Curator: Ariella Azoulay
The exhibition is constructed around a dozen cameras built by Aïm Deüelle Lüski from the end of the 1970s until today. These unique cameras evolved from an exploration of the traditional camera and an effort to deviate from it. This double approach enfolded in Deüelle Lüski’s cameras is articulated in the exhibition; on one hand these cameras criticize the mono-focal vertical photography, which grew with capitalism and was fixated as a neutral visual instrument used to gaze at the world from outside. On the other hand, horizontal photography is developed and presented as an alternative framework, where the traditional divisions between outside and inside, and between photographer, subject and spectator are destabilized.
Vertical photography, targeted here by Deüelle Lüski, is based on the camera serving as a black box with a wide open lens dividing the world into two parts – the one in front of it and the other behind it. One click of a button constitutes the photographer as a person who captures photographs of clear identifiable objects. Exemplified in these cameras, horizontal photography is a proposal to study and redefine the role and location of the camera in the space of relations between photographer, subject and spectator; it is also an exploration of several major assumptions on photography which became axioms since the institutionalization of photography in the mid 19th century. What is a camera? How does it function? Who holds it? Is the photographer the owner of the camera? Of the image? What is the relation between the camera and the world it captures? What is light? Does it exist out there, ready for us to write with? And what is the space which holds light?
Each camera built by Deüelle Lüski is an attempt to rethink a specific element of the traditional camera: viewfinder, camera obscura, shutter, pinhole, type of surface, position of the negative, and to broaden its possibilities in unforeseen directions. Those are discovered when the act of photographing is not subject to a single purpose – capturing sharp images with clear and identifiable objects – as in the case of vertical photography. By isolating and exploring each element thoroughly, Deüelle Lüski offers a new understanding of the act of photography. The public is invited to watch closely the visual instruments created by Deüelle Lüski, their different modes of functioning and uses, the varied types of photographs they produce, the nature of the existing scopic regime they reveal and the variety of possibilities opened once this scopic regime is not embraced as the sole possible option. Deüelle Lüski’s cameras are somewhat iconoclastic instruments. They do not shatter one image or another, but rather the preconditions for producing identifying and identified images.
With Deüelle Lüski’s cameras, the fantasy of the spectator’s stable point of view of the world as a collection of clear and identifiable objects disappears. It would take the spectator a great effort to calibrate and orientate herself in the photographs produced by Deüelle Lüski’s cameras; they are blurred, multiplied and intensified. The photographer’s image appears alongside the environment where the camera was located, the separations and distances are unfixed and make a hard case for using readymade categories.
Most of Deüelle Lüski’s camera boxes are black, yet they are not “black boxes”. They do not conceal their technology and leave the user with only a button. They do not package an instrument with a mechanism known only to the manufacturer and operator, presentable and relatively easy to teach to achieve foretold results. The photographs produced by these cameras are not necessarily legible and cannot be considered as identifiable representations of people, the environment, objects or situations. Traces of the conditions and environment of the photographs’ creation are embedded in their specific abstractness, inviting us to rethink the empirical encounter with the world, without subjecting it to the triangular logic of our times which turns the image into a resource, private property and a site of sovereign authority.
The image is present as an open-ended event, which cannot be sealed and signed with a title. In comparison to “standard” photographs produced in the frame of “vertical photography”, where the camera is considered a tool to produce legible photographs, these images would have been thrown away or retouched to blur the traces of failure. Yet within Deüelle Lüski’s horizontal photography framework, the category “failure” in relation to photography is questioned. The “failure” to produce a “legible” photograph is yet another expression of our trained automation used to identify a photograph with a certain image. The “illegible” character of the photographs makes it difficult to narrow the world into identifiable objects, which can be appropriated or subjugated to sovereignty. This is precisely why their illegibility creates an opportunity to surface a different relation between us and the world surrounding us, and prevents us from perceiving the encounter with the world automatically as a pre-signed deal with favoring terms for one and discriminatory terms for the other. The images produced by Deüelle Lüski’s cameras resurface the conditions in which photography is created as an open event.
Photo Credit: Gal Deren, Matan Mittwoch