Blow Up (2007-2008)
In Blow Up, Gersht explores relationships between photography and technology, revisiting fundamental philosophical conundrums concerning optical perception, conceptions of time and the relationships between the photographic image and objective reality.
These photographs depict elaborate floral arrangements based upon 19th century still life paintings by Fantin Latour. Captured in the process of exploding, Gersht´s arrangements are literally frozen in motion, a process dependant upon the advanced technology of photography to freeze-frame action, inconceivable to the old masters. This visual occurrence, that is too fast for the human eye to process and can only be perceived with the aid of technological devices, is what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconsciousness’ in his seminal essay ‘A Short History of Photography’.
Gersht´s photographs allude to the inherent shadow of death and decay hanging over old master still life and vanitas paintings, complete with moths hovering above the explosions. Technology has aided Gersht in creating contemporary versions of frozen life, bringing the concerns of Latour and other still life masters into a contemporary context. By basing his photographs upon paintings within the long-established art historical tradition of still life painting, Gersht draws attention to the painterly nature of his photographs which closely resemble these works. Yet they are distanced due to the instantaneous digital process which captures each shattering still life at a speed of 1/7500 of a second and stores the information immaterially as data on a hardrive until each is fabricated as a Light Jet print (a light sensitive paper that is exposed digitally), returning the image to the world of two-dimensional artworks.
Flowers, which often symbolize peace, become victims of brutal terror, revealing an uneasy beauty in destruction. This tension that exists between violence and beauty, destruction and creation is enhanced by the fruitful collision of the age-old need to capture “reality” and the potential of photography to question what that actually means. The authority of photography in relation to objective truth has been shattered, but new possibilities to experience reality in a more complex and challenging manner have arisen.