Miki Kratsman presents exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Musem of Castille and Leon
LEON.- The entire body of Miki Kratsman’s work (Argentina, 1959; Israeli citizen since 1971) is centred on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it unfolds between the vicissitudes and circumstances of the daily life of the Palestinian people, shaped by displacement, constant siege, and the systematic occupation that they have undergone for more than sixty years. Kratsman’s photography shows before the public the consequences of a devastated reality—a destroyed territory of ravaged or abandoned buildings and desolate fields—behind which one recognizes a politics of control and isolation, violence and death. However, the artist does not resort to spectacle or exhibitionistic effects in his photography. It can be said that Kratsman does not exploit his themes or their subjects. On the contrary, he brings us before an inhospitable and deserted reality, confronting us with the “everyday banality” of another parallel reality that is negotiated between those who live and endure the occupation on a daily basis, on the one hand, and the military arm of Israeli power, on the other.
AS IT IS, curated by Octavio Zaya, portrays these complementary aspects, of which the photographer is an exceptional witness. In the first place, Kratsman’s work places the spectator at the scene of a crime, a deserted setting and silent testimony, which is nonetheless loaded with significance and evidence. Most of the pictures from his series Territory (2005) touch on this theme, as they are images that introduce us to the desolate and destroyed lands of the forced displacement and expulsion made possible by illegal Israeli settlements. This series is shown accompanied by examples of other more recent series, including Targeted Killing (2010), which Kratsman produced using the same surveillance technology the Israeli army uses in its controversial policy of targeted assassinations of specific Palestinian individuals. The show also includes some images that focus on the implacable wall limiting and separating the Palestinians in isolated, guarded enclaves, where free movement is impossible. Through these series, the artist allows us to observe the reality of the occupation through his viewpoint, while also compelling us to question what we see and what we do not see.
The exhibition is rounded out by three large format projections providing an overview of virtually all of Kratsman’s photographic archive, which contains more than four thousand pictures of the conflict taken over the course of his more than 20 years as a press photographer in the occupied territories. Kratsman’s long career as a reporter, focusing on the West Bank, has given him the opportunity to witness up close the day-to-day experience of the occupation, to gain access to a reality that is largely unknown to international media and inaccessible to the Israeli public. The material the artist’s archive comprises, and the photographer’s access to the subject it involves, become the grounds on which Kratsman questions the difference between “the document” and “the artistic work”, in order to consider any photographic image a frozen moment that is determined, under specific conditions, by a supposedly responsible, intentional subject. In the case of Miki Kratsman, the decisions are as much photographic as they are political, sometimes dictated by professional requirements and duties, and other times by the circumstances and opportunities offered by a reality that, for the artist, bearing his own ethical responsibility, is influenced and established, always and in all cases, by the history of the occupation, which frames and gives meaning to each and every one of the pictures.
Miki Kratsman was born in Buenos Aires in 1959 and emigrated to Israel in 1971. He began his career as a press photographer at the daily Hadashot, where he worked until 1994. Since 1995, he has been contributing to Twilight Zone, a weekly series about the occupied territories under the direction of legendary Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, for the newspaper Haaretz of Tel Aviv. Kratsman has participated in numerous international and national shows, in Venice, Seoul, Madrid, Tel Aviv and Vigo. Recently, as the organization of this show at the MUSAC was under way, Kratsman received two prestigious awards: one granted by Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; and the other, considered the most important such honour in Israel, the Emet Prize for Science, Art and Culture. Kratsman is the Chairman of the Photography Department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem. He is represented by the Chelouche Gallery,Tel Aviv.