An exhibitory space, we can suggest, performs as a fantasmatic arena in which order and reason respond and hold back the chaotic world outside. Assaf Shaham's exhibition, at first glance, pretends to behave in a similar manner - but in fact, it exposes this fantasy in its "horror" constellation – meaning, as a nightmare.
In Hitchcock's "Vertigo", John Ferguson is being led by Madeleine – the object of both enquiry and desire – in to what appears to be a random museum room. In the wake of a brief chase, John finds Madeleine seated in the center of the room. The camera depicts the unfolding of his gaze, as he observes Madeleine; he seems to encounter the object of her own gaze, the portrait of a woman that bears a striking resemblance to Madeleine herself. The camera conveys his confusion, drifting from one woman to the other. The stillness of the museum room is thus interrupted – by breaking down the distinct, almost tangible, difference that stands between the real and the pictured, it seems that the safe fantasy offered by the exhibitory space turns into a nightmare. The horror is exposed through the visual, it is the horror of the revelation itself.
Similarly, Shaham interrupts our ability to tell the difference between the real and the imaginary by dissolving the clear distinction between the outer world and the exhibitory space. His act of tearing down sings that were posted by the Tel Aviv Museum during the military operation "Pillar of Defense" and posting them back up in an orderly fashion is the actualization of the interruption. The poster sings explain laconically why the collections were closed for public viewing – expressing the inability of the exhibitory space to hold back the chaotic reality. Shaham is now posting them ones again but this time, they are vanishing in front of us – like the collections themselves.
As his most basic materials, Shaham utilizes old calculators; American ads pitching a somewhat orientalistic image; photographs taken from a dental care archive originated in the late 30's, shot as part of an attempt to map the impacts of western nutrition on the oral health of various cultures; children's books pictures; Scenes from a classic mystery film; Marble figures imitating the ponds of a board game. They are deformed by him, altered in content and shape. They are scattered around the room as clues in a crime scene. For Shaham, these objects are instruments, assisting him in an opposition that stands against a given representation system. Together they create a new system, a contradictory one, in which what is said stands against what is seen. Now, the nightmare is reviled as the mere actualization of the fantasy.
It may appear that this exhibition expresses Shaham's neglection of photography. In a closer look, the space reveals that photography is its silent company. It is as though the camera lens is present with every objects - the museum symbol that echoes a camera aperture, the turning of objects reminds the reorganization as viewed through the Camera Obscura; More so, the reuse of archive photographs makes the photographic practice undoubtedly present in Shaham's latest work.
Assaf Shaham graduated from the Minshar of Art photography department in 2011. He is the winner of the Shpilman prize for photography (2011) and the Tel Aviv Museum Constantiner prize for photography (2012). His upcoming solo exhibition will open at the Yossi Milo Gallery, NY.
Tuesday - Thursday from 11am to 7pm
Friday - Saturday from 11am to 2pm