Beginning this Friday, Rovner puts ten huge photographs on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The largest measures 31 1/2 by 61 1/2 inches. She likes to use the scale of the wall for museum exhibits; small images, she says, are for books.
In a photograph titled "Red Nun," a shadowy silhouette stands in a halo of deep color. "The color isn't just there; it's a choice. Color is material to me," Rovner says. "Even the war between Israel and Lebanon is material to me."
She's referring to a video that she recorded on the border between Israel and Lebanon in the middle of a 1986 crossfire. The video -- Border -- will be shown next month in conjunction with her exhibit. "It's conveying the notion of life on the edge," she reflects, "and the feeling of temporariness and confusion." Rovner clarifies that while it does bring out the emotional weight of being in a critical place at a dangerous time, her video is neither informational nor politically charged. This is in keeping with her opinion that there are two ways of working through something. "One way of dealing with a situation is to dwell on information and details, the number of cubic centimeters or the number of dead. Another way to deal with it is just to have the experience." She opts for the latter as a response both to current news and the events that plagued her homeland before she emigrated. "I deal with the human condition," she says, "and I only use what I really need."
That's not much. Rovner tries, in her work, to erase context until all that's left is the bare essential, just enough to make the figures discernible. The viewer can then recontextualize the photographs depending on what is closest to his or her heart, a process that echoes Rovner's personal experience. "Being an immigrant asks you to view something again," she says. Just as her photographs of concrete, absolute images become more abstract and subjective as she removes herself from the scene, her own ideas and definitions change as she moves from Israel to New York and back again. Rovner uses computers and cameras to erase time and place, visually uprooting her own reality.
So a war becomes beautiful. What Rovner sees when she looks back at Border is a fugue: "Everything in the film has an echo somewhere else in the film," she recalls. "To me, it's almost like an opera."