Israeli artist Ori Gersht (b. 1967) says that one of the things he tends to aim for in his art is the foregrounding of beauty against a background of violence. In the video piece below, he sets up a traditional still life, then, in slow motion, drops the bird that appears in it. It is a gorgeous disruption of beauty’s calm, turning it into a sublime confusion in which we struggle to make sense of both our attraction and repulsion.
One of the things that strikes me about the video is that the water, a receptive consciousness, a mirror to nature, is also a devouring monster. Immanuel Kant likens our experience of the sublime–most especially the monstrous sublime–in its shifting back and forth between nature’s magnitude and the mind’s infinitude, as akin to an agitation or “vibration, i.e., to a rapidly alternating repulsion from and attraction to one and the same object.” Ori Gersht’s art seems to be self-consciously playing with Kant’s notion of the sublime experience. Here’s the artist discussing his work: