Paris Photo

Ilit Azoulay ‘No Thing Dies’ arises from the depth of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The museum was erected in 1965 with the belief that it would help embed the cultural identity of the young state. ‘No Thing dies’ looks into the social layer that underruns this process for the past 52 years and perhaps shows how it sustains the illusion of a dialogue with ‘the other’ Middle-Eastern cultures.

During three years, Azoulay spent most of her days in the storage rooms of the Israel Museum, reviewing its collections, and interviewing various curators, archivists and conservators. She recorded these conversations and slowly discovered the many artifacts that never were publicly exhibited, along with stories about their original purpose, their journey to the museum, and the challenges of their preservation and display. These stories revealed the deep involvement of the curators and conservators to every artifact of their collection. The selected objects were photographed, analyzed, classified and eventually created an image bank which, to some extent, reflects the invisible life-long labor of those preserving, researching, restoring, archiving, etc. While recent surveillance technologies, similar to Azoulay’s photographic technique, are working at narrowing the gap between image and data, Azoulay’s composite images are instead re-inserting uncertainty, mystery, and complexity.

‘No Thing Dies’ draws inspiration from the tradition of Persian miniatures books that were ordered by the ruling monarchs and praised his name and deeds: a sort of early propaganda, taking place in salons and courts. While her work too, was commissioned by the museum, Azoulay’s images seem to create surreal and sometimes theatrical scenes stressing the duplicity of the Museum.

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