Isolated in grey, context-less spaces, the subject of Ofra Lapid’s photographs at first appear to be pieces of crumbling architecture, Photoshopped out of their respective landscapes. Yet the series of wooden houses and barns are in fact miniature replicas of existing buildings that have fallen into pitiful disrepair.
They are made with precision and care by the Tel Aviv-based artist in response to the pictures of an amateur photographer from North Dakota, USA, whom she discovered during her search for material on the Internet. According to Lapid, the photographer obsessively documents the process of deterioration of these houses and shares them online. Using this primary source material, Lapid creates small-scale models of the unfortunate buildings before photographing them, creating a kind of magic mirror effect of endless repetition – a sense of infinity out of something that is approaching the end of its tangible life.
Whilst on one level the project seems willfully subversive – devoting hours to the construction of a deconstruction – the plain, grey backgrounds in which she places them, devoid of any earthly relevance, and the countless hours that must have been sacrificed in order to make them, lend to the buildings a new air of dignity and mystery.
The remote interaction between Lapid and her anonymous amateur photographer across the planet is characteristic of the exponentially expanding manipulation of the virtual landscape of the Internet – as a tool and cultural device – and the appropriation of found online images in the paradigm of contemporary art. Yet at the same time her approach unites the instantaneous gratification of the Internet with the ancient traditions of time-consuming, painstaking craft and technical skill; it is in her own words, a bid to ‘humanise the computer’.
Alongside the Broken Houses, the artist has applied the method of extracting elements from photographs, rebuilding them and photographing them once more to a range of themes, including the interiors of empty movie theatres and modernist architecture. It will be interesting to see how this curiously dichotomous method will manifest itself next in Lapid’s work.