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Ilit Azoulay: Regarding Silences

February 21 – April 18, 2019 Opening: February 21 at 8 pm

The Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv presents Ilit Azoulay’s newest exhibition, “Regarding Silences,” which is the culmination of eight years of research and production. Azoulay is known for using thousands of high definition macro photographs to create surreal composite images. Using her signature technique for this project, she painstakingly catalogued the renovation of an emblematic Brutalist building situated in northern Israel, in the process uncovering complex layers of history.

Built in 1968 by Yaakov Rechter as a convalescent home for workers, the award-winning building, a masterpiece of Brutalist architecture, was converted over nine years into an art-oriented luxury hotel. However, beyond being a physical manifestation of the Israeli economy’s transition from socialist to capitalist, the building betrays a hidden past as an interrogation camp for Israeli soldiers who had been captured in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and who were summoned for questioning and interrogation upon their return home. Some were administered harsh drugs that caused them to mentally relive the moments of trauma they experienced during the war. (These treatments were documented by Susan Sontag in her 1974 film, Promised Lands, an excerpt of which is included in the exhibition.) To create a fuller scope of view, Azoulay collaborated with artist Jonathan Touitou, investigator Renana Mor, linguist Jenny Birger, dramaturg Nir Shaulo, her studio manager at the time Elinore Darzi, and psychologist-writer Amia Lieblich and interviewed dozens of former POWs” (prisoners of war). 

Sworn to secrecy for 18 years, the POWs’ experience of being silenced and the double reality they lived inspired a Chroma key (“green screen”) exhibition design. The walls and floor of one of the two galleries in the exhibition is entirely Chroma key green, representing a vacant non-space, a way of defining an almost unimaginable mental sphere into which some of the former POWs have sunk into over years of silence and repression.

In Azoulay’s work, no element is simply found. In fact, none of Azoulay’s work is photography in any straightforward sense of the term. Each element in these highly constructed images, even the most banal looking piece of concrete or dust, is carefully considered and placed. Her composite and multilayered images allow for a parallax view of several layers across time and space. In Azoulay’s loaded works, the material history of the site intersects with the present in a way that gives form to the invisible hands at play in an important but overlooked part of history.

“Ilit Azoulay: Regarding Silences,” is curated by Chen Tamir and is accompanied by an exhibition guidebook. The exhibition is supported by Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts, Artis, and BUILDING, Milan. Additional support provided by Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Lily Elstein, and Shalom Shpilman.

Image: Ilit Azoulay, Detail from B: “o.k shall we sit. I have some good news for you gentlemen…”, 2016. Latex printing, 200 x 940 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv.

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