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Ori Gersht: Falling Petals

CRG Gallery
548 West 22nd Street, 212-229-2766
May 6 - June 25, 2011
Reception: Friday, May 6, 6 - 8 PM
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CRG is pleased to present Falling Petals, an exhibition of recent photographs by Ori Gersht. In addition, Gersht will debut his new film, Will You Dance For Me (2011).

In his most recent series comprised of images taken from April to May 2010 in Japan, Gersht traveled between cities that were affected by World War II as well as ancient locations in remote western Japan, examining the shifting symbolism of the cherry blossom. While initially associated with Buddhist concepts of renewal, the celebration of life, and good fortune, the cherry blossom was re-appropriated during Japan’s 19th century militarization and colonial expansion. Once celebrated as a healthy and abundant flower, the falling of the petals from the tree became the symbol of Kamikaze soldiers. Gersht furthers this discussion of life and death symbolism in his exploration of trees planted before the war in unaffected remote areas, contrasting them against trees in Hiroshima that were planted in nuclear soil.

The artist made use of digital cameras that allowed for images to be taken under extreme light conditions, further questioning the ability of photography as a medium to convey a singular truth or story. Presenting documentation of what is assumed to be an exact location, Gersht’s digital process allows for the absolute light and color veracity of these landscapes to be questioned and by extension the viewer’s interpretation of this location’s history. Unlike previous series which focused on geographic journeys (Walter Benjamin following the Lister Route in Gersht’s Evaders (2009) or The Forest (2006), in which the artist’s family found refuge from Nazi persecution during WWII in the Ukraine), Falling Petals offers imagery that conveys past and present without a specified linear narrative; Gersht’s photographic process implies the passage of time without providing an exacting start or finish to the life of the depicted.

In addition to his new photographs, Gersht will debut his film Will You Dance For Me. The film opens to a close-up of an old and fragile woman in a rocking chair. She moves backwards and forwards meditatively, drifting in and out of focus. Slowly she fades completely out of the dark scene as snow begins to drop from the sky; eventually the rhythmic falling of snow gives way to a virginal, white landscape, replacing the rhythmic rocking of her rocking chair.

The woman in the film is Yeudith Arnon. A prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp, at the age of nineteen Arnon was ordered to dance at an SS officer’s Christmas party. Upon refusal, her punishment was to stand barefoot in the snow all night. As a result, she resolved to dedicate herself to dance should she survive the camp. In 1962, she created the Kibbutzim Dance Company and became internationally renowned for her dancing and choreography. Now at the age of 85, she can no longer dance.

Will You Dance For Me is constructed of a specific, pre-existing personal narrative. The artist encourages the viewer to feel both the absence and presence of Arnon’s dance within the cadence of her rocking chair. Floating Petals provides contrasting notions of militaristic memory and locations of Buddhist sanctuary, continually questioning the viewer’s ability to find one story within a single photograph.
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