Machu Picchu | Curator: Ruth Oppenheim P8 Contemporary Art Gallery
Mati Elmaliach, photographer, graduate of the Wizo Academy of Design in Haifa, traverses over the past years from classical photography to collage studies that he cuts, pastes and folds, transforming existing images. Until recently, he focused on foreign photos to which he was attracted because of their aesthetics and erotic nature. In his exhibition “Machu Picchu”, Elmaliach moves into transformation of his private photography collection. He goes back to photographs of his military service. The photographs develop into physical matter and are folded, duplicated, punctured and embroidered, evolving into new two and three dimensions. Utilization of photographs of the military service, such that are reminiscent of memorial albums of fallen soldiers, immediately raises dilemmas of death. One is forcefully pulled into a narrative of memory. But what exactly is that memory?
In four small studies, oval photographs are exhibited as small tapestries. Elmaliach transforms the figures of comrade soldiers hugging him, obscuring their faces with rays of embroidery threads that leap to the sky forming erective floodlights (marionettes?). Or, alternatively, rainbow hair tresses flowing from the head (Samson’s?), straying from the picture frame. The embroidery mutilates the image, but at the same time also heals the wounds, both corrupting and beautifying it. Moving in between adornment and voodoo. Obscuring the surrounding men, Elmaliach’s image remains solitary, facing forward; forming the time-line, exchanging hidden glances between the two Mati’s. Through transformation of the photographs, Elamaliach aims to converse with the image of the soldier that he was, to communicate with the men that surrounded him, and to unify them, comprehending his true identity, past and present.
The landscape photos in the exhibition have undergone insightful modifications. Whether it is the glowing sun in poisonous green, serving as a peeping-hole into a night-vision action seen. Or duplicated negatives of scenery evolving into images of outer space. Only the arid plants at the forefront of the picture are reminiscent of the original barren landscapes of the Golan heights. The mirror images transform the scenery into Rorschach test–like abstract forms, where at any given point genitalia and sexuality emerge. The two large color images are of the southern Golan heights, where Syria, Jordan and Israel intersect. The photo, taken at sunset, when colors are intense and shadows are large, was printed, punctured with needles, forming a grid though which Elmaliach leaves his mark on the landscape.
Elmaliach’s voyage back and forth in between photography and sculpting is more than a shuttle between dimensions. It embodies true insights to his inner person and past. The modification and loss of the original image generate open spaces of both alienation and familiarity, of insightful unification of bodies and landscapes.
Machu Picchu is an architype of escapism. A phantasy through which flow the deep wishes of the body to escape in time, revisiting and revising the past. It exposes the secret metropolis, the covert feelings. A prism though which the world is envisioned as a magnifier of starlight. Machu Picchu is the journey that Elmaliach undergoes, folds, embroiders and punctures to unravel himself on the pathway to refuge.