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Measure for Measure

Curators: Drorit Gur Arie & Hila Cohen-Schneiderman

13/2/14 - 26/4/14

 In her seminal essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" (1978), Rosalind Krauss discusses the expansion of the category of sculpture "to include just about anything." Nevertheless, Krauss goes on to argue, the medium has its own particularities, its conceptual and historical foundation which may be given to interpretation, yet is not open to change, and is inseparable from the logic of the monument.1 A similar expanded-expanding process may be traced with regard to the field of photography today, eliciting the question: What singles photography out vis-à-vis its expansion into other mediums, as artists/photographers employ the rudiments of the photographic language or the principles setting it in motion, but the outcome of these endeavors is not necessarily a photograph.2 The questions preoccupying today's photographers pertain not only to the object of photography, or to the camera or print format, but to the very conditions spawning photography: the technological-chemical conditions, e.g. light, time, perspective, and substance, as well as the political and economic conditions which subordinate photographers to certain geographical and conceptual territories. The ostensibly-spatial question: "From where do we look," now becomes a fundamental medial question manifested in diverse material forms.
In her essay "Photography," Ariella Azoulay relates to the need to shift our attention from the technological discussion which characterized the philosophy of photography over the years, toward the ontological, maintaining that "in the contemporary era, when the means of photography are in the reach of so many, photography always constitutes a potential event, even in cases where the camera is invisible or when it is not present at all. […] In some cases, it is not even necessary for the camera to be present in order for it to influence people and to organize the relations between them."3 While Azoulay lingers on the way in which the camera disciplines our lives even when it is not physically present, one might explore the options introduced when the photograph itself, the outcome of the photographic event, is absent; when the result of the encounter between photographer, subject, camera, and spectator is not a photograph, but rather a representation which, although flattened, still seeks to present itself all around. Photography's tendency to expand beyond the photograph calls upon us to examine how its basic concepts function within this expanded field.
"Measure for Measure" is, thus, an exhibition of contemporary photographers, although it features mainly sculptural objects, and only scarce photographs. It positions itself between the aforesaid intra-photographic reflections and a contemplation of "action photography" as a continuation of "action painting" introduced by Jackson Pollock in the 1950s, where a line may be drawn between values typical of the post-Minimalist trend which thrived in 1970s art, mainly in New York, and those values which are at the heart of the contemporary works. The post-Minimalists (among them Michael Gitlin whose solo exhibition is presented at the Museum alongside this show) sought to reinstate the artist's signature and exposed the work of art's production. They used plain, inexpensive materials, in contradistinction to the ethos of cold and impersonal industrial production, characteristic of the Minimalist trend which preceded it. Moreover, the question of the human scale and the creation of works which operate primarily on and with the body, became one of the formative questions of Minimalism and post-Minimalism. The issue of human scale, "measure for measure," is also at the core of the current exhibition which features young artists who revisit phenomenological questions, readopting formal and material reduction, while considering the interrelations between object-space-spectator; only that now, the plywood and wood are replaced by paper, a light beam, or black tar.
"Measure for measure" is a punishing principle in the biblical retribution doctrine, also known as "an eye for an eye." Whereas the medium of photography tends to dwarf its subjects to the format of the photographic print, thus leading to loss of human scale in its physical sense, the artists participating in this exhibition employ sculptural elements to reinstate photography with human scale in the physical and political sense. In other words, contemplation on the body's measures rather than short-sightedness, typifies the expanding process preoccupying the artists/photographers in this show, who seek not only the regime of the gaze, but a total experience; not only that which is captured passively by the eye, but also the creation of a generative act. The expansion of the photographic scale back to human scale also embeds political significance, when it is used to grant presence to that which was objectified or appropriated. The various gestures proposed here are a part of a different, evolving ontological discourse regarding photography, where the sculptural-photographic act is akin to exploring the meaning of photography, and at the same time—a vote of confidence in the very attempt to act for its expansion.


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