Ilit Azou­lay’s Mys­te­rious Spaces

Art Press - - SYMPHONIE -

Ilit Azou­lay makes large-for­mat pho­to­gra­phic mon­tages that com­bine ar­chi­vist prac­tices, me­ti­cu­lous re­search, and di­gi­tal ma­ni­pu­la­tion. Her works fuse thou­sands of images to create spaces that are at once uto­pian and dys­to­pian, fa­bri­ca­ted and hy­per-rea­list, in­no­va­tive and ho­mages to tra­di­tion.


Ilit Azou­lay (born 1972) is one of the most pro­minent pho­to­gra­phers in Is­rael today. Her work is com­po­sed of thou­sands of images which she fuses to create new spaces that are both uto­pian and dys­to­pian, fa­bri­ca­ted and hy­per-rea­lis­tic, pro­gres­sive and at the same time paying ho­mage to past tra­di­tions. Her unique tech­nique re­cent­ly ear­ned her re­cog­ni­tion from the Pom­pi­dou Centre, which ac­qui­red a spe­cial edi­tion of one of her pieces. She was the first artist to have been se­lec­ted for a new re­si­den­cy pro­gram at the Kunst Werke contem­po­ra­ry art cen­ter in Ber­lin, where she is cur­rent­ly wor­king on a new pro­ject. This was the first time in ma­ny years she had left her studio. She de­ci­ded to tra­vel light. Short­ly af­ter ar­ri­ving in Ger­ma­ny, wi­thout much plan­ning, Azou­lay tra­ve­led around Grea­ter Ber­lin, scan­ning and pho­to­gra­phing its woun­ded walls, frac­tu­red sculp­tures, and odds and ends of pre­war architecture and post-war Bau­haus architecture. “It ap­pea­red to me that the walls and the buil­dings in Ger­ma­ny and in Is­rael un­veil contra­dic­to­ry pro­cesses such as des­truc- tion and de­ve­lop­ment, strict pre­ser­va­tion and the ca­pri­cious­ness of ephe­me­ral fa­shions in architecture. Both na­tions share the use of architecture as a tool for re­ha­bi­li­ta­ting the soul of the na­tion.” In her pro­ject she links the de­fi­ni­tion of the Bau­haus in each of these places and the ways its ideas were ap­plied. The Bau­haus was foun­ded in Wei­mar Ger­ma­ny af­ter WWI to help re­build the coun­try and rein­vi­go­rate so­cie­ty and culture. It of­fe­red a sys­tem in which form fol­lows func­tion and its architecture crea­ted new spaces that were meant to be clean, simple and func­tio­nal, mee­ting real needs. By the time the school was clo­sed and the ideo­lo­gy was ban­ned by the Na­zi regime, the In­ter­na­tio­nal Style (de­ve­lo­ped from the Bau­haus) was well es­ta­bli­shed in Is­rael. The Bau­haus’s so­cial and cul­tu­ral ideo­lo­gy al­so ser­ved the needs of the He­brew set­tle­ment (“Yi­shuv”) in Pa­les­tine in terms of its so­cia­list orien­ta­tion and its goal of rein­ven­ting and re-crea­ting a new world in a new land. For both places the Bau­haus was used par­tial­ly as a way to delete what was there be­fore.


In this pro­ject, Azou­lay says, she aims to show what went on “be­hind the scenes” in those pro­cesses in­clu­ding des­truc­tion, pre­ser­va­tion, construc­tion and de-construc­tions. “I would like to learn and show what are the cho­sen ma­te­rials used, what is their his­to­ry, where is their ori­gi­nal lo­ca­tion and their pri­mal use.” Ano­ther part of the ob­ject will be re­flec­ted in a mul­ti­laye­red piece of­fe­ring a new “sym­pho­ny” as she calls it—a jux­ta­po­si­tion of all sorts of styles and ma­te­rials not li­ke­ly to co­exist other­wise. Azou­lay’s work clear­ly re­flects the changes that have oc­cur­red in the field of pho­to­gra­phy and in its do­mi­nant dis­course. Her prac­tice was born and sha­ped in the sha­dow of tech­no­lo­gi­cal change, which ex­plains her ten­den­cy to­wards clas­sic pho­to­gra­phy and its rules: ri­go­rous times, nor­thern light, use of a tri­pod. At the same time she can delve free­ly in­to the un­li­mi­ted pos­si­bi­li­ties of di­gi­tal ma­ni­pu­la­tion. Like ma­ny other pho­to­gra­phers, she pro­duces a pho­to­gra­phic ar­chive and im­ports concepts and know­ledge from ex­ter­nal fields such as philosophy, neuroscience and more, and wi­thout pre­fe­rence or hie­rar­chy. Her work can be fue­led by the his­to­ry of pho­to­gra­phy as well as art his­to­ry and pain­ting. The title of her recent ex­hi­bi­tion at Bra­ver­man Gal­le­ry in Tel Aviv, Lin­guis­tic Turn, is de­ri­ved from Lud­wigWitt­gen­stein andMar­tin Hei­deg­ger’s ar­gu­ment that the limits of the world are the limits of the lan­guage. “I bor­ro­wed this title and I re­late to it be­cause in this spe­ci­fic ex­hi­bi­tion. The works al­most crea­ted them­selves in an odd way, as if it hap­pe­ned out of my con­trol. They were born out of a lan­guage of si­gns. On­ly af­ter they were ful­ly ar­ti­cu­la­ted could I start to un­ders­tand their world of mea­ning,” Azou­lay ex­plains. This is ty­pi­cal of her wor­king pro­cess. A self-confes­sed ob­ses­sive col­lec­tor, she takes full res­pon­si­bi­li­ty for her ob­jects,

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