Ilit Azoulay invites us into her eccentric archive, reminiscent of the exotic collections found in cabinets of curiosities, the precursors to the modern museum. What appears to be a logical grouping of real items displayed on a wall soon reveals itself to be a complex, photographic construction of seemingly unrelated objects, some life-size, some gigantic, others rendered in miniature. With Tree, For, Too, One (2010/13 Special Edition) we are confronted by the limitations of our vision as we gaze upon this impossible, wondrous scene.
Based in Tel Aviv, Azoulay explores mid 20th-century buildings slated for demolition. Constructed of improvised materials that reflect a period of austerity in Israel, the flimsy interior of the walls become the focus of her excavations. After the buildings are destroyed, Azoulay collects once-hidden objects; metal, plastic, and glass shards are found alongside strange interlocutors such as seashells and sewing pins. These specimens are carefully cleaned and oiled, then individually photographed under the same conditions to eliminate hierarchies. Scale is altered as the objects are digitally assembled into a fictitious scene. The image is made more complex by Azoulay’s inclusion of everyday objects: a ruler lends the image a more measured ground, a cactus is made larger-than-life, and photos of former residents, their eyes blurred, call attention to the impossibility of ever going back. The work does not reconstruct but offers something else altogether, evoking the complexity of memory and perception.
Shown here in the form of a large-scale mural in the MOCCA courtyard, Azoulay’s photomontage draws attention to the temporality of the contemporary art spaces that surround it. An image born from demolition is presented on a wall within a site that is ultimately destined for destruction and redevelopment.