Frontiers was a photography project undertaken by Sophie Elbaz and exhibited as part of the 2008 Jerusalem Show: Walks in the City. The opposing juxtaposition of the genres, of the photographic periods (1991/gulf war and 2007/organic process), are reinforcing the project’s intention: To denounce the banalizing of images annihilating little by little any identification with the foreign regard when face to face with an unfolding reality. In effect, the documentary image in its informative design actually ends up dehumanizing by progressively creating in the collective subconscious a visual and emotional comfort, which results in the construction of images considered “clichés.” By opposing these same, I want to jolt the observer back to a tangible humanity, that which exists within, universal and boundless. The images are presented as diptychs, creating a dialogue between them, while simultaneously creating the necessary tension for the interpretation of the work. It is not only about confronting present-day reality in its truth, but also about resituating one's self in the projection of one’s own injured humanity.
"These photographs were taken when I was in Israel and Palestine covering the first Gulf War in 1991. I allowed the contamination of the images through an organic process where bacteria attacked layers of the Ektachrome film. I juxtapose the genres of art and journalism, as well as the different periods when pictures were shot and printed to draw attention to the way that photographs have become banal. Little by little, this process eliminates any identification with unfolding realities in other places. In its informative design, the documentary image dehumanizes the subject. It does so by progressively creating in the collective subconscious a visual and emotional comfort, resulting in the construction of “clichés.” I hope Frontiers will jolt the observer back into a tangible, universal and boundless humanity that exists within.
Frontiers is thus not about timeless images, but to call attention to the ways in which entire populations are being impacted through time. It is an unbearable yet very real spectacle on the TV screens of the world, presented like an addictive justification. By presenting the pictures in diptych format, I would like to offer a dialogue between them while simultaneously creating a necessary tension for the work's interpretation. It is not only about confronting present-day reality in its truth, but to resituate the self in the projection of one’s own injured humanity."
Born in Paris in 1960. Lives and works there. Sophie Elbaz studied at the International Center for Photography, New York; Ecole Rothschild, Nice, France. Sophie Elbaz started her career in photography as a documentary photographer, the experience of which prompted her to question the efficacy of the medium in portraying social and political realities. Moving into the realm of art, Elbaz incorporated the genres of documentary and art in the series Frontiers in the form of diptychs. Unwilling to abandon the medium in its communicative potential, the artist juxtaposed documentary photographs she took while in Palestine during the first Gulf War with more formally experimental photographs. Prior to developing and printing the Ektachrome film, she allowed bacteria to eat away at layers of the film, creating images whose colours and surface are distorted. Though her process runs the risk of aestheticizing traumatic experiences that go hand in hand with resistance, Elbaz hopes that her simultaneous use of both genres will prompt the viewer to deeply engage with the scenes portrayed. Her work follows the legacy of photographers like Walker Evans, whose work blurs the lines between art and documentary.
Solo exhibitions include the Raum Gallery, Bern, Switzerland; AFD (French Development Agency), Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Maracaibo, Venezuela; National Gallery, Fine Art Museum, Caracas, Venezuela; 5th Bamako Bienale, Mali. Group exhibitions include the French Institute in Joannesburg, South Africa; Vantabren Contemporary Art, Aix en Provence, France; City Hall of Saint-Denis, Reunion Island; Jerusalem Show, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (2008); Porte Romana Museum, Milan, Italy.