The viewer’s experience, as the camera moves along three axes at once, is as disorienting as the political changes that halted the building’s construction. Viewers of the wall-size projection feel the camera’s silky movement in their stomachs as ground and sky become confused. Its lens focuses upon scarred concrete ceilings that, briefly shorn of context, look like the surface of the moon. Eventually the dolly track and the robotic arm operating the camera come into view. At the end of its four-minute ride, the camera is once again upright and once again pointed toward the northern end of the building, this time from the opposite end of the structure. The city, seen without obstruction at the beginning, is now sandwiched by two heavy concrete floor plates. The dolly track is like a zipper that, when pulled, will reveal even more of the surroundings.
In Oriental Arch and A Free Moment, politically relevant historical information is encoded in a language of formal austerity. Evron’s use of structuralist or materialist strategies is appropriate. Such inquiries into film’s characteristics were first articulated, and were explored most avidly, during the 1960s. The self-reflexive explorations were a search for film’s essential identity. Question of identity, of course, permeate Israel’s history, become acute during the 1960s, and continually reshape the human meaning of such places as the Seven Arches Hotel and the Summer Palace.
The most recent of these films, Endurance, completed in 2014, furthered Evron’s exploration of structuralist filmmaking. His subject, however, is not the past but what was—at the time he made the film—the near future. Construction had begun in January 2010 on Rawabi, hailed as the first planned city built for and by Palestinians. Located nine kilometers north of Jerusalem, the nearly billion-dollar project encompasses six thousand housing units and a projected population of twenty-five thousand to forty thousand residents.
Evron uses Rawabi’s model apartment, a human-scale microcosm of this ambitious plan, to organize his film. In doing so he deployed no camera, but rather digitally rendered the apartment’s features—doors, windows, and furniture—as black and grayscale rectangles. Each of the film’s shots is like an abstracted architectural elevation, and their duration represents the length of the wall being depicted. The viewer experiences the work as a slow, staccato dance of geometric shapes.
For Evron, using an outmoded technology is not meant as an appeal to the viewer’s nostalgia. Rather, celluloid film does something that the ones and zeros of digital-projection technologies cannot: it translates time into space (and vice-versa). Because of the artist’s careful planning, you could unspool the 16-mm film used in Endurance and draw out the apartment’s floorplan at one-to-one scale.
Evron charts entanglements—of histories, of political power—in places it might be easy for Israelis to assume are untroubled by complexity.
What is a model apartment if not a projection of an imagined future? Evron’s two earlier films, however, demonstrated the perils of assuming the smooth unfolding of ambitious plans. Indeed, like the Jordanian effort to build the Summer Palace, Rawabi’s construction encountered unexpected setbacks. In 2014, after hundreds of families had paid for their apartments, the city remained uninhabited because Israel had yet to connect it to a nearby water main or to permit an access road. The developer alleged the delays were politically motivated; residents only began moving in during August 2015.
In all three works, Evron has pinpointed locations buffeted by competing interests and has revealed their tensions. His shifting relationship to the camera—manning it for Oriental Arch, programming a robot to record A Free Moment, dispensing with it altogether in Endurance—has created an increasingly abstract visual language. This evolution is perhaps borne of increasing confidence in his ability to capture and reframe the stories he wishes to tell. Evron charts entanglements—of histories, of political power—in places it might be easy for Israelis to assume are untroubled by complexity.
Having done so, recently Evron has ranged again beyond Israel’s borders in search of subjects. His 2015 film Geist und Blut (“Spirit and Blood”) and related photographs treat the Pirna-Sonnenstein sanatorium, outside Dresden, in a manner akin to his investigation of the Seven Arches Hotel. (This time, however, the projection is rotated ninety degrees, encouraging viewers to tilt their heads to accommodate the images.) A recent sojourn in the United States led to a series of photographs depicting wooden totems in the “Indian Village” at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. And in La Solitude (2016), Evron unearths an alternate history of the Dreyfus Affair. The artist pairs voiceover narration about the role of cameras in the scandal with images from French Guyana and Devil’s Island, the desolate rock where Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment.
What distinguishes these works from the West Bank trilogy is that his subjects are already part of a historical framework. The sanatorium is used today as a memorial to the disabled and mentally ill victims of Nazi euthanasia. Jamestown is part of a large cultural heritage site commemorating early contact between English settlers and native peoples. The Dreyfus Affair has been debated by generations of scholars. This makes intuitive sense: deprived of lived experience as a basis for understanding these places, Evron builds upon historical scaffolding that already exists. Where these forays lead next is an exciting prospect. Evron’s talent for beguiling viewers with one final entanglement—of artistic form and narrative content—means that wherever he looks next for material, he’s certain to make of it something memorable.