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“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. Reality disappears to be reality, when it shows up in his photography; it becomes an illusion, implausible as reality.

Rabinovich has picked as subjects places that we normally just pass through. That means we tend not to process these places mentally, rarely do we notice something specific about them. Rabinovich analyzes in his photography the seemingly perfect interplay of the known and the unknown, of togetherness and individuality. His spaces are almost always spaces for many people, spaces in which one can meet and loiter. Though that kind of togetherness is usually not pleasant – not even in his series of “First Class Hotels” at the beach of Tel Aviv. Ilya Rabinovich work so far centers discreetly on what is the same for both photographer and viewer, that order is never personal. It seems as though the photos define the impersonal.

Ilya Rabinovich actually does not define the place that he photographs, but communicates with the absent (future) viewer of his photographs. The photographer tells about himself with his work and waits for a response. What he says about himself is in the picture, in the frame and also in the subject. These subjects are like archetypes, drummed into our heads; we have a specific idea of schools, hospitals, museums, churches or scientific institutions. The photos do not attempt to avoid these presumptions, but with a slight disturbance of the space they lift it above the archetypical presumption.

“The photographer is the curator of illusions”, says Rabinovich and he knows that daily reality is one of those illusions. His spaces work like models; they are without people and if possible darkly lit. They could be film decors or architectural models for museums. From this borderline between illusion and reality springs a magic that places an almost invisible symbolism in the esthetic 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.