The Spiderman Project
Images by David Kassman
David Kassman’s photography exhibition, “The Spiderman Project”, looks at Kassman’s two superheroes—the superhero of his adulthood and the one of his childhood—coming together. The idea for the series emerged out of a photograph taken by Kassman on a rainy June day in New York’s Times Square. In the urban landscape of Manhattan, the heart of the concrete jungle, a man dressed as Spiderman had infiltrated the frame at the very moment the shutter was snapped. One of many who, for a dollar, will have his photograph taken with the tourists crowding the square. The surprising outcome fascinated Kassman, and he decided to acquire a similar costume for use in a future photographic project.
This was 2006, and around the time of David’s return to Israel the Second Israel-Lebanon war broke out. His younger brother Ran, a fighter in an elite reserve unit, was mobilized. After a month of constant worrying, he returned to his family’s embrace. At first glance, physically safe and sound, however, it soon became evident that the horror and terror of the bloody war would not leave him. Particularly tough was the experience of the last days of fighting, during which Ran’s squad encountered a Hezbollah ambush at Bint Jbeil, in which they had lost several fighters, amongst whom was his best friend. Nightmares of death and the terrible sights did not release Ran of their grip, and David, who listened and wept his brothers’ heroic stories, decided he would form his next photography project. An imaginary hero plus flesh and blood, fused together.
For over four years, the Kassman brothers traveled to areas of conflict in Israel and around the world, taking photographs, talking and weeping. Ran dons the costume, breaking away from the past, and transforming into the almighty hero, an invulnerable immortal of sorts, and yet, so fragile and human. Climbing walls and racing at great speed, as if running away from the past and looking towards the future. Brushing with death, zigzagging between graves, when only a few months earlier he zigzagged between flying bullets.
Addressing the national and personal conflict of the two brothers, who only wish to get back on the road to sanity, seeking it, of all places, where collective sanity seems to have disappeared. From the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin to the ancient cemetery at Olive Mt.; from the withering Dead Sea to the Separation Wall; from Judea desert, on the background of caravan neighborhoods to the inner sanctum of this country – the Wailing Wall. In every work there are traces of the history of the Jewish people and of Israeli reality.
Kassman’s works are full of layers, just like his Spiderman. They are spectacular in their composition and color and appeal to all ages. They speak to toddlers as well as adults, who are thrown right back to their childhood by the juxtaposition of a red and blue mask and spider web. At first glance it seems that Spiderman is always in action. His physicality breaks out of the boundaries of the frame and he seems to be galloping towards the viewer, as if only waiting to rescue him. The Pop aspect of the image and the viewer’s familiarity with the traits of the superhero attribute him with strength and vigor. However, a more careful scrutiny will raise questions, particularly once we have learned who the guy behind the mask is. Well built, yet laying his head against the Wailing Wall like a lost boy. As if wishing to learn from the stone, the code that will crack the conflict of our blood weary land. Without a book or a guide, merely a super or human fighter, who would be happy to get receive guidance.
The universal and nationality-free figure of Spiderman, with the backdrop of pivotal moments of the Jewish people, immediately places him as one of us. Yet a more careful study of the direction of movement and foreignness he represents, makes the viewer wonder whether he may be in fact on the other side. As his body gleams in front of the alienated, monochromatic, separated land, it appears that for the first time, even Spiderman’s superpowers can not help him solve the problem and that reality is more complex than the triumph of good over evil.
The Kassman brothers’ journey reaches its end at the Giza pyramid complex, with Khufu’s pyramid in the background, considered the largest and most ancient structure built by man, and one of the seven wonders of the world. After a four-year physical and mental journey, the figure of Spiderman looks stronger than ever, hovering in an angular pose above the golden sands of Cairo deserts.