BLANK BOX

Text By Yair Barak

The work Blank Box was created as part of the Experimental Film Virginia artist residency program in 2018. It is characterized by direct photography in daylight, and seems typological in its approach, a kind of reincarnation of traditional approaches of anthropological portrait photography. In this context, we can mention for example August Zander in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century or Richard Avedon in California in the 80s of the last century.

 

Tal asks the local residents of a small town in Virginia to take their picture standing on top of a white cube, apparently neutral, which is used as a pedestal or a raised platform. The gesture, rooted in the history of sculpture, makes the portraits monumental, at least apparently. It is an act of transmutation, a disconnection from ordinary reality, a strong embossment. Moreover - it is mainly a moment of announcement: this is a staged photo, it is not a snap shot. Tal's cube becomes an outdoor studio space that defines itself through the improvised geometric structure.

 

In her seminal article Sculpture in the Expanded Field the American, theorist Rosalind E. Krauss claims that during the 1970s a revolution took place in the field of sculpture. The sculptures were separated from the traditional pedestal that defined them and their display space, and began to develop a new approach to space. According to Krauss, this is how the Installation that characterized the conceptual art of those years was born. Tal returns the plinth on which statues used to be placed and replaces the sculptures with human figures. These are not leaders, kings or members of the aristocracy, but rather random characters who actually happen to be caught in the moment of taking the photo.

 

When observing this work, it is inevitable to refer briefly to the important concept of White Cube: the same term that was coined in the 1970s and refers to a modernist display aesthetic that emerged during the 20th century. This aesthetic dictated new exhibition spaces, clean and simple in appearance, allowing the art to speak for itself without the dominant presence of the architectural act. Tal's white cube performs a similar action to its subjects: it neutralizes, disconnects and distills the individuality of each of them allowing him/her to be present in their full being.