“Regarding Silences” is the culmination of eight years of research and production developed between 2008-2016. A series comprised of photographic panoramic works that focuses on the renovation of an emblematic Brutalist building designed by the architect Yaakov Rechter in 1968 and situated in the northern Israeli town of Zikhron Ya’akov.
verhaul converted a subsidized convalescent home into a multidisciplinary art center and luxury hotel. Over the seven years of its renovation, Azoulay frequently visited this historical building, initially founded upon egalitarian principles and followed closely as it was turned into a luxury hotel and art center available exclusively to those who can afford it. This process reflects the transformation of Israel from a socialist state to a capitalist one.
However, the project explores another transition: from war to post-war. In 1974, subsequent to the Yom Kippur War, the convalescent home was temporarily used by the Israeli army. Upon their return from Syria and Egypt, where they had been held captive, Israeli soldiers were interrogated on the site. They were asked various questions: Did they or did they not talk under torture? Had their actions put the state at risk? Had the general order of things been compromised? While some interrogations were straightforwardly verbal, about a third of the former prisoners of war (POWs) were taken to other sites and administered a special drug that caused them to mentally relive the moments of trauma they experienced during the war. The drugs not only forcibly made the soldiers re-enact these painful memories, but they had devastating lasting effects on these individuals until today. Over the course of the renovation, Azoulay meticulously photographed the building’s surfaces with a macro lens and created thousands of close-up images documenting the walls exposed during the reconstruction process, revealing their various past layers. She then stitched these images together digitally to form a large-scale highresolution photograph, which she calls a “Photographic Plan,” presenting a multitude of angles. Due to the lack of sufficient documentation of some of the building’s historical events, Azoulay formed a research group comprised of an investigator, a linguist, a dramaturg, a psychologist writer, and the artist’s studio manager in order to create a fuller scope of view. They interviewed 43 witnesses and former POWs who had been held in the building in 1974. Interviews with a few of the figures this group met with are presented alongside the final works. Materials the former POWs had kept or created, such as photographs, scrapbooks, handmade objects, etc. are featured throughout some of Azoulay’s works. They stand in for an experience that is hard to comprehend, one that is ultimately marked by silence — the silence of captivity, the silence of secrecy, and the silence of disengagement. The green represents a vacant non-space, a way of defining the almost unimaginable repressed memories and mental spheres into which some of the former POWs have sunk over years of silence. It is a parallel reality with no familiar landscape or daily routine, a dense bubble of simulation that can be dressed in any reality or landscape, but never become it. The Chroma key green also speaks to the photographic process which isolates details from the whole picture and places them within a new reality that has nothing to do with what the unaided eye would see. No element is simply found and, in fact, none of Azoulay’s works is photography in any straightforward sense of the term. Each element in these highly constructed images, even the most banal looking piece of concrete or dust, is carefully considered and placed. In the resulting project, the material history of a site intersects with the present in provocative and multifaceted ways.