Traces of trauma: the work of Ori Gersht

Stara, Alexandra (2010) Traces of trauma: the work of Ori Gersht. In: Exploring the Edge of Trauma; 13 - 16 May 2010, Chichester, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Artist Ori Gersht (b.1967, Israel) has been consistently exploring the violence of history and its traumas through his photographs and, more recently, films. Gersht’s strategy is to address these themes obliquely, eschewing the depiction of violence or its direct aftermath, but looking instead at the places of its occurrence. Sarajevo in AfterWars (1999), the train journey from Krakow to Auschwitz in White Noise (2001), Gaza/Israel in Ghost (2003), the Ukraine in The Clearing (2006) are some of the places where Gersht seeks the traces of trauma as imprinted or implied in the landscape. Gersht’s images have a dream like quality, which is haunting and engaging even as it distances the reality of the subject. This indirect reference to the events, embedded in the horizon of unpopulated landscapes or elliptical still lives, is resonant with metaphor and metaphysical allusion. The device of distancing is a crucial hinge in a body of work that eschews rhetoric and invests, instead, in the power of poetry to carry the weight of meaning and affect. This paper discusses the work of Ori Gersht as an exploration of art’s relationship to trauma through a dialectics of absence that speak of trauma’s ineffability and question the limits of representation.

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