This publication brings together images and archival materials
Ilit Azoulay's No Thing Dies project
, as well as illuminating
texts by authors from different fields. One of the starting points in
putting it together was the extended research conducted by the artist into
the collections of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in preparation of her
exhibition there (June to December 2017). The project raised the question
of how such an institution gives shape to a collection of objects and,
consequently, gives voice to certain histories while silencing others.
The project started out by the artist listening to the stories of the
people in charge of the museum collections and of the items within them.
For her, storytelling is a way of passing on history and its complexity,
in a manner unequaled by any other form of transmission of accumulated
knowledge and culture. Eventually, this contributed to her articulating a
critique of this encyclopedic museum, such as is not habitually presented
in its exhibitions or catalogues. With her team, she recorded many such
stories. She then revisited all the departments, and photographed every
single object that was mentioned.
The photographic method Azoulay used in this, as in most of her other
projects, is unique. To capture the image of each object, she uses a
digital camera with a macro lens and takes several shots of it, moving
upward along the surface of the standing object, as though scanning it.
These images she then stitches together digitally, in Photoshop, into a
single image. The result is a very high-definition image of the object,
often exceeding the resolution that our eyes are capable of.
By this method, Azoulay acquired the images of 753 objects (or fragments)
from 24 different departments, which she came to view as raw data or
“archive pages,” a selection of which is included in the book. Then, she
composed scenes to conjure up the histories evoked by the interviews,
constructing novel interactions between objects (cast as characters) and
creating “stages” for them. Hierarchies were shuffled, inter-department
boundaries were removed; all elements became contingent upon the stories
told by the complex images Azoulay assembled. Every one of the final works
consists of numerous sections, each comprised of multiple details, spaces,
and perspectives, merging together time periods, spheres, perceptions, and
modes of representation.
The photographic images, thus stitched together, were then placed in
three-dimensional display-like casings––vitrines (as the artist dubbed
them)––each comprising several sections enclosed within frames of varying
depth. In this way, each work is presented as a photographic diorama that,
much like a Persian miniature, offers multiple windows onto a possible
page in a local history.
In the book devoted to this project, the reader is invited to wander among
the images composed by Azoulay from the museum's many stories and
artifacts, in an effort to give expression to their fascinating,
polyphonic, and multifaceted viewpoints.
Published following the eponymous exhibition at the Israel Museum,
Jerusalem, from June 3 to December 2, 2017.