Thursday, July 26, 2012
Photographer: David Zilber
Posted by Harry Warwick
The work of David Zilber, especially as rendered in his project ‘Fallibilism’, occupies an intriguing position on the interpretive spectrum. It lies, as far as I can tell, at the point of intersection of two vectors. The first is properly aesthetic and leads us inwards, back towards questions about the native or intrinsic qualities of art, sustaining debate on the place of the image in the aesthetic realm. The second starts in the opposite direction and proceeds, extra-textually, to didactic questions that probe material existence, articulate moral imperatives, and serve to instruct, exploring the breadth of matters extrinsic to art.
The fallibility Zilber depicts is a series of preposterous but comical human errors. Important to observe for our thesis is the ironic negation of the photographic subject’s intended purpose. By placing one chair upside down on another, neither can be used for sitting, and we find that the utility or function of the object is thus wholly removed. It is from such unresolved irony that our interest in the image is captured and retained. Ultimately, this analysis seems to gesture towards an understanding that, in its ridicule of illogical human practice, is at least implicitly didactic. If we nonetheless seek a more overt exercise of pedagogy, still we need look no further than the photograph of the vehicle exhaust. Here is a complete, ironic inversion of the relationship between the polluter and the polluted: instead of dying to the fumes of the exhaust, the plant inhabits the pipe and thrives therein. However analysis proceeds from here, its message will surely be didactic, condemning the irreversible destruction of the natural world for the sake of modern
We can see, then, how Zilber’s photography directs us to the realm of concerns external to art. But as I suggested, we can take these same images and follow them along another, divergent vector.
Consider a second opinion on the photograph of the chairs. This perspective takes a less pragmatic stance on photographic subjects: it cares for neither the utility of the chairs nor the ridiculing of the humans that stacked them. It is impersonal, detached, and emotionally neutral. Its concern is really with the placement of individual works of art within ‘art’—in other words, with the purely formal. More likely, if we were to appraise Zilber’s work from this angle, we would draw attention to the many symmetries of this photograph. The barred doors, the posters, the chairs, even the arrangement of those smaller structures around each other, form a series of rectangles. From here, we might continue to discuss the beauty or overall merit of the photograph, quite apart from our appreciation of its message. Certainly the subtle structural underlay of this photograph is highly commendable. Where the photographer was lost or ignored in the first reading, then, he or she is instantiated in the second.