Works coordinated in advance 1993-1996

“To see is not to be,” says Ilya Rabinovich, and with that, he captures the core of shared European Phenomenology in a well-known play of words. When reality shows up in his photography, it ceases to be a reality; it becomes an implausible illusion.



Rabinovich has chosen as his subject matter places that are typically just passed through. We tend not to process these places mentally, and we rarely notice specific things about them. His spaces are almost always designed for many people, spaces in which people can meet and loiter. However, this kind of togetherness is rarely pleasant – not even in his series of “First Class Hotels” at the beach of Tel Aviv. Rabinovich’s work, so far, centers discreetly on an impression shared by both photographer and viewer, that order is never personal. It seems as though the photos define the impersonal.



Rabinovich does not define the place that he photographs. Instead, he communicates with the absent (future) viewer of his photographs, telling about himself with his work and waiting for a response. His subjects are like archetypes, drummed into our heads; we have a specific concept of schools, hospitals, museums, churches, or scientific institutions. The photos do not attempt to avoid these schemas, but with a slight disturbance of the spaces, they lift them beyond their archetypical notion.



“The photographer is a curator of illusions,” says Rabinovich, considering daily reality as one of these illusions. His spaces, like maquettes, are empty of people and darkly lit; they could be film decors or architectural models for museums. From this borderline between illusion and reality springs magic that places an almost invisible symbolism in the aesthetic of daily reality.

Written by Hienz Thiel- freelance curator for the Neue Bildende Kunst (published in Berlin) journal, April 1998.
Translated from German by Ellen Verhoeff.