The skies over Tel Aviv are dark and thick. The moon over the towers is round and heavy. The sphere is solid. Reddish with a light not its own, perfect in its fullness. Known but mysterious. Lustrous and marvelous. Air-held. All the forces that cause it to be poised there at this moment are themselves poised, supporting themselves, clashing with one another.
Tal Cohen's thrilling photograph of the lunar eclipse on December 10 conjures up words of Hebrew poetry. All Nathan Alterman's moon nights, nights over his city, nights of silence and nights of noise, memories of nights in other cities, their days of electricity and evenings of dripping milk. This is a night above a city fashioned in concrete and glass, a city Alterman evoked in "Birth of the Street": "She stands riveted to the firmament, to a shovel! She hears the confession of hammers, the inhuman torture of iron being bent, the groan of surrendering steel. For in pain and by force shall a street be birthed; for forever shall it be home to its high poetry. I shall not compose her words of love, I found no words as great as she."
This photograph is a fusion of two: photographs of the city from the height of its skyscrapers, such as Cohen often takes, shot through with power. For example, during the big demonstration last summer on Kaplan Street, whose slim new tower, at the corner of Ibn Gvirol, is visible here. Also evoked are the stirring astronomical images whose objects of observation are literally out of this world: solar system, galaxies, stars, asteroids, the rings of Saturn, colors, forms, phenomena, moons of all kinds, craters, dust, trails and holes - seeing them makes the heart pound. Those photographs are compiled in mechanical journeys of years and years, in painful journeys of astronauts in capsules, taken from lone satellites and floating telescopes and transmitted across light years. They are consciousness-changing photographs. They might have been taken in infinite space or inside a cell, with an electron microscope - there is no longer any way of knowing. This photograph, showing the moon illuminated in a full eclipse, its uniform gray transmuted into a resplendent red, might let us go back in time and feel the awe it inspired before the advent of photography, before the stellar journeys and before the breaching of space, before it was deciphered and lost its secret. Before it was conquered.
Yet, the photograph is also suffused with an atmosphere of emergency. The evening is perforated. Alterman's night is pushed aside and dissolves, and the night of Philip K. Dick, the night of the android hunters, descends on Tel Aviv. On the right looms the tower of the Kirya - the defense establishment compound - known innocently in Hebrew as Migdal Marganit, referring to the name of a flower. But there is no innocence and no hope and no understanding in this tower. It's an encapsulation of militarism that transcends every vision, every urban space that has no single ruler; it transcends the behavior of nature. Here we have the perennial flower of fear that covers the unspoken power of the Pit below. This is a flower tower that one day will accidentally puncture even the moon.
Correction: Shahar Uzieli points out that in last week's photograph - of the Ben-Gurion memorial ceremony - the soldier is carrying a guitar, not a rifle.
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