Habitat […] 2: The place where something is commonly found"
Webster's New Encyclopedic Dictionary, New York, 1994, p. 448
Dana Levy's panoramas are photomontages. Each photograph is combined with others through a precise, labor-intensive digital process. The work process of creating the panoramic images, which are mostly of interiors, begins with detailed photographic documentation of the space - its walls, floors, ceiling, and the objects contained in it. The process continues in the studio, the artist assembling the chosen photos, placing them adjacent to one another, and combining them into one continuous panorama, allowing freedom to change positions of windows and openings, to borrow architectural elements, to rework textures, and to eliminate details The photos, which were taken in a circular movement, which is how one first surveys a new space, move, in Levy's work, into a wide linear area. An event which was perceived in depth, is translated onto a horizontal axis. The final result, the processed panorama, requires that the viewer, slowly observe while walking alongside the photograph.
At first glance the whole image does not reveal it’s parts. But still the panoramas transmit a restlessness or illusion. The detailed work of light dropping, the textures, the design of marks in the landscape and the building of walls, create a feeling of a picture of reality, although the signs of the illusion suddenly come forth like the uneven horizon, changing light quantities, points of view from different angles and the presence of openings which allow no exit. The illusion comes to light, after all this is a digital photo montage of views which the human eye is not accustomed to seeing all together.
The image's source is in reality, and the processed image creates a fictitious reality, an expression of time which does not actually exist, but rather simulates an existing reality. The choice of a panoramic view - the natural view seen by the eye, and the deliberate lack of any living beings in the work, is meant to lead the photographed reality back to its original state, to create an experience of observing a reality. The gap between the two brings to mind the Kantian perception of reality ‘in itself’ (noumena) in contrast to reality as phenomena and the lack of accessibility between them.
The photographed spaces can be seen in two categories, those of abandoned houses, neglected, and demolished, and those of the natural history museums, with their crowded cabinets. In both places there is no human presence, yet they are the ones who created them. Their political significance is not overlooked - from the hotels in Sinai which remain half built due to the political situation, to the group of abandoned houses on the Jordanian border, to the old military base building, and the stuffed animals, organized according to
species in glass cabinets. As in the artist's other works, the political originates in the personal. By manipulating the landscape the spaces serve as metaphors for mental states. The work is mainly concerned with the home. Home is an indicator of a protective and protecting space, of warmth and containment; here it is revealed in its nakedness, marked in its fragility and vulnerability. The houses are uprooted living spaces, neglected and abandoned, left to stand as salt pillars in the desert of no interest to anyone. The feeling of vitality is replaced with the feeling of death and cessation. The illusion repeats itself-construction and destruction, remaining and abandonment, live animals which are in fact dead.
The grid which separates between the different parts of the abandoned space, between the living/dead areas of the animals behind the glass, is not only borrowed from Minimalism, from geometry or architecture, but works as a silent rhythm to which nature surrenders. The grid keeps the original single frame, while enabling the existence of parallel independent spatial units, like genres or separate families, which constitute the whole.
Desert Houses stands out as an unusual photograph of an exterior space, which can be read as an allegory. A group of identical canonical houses constructed as an archetype of a sample home -square shaped with an opening and a tiled roof - that, in their grouping could become a utopian neighborhood. But the essential characteristic of being a home exists only in potential, the Aristotelian realization does not come into being, and the houses do not become living units in actuality. The existence of domestic spaces, like the existence of the stuffed animals in the cabinets, remains a memory, a memory of life. What is usually found in its natural place, as the exhibition title “Habitat” states, is not found in the work. On the contrary, it is absent, it has fallen apart or has been abandoned, remaining only within the realm of a slim possibility.
Irit Carmon Popper