Two Series of Photographs and What's Between Them, Text: Ariel Hirschfeld

Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser

The male body that is presented in Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser's new series is not the subject of a lusting and/or adoring sight. Everything is done to remove any hint of aesthetic-sculptural posturing, and to hinder the possibility of finding here any tradition of beauty – classical, modernistic, commercial or pornographic. It seems no-one has ever put the human body in this way: on a small pedestal, smaller than the dimensions of the torso, on one side of the lower back, on the left waist, with curled but spread legs, limp or withdrawn hands, and a back-falling head, given to the force of gravity.  Even the posture of lying down is stripped from this form. It seems that any body, even the young and most beautiful, will lose all shreds of humanistic value; any remainder of the sublime. The bodies appear as the utter subjects of exterior forces. The signs of physical strength (or of the sexual one – erection), cannot overcome the completeness of passivity, the utter absence of the capacity for choice. The bodies appear as if they fall, or perhaps were thrown down with force. Gravity, along with other forces, constrains them. They are wide open and vulnerable - ready for the binding.

            More than anything these bodies remind one of a torso, a limbless statute, a broken remnant, discarded and thrown down. One cannot but feel here a painful gap between the meaning of the serene, self-giving baby like posture, and the meaning of its occurrence in adult human beings. It seems that all the powers that man acquires with his growth and maturation: powers of movement, choice, struggle, life giving, are stripped away. He returns to be a complete subject; dominated by superimposing forces that abuse him.

            The medium of virtual exhibition fits very well with the compositional movement that pulsates in Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser's two series: if one taps the computer's mouse and quickly scrolls down through the thirteen pictures that constitute these, he/she will see the semblance of a horrific silent animation segment; a body thrown, dismembered, spasmodic, convulsing. The pedantic coolness that arranges these fallen bodies in a set posture, one that precisely locates them within the photographs' square frame, that posits them in a rhythmic, digital line, does not succeed in mellowing down the presence of violence. On the contrary, the irony that is implied by this arranging sight only amplifies one's consciousness of the pain that the posture embodies.

            Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser has found, in a wondrously sophisticated manner, a way to break the barriers of pain representation; the barriers of the over-understood, or of the excessively used. The touch within this bizarre posture that connects infantile helplessness with sexual devotion on the plane of the binding, opens a channel to high powers: "the fall" loses the quotation marks, and returns to be a supreme symbol, as in Greek tragedy, for the human condition.

            The series of "Jumpers" constitutes a sort of ironic counterpoint to the series of "Fallers". The photos of men about to jump are saturated with irony from every direction: both the photographer and the viewer know that the jumpers do not jump at all, but merely simulate the posture of a jumper – some with excessive effort, others with apparent nonchalance. It is clear that there is no water around them, and that an actual jump will thus slam them to the floor. Unlike the previous series, in which the space of the study is charged with the symbolic pathos of the fall, here the studio's space is emptied of any extrinsic symbolic dimensions, and becomes, as narrow and artificial as it is, a symbol itself. The man "jumping to the water" (= to the world, to fate), is well aware that there is no world around him, and that his gestures are thus devoid of meaning. The space surrounding him is nothing but a few mundane objects that in effect block all movement and all will, and thus, wishing to jump outside of himself, the man acknowledges that he does not possess the capacity for willful action. The truth is, therefore, that the photographed motion already contains its own defeat. Most aptly demonstrated by some of the jumpers who only bend down, waiting, so it seems, for the passing of the photographic process' rage.

            Here as well: the same rejection of any tradition of beauty, and of the human posture's pathos, but especially here, of the photography of sportive motion, whose pathos filled climax was in Leni Riefenstahl's (1902-2003) aptly titled work, The Triumph of the Will.

            Between these two series, Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser inserted a loving gesture to Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) famous series, The Minotaur, and especially to a theme in this series that had several variations – a blind Minotaur that is led, using a rope, by a girl or woman (1933-1934) – which became one of Picasso's most powerful personal symbols. The blind Minotaur is an embodiment of a masculinity that is blinded by lust. The passionate man, whose passions arise to such a degree that his internal image becomes the man-bull, is not only a manifestation of experienced power; instead, alongside the experience of potency, the erection, which generates an exalted animalistic size and power, it also gives rise to an awareness of a desperate dependency, an animal innocence and a lack of willful choice, which are likened to a harnessed and bound bull that is led to the slaughter.

            Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser has designed two subtle jokes in the photographs dedicated to this theme: he presents the lustful man as blindly led not by a woman, but rather by the photographer – dressed in cumbersome work clothes, a perpetual cigarette stuck in his mouth, with a tired expression that seems indifferent to the entire pathos of erection that is dragged beyond him. The "Artist" – Picasso's so erotic figure, appears here as beyond all excitement, sexual or mythical, as a craftsman who painstakingly preserves a great tradition. Here the photographer looks straight at the viewer, as if asking, can you see how odd is all of this? That is, all of this?

            In all of these photographs there is a soft but tense talk about the questions of will, passions, choice and their embodiment in the human body, and from all of them the sound of a powerful clash between will and the restrictions that impose on it is heard, sometimes, due to the force of the will, and in other, due to material failure to manifest it.

Ariel Hirschfeld

  Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser, presentation (2.36 MB)

Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser, a graphic designer, a photographer and a poet, was born in Jerusalem, 1953. He's a graduate of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, 1980. Tamir exhibited his photographic works in galleries and museums in Israel and abroad. He published two children books, six poetry books and two photography books; and won the Prime Minister's Literary Award in 2004. He lives and works in Tel Aviv.

On the Sensual in Art, October 2011