LandEscape Art Review 2017
LandEscape Contemporary Art Review | January 2017
An interview by Katherine Williams, Curator and Josh Ryder, curator.
Exploring the expressive potential of a wide variety of techniques and materials, artist Lior Herchkovitz's work explores perceptible discrepancy between the visible surface and the psychological content and considers the vital relationship between direct experience and visual interpretation, to draw the viewers through a multilayered journey. In his Evidence of Our Existence that we'll be discussing in the following pages he challenges the viewers to trigger their perceptual parameters. One of the most impressive aspects of Herchkovitz's work is the way it accomplishes the difficult task of investigating about man's interference with nature and the vulnerability of mankind: we are very pleased to introduce our readers to his stimulating and multifaceted artistic production.
Hello Lior and welcome to LandEscape: we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training and you majored in Photography with a BFA degree, that you received from The Royal Academy of Fine Art, in The Hague The Netherlands: how do these experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does your cultural substratum inform the way you relate yourself to art making?
Since early age, I liked to watch how my father was placing carefully pictures in our family album. He used to do it at weekends and it had a kind of ceremonial sphere to it, almost magical. I guess it influenced me in some way or another. I remember that he took many photographs, but they were always intended to be straightforward. Mine were never straightforward. Later in life, I became interested in diverse forms of creative expression such as painting, music, poem and film. The Dutch and Flemish painting, in particular, were much of an influence on me. These influences actually brought me to the decision of studying in The Netherlands. To begin with, I went there to study photography. It was always my passion. We had painting lessons too. But I was very poor in painting. In spite of that, it was a great opportunity to learn light, shadow and color compositions out of old masters and very tempting to bring it into the photographic image. When I came out from the academy, I realized that if you seek personal expression in photography, you will soon become aware of limitation. The medium I practice reflects the infinite variety of subject matter offered by the natural universe. But the range of vision is extremely narrow. I became aware that I must confine myself to my own peculiar obsessions and types of images which can express character and feelings. Having said that, I do not disavow my photographs, but rather think that the medium I chose proved to be my best and most original medium of expression that becomes important to me more and more. I am influenced often by historical materials and artists of the past. It informs the way I currently conceive my work, but the photograph is formed in the process of work. As an artist, the interaction between man and nature is an important aspect to me. I am looking at how we are, what our common conditions are and how we define our existence in this world.
Over these years you have experimented with a wide variety of different techniques. The figurative language you convey in your pieces is the result of a constant evolution of your searching for new means to express the ideas you explore in your works: your inquiry into the expressive potential of colors combines together figurative as subtle abstract feature into a coherent balance. We would suggest to our readers to visit http://liorherchkovitz.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: in the meanwhile, would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, would you shed light on your usual process and set up?
In the past, I used to plan to the utmost degree, especially when practicing in the field of staged photography. I would begin with an idea, develop a storyboard and later scout for location and characters. In recent years, I learned to embrace the notion of not knowing at the beginning. This way of working increases a sense of freedom. It begins with an impulse or in other words, out of an urge to redefine the strong complex visual relationships that goes beyond words, between man and his environment. When certain emotion keep on repeating, I simply react to it. I work very intuitively and try to see what affects me in the place, rather than documenting what a place is.
For this special edition of LandEscape we have selected Evidence of Our Existence, an extremely interesting project that reflects the multifaceted nature of our relationship to nature and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. When walking our readers through the genesis of Evidence of Our Existence would you shed a light about your usual set up and process?
When embarking on a new project, I begin to collect materials, travel in order to get familiar with the surrounding. Looking back, I may say that Evidence of Our Existence began 10 years ago during another project, which I was working on and is entitled Night. Both projects are linked in a sense that I have always been keen on portraying man through the things he leaves behind. All photographs depict no people within the environment. In other words, a world before and after. Both of series portray this in quite a poignant way. The sense of abandonment intensifies in Evidence of Our Existence. Some of the images shown here were done in Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, Germany. A city, which is situated 40 km from Berlin. It was the biggest Soviet army base in East Europe during the cold war and was known as Little Moscow. To the locals it was “The Forbidden City”. The East Germans weren’t allowed to enter. I witnessed a place that was forgotten, and yet replete with things testifying to the fact that people, mostly Soviet officers and their families had lived there. The series is a timely reminder of both human intervention and human absence. There is a theatre entrance hall, cinema, swimming pools, and paint peeling off walls in spaces long abandoned. As I mentioned before, I tend to go back to historical materials. It gives me some reference about the past and how it relates to the present; determining time complexity. In contrast to that, the image entitled ‘Rehearsal Pause (Habima - National Theatre of Israel)’ was photographed while actors adjourned for one hour break. With this in mind, what is left behind often tells us more about ourselves.
The ambiance you captured in Evidence of Our Existence reminds us of the notion of non-lieu elaborated by French anthropologist Marc Augé and establishes a channel of communication between the conscious level and the subconscious sphere: artists are always interested in probing to see what is beneath the surface: maybe one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your view about this? In particular, do you think that your works could induce a process of self-reflection in the viewers?
It does remind in a subtle way the Notion of non-lieu by Marc Augé. Nevertheless, in my mind, the lieu de mémoire by the historian Pierre Nora indicates one of the subject matters that I am interested in, much more clearly. It signifies memory and in particular, collective memory. According to lieu de mémoire the cultural landmarks, places, practices and expressions stemming from a shared past, whether material such as monuments or intangible as language and traditions. It may refer to any place, object or concept vested with historical significance in the popular collective memory. It may be an event or a symbol for instance - a red flag. Indeed, both of ideas deal with communication between consciousness and the subconscious. My role as an artist is to focus deep into these sources of our cultural conditioning, and let ideas and practices to reveal undercurrent tendencies. I do try to induce a process of self-reflection in the viewer in order to help him unleash his inner nature. What is it basically the inner Nature? It is the life of feeling, and it is much more intimately connected with our inner being than our thought and perception. However, with respect to feeling and emotion one has the sensation: within me are endless depths; could I but bring, I can only bring forth the smallest part and transform it into actual feeling. My work has to give all the information but none of the secrets. Not provide answers. I rather pose questions, which I do not have an answer to. I am reacting to the environment, observing what is in front of me and uses it to create emotion. The narrative is created in the viewer’s mind, but each one of us has his own story, emotion and different capabilities to endure a moment. Your story is true the same as mine.
Liquid Night provides the viewers with an intense, immersive experience and the dualism of things that marks out your artistic research leads you to investigate the social sphere and its condition: how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space? In particular, how much do you consider the immersive nature of the viewing experience?
Art in public space is one of the last frontiers of free expression and as such, has an important role in society. Without art that is engaged with the society at large, the banality of reality would be intolerable. It strives to deal with key questions and always takes a position. I am creating work for you to react to; trying to provide the viewer an extension of the ordinary human perception and meanings behind the world as we usually precieve. It is about drawing on a reaction. Whether it is in public space indoors or outdoors, art is entertainment, reaction and experience. That's what all art is about. So, I definitely consider the viewing experience when having to decide how to display my work in a space. Creating the ultimate viewing experience is always a challenging aspect, because I create within the medium of a still image and I do not sensationalize things but rather searching for a subtle approach.
Elements from environment are particularly recurrent in your imagery and they never plays the role of a mere background. Do you see a definite relationship between environment and your work?
I do not consider my work as environmental or ecological art per se. But I do see a definite connection, since I depict interrelationships within our environment in a way of representation. It stems from a deep relationship with the surrounding atmosphere, together with close observation on season, light and form as a means to mood and sensation. In another project entitled Seamoods, I pay much of attention to it. The sea and land, and their connection point - the landscape – are supported in human figures, and vice versa.
Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impressed us and on which we would like to spend some words is entitled Tidal: it is an art project that address the relationship between the visible and invisible and we appreciated the way you have been capable of creating a point of convergence between a kind of imagery belonging to universal imagery and direct experience. So we would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?
Any process I begin emerges out of a personal necessity. It is indeed an absolutely indispensable part. Therefore, it evolves from direct experience. The Tidal project was done in the same manner. Whether I deal with a landscape or man, in my mind it has no difference, but rather similar feature and aspect. Anywhere we go, we always carry on our personal bag. I have to listen to the child, the son, the father, lover and the artist in me. Without it I can not authentically create an imagery. It is a second to none.
Tidal also connects the apparent staticity of a visual image, providing the viewers with an intense experience of real-time walking on the thin line that divides figurative to imagination. In particular, how do you view the concepts of the real, the authentic and the imagined playing out within your works?
Tidal is a good example of playing with the imagined. It addresses the relationship between the visible and invisible, the real and unreal, the felt and unfelt motivated forces that surround us. There is no one without the other. It is inseparable. In fact, the images were made by portraying the subject number of times from the same location, in different weather, time, and light conditions by using number of negatives combined and still carrying the primary image remaining under surface. I have created another sea, almost fantastic, almost abstract. I am always trying to understand the individual that I am. Therefore, the relationship between my inner nature and my work creates an authenticity. Producing work, in a way, is connected with the expression of this “inward” voyage. It comes as a sort of slow boiling up inside until it explodes. Then, there is that one moment that translates itself into a need to be filled with wonder, a need to look with intensity and with courage. Finally, there is that moment of true vision that puts me in to a state of receptivity and allows me to react on it in a form of an image. This trance is only a game that doesn’t last long, however, because life always calls you back to its commands.
It seems like contemporary art practice is about breaking the rules and subverting a wide variety of taxonomies of art: there are no boundaries in it whereas the type of art you’re practicing has very real rules that you have to follow. What are some of the rules that when you sit down and you’re conceiving a new piece that you have to consider when you’re deciding whether or not you’re going to conceive something?
I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost – that is extremely important. This is my only rule. It has to be an interesting subject that is meaningful to me.
You have remarked once that you are less concerned with beauty as commonly perceived, but rather fascinated by a perceptible discrepancy between the visible surface and the psychological content: how do you relate yourself to the aesthetic problem in general? What does in your opinion mean the notion of aesthetics in our unstable contemporary age?
With regard to aesthetics as an art form, in this current age we have the chance to perceive the unusual, overstated or shocking as well as the sublime. As we know, art in medieval period or much later on in communism time was used for other purposes. Now, we might find it to be fascinating, discover new perception. Artists create more complex, intriguing works. We have the opportunity to much wider aesthetical experiences then ever before. However, It can be a very heavy toll too. Concerning photography in particular, happily, man is still the most important part of the picture – making process. On the other hand, this is an idea that is still not well established in people’s minds. They think that, thanks to a great technology in image making an extraordinary picture will be found every time, but this isn’t so. The best photos, the ones that are remembered, are the ones that first passed through the person’s mind before being restored by the chip.
Over the years you have internationally exhibited and one of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create a direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
The moment always dictates in my work. What I feel, I do. This is the most important thing for me. Everybody can look, but they don’t necessarily see. I never calculate or consider this issue during the actual process of making art; I see a situation and I know that it’s right. When it comes to desplaying my work, I have to consider the audience, let the viewer who looks at the picture always walk along that visual path for himself. We must always remember that an image is also made up of the person who looks at it. One must let the viewer extricate himself, free himself for the journey. I offer the seed and then the viewer grows it inside himself.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lior. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
I’ve recently began a new body of work, up in the Swiss Alps, but I can’t tell you about it yet. There’ll be two or three works on display in a future solo exhibition, which will take place a year from now at the MACT & CACT Arte Contemporanea Ticino, an Art Museum in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Since my first ever project was done, Sixteen years ago, I feel I have something now that may evolve to a first monograph.