Liquidation (2005)

 

The photographs in Liquidation depict expansive primeval forests in the southwest region of contemporary Ukraine, in and around the village now known as Kosiv. Behind the evident beauty of these landscapes lurks an ominous past. The site is distinctly personal for the artist. Gersht’s father-in-law, Gideon Engler, was born in Kosiv, formerly part of Poland, and survived the German occupation with his father and brother by hiding for over two and a half years, first in  a coffin like space bellow floor boards and later in a nearby attic. 

 

Gersht’s compositions reference the landscapes of German Romanticism, which are often epic in scale. The work of Caspar David Friedrich, which brings the painter’s reverence for nature to the fore, is particularly pertinent to this series. Gersht achieved a painterly fluidity, an almost liquefied effect, by overexposing his silver-coated film. In doing so, he muddled the landscape’s legibility and, by extension, the photographs’ faithfulness to reality and their capacity to be documentary. Though the work is undoubtedly rooted in a deeply personal family history, the images themselves call into question the ability of photography and its human analogue—memory—to reflect our histories accurately.

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