Was it a Dream is a project I started in 2009, about my journey to create a portrait of a person I will never meet.
This is how the story goes:
When I was 12 years old my father told me that I had an older brother named James, who lived in Australia.
James was the product of a relationship my father had had with an English woman named Linda, who subsequently moved to Australia and started a family.
Uncomfortable being the eldest child in my family, I felt a great need for an older brother and became obsessed with the idea of James.
Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet James.
He committed suicide in October 1996.
Feeling a need to learn more about James, I used the Tierney Fellowship I received in 2009 to travel across Australia in search of him. I wanted to better understand who I'd been mourning all these years. Through the help of his family I was able to follow the steps and echos of my brother whom I will never meet.
The work I created consists of family snapshots, quotes from conversations, letters and my own images taken in Israel and Australia.
The reason I am starting this Kickstarter account is because I have been given an incredible opportunity with very little budget. Was it a Dream has been chosen to exhibit in The Ballarat Foto Biennale in Ballarat Australia this coming August. I have been given a rather large space, over 20 Meters of wall space to tell my story.
Unfortunately I do not have the budget to reprint the show, ship the work to Australia and fly over there myself.
This is where you come in.
I am offering a print as a reward for each donation. The larger the donation the larger the print. I am offering a selection of images to chose from, and the print will be shipped to you wherever you might be in the world.
Below is the selection of images to chose from, as well as an essay commissioned by Ballarat International Foto Biennale Inc, extract from the 2013 Core Program Catalogue, written by Laetitia Prunetti.
Was it a Dream
by Laetitia Prunetti
Memory is an elusive and complex thing. It is fluid and selective of things past, it stipulates what is truth and lays importance on some things over others. It is simultaneously clear and opaque. It is personal and intimate yet can be used to collectively remember or reconstruct an event, place or person. It becomes the narrative by which to carry forward, to live by, to build the past, present and future on. Ayala Gazit’s series Was it a Dream unravels before us an intimate, personal and heartbreaking story of tragedy, familial love, mourning and memory. She weaves together the threads of the past, and pairs these with a collection of delicately photographed moments to construct a moving family portrait. Through the use of both image and text, Was it a Dream is an emotional journey. Gazit travelled across the seas from New York and Tel Aviv to Australia to find a family only connected to her through an older brother she never knew. This pilgrimage was made in search of understanding, truth, healing and perhaps closure after many years of unknowing. We are struck by a heavy sadness as we learn of the suicide of Gazit’s brother James, who is the focus of the series and whom Gazit has come to find. The images are imbued with a feeling of nostalgia, memory, of longing, and of loss. The soft light and shadows used in many of the images create a quiet, sombre mood that makes us we feel as if we are being let in on a secret. As Gazit herself has said, this is a story that has finally come out of the shadows.1 The juxtaposition of the images with other objects and texts, such as personal letters and family snapshots, infuse Gazit’s photographs with an emotional intensity and assist in contextualising the images before us. Gazit’s journey in search of James was only made possible through the generosity and warmth extended to her by James’ immediate family and those who knew him well. It is their honesty and openness to sharing with her their private memories and personal histories that allowed Gazit to mould a portrait of James. The family’s collective memory is all Gazit has to form her own thoughts about him. As she will never meet James, she is reliant on these memories, and it is her interpretation of these anecdotes, places, photos and objects, the meanings that she ascribes them, that give the story its shape and significance. The focus may be her lost brother, but Gazit is an integral part of the narrative and the work itself would be nothing without her. As Gazit creates a visual elegy to her brother, she is simultaneously constructing herself. She proactively seeks to tell this story, and by doing so she is writing herself into this family history, creating a family portrait, adding another branch to her family tree. The past is connected to the present through these family members and indeed this exploration has had an enduring legacy as she has made new and profound connections with James’ family – particularly his sister Alix – who subsequently travelled to Israel to meet Gazit’s family in 2011. Although based upon a shocking and tragic truth, Gazit seems to acknowledge that there is an element of power and construction, even fiction to her work. For example, due to the complexity of her family tree, she has created a ‘Character List’ of portraits and accompanying names, which she displays with the series. Additionally, Gazit refers to the fact that the images and text form ‘the play’; and that she has attempted to create a domestic space like a theatre set in previous incarnations of this series by including items such as a carpet, chairs and table, and world globe. Further, as 30-40 prints are displayed, Gazit edits and curates the sequence in which the images are to be shown; in this way she prescribes the way the ‘story’ should be read. Was it a Dream comes together to form a tender portrait of Gazit’s brother, created from moments shared between the artist and the people and places that were close to him. There is a resemblance to an oft quoted story, told by the Roman author Pliny the Elder in his Natural History encyclopedia and attributed to the origin of drawing, of a young woman who traces the shadow of her lover’s face as cast on the wall by lamplight. When her lover leaves, this traced outline provided her with a memory of him until he returned.3 The outline was a visual reminder, a symbol of her departed lover, however it signified something else too. An act that was meant to capture and create an enduring presence actually becomes a symbol of absence, yearning and loss. The same can be said of Gazit’s series; a symbol of her brother, it is a memory, the trace left behind in both the physical and cognitive worlds, but it also alludes to all that continues to exist around his absence and all that cannot be said in words. The complexity of life lies behind the images: of families confronting a difficult truth, of love, relationships - past, present and future, of mourning and grief. Perhaps most poignantly these images signify the strength and importance of memory and its ability to mould the past and forge new futures.
Risks and challenges
The main challenge to get this exhibition over the sea on time.
I am under a very tight schedule. However, from my former experience with working under pressure, I can assure that all will be done in a timely manner.
- (27 days)