Sleepless nights assembles eight waterscape images from three distinct bodies of work; Hide and Seek-If Not Now When, 2008, Chasing Good Fortune, 2010, and Floating World, 2016. Each series questions the link between place, identity, and memory connected to a specific site, where water is the pervading element of transformation.
Hide and Seek-If Not Now When was photographed around the Sobibór extermination camp, on the border of Poland and Ukraine—a region that both Gersht and his wife have familial ties to. From April to May 2010 Gersht traveled through areas of Japan that were devastated during World War II, photographing the cherry blossoms for the series Chasing Good Fortune. The symbolism of the cherry blossom from Buddhist concepts of renewal, the celebration of life, and good fortune, shifted under Japan’s 19th Century militarization and colonial expansion to become the symbol of Kamikaze soldiers and death.
The photographs that comprise Ori Gersht’s recent series Floating World were taken in the 16th Century zen gardens located in and around Kyoto, Japan. One of the ideas shaping these landscapes is that the world perceived by the senses is entirely illusory. Illusion is emphasized by Gersht’s post-production process of fusing and inverting the images and reflections. Perception is stalled. The waterscape—part material, part virtual—reflects a physical and spiritual displacement that resonates with Gersht’s personal history.
With each locale, Gersht asks: “does land carry a memory for the events acted upon it.” The photographs in sleepless nights reflect Gersht’s interest in the remembering and forgetting of historical events tied to place, and how the human experience of loss, pain, and social fracture inform our sense of belonging.