Subject Unknown: Scrolls - Did You Say No? No. 1 (Michal Heiman, 1985), 2008, manipulated black & white photograph and stamp digitally printed on canvas with a hanging device, 470 x 255 cm, courtesy of the artist
Michal Heiman's work combines different arenas of action and mediums - including photography, painting, video, conceptual art and complex, site-specific installations. Her works examine the various cultural fields in which images appear, and the numerous ways in which we read them depending on their context. The intersection between different contexts is essential to her artistic strategy, and is given expression in the combination of the arenas of art, journalism, psychology, media and more.
The image in this work was photographed by Heiman in the mid-1980s, while she worked as a photographer for various local newspapers. It was reprocessed and printed on a large-scale white screen, of the kind usually used as a backdrop in photography studios. The photograph captures a young man standing at a nightclub's entrance or exit. He appears to be detached from his surroundings, withdrawn and seriously contemplating something. The kaffiyeh around his neck softens his appearance somewhat, and points to a possible gender-related or national identity. The question that both stains and stamps the screen is retroactively addressed to the figure in it, and seems to be asked on several levels: artistic, political and sexual. Did the young man refuse to be photographed? Did he refuse to take part in a violent act of resistance? Was photographing him an act of theft? The intensive deliberation of the figure is extremely touching, and awakens a sense of identification in the viewer; at the same time, it inevitably also raises the question: Should he have refused? Did something happen? Heiman's work is thus based on creating a state of instability - both in terms of the status of the photographed image, and in terms of the related meaning and the viewer's stance vis-à-vis these questions.
Born in Tel Aviv, 1954; lives and works in Tel Aviv