Michal Chelbin, Alicia, Ukraine, 2005, from the series "Strangely Familiar"
Making a Scene
June 24, 2006 - October 29, 2006
Curator: Tal Yahas
The exhibition "Making a Scene" is centered upon the practice of staged photography, which has pervaded the art world since the late 1970s. This photographic practice does not aim to document; rather, it declares itself to be a construction involving casting, costumes, lighting, scenery and the careful staging of human figures.
This exhibition includes works by Israeli and international artists dating from the early 1980s to the present, and examines images whose focus is a human body or interaction. The frozen scenes in these photographs expose and deconstruct representational conventions of the body and of familial, social or class relationships, and suggest the existence of more complex representational alternatives. Most of these works expose the gap between a normative, idealized image and the disorder, lack of meaning, violence, repression or perversion it dissimulates.
Due to its mechanical nature, photography was conceived of since its inception as an objective form of documentation, and its dependence on technology caused it to be undervalued as an illegitimate offspring of the plastic arts. The decisive shift in its status as an art form followed the emergence of conceptual and performance art in the 1970s. Initially, photography in these contexts served as a form of recording ephemeral art works; within a short while, artists began enacting performances that were created for the camera as independent art objects. The use of photography by Conceptual artists, meanwhile, exposed the ways in which it always exists within, or in relation to, a social, political or textual context, and is therefore incapable of serving as a transparent and self-sufficient representation of reality.
During the same period, postmodernist theories began engaging in critical readings of photography. These approaches argued that documentation is a form of representation, and that precisely because the photographic image creates a "reality effect," it is able to obscure its ideological function. In this manner, photographs may serve to internalize a set of values defined by instruments of power and control.
The works in "Making a Scene" relate to the history of art, to the status of the photographic medium and to postmodern thought, and delineate a wide range of approaches to the staged human body. The exhibition is divided into several groups of works: the first group includes works that demonstrably refer to their own staged nature. In these works, exaggeration and an awareness of the camera's presence reveals the complex nature of what lies beyond stereotypical conceptions. A second group of works is preoccupied with the raw presence of the human body, which is arranged and activated in scenes devoid of a narrative logic. A third group of works exposes the traumatic elements hidden in representations of family and adolescence, while a fourth group of works focuses on the representation of the female body by women photographers, who critically examine conceptions of the female body in Western culture. The works in "Making a Scene" thus embody various forms of resistance - implicit or explicit, ironic or provocative - to cultural constructions of the body.