Ilit Azoulay’s Mysterious Spaces
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.
A NEW SYMPHONY
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,