PRESS RELEASE:

Oded Balilty – Unidentified Object

Opening Reception: Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 8pm
Curator: Yaron Haramati / Text: Reut Barnea

In his new solo exhibition Unidentified Object, photographer Oded Balilty continues his exploration of the relationship between object and background, between culture and nature, and between the significant and the inconsequential.

Balilty started engaging with this theme in his previous photographic series, White Noise, which was also exhibited at Zemack Gallery (alongside a solo show of that series at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art), where he isolated objects in their natural location from their background by placing a white screen behind them. In the new series, Balilty carries out the opposite action: placing artificial objects he created for this purpose in natural landscapes – so that the object becomes the subject of the work, while nature becomes no more than a backdrop.

Balilty’s process in this exhibition begins with the production of geometric objects made of metal rods and connectors printed in a 3D printer, which he placed on the backdrop of natural landscapes. The three-dimensional geometric objects were each placed against a different background – from the desert to the beach, casting a significant shadow while shooting. That shadow becomes possibly the most prominent and central indication that this is a photograph that captures a moment in reality, and not a computer-generated work. Another sign that points to the presence of the object in reality is the moment it meets the ground. The object’s connection to the ground in each image generates tension that draws the viewer’s eyes, which cannot help but linger on it.

Balilty uses the landscape as a white canvas, onto which he “drops” the objects, bringing the artificial and engineered into the natural, the city into the desert and the sea, himself into space. For a moment, the objects look like UFOs, unidentified objects that landed in an unknown territory, with an incongruent appearance and different set of values. Balilty’s use of the landscape as a canvas also makes the works much more than another photo – in them, he creates both spatial drawing and landscape sculpture, so that the photographic act holds several other mediums.

Balilty’s photos, as mentioned, are not digitally manipulated in any way. At first glance, they look like they were Photoshopped, but that is not the case. Balilty took the non-functional objects in his car from one location to another, planning, trying, organizing, and arranging the frame so that the photo will turn out like he wanted without any digital interference. With that, Balilty addresses the power relation between object and background: Is the background in the photograph only to showcase the object? Is the object only there to underscore the background? The attempt to reach equilibrium between the two elements is carried out by turning the focus to the small minimalist object against the powerful background. By “dropping” the object into the natural setting, the background becomes very insignificant in the picture. It is flat, without contrast, a background in the true sense of the word. The object, unidentified and meaningless, is placed center stage in the role of the star of the image, despite the lack of context and functionality.

When gathered in a series of photographs displayed side by side, these geometric objects take on a new meaning. They can point to a suggestion for a future event, an interference in creation, like the ones that landed simultaneously at different sites across the globe and signal the beginning of something new, one that we all long for, especially in right now.


Oded Balilty (b. 1979
) is one of Israel’s leading photojournalists. Balilty has won numerous awards, including the 2007 Pulizer Prize for Breaking News Photography for a photo he took during the evacuation of Amona illegal settlement. He has been a staff photographer for AP since 2002, and currently heads its photography department in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In addition to his journalistic work, in recent years, Balilty has been creating personal projects that he presents in galleries and museums in Israel and worldwide. His works are kept in prominent public and private collections.