21 Jul 2013 • Photography
Q&A: Tal Erez on Point of View
Point of View is artist and designer Tal Erez’s collection of different perspectives on Jerusalem. Working extensively with photographers and image archives, his research conveys the multifariousness of the ancient city through 18 Viewmaster reels. Each reel is an attempt to provide a visual narrative of Jerusalem in just 7 slides. Erez explains more about the task at hand.
What image of Jerusalem were you trying to present with Point of View? As I was researching how to approach a project about Jerusalem – I expected to find something deeper than the cliches of conflict, multiculturalism, religion, history and so on. But what became apparent when talking to activists, artists and others in the city, is that these are the exact narratives they adopt in order to act. Each seemed to have chosen one, highlighting it as cause for action. I soon realized that perhaps this is exactly the point, that the super positioning of all these narratives create the complexity of Jerusalem and offers its true story. What I aimed for was to present this idea of complexity and the fact that these layers of narratives can be turned on and off so to speak when approaching the city and acting in it. Many perspectives give a true picture of Jerusalem, but none fully encapsulates it.
Why did you choose the medium of a Viewmaster? I thought it was a very interesting tool. Its mechanical simplicity … the fact that it can project one story in the full field of view, yet with a quick change of a reel tell a completely different story. Its Twitter-ish limitation of a seven image story forces a form of concise, sequential storytelling. I thought photographs were the right medium to give a sense of knowledge while leaving room for interpretation and surprise. Finally, the idea of trick binoculars, where you look in but see an image of the outside, was very true to the project.
How many versions of Jerusalem does the exhibition present? We ended up with 18 reels offering 18 narratives of Jerusalem. There of course could be dozens more but there are always limitations of time, money and viewers’attention. Rather than curate each reel to tell a specific narrative, the whole collection needed to project a wide range of perspectives. That’s why it ranges from photo-recipes or everyday life, to conflict, faith and history.
Which photographers did you include in the project? Throughout their careers, the photographers have been documenting the city from their unique perspectives. They range from very well-known Israeli photographers such as Alex Levac, Ziv Koren, Menachem Kahana and Michal Fattal (among others), to younger photographers such as Shai Dror, Hila Hare'el and Dor Kedmi. They all have vast archives of photographs from Jerusalem. Other photographers were tracked after finding their photos in archives and online, and some were commissioned to specific projects.
Can you take us through some of the reels? For some reels, like 'Jerusalem is gold', 'Jerusalem is east' and 'Jerusalem is occupation,' I had a very clear vision of the sequence work. It was important to mix ways of communicating these stories in order to prevent the predictable. In 'Jerusalem is gold' for example, the story of the city’s Arab population, the idea was to zoom out geographically and create a sequence that draws you in and surprises with the last image. We started with a super close-up of the Dome of the Rock, representing a golden age of Islam in Jerusalem … then slowly zoomed out while keeping the dome in the centre of the image. The last image shows the dome far in the distance, and the separation wall in front. I felt it was a very strong pragmatic way of telling the story.
A Point of View is part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture 2013, and is on show at the city’s First Station throughout July.