The Last Photograph is a first-of-its-kind exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
in which a documentary film is disassembled and re-edited into a multi-channel video installation where viewers can move around freely. The art exhibition as a curatorial form meets the cinematic medium, with the museum offering itself as an experimental platform for a new creative collaboration.
In this instance, artist Micha Bar-Am, the father of Israeli photojournalism, opened his archive comprising fifty years of activity for award-winning filmmaker Ran Tal, and the intergenerational encounter spawned a documentary film made up entirely of still photographs that appear consecutively to the sounds of Tals poignant conversations with Micha and Orna Bar-Am.
The archive of Micha Bar-Am, one of the fathers of photojournalism in Israel and the founder of the photography department at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, covers almost all the years of Israeli statehood, in its most beautiful and bleakest moments. From this vast archive of images, many of which are deeply etched in Israeli collective memory, Ran Tal has created a documentary from what is in effect a sequence of still photographs and a soundtrack of an ongoing conversation with Micha and his family. Here, in the museum, the film is taken apart and reassembled into a multi-channel installation that allows free movement among the chapters in the life of a camera. Like Tals previous films (67 Ben Zvi Road, Children of the Sun, The Garden of Eden, and many others), the current work creates a significant gap between the documentary material we see and the conversations we hear. This gapwhen the static evidence provided by the objective camera does not reconcile with the spoken memory of the witnessthe photographer who was thereundermines the most basic consensus about documentation. What do we believe morethe image or the spoken word? Furthermore, what can we learn from this gap regarding how we construct the stories about our identity and the place to which we seek to belong? From Tals artistic resolve to make a film without movement arose the question of how to inspire the viewers movement within the fixed structure of the single-channel cinematic narrative. How to offer an alternative space for the display of photojournalism today that emphasizes the power of photographic composition rather than the material source of the analog photograph. The response is three perspectives on the State and the cameras place within it, which merge in a string of retrospective tributes. Bar-Am engages in a reckoning with himself, his photographs, and the Israeliness that is seen in them. Tals documentary film looks at Bar-Ams pioneering act and at the crisis of consciousness that is building in it. The curatorial act considers Tals documentary action as a form of expression that exceeds the parameters of the conventional movie theater.