Flowing and Filling, MAARAV MAGAZINE A portrait of the artist as a researcher By Dr. Eilon Ganor
Ilit Azoulay, Photography
When Neurobiology Meets Photography “Findings”, Ilit Azoulay
Minshar Art College Gallery, Curator: Roy Cooper
The idea represented in the verse “...that have eyes, and see not
...” (Jeremiah 5;21) is a familiar motif appearing in scripture and literature many times. It signifies that the heart or mind “refuse” to identify or understand what the eye sees. In his book “The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, the British neurologist Oliver Sacks describes twenty different cases of people having difficulties communicating with themselves and their surroundings due to syndromes such as the man who mistook his wife for a hat.
A syndrome called Prosopagnosia, a condition that can occur following a stroke, in which patients are having difficulties identifying faces. Another condition is The Neglect Syndrome. That is a disturbance in the conscious processing of the left visual field, taking place even though the peripheral visual systems – eyes and optic nerve - are intact. When an Italian patient with this condition was asked to draw the famous Duomo Cathedral in Milan from memory, he painted only its right side. He succeeded painting the left side of the cathedral only when asked to draw it from the other side .
These cases demonstrate to researchers that the mind (psyche, thought) dictates what a person will see, emphasizing some parts of the picture and fading others. A person’s sight is guided, among other things, by his or her predisposition resulting from many factors such as education, environmental background etc. making the brain into a mega-filter of sights. But in spite of the abundance of evidence showing the seeing organ (in its broader sense) is the mind and not the eye, we are still tempted to believe photographs and treat them as exact portrayals of reality. Can a photographer break through this glass ceiling, through the barriers of sight, creating images free of his or her personal luggage? This question arises while visiting “Findings” - Ilit Azoulay’s unique and intriguing exhibition in the Minshar Art College Gallery.
Azoulay describes her work process as going out prowling and searching for “findings” - situations and compositions evoking in her responses to real life events - when expressions such as hunt and research are recurrent in the conversation. For the artist, findings are pieces of information becoming relevant through the manipulative action of photography, taking them out of context
and reusing them in creating syntax of images describing an event that never occurred. In some instances this finding fills the entire frame. In others, it is only a fragment. In addition to this process, Azoulay’s work is characterized by a process of researching work techniques she developed over the years, whether by over and underexposure, “abusing” the film before exposing it to heat, using non-traditional reagents, etc.
The blend of “photographic” research with Azoulay’s technical experimentation leads to very interesting results. The exhibition comprises of three parts, “findings” – black and white photographs printed on the upper half of perforated pages of a journal, creating a sort of continuity and illusion that we are looking at the torn pages of a specific journal, hung on the wall with the inevitable result of creating a puzzle for the viewer to solve as to what happened. The second part, also in black and white, presents larger, square photographs in which a whole “story” can be identified;
in essence, the opposite of the “findings” serving as the fragments of stories.
These photographs also keep a sense of mystery of a detective story. The third part comprises of color portrait photographs;
non saturated color, resulting from Azoulay’s treatment of the film, is a characteristic of these photographs. These photographs may belong to another exhibition, and their juxtaposition to the black and white works was not justified.
According to Azoulay “the eye is looking for an “event” and never rests in a vacant space”. The event drawing attention is decided by its power on the sense. I follow the gaze that captures events during a ride, doubting the initial information the image creates, making continuums and groupings revealing and establishing existing suspicion. The reality formed by the continuum is void of innocence and is artificially constructed so as to create uneasiness. A fine line exists between the need to form a whole, justifiable narrative and the need to destruct the structure and the brain’s automatic reactions, and I try to avoid the need to come to conclusions and the ability to arrive at a concrete identification.
Ilit Azoulay’s photography testifies to a fascinating process of research. It is a research in photography as well as a research of psyche and thought, and to me it is one of the most important photographic exhibitions in the Tel Aviv art scene in recent years.
Dr. Eilon Ganor
The writer is a medical doctor, a hi-tech entrepreneur and is involved in art in recent years.