Habitat / Anna Yam
Braverman Gallery is pleased to invite you to the opening of Anna Yam's solo exhibition Habitat.
Anna Yam's exhibition is the culmination of a two year process where she explores the tension between the landscape of the natural world and the photographic technique employed to record her images. The result is a series of photographic works presented here for the first time. The title Habitat is a term taken from the world of ecology that signifies a physical setting in which an organism naturally or normally lives and grows: a living environment.
Much like an explorer, Yam seeks to discover destinations that have yet to be mapped, whose identities have yet to be revealed. Amorphous scenes like a waterfall, a palm tree or a pool defines and maps the borders of her field of research.
The conditions are typically less than optimal – darkness, fog, snow create a diffused environment.
It is a habitat impossible to document which Yam seeks to emphasize through her photographic technique.
The haziness of her world is not predetermined, as only the locations and the conditions are predefined.
In this kind of experimental environment, the images appear because of the conditions that enable it to appear. The purpose of the experiment is to control the conditions without controlling the result.
The photography is not planned or choreographed and the camera used is technically unsophisticated and inaccurate.
The work Untitled (Sticks) reveals the effects of her experiment by diffusing the elements within the frame. Another work Untitled (Fountain) demonstrates the hazy effect of her habitat in which a blurred silhouette is hidden behind a waterfall. In both works the topography is opaque, blocking the visual field as if urging the viewer to redirect the gaze back to take a closer look. The image, the abstract against the narrative, contrast one another, and yet, they do not abandon the function of traditional photography: capturing a single occurrence at one specific point in time.
The images conceived by Yam lose their original narrative and a new abstract meaning emerges.
The images in Yam's photographs may appear as fragments of familiar objects but the evolution of her habitat creates a new code to decipher. Unlike Yam’s previous exhibitions, the colors used in the current works reveal a monochromatic scale, and their compositions are open and deconstructed. Alongside the apparent sense of freedom, stirs a feeling of instability and imbalance. When the main image is absent, such as in Sticks, where the people holding the sticks are not in frame the composition remains orphaned from its visual or psychological anchor, yearning for stability.
The choice of shooting at eye-level allows the viewer to access the images, evoking a sense of intimacy and empathy, though simultaneously allowing them to retain their sense of uneasiness and anxiety. In the work Untitled (Woman Walking) the composition pays tribute to Bruegel’s Fall of Icarus and the iconic photo Behind the Gare St. Lazare by Henri Cartier-Bresson. This was not a conscious and the captured moment is the source scene of that “defining moment” in the photograph. The images are a montage of hazy reality; they’re either blurred or covered, expressing the abstract. Yam is not interested in creating a visual abundance. The works, therefore, prefer to seduce rather than flirt.
In all of the works there is an expression of painting – a fine line, a spot of color, a penetrating stain, a focus of depth, traces of erasing and construction. The formalism is clear, the images break up into abstract, minimalistic elements, and yet there remains a narrative dimension, which is linked to the photographer’s reality. Concrete materials such as wood, cardboard paper, snowflakes and dust burn by the flash and, in the process, turn into abstract forms. It’s a sort of impressionistic reverse, in which the deconstruction appears from afar, and the image emerges as you get closer. A conflict takes place between two key photographic components: realistic photography – mimesis, and abstract photography – pictorial.
In the Sticks series, beyond the act of defining the borders of the habitat, Yam choreographs the objects on the other side of her lens: a group of people holding stick lights act out Yam's directions. The final image is more like a painting made by light. Photographing in the dark burns the entire background leaving only traces of light.
The image is a captured moment in time, revealing the image as kind of photogram, representing a formalistic occurrence spun out of control. The performance simulates the act of exposing the photographic paper to light, practically exporting it beyond the camera. A strong sense of musical vibrations underpins the exhibition. The points of light repeat themselves in the space creating a rhythm that acts as a graphical notation. In this sense, it’s as if the works were forcing the viewer to move around, and become an active participant in the exhibition. We discover details and layers that may not be noticed by observing one work at a time. The variance in size and display intensify this sense. Boris Groys claimed that conceptual art could be characterized as installation art – a holistic approach in which the relationship between the works is the basis for the creation of art. Yam seems to point out that her series of images represent a kind of installation or cinematic eassy. Although each work in the exhibition functions individually, as a separate unit with a clear genetic code, the relationships between the works creates a montage of new landscapes.
The strong contrast between light and darkness, shallow and deep, narrative and conceptual, painting and photography, near and far, humorous and melancholic, vague and precise is Yam's living environment - her habitat.
Curator: Adi Gura