Ronit Matalon: Poetics of Observation – Art as a Picture Exegesis
Keywords:Gaze, Poetics of Observation, Picture Exegesis, Photo Album, Veil
This article focuses on the link of Ronit Matalon’s work to the art of photography and painting, both in her poetical and essayist writing. Standing behind the tripod of a metaphorical camera, echoing Roland Barthe’s Camera Lucida and Susan Sontag's On Photography, as well as Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproduction, Matalon presents an alternative to the hegemonic patriarchal and androcentric position of the artist in Western Culture. Defying Maurice Blanchot’s description of the Orphic Gaze as marking the act of writing, Matalon puts a black hood over her Narrator’s head, supplying her with a veiled look.
Two novels and one novella stand at the center of the discussion, which opens with Matalon’s early story “Photograph” (Strangers at Home) to present her poetical stance. Her debut novel The One Facing Us and the bildungsroman The Sound of our Steps are both shaped around existing or lost family photos, alongside paintings by local artists – Yitzhak Livne in The One Facing Us, and David Ginaton in the novella “Happiness behind the Trees”. The visual art adds a cultural interpretive context which operates alongside the written text. Matalon thus creates a unique poetical form – a novel as a picture exegesis, placing a verbal text, photo and painting in front of each other, intertwined into one unity.