Ori Gersht: This Storm is What We Call Progress
Time Out says
Ori Gersht's simultaneous questioning of official histories, metaphor and lens-based media has gradually, dauntlessly approached the grandest and darkest storylines: of late, WWII. Mostly, though, like Luc Tuymans in painting, the Tel Aviv-born artist veers to peripheries, many of this show's photographs radiating innocence until their content is clarified.
Cherry blossoms, shot in low light at a Japanese shrine for kamikaze pilots, break into graininess – suggesting that the falling petals aren't symbolically commensurate with the human cost of war. A two-screen film of a woman in near darkness, and of snow falling endlessly on trees, refers to the story (told in subtitles) of the human subject – a concentration camp survivor – refusing to dance for Nazi officers, forced to stand lengthily, barefoot in snow, and later running her own dance company: the film tracks her lined, shadowed face, but can't touch her memories.
Less effective is a film restaging venerated critic Walter Benjamin's final, fatal journey, fleeing the Nazis, over the Pyrenees to his panicked suicide. Invoking the writer's 'Angel of History' who, forever facing the past, cannot see the future's unending horrors, it's heartfelt but prolix and melodramatically theatrical. Conversely, when he offers a single image that is, by stages, unassumingly serene, resonant with disquiet and self-undermining, Gersht himself frequently becomes a more dimensioned artist than he first appears.