New Delhi, Aug 19: As Israeli artist Ayelet Albenda typed “Gaza War” in Google, she was surprised to see some videos of Israeli soldiers speaking at length about how Mother Rachel saved their lives. Fascinated with the mystique of blurring lines between real and surreal, she chose to freeze the moment of expression to bring out the eeriness of the subject through the medium of photographs.
Using screen shots of a particular image from these videos, the 33-year-old zoomed on some pictures and enhanced the picture quality to bring out the drama.
Describing her work as “ready-made”, Albenda, who was visiting India, said she randomly picks up subjects of interest from the internet.
And this time, the Mother Rachel videos inspired her so much that she named her photo exhibition “Mother Rachel”, who is considered a spiritual matriarch of the Jewish people and is revered as a mother of lost sons. Her shrine, Rachel’s Tomb, is on the outskirts of Bethlehem and dates to the first decades of the 4th century.
“In these videos, people have tried to hide the faces of the soldiers and instead of using conventional means like pixels or blackening their eyes, they have made light come out of their faces. This is a powerful and dramatic way of hiding the faces,” Albenda told IANS in an interview.
“I captured the moment when light comes on the screen from their faces, and then blew it up according to my desire,” she added.
Her photographs will be showcased for the first time at the United Art Fair in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan September 14-17.
The second edition of the art fair will showcase national and international artists.
Albenda said what intrigued her was that many videos started resurfacing at the social networking sites at the end of the Gaza war between Israel and Palestine in January 2009.
In the videos, soldiers admitted to meeting the woman who introduced herself as Mother Rachel and saved their lives.
In most of her photographs, light acts as a metaphor. It also leads to questions whether the artist wants to convey the message of fear, spirituality or supernatural.
“Their faces aren’t visible. It seems to me that at that moment they are not remembering Rachel, but the fact that they have experienced a miracle,” Albenda said.
“It is a moment of blindness and belief that gels well with the narrative. A face disappearing or absorbing in sky is magical for me,” she added.
“She (Mother Rachel) is a mother of lost sons. And all the soldiers who are in the war zone are the lost sons of many mothers living in a zone between peace and war and life and death,” she said.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)