Tel Aviv

Amit Berlowitz

Amit Berlowitz’s cinematic studies inform all aspects of her solo exhibition “in between everything that is,” so that her photographs appear like so many successive frames from an expansive film archive. They often resemble preparatory shots or outtakes, the sketchy conceptualization of what’s to come or the discarded remains excised from the final cut. As if to underscore their transient utility and anticipated futility, they’re displayed on the gallery walls like storyboards, with handwritten titles in pencil scrawled beneath them. It’s this precarious temporality, appearing fleetingly as a mélange of “what will be” and “what has been,” that Berlowitz puts center stage.

In place of the sentimentality one might expect from such work, each of the five series envisions this fugacious temporal zone as a banal dreamscape of nonplaces and nonevents. If there’s romance involved, it emerges from Berlowitz’s investigation of the insignificant as a space of possibility. For instance, “Magic Stick,” 2007, consists of five black-and-white images of an Asian woman playing with a wooden stick in an unremarkable natural setting. With each shot, the woman is seen holding the stick at a slightly different angle, creating minimal dramatic action. A sense of strangeness emerges from the disjunction between the protagonist’s fashionable attire and the forested backdrop. In this short-lived exile from her customary urban existence, the woman finds enchantment in the ordinary.

A similar if more didactic narrative can be found in “What should we dream of?” 2007, a sequence of seven color images showing another well-coutured young woman, standing on a nondescript country road and holding cards with pithy phrases that express the fragility of dreams (I QUICKLY WENT TO WRITE DOWN A THOUGHT, AND I LET IT SLIP AWAY; I FORGOT IT). In this case, Berlowitz turns the stuff of fantasy into a slightly clichéd script delivered with a poker face. Might we assume the obvious—namely, that the provisional space of desire has been invaded by trite media conventions that articulate our dreams like cue cards?

Berlowitz is at her strongest when she relinquishes such exhortation and gives herself over to a more anemic cinema, in the literal sense of the Duchampian term. Such is the situation with Flag, 2008, which is also the only stand-alone image in the entire exhibition. In keeping with Berlowitz’s idiom, a solitary woman seen from afar is centrally positioned within the frame on a hazy winter’s day. She is holding a white flag decorated with five black crosses in a slightly parched, open field, but it’s completely unclear why she is doing so. There is both strength and vulnerability in this perplexing occupation—an unrecognizable symbol held by an anonymous citizen, asserting sovereignty over an utterly prosaic territory. Here, Berlowitz produces a situation that seems to slip out of her own control, like a defiant frame that has escaped the logic of the apparatus.

If this is Berlowitz at her best, we also see what happens when she pulls the reins tighter or releases them completely. The formal severity of “Swimming Pool,” 2008, with its decrepit garden, swamp-hued pool, and absence of people, is offset by the atmospheric sweetness of “Horses,” 2008, ten honey-tinted Polaroids of a mare and foal in a straw-filled stable. In spite of any reservations elicited by such a famil- iar style of straightforward architectural photography or the cloying embrace of soft-focus advertising, Berlowitz’s aesthetic universe is entrancing. Within its interwoven and mediated temporalities, it opens up a tiny space for the materialization of reverie.

Nuit Banai