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Ely Tahan

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Lives in
Los Angeles

Works in
Los Angeles


digital, photography, conceptual, mixed-media


The images grouped in “Sidewalk Encounters” deceptively emulate the look of candid street photography. Their seemingly spontaneous captures of people involved in public situations make incongruous, thought provoking photographic documents. They are in fact recreated compositions rearranged into carefully constructed tableaux. Their strategic resemblance to straight shots grounds the viewer in the commonplace while maximizing the impact of the manufactured event. Conversely, if the harsh contrasts and severe inequalities portrayed are actually faked, habituation makes us experience such rampant injustices without difficulty. 

 The context is a stretch of sidewalk which for upright bipeds consecrates the experience of the street, the stress on the vertically mobile being in contrast to the horizontality of the downtrodden subjects cast on its pavement.

This ontological stage hypothetically extends indefinitely on its sides, running like film on a cutting table. A strip of celluloid or a famed star-studded curb spliced into segments, the frozen movements of its characters shuffled back into a comprehensive scene. The result may be the postmodern equivalent of the “surrealistic chance meeting on a dissecting table of an umbrella and a sewing machine” or more likely and bitingly, the clash and coexistence of deemed incompatibles, a collusion of the have and have nots that qualify our society and its admixture of excesses and inequities.

 “Sidewalk Encounters” is rooted in seminal concepts elaborated in earlier bodies of work and presents itself as an intuitive mis-en-scene and theatrical recreation of those discursive themes.

 The “Streetlight” series grounded metaphysical concerns in vernacular space and opened up the street as the metaphorical site of a permanent rite of passage. The streetlight hinges the double articulation of seriality and singularity and as a ubiquitous unit of the urban landscape, punctuates the public space of the street.

 “Signs In Limbo” tackled the language that regulates the codes of commercial exchange. The vacant on-premise signs were stripped of their functionality and loomed as hollow armatures, displacing all reference with their drained skeletal remains. Spectral molds of a new generation of renegade signs, they expose the impact of signage in urban environments, from the dominating advertising image covering buildings and vehicles to both the defamatory and affirmative aspects of tagging, graffiti and street art. Thus the tension and interaction echoed in the black and white compositions, between these two different inflections of visual language that articulate the struggle of individual expression vis-à-vis the mascots of commerce.

 “Windows of Engagement” scoped the interactions subtended by another heavily connoted interface: the common window.  As a mediating agent that simultaneously negotiates two realms, an engagement on either side of its divide is alternately experienced as an unexpected encounter. Equivocating at the interface of our notions of alterity, this encounter is conditioned by new rules of individuation and socialization. In an age where communication is channeled by the information sharing engines of virtual networks, the enthusiasm for global connectedness is paradoxically coexistent with the disconnectedness we experience every day. Common occurrences walking down a street betray the facility with which we hopscotch over the schisms between non-communicating, incompatible actions and beliefs.

 The street as a public platform that is the shared outside of our individual realities has atrophied and given way to the corridors and hallways of virtual networks. We now connect to others in real time across the globe while sleepwalking the streets tethered to our rapidly evolving digital extensions. “Real space” communication may draw us even closer by interweaving entire environments within the duration of a call. This may well result in a street scene, a stretch of sidewalk decked with dazzling shop fronts, populated by familiar strangers connected by a shared application of indifference.           






Recent Exhibits

Ely Tahan participated in these exhibits:

Nov, 2008 Euphoria
The Loft at Liz's
Exhibited with these artists
Exhibited at these venues
Ely Tahan has Exhibited at these venues:

The Loft at Liz's

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