Before advancing, I feel I must apologize for this confessional note. Really, if you haven’t been a reader of Nihil, do yourself a favor and stop reading; this exposure of the private life of Nihil will make little sense in any case.

I’ve been suffering from a strange set of headaches that bring along an unsettling sense of vertigo: movement is affected, but also vision. It’s a Bermuda triangle, so it’s difficult to pinpoint which of the recent changes is the trigger, but the reason I’m writing this is because it has forced me to reflect upon the relation between memory and vision. Photography helps me in this process. Actually, this is where phototherapy steps into my life: going thorough archives, parting from Jo Spence‘s method. I realize I do this every couple of years or so and it’s always transformative. Does it result in any thing worth sharing? I think it does, but since 2011 I haven’t find the right format to do so

So these recent events have made me wonder about seeing as an external entity, meaning: as something that happens outside our brains and bodies, somewhere in a membrane that is as much part of our physical being as it is part of the universe.

Can I see whatever I desire to see?

And where does the image appear?

Which screen projects it?

Photographically speaking, I can write any narrative I find possible, including my own. Others can do the same. Do we manipulate memory? Which realm is most affected: reality or fiction?

In 2009, a group of photographs from a project entitled “Memory’s Architecture” was exhibited in a collective show. For the occasion, Maria do Mar Fazenda wrote a short statement about her experience with those photographs. Today, re-working that text, I discovered that some of it still tells the story of my life. What the fuck does that mean, I wonder?

These images reflect upon a person’s relationship with the nigh, the excess of alcohol and the consequences it has – both in the memory of that night as in the experience of the day-after. In a poignant way, Sofia also addresses woman’s role in society.

Here is the Bermuda Triangle:

1. This week we lost one of our pets, a white cat named Cião (Cyan) went for a walk and never came back. In our efforts to find him, searching through the village, I came across another white cat, hidden between tall and dried out grass. I called for him, he looked at me, I realized he wasn’t the one but immediately questioned whether my memory of Cião’s face could betray me – was I no longer able to identify him? I though of going home to grab a photograph of Cião to match to the white cat I’d found, but the idea seemed so foreigner that I dropped it. Could I really need a photograph to identify this living being that is so dear to me, with whom I share my life? How soon can memory leave us? 

2. Nihilsentimentalgia was created after a sobriety period, which in turn followed a relationship with alcohol that does without qualification. That sobriety took place after the death of a very close friend, Renato. Ten years later, here I am going through the same thing and it’s déjà vu: in the mourn of a very special person, Lena, I once again decided to go sober. What is vertigo doing here? Is it a symptom or, on the other hand, a defense mechanism – a cover up for the psychological dynamics in place?

3. I found a self-portrait I hadn’t seen in a long time and I was surprised by what it seemed to reveal. It was as if, suddenly, something authentic was unveiled and it wasn’t pleasant. But where does that realization come from? My brain, my eyes, my memory? Somewhere else? How easy is it to tell a photographic lie? Representation is a fictional mechanism, but that doesn’t mean it is conditioned by falseness. Maybe the measure of true and false, in photography, is merely located in the photographic discourse rather than what is captured within our visual field and our memory.

 

Nowadays, moving my head up and down seems to be as much exercise as my eyes can handle. Or is it my brain? Or my body? Which one is moving too fast? Somewhere in this Bermuda triangle, rhythms have become disentangled, so I can only focus one small detail at a time – a cat, a portrait, a static bird, void… Another spectrum suddenly emerges – the otherness, the sacred space and the unreal. I’m sure they’ve arrived long before, but now they demand a part, they want to emerge and have a physical presence. The sunrise, the morning dew, the sunset, the candle-light, they were once sources of life and light and now they’re screens. Where is the alternative light-source?

Although yet unable to make perfect sense of what I’m about to say, I think the answer lies in understanding the soul. The relation between body, image and soul is at the core of Tomás Maia‘s book Assombra:

O que vinha propondo, na realidade, era esta redefinição: alma é o vazio de um corpo que se sente apartado até ao limite de si mesmo; até ao limite em que um corpo sente que está a deixar de (se) sentir. Até ao limite onde a interioridade deix de ser subjectiva e a exterioridade objectiva. Esse vazio é portanto íntimo; mas essa intimidade (intimus é o superlativo de interior) é o lugar onde cada pessoa (outros diriam o “sujeito”) é exterior a si mesma – e onde, por conseguinte, ninguém se possui a si mesmo nem pode possuir outrem. A interioridade mais profunda é a exterioridade a si. O que vinha propondo era a ideia de que a alma é o vazio íntimo do corpo; vazio que se manifesta quando o corpo se aparta totalmente de si. E que a imagem surge desse vazio: a imagem é a delimitação cintilante do sem-fundo (obscuro) em nós.

In reality, what I’ve been suggesting was this redefinition: soul is the emptiness of a body that feels secluded right to the its limits; to the extent that a body feels it is no longer feeling (itself). To the limit where interiority ceases to be subjective and exteriority objective. This emptiness is therefore intimate; but this intimacy (intimus is the superlative of interior) is the place where each person (others would say the “subject”) is external to itself – and where, consequently, no one owns oneself or can own another. The deepest interiority is exteriority to itself. What I’ve been suggesting is the idea that the soul is the intimate emptiness of the body; an emptiness which manifests itself when the body turns away from itself. And thus the image surfaces from this emptiness: the image is the sparkling delimitation of the (dark) bottomless in us.

p. 85

 

I’ve come to associate light with exterior life and darkness with energies that potentiate intimacy. However, the brightness of the solar light is very deceiving; although she arrives full of energy, she also points to the places and the objects that absorb that energy and in doing that we realize life is located outside. At night, our souls, fully charged, rest and dive into the unconscious – the world of all possibilities. So, as agents, we might be merely passing by, capturing the light, draining that energy out, waiting for the interior image to take over.

 

Note: In June a decade will have passed since I first started Nihilsentimentalgia, so for the next few months I will be revisiting some of my early posts, which were very poorly done.

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