At the dawn of photography the city could only be recorded as a virtually empty stage by a camera lens too slow to fix for posterity the vitality of urban life. Even before the new art of photography – literally writing with light – was announced in 1839 in Paris, the City of Light, Daguerre had pioneered street photography by capturing a view of the Boulevard du Temple through the double aperture of his window and his camera lens. This first urban daguerreotype. captured perfectly the city’s architecture, but this man soon to be famous for portraiture left us scarcely a trace of the bustling traffic of that spring 1838 morning, all human presence was vanquished, save a blurry pair of men, a shoe shiner and a customer, who remained still long enough to be captured as a smudge on the otherwise pristine scene. By the end of the century the camera was able to capture motion even below the threshold of human perception, making it a tool for the scientific study of human and animal locomotion.
Fast forward almost two centuries to the dawn of spring 2020. The iPhone 11 Pro was launched six months earlier and put shutter speeds thousands of times faster than anything Daguerre could imagine into the hands of everyone….. just in time for most to be confined at home by the sudden appearance of a life-threatening virus. Erieta Attali’s hauntingly beautiful body of architectural photography over the last xx years was based in a paradoxical counter current. She photographed with film, rather than digitally, and favored a Linhof camera – as heavy and demanding to use as it is remarkable for its precision – pushing it to exposures of even several hours with a f32 setting, returning to the origins of photography in a sense to achieve the subtle combinations of timeless architecture and passing luminosities and reflections that characterize her impressive body of architectural photography, often organized into carefully planned campaigns of documentation. But suddenly the situation had changed and the new Iphone she had purchased in Tokyo a few months before her Parisian sojourn was to prove the instrument for rapid deployment. The French capital’s rapid pivot towards lockdown that transformed city life overnight just days after she arrived to begin an artistic residency led to an unplanned project. Armed with a press card and working at the margins of the permissible she set out to maximize the permitted hour for exercise near home imposed in March 2020 to record Paris as a stage emptied of actors as it hadn’t been even in the history of revolutions, epidemics, and occupations in the years since photography began recording the experience of urban life. In the twilight and early nighttime hours of spring 2020, and then again from September 1st to December 31st with the cresting of a second wave of infections, Attali captured a stage of frustrated potential urban action in images that are hauntingly beautiful, images that capture the famous monuments and the characteristic streets of Paris in an uncanny vacuum of motion, occasionally with some tell tale traces of human passage. The sense of tragedy and foreboding is everywhere, as though the IPhone had been available already in 79 AD both to call for help and to capture the scene of Pompeii turned from a scene of vibrant life to existential threat. While others were posting images to social media like messages in a bottle, Attali was braving the streets to push the quotidian capacity of the IPhone to fix a historic period in Parisian life. Capturing the Empty Stage: Paris confined, text by Barry Bergdoll
LIMINA - Spaces in between Spaces, text by Alessio Assonitis
The Latin word limina—plural neuter of limes—comprises more than one meaning. It primarily indicates thresholds, doors, entrances, barriers, beginnings and/or ends. This term can also mean homes or dwellings. (Closely related is the word limes—limites in the plural form—which means boundary or limit, but also passage or trail.)
In a broad sense, limina convey the precise or blurry lines that mark physical, social, religious, or even emotional space. Limina establish distances or proximities. Limina divide but also join together. Limina enable and empower spaces, but also abolish and even desecrate them. Limina pave ways and point towards directions. Limina secure order, but also stimulate dialogue which can lead to tension, and, ultimately, dissent.
When reviewing the scholarly studies on Erieta Attali's visual exploration of the dialectic negotiations between τέχνη and φύσις, one inevitably comes across terminology that resonates contemporary conceptualizations of limina. We read about boundaries, barriers, interstices, demarcations, margins, extremities, journeys, breaches, isolation, impenetrability, periphery and sacrality. Indeed, most of her oeuvre challenges the viewer to detect patterns of interpenetration between architecture and nature.
In the 2010 volume In Extremis: Landscape in Architecture, Attali mapped mostly domestic structures that are ensconced in arid, lunar landscapes, cast away in barren deserts, or nestled in impenetrable brush. While mapping these environments in extremis, she increasingly became attracted to buildings that integrate themselves with uncompromising surroundings; struggle desperately to retain a modicum of formal identity; emerge triumphantly from nature’s viscera; and are overwhelmed by the elements. In some cases, these dwellings function as asylums from the landscape’s austerity: final markers of human intervention before crossing the point of no return. In other instances, they remind us of pilgrims’ stations during strenuous wayfaring. Whether situated in the Atacama Desert (Chile) or on the Aurlandsfjord (Norway), Attali carefully charts these geographies and retraces the itinerary of this contemporary pilgrimage. However, unlike the linear trajectory of El Camino towards Santiago de Compostela (or towards Finisterrae), many of sites that delineate this journey seem to be propelled by centrifugal forces, moving outwards, away from a center, and scattered into the ends of the Earth.
During the course of her extended research, Attali also reflects upon the distances that separate peripheries from their focal points. In many ways, this constitutes her νόστος: a homeward journey towards a personal and cultural center, one that makes reference to her early work as a photographer of archaeological sites. She monumentalizes this personal and cultural debt by fashioning Bernard Tschumi’s New Acropolis Museum into a basilica nave. The Periclean citadel—just like a church altar—is sublimized by a perspectival fuga, punctuated by the sculpture from the west pediment on the right and by parallel shadows etched on the pavement. Effectively, this becomes a space of mediation between the urgency of contemporaneity and the memory of tradition.
The theme of the pilgrimage—of a journey towards sites of personal enlightenment—is very much present in her study of domesticity. Rather than distancing herself from the site, she enters the premises and experiences the intimacy of the hearth. While her previous modus operandi has been to allow landscape to mediate between—or even interfere with—the viewer and architecture, Attali turns inwards, providing a different interpretation of her research on landscape into architecture, one that frustrates conventional viewpoints. Glass becomes the rigorous protagonist. It reassesses the function of limina by filtering (and allowing) light. One is confronted with spaces galvanized by their own internal glow, silencing the landscape whose enveloping presence looms in the background. Elsewhere, square and rectangular window partitions deconstruct an alpine landscape and remind us of the fragility of divisions. The open-glass walls become canvases, onto which and through which reflections, glares, deflections, and transparencies are carefully indexed.
Effectively, Attali is a taxonomist of limina. She understands their protean nature, tries to unlock their stratigraphies, and ultimately archive their multifaceted incarnations. As such, they become her personal unit of measure with which she redefines the rules of engagement of the "spaces in-between spaces." LIMINA - Spaces in between Spaces, text by Alessio Assonitis
TitleLIMINA - Erieta Attali Photography Exhibition
FromJuly 08, 2021 08:00 AM
UntilOctober 31, 2021 08:00 PM
VenueByzantine & Christian Museum