Regarding Silences is a series comprised of a soundtrack and photographic panoramic works that followed the eight-year renovation of an emblematic Brutalist building, designed in the 1960s by Yacov Rechter, in the northern Israeli town of Zichron Ya’akov. The overhaul converted a convalescent home for Health Maintenance Organization members into a multidisciplinary art center and luxury hotel. Over the seven years of its renovation, Azoulay frequently visited this historical building and followed its turning from a place built on egalitarian principles for all HMO members into a luxury hotel accessible only to the few who can afford it. Yet along with this turn, reflecting the transformation of Israel from a socialist-based economy into a capitalist one, a darker turn is being explored – from war to postwar.
In 1974, subsequent to the end of the Yom Kippur War, the convalescent home was used momentarily by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Upon their return from Syrian and Egyptian prisons, Israeli soldiers were taken and held by the IDF for interrogation: Did they or did they not talk under torture? Was the state at risk? Was the order of things being threatened? No trace of torture or of this momentary interrogation camp was found in the building. Yet Azoulay was not looking for graphic details. Instead, she was interested in tracing the transformation of one order into an order of a different kind.
Some 40 years later, Azoulay formed a research group comprised of a researcher, a linguist, a curator, a dramaturg and an architect to inquire into the past of the building. With the help of witnesses, the examination resulted in 43 testimonies that were collected from PWOs while 5 are presented alongside the works.
Meticulously scrutinising surfaces with a macro-lens, Azoulay produced thousands of close-up images documenting the walls exposed in the reconstruction process, revealing their past layers. These images she then pasted together digitally, resulting in a large-scale photograph – which she calls a ‘photographic plan’ – of great technical resolution, seemingly presenting a multitude of angles of view. As such, the series portrays a temporality at play, which may echo that of the darker turn reflected in the meticulous collection of the thousands of images of which the ‘photographic plan’ proposed is assembled. Documenting the building’s transition, Azoulay’s images picture an imaginary order – a structure never to be erected which is yet a constitutive part of the final stage of the building. The work Regarding Silences thereby pictures the invisible hand at play while imposing a new “order” – or possibly preserving an existing one.