The practice of photographer and film maker Ori Gersht addresses post war trauma by documenting the landscapes that have witnessed it. Don’t Look Back revisits three bodies of work that capture landscapes that have been the scene of atrocities; their their beauty and serenity sitting in juxtaposition with these previous horrors.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a two channel film which traces the journey of the German-Jewish critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin as he fled Nazi occupied France through the Pyrenees in order to reach neutral Portugal. Tragically, when he arrived at the Spanish border, he was prevented from crossing and committed suicide on the 26 September 1940, aged 47. Evaders (2009) also includes a series of still photographs which capture the starch beauty yet brutal isolation of the Pyrenees in winter.
For the photographic series White Noise (1999-2000), Gersht documented his train journey from Krakow to Auschwitz, while Liquidation (2005) captures the landscapes around the Ukrainian towns of Kolomyia and Kosov where some of the artist’s family relatives found haven from Nazi persecution. These two series are oversaturated with a fluid, almost liquid-like surface, and focus upon the photographic process rather than the landscapes which disappear into the light so that the final prints border on abstraction and are difficult to decipher.
Ori Gersht: Don’t Look Back, 7 February – 25 April, Towner, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ.
1. Ori Gersht, Evaders Far of Mountains and River, 2009.