A Conversation with Galia Bar Or

I was driving along the Ayalon highway and at one point stopped to see where I was driving. The concrete was akin to a white noise – the landscape in which you drive every day but never see. In the series of photographs "C/C" I tried to trace that white noise, the static impervious wall, the concrete covers, the imitation of the organic simulating a ploughed field, flesh and sinews.

All the photographs were created in motion, ostensibly random motion and suspension. I must stand up close. There is a physical aspect to this proximity to the surface: the concrete walls along highways, an improvised barrel wall in the Jordan Valley, netting, iron panels functioning as armor for concrete walls in a mandatory police structure in old Gesher.

In physical proximity the essential dimension is corporeal, rather than optical, since the surface area is perceived neither as the surface of the object cloaking it, nor as a surface for semiotic interpretation. A close look calls for lingering to expose traces of movement on the static, monolithic surface. The physical closeness exposes the temporal dimension, scars, scratches, evidence of occurrence, an effaced, covered memory, a type of history that permeates the body like a rustle.

I am not referring to a type of contemplation, a thought that forgets itself while reflecting, but rather to a type of perception: you get in touch with yourself, messages from the outside invoke your inner sensitivity which responds to those traces, whether of a brutal process, restrained violence, an accident, or a testimony that exposes an inevitable contingency.

There is an inherent dimension to the photographic medium which intrigues me, invoking an entire set of questions about the essential difference between photography and painting. Indeed, there is no truth in photography; it is all about representation of images, the photographer's personal choice. The point is that I, Assaf, chose to stand there and take that picture, and there is a direct, mechanical link between the object and its image. The proximal, suspended gaze generates the affinity that exposes an occurrence of an accident, or the charged dimension of the politics of power, that touches upon the axis of the present, striving for the past, for the future. All is well, but people die; there is a reality, historical time, which I address through photography.

For example, in the series of photographs "Mediterranean Flora" taken in the Muslim cemetery on the cliff above the Jaffa beach, what you see is a rhizomatic takeover of the surface which conceals a previous history; an ostensibly natural process that covers and crumbles the graves, erasing history. Or the walls of the structure in old Gesher, which served as a British mandatory police station, that were covered with iron panels, and transformed into a shooting range. In effect, this is a transformation of the structure through its surface. It is also ironic, because a structure that represents the random, mandatory power, the one that was never conquered, is being "conquered" daily. The gaze attempting to fathom the occurrence likens the sight to a murder scene, as if an execution had been performed there.

In my photographs I ask questions about monument, about a Parthenon that arose from the foundation of a building that will never be built, or a mutant erected momentarily and will soon be demolished and erased. In the photograph they acquire their monumentality and their fixation in time.

The tension between the artificial and the organic is exposed in the concrete coats that imitate ploughed fields, the cypress tree tied to the prosthetic tree, the nettings concurrently spread as a potential and as a prevention, in the disconcerting combination of nourishment and discipline, in the dimension of a utopian, apocalyptic, optimistic, catastrophic time running through all the photographs.

I do not photograph the obstructed gaze, but rather the surface of the obstructing wall, the improvised barrel wall, rather than the gaze onto the outside, onto the water reservoir in the horizon. I shoot the netting itself, not through it. I always associate the surface with the present. Perhaps this is my way to try to capture the visible.