Galia Gur Zeev
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photos | installations | texts Table  1997
The body of the Table – its four legs and smooth working surface spread in front of the people seated around it – (challenging their passivity, calling them to the center stage, occupy it, place their tools on it, their weight, their desires. Their power, exchange across it their communication calls, speech, glances), the very body of the table does not exist in Galia Gur Zeev's series of photographs dealing with a meal with her family and friends. The table remains an abstract, devoid of substance, content in projecting its organizing power; it casts various lines of distance between the group of people, seats them around its four sides, establishes an unavoidable hierarchy between them, and imposes manners and proper behavior that declare: you are sitting around a table, the ceremony begins – a meal.

Galia Gur Zeev's Table does not exist on the "object" level, as a designed object, but rather on the conceptual level as a formatting object – a stable and square Qaaba, which, by its magnetic power, attaches to its flanks the singular bodies that move freely in space – the people of the house. Gur Zeev offers the Table as a focus that ties everyone to it – every person with his/her plate, fork, and knife. It isn't only the body of the table that is missing, the bodies of those sitting at it are also invisible, and only their heads can be seen from above: an oval scalp strewn with bristles of hair, thinning, graying waves of hair, a pony tail held together by a rubber band. Protruding ears, the nose stands out like a bird's beak. It is an unconventional angle (as if the photographer was glued to the ceiling), that considers those seated at the table as present – yet – absent objects. The plate – white and empty – and the utensils alongside it – the knife and the fork – that accompany each head seated at the table, convey a resemblance of an assemblage of a saint's round halo and a personal combat outfit.

Galia Gur Zeev's space is, just as in her previous works, a black space. It is devoid of details, lacking a horizon; a frozen and silent space. The photographed image appears in it in cruel lucidity, unable to slip away into vagueness or fogginess. Gur Zeev's black and white photographs do not treat the black white opposites as a secondary option to color photography, but rather as two principal forces that define each other; the black swallows all, concealing the body and the face, leaving the exposed part glaring in its whiteness, flickering out of the print. The photographer dominates the exposed and the concealed, defines the areas of light and darkness, re-edits the flow of the limbs, after having disconnected them from the whole body and giving them an independent status. In the case of "Table", the process distills the combined presence of family members into an essential and compact framework, complicate, in which each member is a desolate and disconnected entity that is also connected and simultaneously to the others by threads no eye can see, by the direction of a lance, the tilting of a head; father, mother, husband, daughter, nephew, close boyfriend and best girlfriend. The concept of the family, present as a uniform format behind the title "Table", crosses right through the day-to-day dimension of eating-drinking-power struggling, to a monolithic place of an emotional bond that exists beyond the voices and the silence.

Tali Tamir
Kibbutz Art Gallery

In Galia Gur-Zeev's works, the medium of photography is used like a spotlight: The illuminated figure is focused with the most extraordinary sharpness, while its surroundings sink into darkness. The contrast of light and dark becomes the metaphor for the essential and the unessential. Perhaps it is the current overabundance of images whose informative, perplexing and frequently manipulating effect we can hardly evade which has impelled Gur Zeev to develop photos of induced silence.

Separate parts of the body of humans and animals are cut out from their anatomical connection by means of photography and increase our awareness of the microcosmos. One belives one may be able to discern every hair, no matter how minute, and every feather, no matter how fine. The characteristic feature of Gur Zeev's works is that the individual photo is not given the sole attention; the photo stands beyond the limits of its motif in a well-thought out dialogue with other photos. The individual photos, which each on its own represents only a fraction of reality, are integrated into an artificial structure which is magically held together. Decorative and repetitive structures lend these photo arrangements the "worldlessness" that Georg Lukacs noted with regard to the ornament.
In the work "Table" shown here, the title specifies the motif which apparently unites the photos in their arrangement, while a rather abstract motif can be found in earlier untitled series. Indeed, formal analogies stand out when the individual photo is examined, but references with regard to content suggest conflicting relationships and contrasts. Thus, for example, in a work of 1995, the elegance of a woman's beautiful head of hair in the midst of the photos with sharp-beaked heads of roosters has the effect of an emancipatory comment on the pecking order of the sexes.

Gur Zeev's photos come close to the human head from an unusual perspective. The face and the organs of the senses are not the center of attention, but the calvaria covered with hair, hence, precisely the area which houses human intelligence. Individuality is conveyed through the uniqueness of each hair structure; at the same time a recognition of individuals is only arduously possible because of the unusual visual angle. Ultimately, the photo composition can be construed as schemata for human relations.

Renate Buschmann

See Georg Lucas, Die Eigenart des Asthetischen, Kap. 4/III, 1963, in Werke Bd. 11/12, Berlin/Weimar 1987

גליה גור-זאב ,גליה גור זאב
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