Crystal Habit by Rotem Ruff
Due to the sharp rise in the price of iron in recent years, gatherers of metal scraps have become a familiar component of Tel Aviv's urban landscape – an inseparable part of the unofficial shadow economy that exists alongside the world of metropolitan commerce. Always in motion, they can be seen pushing shopping carts filled with metal pieces, which form ephemeral collections of sorts. The rapid accumulation and dissolution of these caches of metal, moreover, may be likened to the lives of collections accumulated over a period of many years.
Assaf Evron wanders throughout the city in order to find and photograph these crowded carts, yet his interest is not so much in the act of documenting them, but rather in the collection of images. He is personally acquainted with most of the metal gatherers and their regular routes, and describes his work as a form of urban "hunting," which consists of tracking down the desired image. Evron thus creates a parallel between the artist and the collector, especially in terms of their engagement in processes of classification and their desire for certain objects whose pursuit is a source of interest and excitement, and whose attainment offers a material reward.
In his works, Evron does away with the carts' urban background. What remains are isolated images of shopping carts – of their contents and the shadows they cast, which underscores their situation in space. In this manner, the carts are recast as monumental sculptural objects with clearly defined compositions – objects which, like the Rorschach test, always resemble "something." This principal is given expression in the exhibition's title, "Crystal Habit" – the scientific term for the manner in which crystals are formed under a given set of environmental conditions. Evron's works similarly capture moments in which orderly structures imbued with meaning crystallize out of the random and frequently changing accumulations of metal scraps. These structures of meaning are never finite; the unity of the sculptural objects is disrupted the moment the viewer realizes that they are composed of everyday objects, which have been arbitrarily gathered and piled into the carts. In addition, the carts themselves – which also function as pedestals and as a support for each sculptural construction – underscore the mobility and ephemerality of each collection, which constantly moves and changes on its way to its destination.
Although these works form a series, Evron is not concerned with typological methods of classification. The large number of works does not bespeak an urge to mark, document and catalogue. Rather, it reflects the tension between the definition of a collection as the sum total of the objects it contains and the desire to focus on concrete, individual details. Like Evron's other works, the works in this series are characterized by calculated compositions, and bespeak an enchantment with the texture and material presence of the objects; nevertheless, aestheticization is not a goal in and of itself, but rather serves as a point of departure for a wider discussion of power relations and the politics of the gaze, the status of photography within art history and its relations with other mediums.
Evron actively intervenes in everyday sites filled with objects that are easily visible to us, yet which receive little or no attention. This strategy not only captures our indifferent gazes and confronts them with a social agenda and an existential struggle to survive, but also offers an opportunity for a different kind of visual attentiveness. In these works, Evron blurs the distinction between photography and sculpture, and calls for a rethinking of the conventional characteristics of these two categories and of the differences between them; in doing so, he expands the expressive possibilities of both mediums.