beginning beyond the beginning, an initial appearance in time, the pure form of truth.” This concept is suggested in Mark Yashaev’s very first exhibition at Braverman Gallery, which creates a time-transcending space between cinematic image and painting, between body and sculpture, and between reality and imagination

In Jorge Luis Borges’s book, “The Aleph,” (1945) he writes: “A lifetime was given to try and discover the Aleph or, at least narrow the gap between the letter (the word) and the thing, between the signifier and the signified. The revelation or creation according to Kabbalah is the timeline in which language is created.” Yashaev, much like Borges, seeks to bridge this gap, though simultaneously recognizes that every attempt at such is doomed to fail, resulting somewhere between the real and the imagined, in a sort of impossible dimension of nostalgia for the past

At the base of Yashaev’s practice lies the selection of images and objects from the artist’s immediate surroundings. As a result, photographs, remnants from his travels, and street-found objects are organized into rich compositions which reflect a mise en scène of an event that has not yet occurred. Succeedingly, the studio becomes the scene of action where Yashaev frequently alters the space; he tosses photographs and draws threads, plays with transparencies, builds gates and arches, constructs non-functional structures, and uses other, previously taken photographs as backdrops for his next work. This process is somewhat reminiscent of a painter’s work on canvas, though the result is a unique act within the medium of photography, one that creates a kind of spatial, photographic collage. Yashaev’s montage does not move away from the representation of reality, distinguishing his work from that of Dada or Surrealism which, via photograph edits, created an anti-realistic image to evoke imagination. Instead, Yashaev’s montage is an attempt to highlight reality, and thereby, to emphasize its truth. Furthermore, Yashaev’s use of readymade materials is not a radical move at its core, as this technique has existed since the outset of photography (for example in the works of Zeke Berman), but it does infuse his images with a significant intensity

Historical images are examined as well by the artist, in their present, temporal context, though his works do not specify or deal with significant events, famous scenes, or known places. Yashaev’s endeavor is minor, archival, and comparable to that of an archivist rummaging through elements of the past in order to evoke a new understanding of the present, and the archive he is engaged in is neither coherent nor complete. His wish is to heal the trivial fragments of the past, the forgotten moments, and to view them anew in the context of the present through the contemporary technological prism. A correspondence between the analog and digital medium, the works explore the pictorial qualities of photography. Through his rearrangement of space and his precise combination of photographs and objects, Yashaev disrupts our perceptions of photography in na attempt to undermine photography’s status as an index. His practice is not based not on that which appears in a photograph, rather he uses the photograph as a testimonial document and requests of the viewer to interpret it

The relationship between photography and the perception of time is a central, recurring theme and key motif in Yashaev’s body of work. Roland Barthes dealt with this concept in his book “Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography”, published in 1980. According to Barthes, photography depicts a moment in time and, therefore, has a kind of morbid quality. It puts an end to the life of an image and covers it with a “death mask.” This argument is visualized in Yashaev’s photographs, specifically in “Aleph” (2018), in which black and white images of heads are featured as faces or the heads offsculptures or corpses. In Yashaev’s studio, the large scale photographs are arranged in a manner alluding to human presence, though in the single work in which a real human figure appears (Shiran, 2017), it seems as if the figure is present in the space as a static statue, as opposed to a real body. A similar illusion repeats itself in the work “In the Studio” (2016), in which the composition centers around an ancient pillar against the backdrop of snow-capped hills, and the attempt to distinguish whether the work is a collage produced in the studio or direct landscape photography is made difficult

In this respect, the decisive moment according to Henry Cartier-Bresson (Images à la Sauvette), is present in Yashaev’s works differently than its original meaning. Initially, the term describes a situation in which a certain event, completely unimportant until the moment it was captured, is framed by the photographer and, thus, becomes the center of attention. In Yashaev’s case, the act of framing is not in the hands of the photographer but, rather, in the hands of the viewer

In “Presque vu / Déjà vu / Jamais vu” (2018), a connection between the phenomenological space and the psychological space arises due to the image’s encounter with references in the external world. Contrary to the concept of linear time, it produces the experience of a continuous present that brings forth a sense of disorientation in regard to what is experienced in reality and what exists in the consciousness only. The work’s title borrows from psychology French terms that stand for situations referring to “the difficulty of remembering something / the feeling that the present moment has been experienced in the past / a strange yet familiar state”. By joining various objects from past and present, and working with images previously charged with meaning, Yashav gives life to a kind of nostalgia that evokes a connection to the past, be it collective or personal, a past experienced or not

Alongside the return to traditional photography, a cinematic dimension can be found in Yashaev’s works as well. It appears as if the setting awaits the scene, or as if time itself has stopped completely. For example, in the work “Presque vu / Déjà vu / Jamais vu”, a photographed portrait of a woman is thrown with abandon in front of the camera, captured, mid air, by its lens. Consequently, a double temporality is produced, a contrast based on the fundamental duality at the base of the photographic medium: the image is in motion yet frozen within the technological apparatus. This idea is repeated in a slightly different manner, in the video work on display in the Bakery, the gallery’s basement (“Fictions”, 2018). As the viewer descends into the lower exhibition space he encounters the figure of a woman descending the same staircase, her movement identical to his. The aesthetic and design of the video and the space bring to mind the rest of the works in the exhibition, but the movement generates confusion; is it a photograph or a video? In fact, the dynamism of the image, and its position, parallel to the space, allows the viewer to enter the work and become a part of it, thus loading the exhibition with yet another dimension of time – viewing time

Yashaev’s undertaking is an appeal of the concept of photography as a binary medium that places past against present, and relates to Walter Benjamin’s assertion that photography is not a pure medium, and to his thoughts on the dialectical image as a whole. In a single stroke, the image provides knowledge not only of the past, but also of the present. It is “an image that flickers suddenly, in a flash, what was to be grasped. Like an image that flashes in the now its possibilities of recognition. Every present day is defined by its synchronized images. Every now is the now of what can be recognized. Within it, the truth is charged with time to the point of eruption. It is not that the past casts its light on the present, or that the present casts its light on the past, rather, an image is one in which the past and the present unite in a flash of light to create a certain constellation. The eruptive moment can be a one of recognition in which you realize that what you see is not really real”. The simultaneous experiences of time and space in Yashev’s work dissolve into one another with no clear boundaries, and arouse the spark in the mind of the viewer. Resembling Benjamin’s angel of history, caught forever between the ruins of the past and the storm of the present, Yashaev welcomes the viewer to examine this vague, temporal space