It’s hard not to get lost in the rich colors, abstract tensile lines, and intense shades of gray in Liliana Farber’s photographs and prints—and for that matter, in the endless rabbit hole of mouse clicks one of her web-based works elicits. Farber works in a series of potentially unrelated mediums, and in some cases, structures: video, ink on paper, photography, a website, and image manipulation software.
However varied in form, her works all provoke an almost illicit sense of surreptitiousness, as though the figures and forms in her images and prints are both just around the next bend and are something one isn’t supposed to see, let alone look at without feeling slightly ill at ease. Furthermore, she is almost exclusively focused on working with “the image” as subject matter.
One approach Farber takes is working with software that alters and reconfigures a series of images she culls from the Internet, which once altered create entirely new and remarkably restrained abstract and textile-like compositions. In her series Commonplaces: Exhibition View (2013) and Mediocre (2013)—both printed in archival ink on paper—Farber has used software that she and her partner, Roy Klein, designed and programmed to manipulate images gathered from the Internet. For the Commonplaces: Exhibition View series, Farber gathered images documenting art exhibitions with the title “exhibition view.” Her software then took a different pixel from each of the images and placed them into a new composition, generating a kind of pixelated puzzle that fittingly resembles an out-of-focus gallery space, reminiscent of looking through a kaleidoscope or a slightly opaque filter.
The Mediocre series functions in similar fashion. The title of each image in the series is the name of an art exhibition held in a well-known gallery in the last ten years. Farber’s specially designed software displays the first 100 images that appear when the specific exhibition title is searched. However, this time, instead of adding the pixels from a series of images, the software deconstructs the images and reconfigures them based on both their sizes and RGB (red, green, and blue) values. Her unique process creates compositions that look strikingly like the Homage to the Square paintings that German-born American artist Josef Albers made over half a century ago.
Her photographic series The Art Book (2008) contains a series of saturated images of a woman—presumably the artist—in provocative and vulnerable positions: lying face down and topless on a hotel bed with the lower half of her body out of the frame, or sitting on the floor of a white tiled bathroom, leg crossed over the other and hand on the floor as if bracing herself for something to come, all with a cool, alarmingly vacant look in her eyes. She is almost pushing her viewer into voyeurism.
She continues this uncomfortable approach with Nighthawks (2008), another series of photographs of a singular female subject. This time, though, Farber has taken a route reminiscent of Pipilotti Rist’s ceiling projections. Rist’s ceiling projections overlap shadows, images, and subjects to create visually distorted moving images reminiscent of photographs that have been subjected to double exposure. When I asked Farber about her images and how they connect to her other work, she noted: “I am interested in the personal and collective memory as written narratives, as well as their creation, storage, and influences.”
Perhaps her most innovative yet deviously simple project is Files Inventory II: Portraits (2012). The work functions as a website that pulls the user through an endless series of what appear to be folders in a database. A user clicks each file, in this case Acquaintances, and the next page has two new clickable options: Formal Relationship and Informal Relationship. This process goes on forever, looping back and jumping forward, always promising the display of an actual file, but the promise is hollow as the inventory is simply that, an inventory offering only false promises of information.
Liliana Farber is a visual artist who was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and currently lives and works in Tel Aviv, Israel. She studied graphic design at ORT University in Uruguay and Fine Art at Hamidrasha School of Art in Beit Berl, Israel. Her work has been included in international publications and shown in Spain, Poland, Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, and Israel.