Artist Book is Ori Gersht’s first personal project exploring the book as creative medium. It brings together images and texts relating to his latest film projects, Evaders (2009), Will you Dance for Me (2011) and Offering (2011). Artist Book is an intimate account of Gersht’s creative process, evidencing the multiple inspirations, meditations and references behind his films. From Titian, Velázquez and Rembrandt, through Russian cinema and the French Avant-garde, to contemporary filmmakers such as Béla Tarr and Jonathan Glazer, Gersht’s visual references create a particular narrative in the context of his books, combined with this own photographs, drawings and collages. The Artist Book case contains three separate publications, each referring to one of his films. Additionally, Gersht includes a booklet with a short essay by Robert Rowland Smith, which works as an instruction manual, a connecting thread to make the books work together as a single piece.
As an object, Artist Book has the same level of careful thought and impeccable production as all of Gersht’s works. In this sense the books separate themselves from the films they refer to, earning a place as independent pieces. For me, these books are not a printed adaptation of Gersht’s films, but a consideration of the thought process behind them. It is not often that one gets the opportunity to probe behind the surface of a work into an artist’s personal universe. I think the films are intended for projection, they entail an outward and communal approach. Conversely, these books suppose a personal and introspective connection to the images and themes in Gersht’s work. They offer one a glimpse into the complex world behind his quiet and sublime images and film sequences, allowing one to connect them with the history of art, photography and film.
For this project Gersht has been attentive to every detail, both in concept and production. Artist Book has been an opportunity to orchestrate the skills of many practitioners, working with writers, editors, book designers and printers. One can tell Gersht is aware of the fact the artist book stands as an art object in its own right, one which will surely be coveted by collectors. In consequence, Gersht’s Artist Book has two different versions, the original case in an edition of 1000, and a signed limited edition of 150 pieces; each in a special box accompanied by two signed prints.
The prints in the limited edition box originated from Gersht’s experience with producing this project. On one of his visits to the printers in Italy, he noticed some of the test runs had been printed twice on the same sheet of paper. This posed a double coincidence, both material and conceptual, between these hybrid images and the themes of memory, longing and ritual that lie at the core of his work. One of these images is a combination of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, and a film still from Alain Resnais’ Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) which shows an orchestra playing at Auschwitz. Both the romantic wanderer from Friedrich’s painting and the orchestra from Resnais’ film gaze longingly at the void. From my point of view, this is the constant throughout the three films, a ritual of contemplation and assimilation of a tragedy, be it past or imminent.
At the heart of this book there is an angel, a ghost. Gersht describes it through Walter Benjamin’s words, when referring to the past as a fleeting image which disappears never to be seen again. The presence of Klee’s Angelus Novus and of Benjamin’s premonitory words echo along the pages of this book. Here, as in many of his works, Gersht attempts to summon ghosts that need appeasing.