About my works
Eye of the wave
By Dror Burstein
At times an unusual, atypical work of an artist reveals something of his way of looking at things, something hidden to the eye in his principal work. The photograph below from the series Street, taken next to the London Aquarium (near the “London Eye”, the city’s giant Ferris wheel) is such a work.
It is unusual because it is a “street photograph” of an urban, prosaic landscape, whose language is the language of the snapshot, a swift, sharp diagonal; this as opposed to the melancholy, quiet and poetic tone and the frontal and leisurely observation which can be heard and seen in Yoram Vidal’s landscape photographs, which are his main body of work.
What is in this photograph? In one word: a meeting. In a longer word: meetings. This is the moment when the rectangle of the picture succeeds in loading itself with far more than the “reasonable,” the routine amount of materials of reality.
On one hand before us we have the entrance to the dim underground world of London’s giant aquarium (the letters AQ are the title of the place). This aquarium is only a few meters away from the Thames, but it is a totally different water-world from the water world of the natural river: full of sharks, exotic sea creatures and wonderful multicolored fish. Physically close, but very distant from the fishing world of the urban river.
But this meeting between river water and artificial reservoir is only the beginning: above the heads of the tourists are three white soldiers who have landed straight from the “Star Wars” films of George Lucas. These cloned soldiers of the empire are there in honor of the “Star Wars” exhibition presented in the nearby hall, but in the world of the photograph they have emerged from the future and point their weapons directly at the photographer. It is fairly amazing that he alone can see this attack of the clones, while all the other tourists keep going on their complacent way, eyes at street level. They stand in line for the aquarium, play the role of “the tourist,” after or before the visit to the great white eye of London: Vidal observes the disturbing similarity between these white clones and the indifferent mass of tourists. How much visual satiation is necessary in order to cause people to ignore the invasion of these white creatures. I am reminded of the opening of Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire,” where only the children can see the angels.
But this is not the end of the story, because in addition to the aquarium (a deep world, hidden from the eye and artificial), the clones (a high spacelike artificial world), and the tourists (a human somewhat artificial world), Vidal also observes a remnant of the classical past: the series of classical ionic columns, located above the clone attack, in the County Hall building. And yet, this classicism too is no more than a copy of “Ancient Greece,” flung from the sixth century BC into London of the 20th century.
This noisy overload, documentation of the simple day to day reality of our present, which juxtaposes many different types of artificial existence, copied, fake, is not common in Vidal’s works. One could say that the materials of reality presented in this photograph are opposed to the heart of his work, which tends towards the silence, not to the noise; to the economy, not to the excess; to the authentic, not to the artificial; to the thoughtful, not to the brief.
And yet, something in the structure of the London photograph characterizes other work of Vidal as well. By this I mean the structure which preserves the surprising meeting of worlds, a meeting in which there occurs a gentle breaking through of something strange, deviant (such as the clones, for example, in this photograph) into a new place. And such a meeting, which holds such observation of the unusual, exists as well in photographs that are completely different in their content from this photograph. It can be found even in the “abstract” landscape works.
In the photograph above, from the series “Layers”, something which could have been just an ordinary bit of landscape becomes a very loaded meeting between the distant – at least as distant as are the clones and the “Greek” pillars from each other! – between naked trees in the fall and the greenness rising up from beneath: as if the tops of the trees had fallen to the ground and begun to blossom there anew. Or between the light strip on one of the tree trunks on the left and the light in the sky – communication taking place despite being blocked by the bars of the tangled branches. That which in the photograph of the aquarium is noisy and empty is here quiet, wonderful and secretive, on the verge of revelation. But the connection, or the connection-thought of the photographer, is the same thought.
Such meetings take place in many of Vidal’s photographs, in different series. Some examples include the photograph below from the Exit series, in which the cloud appears with its strange whiteness (again I am reminded of the tall clones) above the bit of space placed in tension between the possibility of blossoming and green growth and between the barrenness of the ground. You can feel the place lift its eyes to this weak white guest, already on his way out. The guest’s decision is related to the decision of the place between the sand and the bushes. Between life and death, or between two types of life.
Something similar takes place in the photograph After the War, 2006 from another series:
It is difficult to describe the power of the cry of the white branches, flung to the front of the photograph, to the clouds, which appear to be running away, galloping towards the horizon. In a few moments the clouds will disappear, and these branches will remain there, lonely, strange in their whiteness, despairing, orphaned, tenants of the ruin by the way, a wreath of thorns without a Christ in the middle of nowhere.
Such a loaded type of meeting is visible to the eye and explicit in the early “De Chirico” series (1992), collage in character, but also in completely different works, which focus on the “one” – I mean the portraits of the “Blood Relation” series, such as this photograph:
It is hard to avoid seeing the touching dialogue between the basketball on the child’s shirt and the circles on which he lies. How wonderful: from the force of this dialogue the boy with the ball he carries on his chest becomes a sort of sun, and the balls around him – planets circling him. The boy with the closed eyes does not know how central he is now, to what extent he is the actual center of the world, the source of light in the full sense of the word to all those around him. “All those around” – including the polished circle of the camera lens of someone photographing him at that moment – another planet circling above him in silence.
The photography of Yoram Vidal hears conversations in which there are hope and longing, a general sense of “just before” something. These stairs, where do they lead? Again and again reality appears as a knot, sometimes as the bare beginning of a knot, and sometimes as a nearly transparent knot, which someone else might not have noticed; a knot which would doubtless have faded away in another few moments, like a wave suddenly gone, absorbed into the ground and lost forever; or traveling clouds, you turn your head for a moment and they are beyond the horizon. Yoram Vidal’s photography stores up for the world some of its riddles, some of these knots, not in order to decipher them but to present them as they are – knots, questions, possibilities of change. A new life, rebirth, greenness rising from the ground like the promise of a treetop, or the foam of a wave rising from the quiet waters, catching a bit of light, like the blink of a moist eye, half opened, looking out from the peaceful face of the sea. And like this wave, Yoram Vidal’s photographs look out at a reality which is also internal reality that has taken on visible form. This wave: is it looking inward, to its depths? Is it looking outward, straight into our eyes?
English Translation: Judy Kupferman