June 16-23, 1999
By Julia Thrift
Ori Gersht says that his that his photographs of buildings in post-war Bosnia are optimistic, that they are images of hope, of regeneration. Optimism is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder – to me they seem images of desolation. These ugly buildings have been scarred by war, their surfaces cracked and pock-marked following explosions.
Three of the photographs show different views of what seems to be a complex of deserted houses, some old, some new. With their luridly painted walls crumbling, they have been left to the elements – a weed-strewn wasteland in the foreground, an improbably bright blue sky behind. Perhaps Gersht sees hope in entropy, in nature taking over what man has left behind?
Another image is a close-up view of a 20-story block of flats. The regular modernist facade gives an initial impression of uniformity. However, the inhabitants of the block are clearly living the most un-uniform lives; each window has a different coloured curtain, and balconies burst with life. In another photograph a block of flats has more straightforward signs of hope. Here, the shrapnel holes have been filled in and, on the ground beneath the block, firewood is neatly stacked – a strangely rustic contrast to the urban scene.
Images of tower blocks are now near ubiquitous – in paintings, collages, photographs, magazines. From penthouse to council house, the tower block has become visual shorthand for late 90s cool. Gersht’s photographs are more thoughtful than many, but somehow, with so much competition, just not very memorable.