Tal Halpern

Artist Statement


My artistic practice explores the relationship between intimacy and the telling of history. Having once naively tried to document my own grandmother's experience as a Holocaust survivor only to find myself enmeshed in a violent situation I never imagined, I am committed to rethinking both personal memory and history through sustained self-observation and experiment with the conventions of both recorded documents and older narrative forms. In particular, I am interested in what it might mean to bear witness to another person's testimony when that testimony fails to make good on its therapeutic promises. In this, I have found inspiration in the work of artists whose primary motives for revisiting the past has not been to assert some mythic ideal of what can never truly be known, but rather to re-imagine possibilities for the future. Individuals like Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras, who in 1959 were hired to make a documentary about Hiroshima and chose, instead, to create Hiroshima Mon Amour, a fictional love story that (as the film critic Eric Rohmer remarked in 1959) "has a very strong sense of the future... particularly the anguish of the future." In literature, writers like Manuel Puig who transformed his childhood memory of early Hollywood cinema into a brilliant allegory of repression, sexuality and politics in Argentine history. I find myself, much as these artists, constantly fighting nostalgia, both seduced by and skeptical of other people's stories.

This realization has forced me to slip into past lives, to voyeuristically read an old colonial administrator's diary or reanimate images found in an anonymous World War two pilot's sketchbook. In so doing, I enter into other people's creative processes, thereby inscribing past lives in new mediums. Obsessed by images of longing in the stories I recount, I use my artistic practice to try to remap the boundaries between writing, seeing, and speaking, real time and archival media in order to make sense of what it might mean to live in a world of complete surfaces with no recourse to depth, while never once abandoning the possibility of desire for the unknown."

Tal Halpern Bio

Tal Halpern is a new media artist and electronic writer whose artistic work has appeared in numerous museums and festivals including Iowa Review Web, Turbulence.org, Sundance Film Festival Web 2006, File Electronic Language International Festival 2006, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe Germany (ZKM), and Open Horizons: Human Rights and Art. He is a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Computer Arts Fellow.

Tal holds a BA, Phi Beta Kappa , from Brown University in Urban Studies and MA from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literatures, and has worked in reproductive health and rights, electronic publishing, and design in South Asia, the United States, and Latin America.

His current work in progress, Aide-Mémoire, is a mixed media project inspired by the life of an unnamed artist who served in the US Air Force during the Second World War. Contrasting a broad range of mediums from computer animation to drawing, Aide-Mémoire mediates upon one man's struggle to produce art through the very same techniques of observation he used to mark distant sites for destruction. Developing a story out of fragments of possible lives, Aide-Mémoire excavates the gaps and silences where memory and history cannot speak, mapping the contours of one man's response to the impossibility of ever truly knowing his own past and the encounters with other lives he may or may not have had.