggest a quasi-surrealist Esherian unresolved reality that cannot exist but in Evron's creations. They seem to be like multi-screen projections merging and blurring views on the border of early science fiction.
In conclusion, in an era when attitudes to photography have undergone a radical shift and historians, curators, artists and photographic practitioners are re-examining the older forms and practices of the medium Evron's contemporary artistic approach and exercise is attuned to these changes and also deeply philosophical. His investigation of the traditional photographic technologies and imagery point to two different things. First, to the simple relationship that produces a resemblance of a reality which is not necessarily an exact copy of the real but replaces it, and second, to the set of procedures that create what we call art: the alteration of resemblances. The three series of recent works presented in this exhibition have no doubt many elements in common. Considering the ensemble it could be summarized as being the result of an interpretive materialistic absolutism of the artist since they offer totally new visions based on a material external world propelled, through his operations, into subjective new objects. While still maintaining a certain correlation to the external/real world they deny the Kantian concept of knowledge of the existence of things. In fact, as often in art, Evron creates the unthinkable and as Proust wrote he makes the viewer see the universe through the eyes and thought of someone else – the artist.
When facing Evron’s images and considering their singularity and objectivity one is forced to ask not only what history they document but also which memories they decant as all together they constitute series of complex temporal knots.
Dr. Nissan N. Perez