JUROR:

Lisa Hostetler, Project Development

Juror Statement

First Place:

Adam Reynolds

PROJECT DEVELOPMENT: Juror's Statement

JUROR LISA HOSTETLER, Curator-in-Charge, George Eastman House

It has become a juror-statement cliché to say things like this, but that doesn’t make it any less true: choosing a winner from among the bevy of deserving projects submitted this year was a daunting and difficult task.

Because this is a project development grant, I knew that the work I was seeing was not necessarily in its final form and that evaluating the potential of an idea based on the evidence of its current visual and conceptual shape can be a delicate operation. Nevertheless, it is also exciting—and a distinct privilege—to meet an artwork in its youth and speculate on what it might become.

With photographic series, the results are particularly unpredictable and (ideally) rewarding because each new image maps a different intersection of photographer and world that often changes the dynamic of the body of work as a whole. So I looked for work that seemed to have a firm intellectual basis, a solid direction for growth, and a strong visual sensibility. This helped me to reduce several hundred submissions down but then getting to a short list of finalists was a challenge; deciding on the winner was fairly excruciating.

In the end, I chose a project that was entirely new to me and that seemed particularly timely. Adam Reynolds’s Architecture of an Existential Threat depicts rooms in the Middle East that double as ordinary, workaday places and as bomb or air-raid shelters. The pictures’ solid formal structure and uncanny emptiness, combined with occasional residue of their utilitarian function, lends an air of foreboding to the images. They not only visualize the contradiction of “ordinary” life in dangerously unpredictable circumstances, but also heighten our awareness of the subtle ways in which physical space becomes charged with meaning. I look forward to seeing how the project develops.

I want to thank all of the photographers for sharing their work with me. There was a lot of strong photography here, and I’m grateful for the insights that each new project offered. Good art refreshes one’s perspective on the world; I was lucky enough to have my mind recalibrated many times during this process.

Lisa Hostetler, Curator-in-Charge, George Eastman House

 

Winner: Adam Reynolds

Artist Statement: Architecture of An Existential Threat

Door inside the municipal bomb shelter, Haifa 

Public bomb shelter beneath apartment complex, Jerusalem 

Public bomb shelter, Haifa 

Student rec room/bomb shelter, University of Haifa 

Mosque/bomb shelter at Hebrew University, Jerusalem 

Pub/bomb shelter, Kibbutz Kfar Aza 

Reinforced 'safe area' conference room in the Knesset, Jerusalem 

Youth activity center/public bomb shelter, Kiryat Shmona 

B'nei Akiva Youth Synagogue/bomb shelter, Otniel settlement in the West Bank 

Newly constructed pent house 'mamad' safe room, Jerusalem 

I am a documentary photographer in the service of my subjects. My hope is that they are able to “speak” through my photographs and create a sense of personal connection in the viewer. My photography has been largely informed by my time living and working in the Middle East over the course of several years. Exploring and communicating this passion visually allows me to participate in the wider effort to increase our common understanding of this part of the world. I strive to record my own vision of the region’s history, culture, and politics with honesty and intimacy that seeks to reach beyond the daily headlines. While the Arab Spring and the tragedy in Syria have largely overtaken events in Israel/Palestine, I find that exploring this conflict outside of the harsh, polarizing glare of the media spotlight allows for a far more nuanced understanding of its many subtleties.

This ongoing body of work investigates one such facet. Since its creation in 1948, the State of Israel has felt itself isolated and beset by enemies seeking its destruction. I feel that this collective siege mentality is best expressed in the ubiquitousness of the thousands of bomb shelters found throughout the country. By law all Israelis are required to have access to a bomb shelter and rooms that can be sealed off in case of an unconventional weapons attack.

The shelters come in all shapes and sizes. Along with the more conventional below ground bomb shelters, there are underground parking garages that can be converted into a nuclear-proof bunkers and hospitals able to accommodate thousands, entire schools encased in reinforced concrete with blast-proof windows, and small, one room “mamads” in private residences meant to withstand rockets and unconventional weapons attack. It is not unusual to re-purpose bomb shelters for broader uses, such as dance studios, community centers, pubs, mosques, and synagogues.

These shelters are the architecture of an existential threat – both real and perceived. In them can be seen Israel's resiliency as a nation, and its inability to come to terms with itself and with its neighbors in a volatile region. The resulting images offer a window into the collective mindset of the Israeli people, how they have normalized this “doomsday space” into their daily lives.

Ultimately I see this body of work best expressed in book form, and will work with an Israeli academic to better connect the images with words relating to this unique Israeli mindset. This summer I will return to Israel in order to broaden the scope of the typological survey, tracking down shelters relating to the government, military, Israel’s Arab citizens, kibbutzes, re-purposed shelters, shelters in West Bank settlements, and to further broaden the geographical scope overall.