Appropriation: a matter of intimacy, not authorship

The other day, while being guided through an exhibition by its own curator, I asked him why a particular work was being showcased as a slideshow when the author in question is exceptional at photographic printing processes. The answer was clear: “I really don’t care about the materiality of the work”. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for what interests the curator is the photographic discourse, not the authenticity of the works. For me, both as viewer as well as an image-maker, I care about the materiality and the sensuous tone of the work.

The popularity of the photographic discourse is not new and the digital era is not to blame for its success. It may be true that the virtual nature of the images helps promote its lack of material appreciation, but the reasons for the cult of the discourse run deeper, and they affect all the realms of the art.

I found myself thinking about this today because of a particular event that has to do with appropriation. So let me explain: a while back I wrote a post about a project that had won a photographic competition here in Portugal. Today I find myself surprisingly going back to that same competition, but because of another author, who at the time won an honorable mention with a project named Atlas. The author is Flávio Nuno Joaquim. We did our undergraduate course at the same school, though in different years. When the awards came out I didn’t pay much attention to his work, for it doesn’t really interest me, but for chance today I came across a link to his newest book featuring that project and I decided to take a peek.

For my surprise, I found some photographs of me, naked, full frontal, in his book. I did know that Atlas was a collection of images found in the trash in the labs, at the school where we once studied and I now teach. The panels I had seen had scraps from different processual origins, but they mainly alluded to the repetition and methodology at work, when dealing with photographic printing processes.

So when, in the middle of those scraps, I saw these images of an old work of mine I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell where they doing there, and how the hell did he have them. In the presentation text to his work, we can read that his gathering of works started in 2010, something which is not true in the case relating to my work, for I left school earlier than that.

I asked Flávio how he got hold of them and he explained that he found them in the garbage. And, I confess, I am really bothered by this. Not because I “shot” the photographs (I couldn’t care less about proprietary issues), but because my naked self is portrayed in those images. At some point I thought I had the right to decide whether or not I still want to show these images, and I don’t.

The fact that he allegedly found these proofs in the garbage raises another issue, for I wasn’t the one throwing them out. That wouldn’t happen. Whether I’m throwing mine or someone else’s work out, first I tear it apart. I hope this gesture prevents the appropriation of some intimate space one wants to keep to oneself. So apparently (I can’t see how it can be any different) my former teachers were the ones throwing these photographs into the garbage, and Flávio did nothing more that grab them.

Then what goes thru a person’s mind when he/she decides to include an image of someone’s naked body in his/her book without approaching the “owner” of the body herself? Is it that hard to understand that the performer and the person are not two different universes? Is it that hard to understand that a self-portrait is, in fact, a portrait of the self? Has the self lost the right to preserve the interior space that’s his/hers?

Let me repeat: I really don’t give a damn about copyrights and authorship, but I believe in dialogue and in respecting the other. Some time ago an author I had showcased here at Nihilsentimentalgia emailed me asking if I could take down her work, for she no longer recognized herself in that particular series. It really doesn’t matter what I think of her request, what matters is that she reached out to me and the right thing to do is to respect her wishes.

The funny thing about those images Flávio appropriated from me is that they were themselves appropriated. I titled them “After Saudek”, for they were inspired by Jan Saudek’s work. But not only were they born out of this referentiality, they were also a turning point in the way I photograph my body. In those days, I used to tell myself that the body in the picture was not really mine, but a general body, a referent. Having to look at the images for quite some time, for I had to prepare them for an exhibition, I started to see myself in them. In therapy, those images became an issue. I ended up burning the negatives. So, you see, they are part of my interior space, my intimacy and the history of my affections and it’s hard to see them included in a catalogue of repetitions, a catalogue deeply rooted into the photographic discourse, not the work.

The author and the work are not two different things. True it happens when only the artistic discourse it at play. It’s not that in “authentic art” the work mirrors the author or is in some way autobiographical. What happens is that the work of art takes the place of the author. The problem here is Flávio’s ethos, or lack thereof. Because Flávio decided to omit to me that my undressed body would be on display in his Atlas (not for lack of opportunity, one should stress), I am now, once again confronted with those photographs traveling the space of internet, exhibitions and so on.

Fortunately, this is no fatality. Authorship is one question, but privacy is another and it doesn’t really matter who took those photographs of my naked body or if they have copyrights or not, I do have the right to defend my privacy and no one should have the right to appropriate it and turn it into a public object without my consent.

⁞ From the mountains to the sea: a conversation with Márcio Vilela ⁞

This conversation took place in July 2014, over the virtual space of Lisbon and Brazil. The original, portuguese version, of this conversation, can be seen HERE.

Sofia: This conversation is driven by your recent book featuring the work done in Azores. I have a few questions about the images, but I’ll pose them later on. For now, what intrigues me is the object-book, namely your options regarding the fabrication, production and distribution of the book. Before I go into more specific questions, can you give us an idea of the reasons behind such choices?

Márcio: In my projects I always try to leave behind an object that speaks about the creative process. In Mono there was the box of Polaroides, accounting for the two years of production, in another project I’m currently working on it’s a transfers notebook… it’s always like this, there’s always something that stays.
I’ve always wanted to make a book, but had never manage to reach a successful compromise between the personal and manual labor of such objects and an industrially printed book. I then started to research an object that could be made by hand, like a book… and look like it was handmade.
I’m the one doing the printing, using the same method (inkjet) I use when doing the exhibit prints, this time in a continuous 5m print. This wouldn’t be possible in a Print Shop, the book would have to be bound with glue. The book’s cover is made on wooden paper, cut with its specific measures. I spent a lot of time searching for this paper, it had to be something really special. The inscriptions on the cover and the back (‘Azores’ and the map of São Miguel) are handmade, by transferring a pigment (a process I also use in other works).
The book is inside a card box which is also handmade. I wanted whoever opened the box to feel like he/she was being gifted something special, I wanted them to feel that what is inside is a part of me and it is unique.
Inside the book there is a text by Eder Chiodetto and an extra print that is not part of the exhibition of the series Azores. This extra print tells the story of what I went through during those 4 weeks in São Miguel, the extreme beauty, the freedom, the loneliness and the fear… a powerful mix of emotions. Eder’s text is beautiful, a result of conversations we had about such emotions. I think he was able to account for things I had felt, before I had thought about them.
Since it is a very limited edition, 100 copies, the distribution is also made by hand. People come to me to get the books, we talk, it’s all personal. There will be no mass distribution of the book. Besides myself, only three places will be selling copies: Photo Book Korner and Carpe Diem, in Lisbon, and Madalena’s bookstore in São Paulo. Meanwhile there are no more than 10 copies in these places. I really want people to come to me.

Sofia: Are you the one doing the handwork?

Márcio: Not anymore… in the beginning I chose the materials, the model, the box, everything. After that I asked a designer, Joana Durães, for help with the layout of the pages. As soon as the process was tuned, I started on the final books but it was taking me an entire day to finish each copy and at such a pace the project would never be over. So I decided to speak to Luís Rendeiro, in Tomar, in order for him to help me. He folds and cuts the 5m prints, and he also does the boxes, all by hand.
I then bring everything to my studio in Lisbon and finish the process, do the transfers, print and cut the extra image that comes with the book, fold in the text booklet, sign and number everything. Then I put it inside the box and it’s done.

Sofia: And why the preference for the handmade process over the industrial one? Are those options a result of an emotional connection, of an idea on ‘affective labor’ or is it a way to enhance the product with qualities than potentiate its economic value, such as singularity, rarity, amongst other things?

Márcio: It’s only a very strong emotional process, I’m not sure if the fact that it is made by hand can effectively potentiate the objects’ economic value. I think that happens more naturally because of the content and the way things develop inside a book, than because of its materials and its fabrication process. Besides, the exchange value of the book is relatively low, close to the production costs. My interest here was to move from the objects I used to make to a book, with losing control over the manual aspect of things.

Sofia: I think the value of a book, as with almost everything else, is greatly dependent on the nominal value of the author. If you have that authority, everything you produce has its value. But what interests me in this case is that your book is coming at a time when the handmade product is being overvalued, besides being trendy. To my knowledge, this is the result of a process of alienation between author and work that has been escalating since the Industrial Revolution in the XVIII century and is now reaching a peak with the notion of ‘virtual labour’ introduced by all the new technologies. Anyway, my question is: although it is not a strategy, do you care that your emotion connection to the handmade process is translated in an economic value?

Márcio: Yes, I do agree a book can depend, in part, of the author’s nominal value, but I also think the art public is more attentive than we think, people don’t say they like or dislike something based on a signature on the corner of the artwork.
I think the artwork needs to circulate, reach people. Those who can’t afford to do a professional high cost book, do it by hand… in the end what is judged is the consistency of the work.
An artists ruled by trends is a hostage of that strategy, and is always looking for references outside of himself, waiting for the marker’s approval. I always thought a true artists creates because he/she needs to, even without the monetary reward or the recognition… like food for your soul. I know a lot of people like this and have always admire them for it.
In regards to your question, I can say I care about the economic value of my works, but that isn’t a goal.

Azores_06© Márcio Vilela, from the series Azores. Courtesy of the artist.

Azores_05© Márcio Vilela, from the series Azores. Courtesy of the artist.

Sofia: And regarding this project, how do you think the handmade aspect of the book meets the images? I suppose the book wouldn’t lose its meaning if it was made through industrial processes, so in your understanding what does this personalized approach to the object adds to the photographs?

Márcio: These images are relatively big, 120x150cm. When on a wall, the set of these 6 images has a different relation with the spectator, you can have a distant look at them to get an overall perception of the composition but you can also get closer to see the details… but it ends up being an object with a very strong presence.
I think this book would lose its sense if made by industrial processes, I’m addressing this book in particular. I’m not sure if it’s the object-book that adds something to the photographs or the other way around, maybe in the end they are one unique thing.
The relation one establishes with the book is very different from that one establishes with the image on a gallery wall, it is more personal. When we hold a manufactures object on our hands that relation is even more intimate, there is the notion that the thing we’re holding is delicate, that we need to hold it with care, that it needs time to be looked at. This time, this wait, they are important.
For me this book brings very strong sensorial experiences, there are the different textures of the papers, the smell of the cardboard… with careful attention we can also smell the solvent used in the pigment transference. It is an object one keeps rediscovering and that only strengthens that affective relationship I’ve been talking about.

Sofia: That’s why I mention alienation, because the great majority of people create more immediate empathies with objects in which the extension of the author’s body is easily recognizable, but I don’t think that empathy is more or less natural than any other (I don’t support the essentialist discourse), rather it is a reaction to a sincere discourse and that sincerity can manifest itself either in manufactured or industrial discourses. As a spectator, how are you, do you also create empathy with artworks in which you recognize the author’s footprint, or is that irrelevant?

Márcio: Certainly there’s an expectation when I go and see the work of someone I really like, be it a cinematographer, a plastic artist, a musician… I’m always curious and open to absorbing that experience. There have been exhibitions where I stayed for over an hour without talking to anyone, or I didn’t want further visual stimuli (as much as possible), I wanted to take it all in very slowly… I’ve spent over an hour sitting on the floor of a dark room at TATE looking at a Da Vinci’s sketch (and they have chairs)… I was stagnant on the floor, couldn’t get that out of my mind. This had happened a few times and some of these experiences have been with author’s I had never before heard about. Being unaware of the author’s footprint has only accentuated that experience, as if I had just discovered a new color.
When I know the artist I’m very emotional in my analyses, I can either enjoy the work very much and end up in a sort of “sensorial blockage” state I mentioned or I can be really disappointed by what I see… really sad, as if they had disappointed me. When I go to see a work I’m not expecting the artist’s success or failure (because sometimes I feel people root against you), I go out looking for a surprise and hoping that such experience can open another door in my mind.

Sofia: It’s curious that photography is precisely the most polarizing medium, its process is profoundly subjective and its presentation tendentiously objective. This seems quite clear in this series: on the one hand you have the installation of the photographs, public, with no anomalies, forcing the spectator to maintain a certain distance in order to contemplate; on the other hand you have the manufactured book that calls out for an intimate sensorial experience. Does this bipolarity between the private and public discourse suit you?

Márcio: It doesn’t bother me, I think they’re different situations. The exhibition is always the presentation of an end result, I like seeing people’s reactions to the artworks, sometimes I pass by a spectator and join a group in order to share that experience. At the Bird Eye View exhibition I even stood by a couple and asked what they thought was the white spot in the middle of the blue image… after thinking for a while they said they thought it was an aeroplane. I told them it was a ship, and suddenly the expressions on their faces changed completely, in that moment the sky was converted in the sea. It was a very special moment for me.
On the other hand, openings always give me a mix of emotions, a part of me is happy because the work is done, another is deeply sad because it is over… In Açores this was very strong.
I’m more interested in the process that in the end result, it’s the experience that counts, to allow myself the failure and the dream.
Regarding the objects I make, as the book Azores, this relation is quite different. The object will last, every time I open it, it is “new”, it ceases to be a memory and becomes something you touch.

backstage MONO_11© Márcio Vilela, from the series Mono. Courtesy of the artist.

backstage MONO_02© Márcio Vilela, from the series Mono. Courtesy of the artist.

Sofia: In reality, photography has always been associated with wandering and you seem particularly drawn to the contrast between the infinitude of the landscape and the limits of the human dimension. For that matter and because your discourse over this conversation has been one of proximity, I’d like to finish with a question I know will be hard to answer but that I find inevitable: what are you looking for?

Márcio: Problems… inevitably I’m always looking for problems. Not in terms of difficulties, confusions or suffering, mas in terms of challenges that are on the verge of being impossible. I get bored very easily and routine has a harmful effect on my life, while it comforts me (grants me security and stability) it prevents me from moving on.
It’s funny that you ask this question at this point in my life, because I’m in the middle of big changes, once again. I’m not going to lengthen these stories, nor do I pretend to appear like a fearless and detached human being… which I’m not.
In 2002 I was in an extremely comfortable position in Brazil. I was finishing the third year of my studies in Veterinary Medicine, with a stable emotional and financial life, I had many friends and my family close to me. It as a perfect scenery for someone wanting to be “someone”… that thing that frightens our parents to death: the possibility of us not succeeding. I wasn’t unhappy, but was tremendously bored and annoyed. The “happiness pack” was right there, but there was something missing… I needed to break the routine. “Still water rots”, my brother used to tell me. He has total influence in my decisions regarding art.
When I discovered photography, in 2001, was as if I was discovering the world once again. Instead of “discovering a color”, I felt I had been seeing the world in black and white… it was overwhelming, out of control. So profound that in less than a year I had packed two suitcases and was at my hometown’s airport, in Recife, on my way to Tomar… I knew they had a graduate course in Photography and not much else.
Time in Tomar was very harsh, though also very productive, I learned a lot.
Being detached brought me here. In Recife the weather was good, there was the beach, friends, financial freedom, and an “eternal” love… but so what?!
I mentioned your question is very pertinent in this moment for the same reason, because I’m bored again… extremely accommodated and bored. I’ve been teaching photography for the past 8 years, I love classes, but it’s taking up all the time and mental capacity that I have, even if it is also a great comfort. I am “someone”, a graduate school teacher. I know that on the 23rd of each month there’s this salve alleviates the pain and calms the tedium. It’s like “I have a car to go to work to pay my car”, or something like that. So I’m out, I won’t be teaching anymore.
I love to teach, I feel alive when I’m inside the classroom with my students, but all the extra-curricular problems kill me. I decided to become “no one”, I decided to be what I’ve always wanted but had never had the corage to fully become… an artist. When I’m involved with my projects there is never boredom, there’s never anxiety…
I think this constant dissatisfaction is the result of an extremely boring childhood, spent inside an apartment with few friends and little to do besides the daily suffering at school… I’ve sort of always been a terrible student. That only changed in Tomar, when I started studying what I really liked, that’s when I discovered that the secret to success is to be doing what one enjoys, I’ll never let anyone take that away from me again.
This sense of boredom is very noticeable on my work, everything that seems too easy causes my disinterest. This raises several problems, either financial or emotional. During the residency in Azores that was very simple, I would have four weeks to photograph and enjoy the island… to work and to relax at the same time. Of course I had to make things harder for myself, so I woke up early every day and coursed through the island from one side to the other without stopping, eating sandwiches and chocolate milk from Azores. I worked till nightfall, went to extremely remote places, always on my one, I took full advantage of the power a Jipe gives to be transported from point A to point B… drove into roads where there could have be no way out. I went up, down, then reversed… There was no music in the car, no travel companion. There was the silence, an eternal silence I had never experienced before… I went looking for the mountains and the cows, people simply weren’t around. I felt like coursing through a deserted island most of the time. When I returned home at the end of the day there was no one to share the adventures of the day with. It might seem strange, but I met no one in the island, I kept outside, on my one… maybe due to a social inability, lack of time for it… I’m not sure.
It’s obvious this has caused me physical problems and by the end of the third week I was taken to the emergency room in São Miguel during the night, I must have been dehydrated, hypoglycaemic… in chock even. My body was simply refusing to continue… I was on serum for hours. That day I had reached my physical limit, the landscape had literally crushed me. After spending two days at home resting I started it all over. I can’t do it differently.
The other day I was talking with Daniel Blaukfus about chess and I was telling him how boring it was to play against me because I had a suicide strategy when playing games. In jest he answered I had a suicide approach at life. I smiled, I take it as a compliment, specially coming from a friend.
I don’t think of myself as a strong person because of these things, on the contrary, my body gives me clear signs when I cross the line, but at the same time that’s what makes me wanting to be “here”.
In another recent event, this modus operandi has led me to a big discussion with a great friend and curator, Lourenço Egreja. He invited me to an artistic residency in Berlengas, the idea was to stay in the island for a period of ten days producing work in the archipelago, working and relaxing once again. This time I took the project to an extreme, I simply decided not to stay in the island… “I’ll get out of there”, I thought. I bought a life raft, one of those you throw at the sea when a ship sinks and is automatically inflated. I’ll turn myself into a voluntary castaway, stay adrift in the sea till one day I reach land… always alone. The scale of this project caused him to worry a lot, understandably, no one wants to feel responsible for the death of a friend… that was the base for the discussion: “It is my decision, you can’t stop me”, on the one hand, and “I won’t let you do that, I don’t want you to die”, on the other. It’s hard to hear a friend saying “you can’t stop me”. I’m deeply sorry that I cause this sort of anguish on people… but I can’t avoid it, I do it because I need to… I will do it. There’s a curiousity that makes me move forward anyway, when I make a decision it’s almost impossible to stop me. When I decided to come to Portugal it was the same thing, “you can’t stop me”… and here I am.
A very good friend from Germany, Jessica Lennan, once called me a “trouble maker”… I loved it, we laughed a lot about it. This is it, I like to go looking for problems for me to solve, I think that’s what I’m looking for. As if this problems were mazes invented by me… there is always a way out, I know there is. This is what drives me, no matter how difficult it is I know there is always a way out of there. This is why, going back to your question, I think I’m looking for a way to dream freely… and dreaming causes this problems.

Sofia: Thank you for being so prompt and willing to make yourself known and to expose your strengths and fragilities. Thanks for this conversation. All the best with the drift away project, no doubt you will succeed, as much in the more immediate dimension of breaking with the daily routine and go out on a limb, as in the spiritual dimension. One day, in a PhD class where we were discussing that same old question of how to define ‘art’ a colleague suggest that an artist is a ‘problem solver’… I suspect you can identify with such description.
See you soon, Márcio.

٠ From maturity to sincerity: a glimpse at the art of documentary photography ٠

7.Julia_from_I_Have_Something_To_Tell_You© Adrain Chesser, Juliann (left) and Julia (right), from the series I Have Something to Tell You.

excerpt of Adrian’s statement:

When I tested positive for HIV and was diagnosed with AIDS, I had an extreme physical reaction whenever I thought about having to tell my friends and family. Looking at this reaction more closely, I realized that it was the same reaction I had as a kid whenever I had to disclose something uncomfortable to my parents, fearing rejection or even abandonment if larger secrets were revealed.

It occurred to me that it might be possible to overcome this paralyzing fear by photographing my friends as I told them about my diagnosis. I invited each friend to come to my studio to have their picture taken, a simple head shot for a new project. They weren’t given any other information. For a backdrop I used the curtains from the living room of the house I grew up in. I put everyone through the same routine, creating a formal process that proved to be transformative. At the beginning of each shoot I would start by saying, “I have something to tell you”.

Each sitter’s reaction was unique depending upon their own experience of loss, illness and death, creating a portrait of unguarded, unsettling honesty. As a collective, the body of work speaks to the universal experience. The phrase “I have something to tell you” is often the preface for life-altering disclosures: pregnancies, deaths, love affairs, illnesses of all kinds, winning the lottery. The phrase becomes a kind of mile-marker in a life, delineating what came before from what comes after.

Cowboys_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Cowboys, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Easter_Sunday_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Easter Sunday, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Fronds_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Fronds, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Graveside_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Graveside, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

On_The_Day_I_Was_Raped_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, On the day I was raped, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Self_Portrait_Crying_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Self Portrait Crying, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Sunday_Dinner_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Sunday Dinner, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

The_Deluge_No.10_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, The Deluge No. 10, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Adrian’s statement:

In 2000 I decided that I would return to where I grew up, to photographically document what it was like in to live in a small town in South Florida at the turn of the millennium. After shooting for a month, deeply disturbing memories from my childhood began to surface, which triggered a nervous breakdown. When I returned home I went into therapy. It occurred to me that if I could make a photographic representation of these specific events from my childhood, I could own them outside of myself as an object and that these memories would no longer hold a shadowy power over my subconscious.

From 2001 to 2011 I returned to Florida at least once a year to make images with friends and family. I would either recreate specific events or I would stay present in my process for images to arise that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded. In the end what I remembered was my resilience and defiance as a child in the face of an overwhelmingly large and seemingly unsafe world. What that came to mean for me as an adult, was the realization that the spectres of my past had no real substance, as if they were only made up of vapor and light.

٠ Adam Lach’s portrait of Stigma ٠

f589ee9592885034b9602fd0c4541e0f© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 10.03.2013 Poland. Roma girl, Karolina. Karolina escaped from her parents home (from different part of Poland) because of big love to Alex, one of the slums inhabitant.

2abe316e80333ec419f8df055ae9aa5a© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 27.03.2012 Poland Florica family in their barack. From left: Aleksander (mental handicapped after car crash), Adam, Florica, Elvecian, Bunia (mental handciapped) and Taissa who is seven months gone.

e7ac41b9412fc6f601119b8b6ffc0e14© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 20.06.2013 Poland Roma Woman, Myndra.

94c5dfff77d78b248bd3ef5eee4e49c8© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 29.06.2012 Poland Roma woman, Malena with a cigarette. Malena dreams to go to Berlin – she is estranged from family.

Adam’s statement: It is easy to fight for the rights of people who shout out loud in protest. It is much more difficult to notice those who do not manifest openly. The Stigma Project tells the story of the 60 -member family of Romanian Roma, living in an encampment on the outskirts of the city of Wroclaw in Poland. But this is not another chapter of a colorful Gypsy legend, to which the Roma community is often wrongly classified. Limiting the photo sessions to the location of the Dog Field – the district of Wroclaw occupied by the Roma slums – I deprived the recipient of the opportunity to observe the Roma people during what is commonly considered to be their everyday life – begging and theft. Surrounded by family, separated from the rest of society, they turn out to be completely different people, unfitting the conventional ideas. There are no typical camps with campfires, songs and spells – instead, there are good people with unusual interior and dramatic life stories, hurt by many whom they met on their way. They struggle not only with severe everyday life, but also with the city authorities and neighbors. They have a reputation of being beggars, thieves and crooks, among the local inhabitants, which causes frequent acts of aggression against them. All the actions of municipal authorities, with a view to solve the Roma problem, are leading to attempts to intimidate and evict them.
This story of the Roma, is primarily a story about family, relationships and emotions of people, who despite all, seem happy and peaceful. It is also an attempt to analyze the condition of the modern family, on the border between tradition and modernity. This group of nomads , dependent on the constant search for a better world , unconsciously surrenders to the influence of mass culture, struggling with the same concerns as any modern man.

4b84b622f037a05b8630652b5e213f28© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 22.10.2012 Poland Kalici’s wife Eva carries Zyna.

6c7cad948f4c8f5902ec7198ed5f5ae9© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 16.04.2013 Poland Roma digging hole for garbage.

2a46583c33b9ac8716b651bcdfb5cca9© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 09.09.2012 Poland Roma boy flexing its muscles.

We can distinguish two changes that have together made the modern preoccupation with identity and recognition inevitable. The first is the collapse of social hierarchies, which used to be the basis for honour. I am using “honour” in the ancient regime sense in which it is intrinsically linked to inequalities. For some to have honour in this sense it is essential that not everyone have it. This is the sense in which Montesquieu uses it in his description of monarchy. Honour is intrinsically a matter of “preferences.” It is also the sense we use when we speak of honouring someone, by giving her some public reward, say the Order of Canada. Plainly this would be without worth if tomorrow we decided to give it to every adult Canadian.

As against this notion of honour, we have the modern notion of dignity, now used in a universalist and egalitarian sense, where we talk of the inherent “dignity of human beings,” or of citizen dignity. The underlying premiss here is that everyone shares in this. This concept of dignity is the only one compatible with a democratic society, and it was inevitable that the old concept of honour be marginalized. But this has also meant that the forms of equal recognition have been essential to democratic culture. For instance, that everyone should be called Mister, Mrs, or Miss, rather than some people being called Lord or Lady, and others simply by their surnames, or, even more demeaning, by their first names, has been thought crucial in some democratic societies, such as the U.S.A. And more recently, for similar reasons, Mrs and Miss have been collapsed into Ms. Democracy has ushered in a politics of equal recognition, which has taken various forms over the years, and which now has returned in the form of demands for the equal status of cultures and of genders.

But the importance of recognition has been modified and intensified by the understanding of identity emerging with the ideal of authenticity. This was also in part an offshoot of the decline of hierarchical society. In those earlier societies, what we would now call a person’s identity was largely fixed by his or her social position. That is, the background that made sense of what the person recognized as important was to a great extent determined by his or her place in society and whatever role or activities attached to this. The corning of a democratic society doesn’t by itself do away with this, because people can still define themselves by their social roles. But what does decisively undermine this socially derived identification is the ideal of authenticity itself. As this emerges, for instance with Herder, it calls on me to discover my own original way of being. By definition, this cannot be socially derived but must be inwardly generated.

excerpt from Charles Taylor, in The Ethics of Authenticity.

٠ The near distant future through the eyes of Spike Jonze ٠

hermovie poster

Spike Jonze’s new movie “Her” is a must see! First and foremost because it is an original script, both in the sense that it is new and also in the sense that it is unique, thought-provoking. Because the work is Spike’s own vision of the sort of relationships human will develop with machines in the near future, there is nothing like it. It is an alternate reality but we can all see the proximity between the real, the fiction and the imaginary here.

Its originality is a breath of fresh air; its cinematography (by Hoyte Van Hoytema, also responsible for “The Fighter”) is astonishing; the poster is the best I have seen for a long time, both because it is a crazy good portrait, but also because it really speaks about the core of the movie; the cast is ok with Joaquim Phoenix making such a good performance that one wonders whether any other actor could have played that role, being so fragile, so happy and volatile at the same time.

In conclusion, this movie is about intimacy and the liberty to bound with another person far beyond gender definitions and what normality and morality establish as the correct/incorrect ways to behave/act/be…

٠ Can love restore the ‘primitive-ego’? ٠

opnamedatum: 26-10-2006© Sanne Sannes, The face of love, 1965

SanneSannes16© Sanne Sannes, Untitled, 1962-65

Can love restore the ‘primitive-ego’? is obviously not a question I have the answer for but, nonetheless, it is one that is worth revisiting now and then. It’s not difficult to understand that ‘falling in love’ is an event that messes with the boundaries of the ego. However, it’s not as easier to grasp what exactly happens to us when a lover alternates between subject and object. In Civilization and its Discontents (1929), Freud argues that there is only one state (non-pathological) where the ego seizes to keep itself clearly and sharply outlined and delimited. Freud is referring to the state of ‘being in love’, to which he adds that: Against all the evidence of his senses, the man in love declares that he and his beloved are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact.

Having a sense of one’s own ego means that, somehow, one manages to distinguish between internal and external stimuli. A construction of an ego also implies the recognizance of things existing in the external world as objects, as well as the abidance to the pleasure-principal, meaning to avoid events and things that might cause harm or pain. What interests me is this freudian idea that the primitive pleasure-ego gives way to a more mature ego because it ‘succumbs’ to the reality-principle:

Originally the ego includes everything, later it detaches from itself the external world. The ego-feeling we are aware of now is thus only a shrunken vestige of a far more extensive feeling – a feeling which embraced the universe and expressed an inseparable connection of the ego with the external world. If we may suppose that this primary ego-feeling has been preserved in the minds of many people – to a greater or lesser extent – it would co-exist like a sort of counterpart with the narrower and more sharply outlined ego-feeling of maturity, and the ideational content belonging to it would be precisely the notion of limitless extension and oneness with the universe. (Freud)

Freud then goes on to explain that when faced with the question of ‘what does a man demands of life’ – the answer being happiness -, one easily comprehends that there is a deep struggle at the core of our being, since we live by the pleasure-principle and we desire to experience intense satisfaction but the ways through which we attain pleasure are often criticized/outlawed by society.

If we accept the notion that love is, today, a kind of healthy way to restore the ego, i.e., to restore its harmony with the external world, opening a whole new sort of possibilities; and if love, sexual love, gives us our most intense experience of an overwhelming pleasurable sensation, then, Freud asks, why abandon this path for happiness? The answer being: We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love, never so forlornly unhappy as when we have lost our love-object or its love. 

Though it may seem over-simplified, Freud argues that it’s this genuine search for happiness that drives humanity to center its life around ‘genital love‘. The problem arises when one reflects upon what this does for the ego, since such a subject leads a life that is very dependent on an external object – the object of love. But this isn’t the only reason for shortening the experience of ‘sexual love’, for love opposes the interests of culture; on the other, culture menaces love with grievous restrictions.[…] culture obeys the laws of psychological economic necessity in making the restrictions, for it obtains a great part of the mental energy it needs by subtracting it from sexuality.

A lot more could be said about the restrictions imposed by the so-called civilized societies upon the sexual behaviors that fulfill the pleasure-principle. Overall, this is just illustrates the process of evolution that served the reality principle and the functioning of an organized and capitalist society at the expense of human happiness. If when a love-relationship is at its height, no room is left for any interest in the surrounding world; what would happen to society if, in fact, it valued the time needed to love?

SanneSannes3© Sanne Sannes, Untitled, 1962-65

Sanne Sannes 1963 Lovers© Sanne Sannes, Lovers, 1963

٠ Ochi Reyes: a photographic landscape of absence ٠

19mother04mother17mother16mother15mother06mother© Ochi Reyes, all photographs from the series Mother

“I have gone through the traces my mother left behind since she passed away almost a year ago now: her clothes, her shopping lists, the notes she wrote on her medication, her unfinished pieces of sewing and her photographs.

In this search I have been using different lenses to get closer and closer until I finally used a microscope through which the referent disappears in what appears as a series of deserted and abstract landscapes, mirrors of my feelings. This process has been nothing other than a way to both understand her absence and to try to grasp onto whatever could hold her presence; a way to forget and to remember, a way to let emotions go as well as a way to constantly open the doors of these emotions to be able to feel.”Ochi’s statement

٠ The Rainbow Portraits ٠

3853363966_a840c46d43_z© Benoit Paillé, A stranger: Quebec Rainbow gathering 2009: Isabelle 22 years old

5339713706_69eac974eb_z© Benoit Paillé, Rainbow Gathering Mexico, Palenque chiapas Jungle, 2010
Maya ancestor, VDJ, music lover, peace man,

8338419702_bd5d463703_c© Benoit Paillé, After taking LSD. I light up a candle in the middle of the wood and during the exposure, i make a meditation about the holism of nature surrounding me. Feeling the crystal vibration irradiating from the center of the Gaia mother earth. So in this picture i try to show you the magic,sacred metaphysical quality of the nature.

4945112561_fb93842fab_z© Benoit Paillé, Rainbow Gathering 2010 Quebec

5621516356_4cfd3f4a78_z© Benoit Paillé, Rainbow Gathering, Grand Canary Island, Spain, 2011
8345258841_cc77d93a5a_c© Benoit Paillé, LSD

7971297706_e358d3269f_c© Benoit Paillé, Rainbow Gathering Québec 2012. A mother with her daughter

8435151899_e3db7df14a_c© Benoit Paillé, World Rainbow Gathering Guatemala 2012

٠ on the quest for [visual] intimacy III ٠

ARTHUR PENN: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

bonnie_clyde_2_540-542ff56725cb6c78cc51bcafd55c11afc71d1f84excerpts from:The Origin of the Work of Art, by Martin Heidegger:

“The opposition of world and earth is strife. We would, to be sure, all too easily falsify the essence of the strife were we to conflate that essence with discord and dispute, and to know it, therefore, only as disruption and destruction. In essential strife, however, the opponents raise each other into the self-assertion [Selbstbehauptung] of their essences. This self-assertion of essence is, however, never a rigid fixation on some condition that happens to be the case, but rather a surrendering into the hidden originality of the source of one’s own being. In the struggle, each opponent carries the other beyond itself. As a consequence, the strife becomes ever more intense as striving, and ever more authentically what it is. The more intransigently the strife outdoes itself on its own part, the more uncompromisingly do the opponents admit themselves into the intimacy of their simple belonging to one another. The earth cannot do without the openness of world if it is to appear in the liberating surge of its self-c1osedness. World, on the other hand, cannot float away from the earth if, as the prevailing breadth and path of all essential destiny, it is to ground itself on something decisive.

In setting up world and setting forth earth the work instigates this strife. But this does not happen so that the work can simultaneously terminate and settle the conflict in an insipid agreement, but rather so that the strife remains a strife. By setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work accomplishes this strife. The work-being of the work consists in fighting the fight between world and earth. It is because the strife reaches its peak in the simplicity of intimacy that the unity of the work happens in the fighting of the fight. The fighting of the fight is the continually self-surpassing gathering of the agitation of the work. The repose of the work that rests in itself thus has its essence in the intimacy of the struggle.


Truth establishes itself in the work. Truth is present only as the strife between clearing and concealing in the opposition between world and earth. As this strife of world and earth, truth wills its establishment in the work. The strife is not resolved in something brought forth specifically for that purpose, but neither is it merely housed there. The strife is, rather, opened up by the work. This being must, therefore, contain within itself the essential traits of the strife. In the strife the unity of world and earth is won. As a world opens itself up, it puts up for decision, by a historical humanity, the question of victory or defeat, blessing and curse, lordship and slavery. The dawning world brings to the fore that which is still undecided and without measure and decisiveness.

As a world opens itself up, however, the earth rises up. It shows itself as that which bears all, as that which is secure in its law and which constantly closes itself up. World demands its decisiveness and measure and allows beings to attain to the openness of its paths. Earth, bearing and rising up, strives to preserve its closedness and to entrust everything to its law. The strife is not rift [Riss], in the sense of a tearing open of a mere cleft; rather, it is the intimacy of the mutual dependence of the contestants. The rift carries the contestants into the source of their unity, their common ground. It is the fundamental design [Grundriss]. It is the outline sketch [Aufriss] that marks out the fundamental features of the rising up of the clearing of beings. This design [Riss] does not allow the contestants to break apart. It brings the contest between measure and limit into a shared outline [Umriss].
Arrabal y Bonnie and Clyde


Truth establishes itself as strife in a being that is to be brought forth only in such a way that the strife opens up in this being; the being itself, in other words, is brought into the rift-design [Riss]. The rift-design is the drawing together into a unity of sketch and fundamental design rupture and outline. Truth establishes itself in a being in such a way, indeed, that this being itself occupies the open of truth. This occupying, however, can only happen in such a way that what is to be brought forth, the rift, entrusts itself to the self-closing that rises up in the open. The rift must set itself back into the pull of the weight of the stone, into the dumb hardness of the wood, into the dark glow of the colors. As the earth takes the rift back into itself, the rift is for the first time set forth into the open and therefore placed, i.e., set, into that which rises up in the open as the self-closing and as the protecting.

This strife which is brought into the rift-design, and so set back into the earth and fixed in place, is the figure [Gestalt]. The createdness of the work means: the fixing in place of truth in the figure. Figure is the structure of the rift in its self-establishment. The structured rift is the jointure [Fuge] of the shining of truth. What we here call “figure” is always to be thought out of that particular placing [stellen] and placement [Ge-stell] as which the work comes to presence when it sets itself up and sets itself forth.”

str**ming here

٠ on the quest for [visual] intimacy II ٠

JEAN-LUC GODARD: Le Petit Soldat (1963)


excerpts from: Being Singular Plural, by Jean-Luc Nancy, Stanford University Press, 2000, pp.10-81:

“As a consequence, gaining access to the origin, entering into meaning, comes down to exposing oneself to this truth.

What this means is that we do not gain access to the origin: access is refused by the origin’s concealing itself in its multiplicity. We do not gain access; that is, we do not penetrate the origin; we do not identify with it. More precisely, we do not identify ourselves in it or as it, but with it, in a sense that must be elucidated here and is nothing other than the meaning of originary coexistence.


The “outside” of the origin is “inside” – in an inside more interior than the extreme interior, that is, more interior than the intimacy of the world and the intimacy that belongs to each “me.” If intimacy must be defined as the extremity of coincidence with oneself, then what exceeds intimacy in inferiority is the distancing of coincidence itself. It is a coexistence of the origin “in” itself, a coexistence of origins; it is no accident that we use the word “intimacy” to designate a relation between several people more often than a relation to oneself. Our being-with, as a being-many, is not at all accidental, and it is in no way the secondary and random dispersion of a primordial essence. It forms the proper and necessary status and consistency of originary alterity as such. The plurality of beings is at the foundation [fondment] of Being.

In and of itself transcendent, the subject is born into its intimacy (“interior intimo neo”), and its intimacy wanders away from it in statu nascendi (“interfeces et urinam nascimur”). “To exist” is no longer “to be” (for itself, in itself), to-already-no-longer-be and to-not-yet-be, or even to-be-lacking, that is, to-be-in-debt-to-being. To exist is a matter of going into exile. The fact that the intimate, the absolutely proper, consists in the absolutely other is what alters the origin in itself, in a relation to itself that is “originarily plunged into mourning.” The other is in an originary relation to death and in a relation to originary death.


Proximity is the correlate of intimacy: it is the “nearest,” the “closest,” which is also to say “the most approximate” or “infinitely approximate” to me, but it is not me because it is withdrawn in itself, into the self in general. The proximity of the nearest is a minute, intimate distance and, therefore, an infinite distance whose resolution is in the Other. The nearest is that which is utterly removed, and this is why the relation to it presents itself as an imperative, as the imperative of a love, and (3) as a love that is “like the love of myself.” The love of self, here, is not egoism in the sense of preferring oneself over others (which would contradict the commandment); it is an egoism in the sense of privileging oneself, one’s own-self [le soi-propre], as a model, the imitation of which would provide the love of others. It is necessary to love one’s ownself in the other, but reciprocally, one’s own-self in me is the other of the ego. It is its hidden intimacy.


This is why it is a matter of “love”: this love is not some possible mode of relation; it designates relation itself at the heart of Being — in lieu of and in the place of Being — and designates this relation, of one to another, as the infinite relation of the same to the same as originarily other than itself. “Love” is the abyss of the self in itself; it is the “delectation” [“dilection”] or “taking care” of what originarily escapes or is lacking; it consists in taking care of this retreat and in this retreat. As a result, this love is “charity”: it is the consideration of the caritas, of the cost or the extreme, absolute, and, therefore, inestimable value of the other as other, that is, the other as the self-withdrawn-in-itself. This love speaks of the infinite cost of what is infinitely withdrawn: the incommensurability of the other. As a result, the commandment of this love lays out this incommensurability for what it is: access to the inaccessible. Yet, it is not sufficient to discredit such love as belonging to some intemperate idealism or religious hypocrisy. Rather, it is a matter of deconstructing the Christianity and sentimentality of an imperative the openly excessive and clearly exorbitant character of which must be read as a warning to us; I would even go so far as to say that it just is a warning to us. It is a matter of wondering about the “meaning” (or “desire”) of a thinking or culture that gives itself a foundation the very expression of which denotes impossibility, and of wondering how and to what extent the “madness” of this love could expose the incommensurability of the very constitution of the “self” and the “other,” of the “self” in the “other.”

┐ Tomas Young’s last letter └

richards-2richards-4from Eugene Richard‘s series War is Personal

Days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country: He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.
Less than three years later, Young’s Army service placed him not in Afghanistan — where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated — but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young’s convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.
The incident turned Young into one of the most vocal veteran critics of the Iraq War. He has, however, saved his most powerful criticism for what he claims will be his last. Young says he’ll die soon, but not before writing a letter to Bush and former Vice President Cheney on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

Tomas prepared things so that he will be gone this next April. Here is his last letter, as published in Truthdig, a MUST READ:

“I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

┐ Will Jennings └

© Will Jennings, Untitled, from the series Tumbling Blocks, 2011

“As an intuitive response to the sudden death of my mother last summer I walked down the Suffolk coast, reconsidering the landscape of my childhood through the eyes of an adult, mourner and artist.

Concrete cubes sporadically emerged along the route, sole man-made interjections in a landscape of permanent flux. As I walked through fog they offered perspective, their staccato rhythm implied passing time, their angular form suggested a grid and attempted rationalisation of chaotic, uncontrollable nature.

I read the cubes as monolithic stelae. Blank vessels into which I store memories, emotions and idea – vessels as fallible as both body and mind, also falling prey to the forces of nature and time.” Will‘s statement

more of Will’s work here

┐ roots & fruits #12 – Gonçalo Figueiredo └

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Lourenço

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Rita Tavares (left) and Lara Brandão (right), from the series The Protest, 12/2009

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Ricardo Baltazar (left) and Gonçalo Figueiredo (right), from the series The Protest, 12/2009

These portraits are part of a series made back in the Winter of 2009 and it depicts a group of students from the Photography Department to which Gonçalo also was part, both as a technitian and as a student. In December, confronted with the lack of conditions and materials the course lacked to offer, they decided to camp at school and endure a silent and peaceful protest until they were heard.

“Let us now consider the time exposure, of which the photo-portrait is a concrete instance. Whether of a live or dead person, the portrait is funerary in nature, a monument. Acting as a reminder of times that have died away, it sets up landmarks of the past. This means it reverses the paradox of the snapshot, series to series. Whereas the snapshot refers to the fluency of time without conveying it, the time exposure petrifies the time of the referent and denotes it as departed. Reciprocally, whereas the former freezes the superficial time of the image, the latter releases it. It liberates an autonomous and recurrent temporality, which is the time of remembrance. While the portrait as Denkmal, monument, points to a state in a life that is gone forever, it also offers itself as the possibility of staging that life again and again in memory.

An asymmetrical reciprocity joins the snapshot to the time exposure: whereas the snapshot stole a life it could not return, the time exposure expresses a life that it never received. The time exposure doesn’t refer to life as process, evolution, diachrony, as does the snapshot. It deals with an imaginary life that is autonomous, discontinuous, and reversible, because this life has no location other than the surface of the photograph. By the same token it doesn’t frame that kind of surface-death characteristic of the snapshot, which is the shock of time splitting into not anymore and not yet. It refers to death as the state of what has been: the fixity and defection of time, its absolute zero.


Time exposure implies the antithesis of trauma. Far from blocking speech, it welcomes it openly. Only in time exposure (portrait, landscape, still life, etc.) may photography appear with the continuity of nature. The portrait, for example, may look awkward, but not artificial, as would be the case of a snapshot of an athlete caught in the midst of a jump. When continuity and nature are perceived, speech is apt to body forth that perception in the form of a narrative that meshes the imaginary with the symbolic and organizes our mediation with reality.

The word now, used to describe the kind of temporality involved in time exposures, doesn’t refer to actual time, since it is abstracted from its natural link with here: hic et nunc. It is to be understood as a pause in time, charged with a potential actualization, which will eventually be carried out by speech (or memory as interior speech), and is most probably rooted in the time-consuming act of looking.” excerpt from the article Time Exposure and Snapshot: The Photograph as Paradox, by Thierry de Duve, published in October, Vol. 5, Photography (Summer, 1978), pp. 113-125

More of Gonçalo’s work here

┐ roots & fruits #9 – Miguel Godinho └

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled, from the series Esta é a minha família (This is my family), 2011

© Miguel Godinho, 38 years old (left) + 40 years old (right), from the series 16-06-1950, 2008

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled, from the series Family, 2005

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled (left + right), from the series Entre nós (Amongst us), 2010

Miguel Godinho’s (b. 1984) photography is not easy to describe, not because it is abstract, overly conceptualized or devoided of content, but because it is simple (albeit symbolic) and unpretentious.

Miguel’s body of work fluctuates between intimate moments and a sterile portrait (in the composition) of the world around him. The domestic scenes reveal some kind of obsession with the question of identity, dependent on family history and memory. On the other hand, the outdoor photographs accentuate the distance between nature/landscape and an environment built/invaded by man.

While the images vary from landscapes, portraits and still life, the empty spaces within the narrative allow us not only to understand the author’s personal journey as well as how it forms part of a sociological portrait of his country and its culture.

More of Miguel’s work here

┐ Scott Alario └

© Scott Alario, all Untitled, from the project Our Fable

“I’m in the process of building a folk tale for my daughter. It is a paternal inevitability to make up stories for one’s children, and for me, doing so has recently become the passion in my creative practice.

There are two photographs I remember from my childhood that play directly into this work. The first is a studio portrait of my father’s mother, made immediately before leaving Italy to immigrate to the United States. We would call the photograph the “gypsy picture” while I was growing up, and in doing so the image has taken on a magic, epic role. In the picture, my grandmother stands stoic as an eight year old. Her timeless eyes represent so much to me. In her face is the face of the 100-year-old woman I know now and it’s the face of my daughter. It is one of wisdom and will, and it fills me with awe.

The second picture that I carry in my mind is a portrait of a Sami family, reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia. Magic fl ows out of this image, too. It comes from my mother’s mom, whose Norwegian bloodline is only fi ctitiously connected to the Sami. Although I imagine being related to these people, the image hangs in the house like an offering to our ancestry. I see the face of my late uncle in the proud, piped and weathered hero of the portrait. Having a child has got me thinking about the importance of cultural myth and ideas of ancestral wisdom. In my baby I can see our connection to the past, as well as the potential to leave bits of ourselves to posterity.

My recent work deals with my fear of failing as a father, and attempts to make something of the successful moments. I use photography to engage my daughter. Together we construct images, she leads at times, and at others I beg her to stay still. She has become, simultaneously, the impetus, a participant, and the audience. Ideas for pictures come through play; dressing in costumes we make, becoming characters, going back into nature, erecting forts, and telling stories. Inspired by those two relic-like portraits, and driven by a deep love, these images are a collaboration with my whole family through time.”

Scott’s statement. More of his great work here

┐ roots & fruits #8 – Diogo Simões └

© Diogo Simões, Untitled, from the series Miratejo

© Diogo Simões, Untitled, from the series Miratejo

© Diogo Simões, Untitled, from the series Miratejo

© Diogo Simões, Untitled, from the series Miratejo

Influenced by current-events (this is a circumstantial analogy) Diogo’s (b.1988, Miratejo, PT) photographs remind me of a kind of portrait of youth that makes me think of Gus van Sant’s universe. If I had seen this series a few months ago I would probably relate it to projects within the realm of the medium itself and think about the meaning of portrait and nostalgia in the history of photography.
Besides Gus van Sant’s Gerry and Elephant, I think of Mathieu Kassovitz’s works La Haine and Assassin(s). Then I’m reminded of a bunch of texts I read last year about riots in France and in the UK and I reread a few . Somehow the associations are too subjective to be treated slightly and I give up. Now I’m looking at these pictures again and I keep thinking youth, nostalgia, ambiguity, inconsequence, insurrection and rebellion. There’s a sense of coolness and fatalism in the air and that’s what brings me back to the suspended effect a film still can have when it hangs over your head.
Finally, these associations lead me to the text that follows and hopefully it will all make sense:

“Elephant depicts a world untethered from certainties and authority, and in this way it can be seen to reflect postmodern anxieties. Slavoj Zizek’s comment offers a relevant critical perspective. The quote cited at the beginning of this essay [below], taken from an interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2001, is Zizek’s response to a question about his concept of “foreclosure”: the idea that contemporary society prohibits a real articulation of the subject.

[…] precisely because the universe in which we live is somehow a universe of dead conventions and artificiality, the only authentic real experience must be some extremely violent, shattering experience. And this we experience as a sense that now we are back in real life.

According to Zizek (and philosopher Alain Badiou, from whom he borrows the French term), the “foreclosure” of the subject has an inevitable flip-side: “la passion du reel” or “the passion of the real”. Elephant demonstrates some of the implications of Zizek’s notion, and through its poetic strategies affords the viewer an opportunity to piece together some of the elements in the bigger picture. We might regard the killers Alex and Eric as embodying the disenfranchisement that many teens (and not just in the US) feel. Viewing their apparently left-field violence in this context reveals a failure within society to deliver a secure place for their emerging sense of identity.

In the same interview, Zizek compares the idea of foreclosure and its implications with the Nietzchean opposition of active and passive nihilism. He describes passive nihilism as that state of apathy resulting from “living a stupid self-satisfied life without great passions”, which invokes the opposite form of conscious self-destruction. Zizek argues that freedom in contemporary society is devoid of the more “radical dimension” of true democracy, existing instead as the watered-down freedom to choose lifestyle. Zizek also sees in the pervasiveness of virtual realities (such as the Internet) a further disconnection from authentic experience.

In Elephant we can roughly align the characters according to the idea of active and passive nihilism. The adult characters present varying forms of apathy or disconnection; their lifestyles – particularly Alex’s parents, as revealed through the lifeless atmosphere of the family home – suggest an arrival at an unquestioned comfort zone, or passive nihilism. We see Alex and Eric attempting to break out of their transparent, but nonetheless prescribed realities: a bid for active nihilism.”

excerpt of Neera Scott’s Sublime Anarchy in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, in Senses of Cinema.continue reading here

Diogo’s website (currently under construction) is here

┐ Moyra Davey └

© Moyra Davey, The Coffee Shop, The Library, 2011 25 C-prints, tape, postage, ink

© Moyra Davey, Musik, 2010

© Moyra Davey, The Whites of Your Eyes (for Bill Horrigan), 2010 25 C-prints, tape, postage, ink

© Moyra Davey, The Whites of Your Eyes (for Bill Horrigan), 2010

I’d say that these pictures are about the life of objects. I had a funny revelation recently–and in a way this takes me back to my art school days as a nascent photographer–that my Fridge picture is very similar to Edward Weston’s toilet. In his diaries and notebooks, which I read in my early 20’s, and loved, he talks about photographing his toilet over and over, each time refining the composition until he attained a formalist perfection. And he writes about his exaltation at finally getting it right. Perhaps it’s odd to be identifying with Weston at this point in my life, but I have to admit that my process with the fridge was strangely similar. It involved a slow, methodical deliberation, a stalking of light, of waiting for the precise moment of solar illumination in an otherwise dim room. To get back to your question about the concepts in my work, maybe this comparison to Weston speaks to the idea of ‘slow time’, “the cyclical and durational” that Miwon Kwon mentions in relation to my photographs.

JTD: Can you speak about your interest in everyday objects, including objects that are often overlooked or regarded as a nuisance, such as dust and empty bottles, and how these objects influence your photographs?

MD: Bottles, especially the clear glass ones, refract light in beautiful and surprising ways. I began the bottle series because of an accident, a blurred Johnny Walker bottle that turned up at the tail end of a B&W contact sheet. I loved the look of it and began to take intentional pictures of empty whiskey bottles consumed in my household, and did this for a period of five years, realizing at the end of this term that the totality of the images constituted a kind of calendar, a finite block of time denoted by the consumption of a particular type of spirits. I followed the B&W series with a color series, also documenting five years of consumption.

JTD: What is your attraction to dust, and what do you believe it conveys to the viewer about human nature?

MD: I’m kind of obsessed with dust as this nuisance substance, and just the whole Sisyphean nature of it that Simone de Beauvoir talks about in relation to the futility of housework, the housewife’s ‘endless, hopeless battle against dust and dirt’. Beauvoir says that the only way out of this trap is to embrace the “life in death” in decay. Dust is made up of dead matter, but it’s also totally alive in its entropic, inescapable fashion. If you can find a way to make your peace with it then you won’t be doomed to “the general and the inessential.(…)

excerpt of an interview by Jess T. Dugan, in Big Red & Shiny. continue reading here

more of Moyra’s work here

┐ Helga Härenstam └

© Helga Härenstam, The Gap, from the series The Society, 2006-2008

© Helga Härenstam, Jesus, from the series The Society, 2006-2008

The Society is a fictious documentary, trough which Helga Härenstam has been looking for and/or constructing environments, scenes and events, that are based on memories from the small society where she grew up. The people photographed in these series are Härenstam herself, her family and other people that she is close to.

The series is a puzzle of pictures dealing with the borders between documentary and staged, the real and the unreal and the past and the present. The title The Society, is inspired by a place, where Helga Härenstam partly grew up. This place does have a name, but is simply called ”the society”. Härenstam found the ambiguousness of the word society interesting though it refers to a context of world politics and states that shut in and shut out citizens depending on where they are considered to belong. At the same time it refers to this small community, which basically functions in the same way, just on a minor scale.

The Society tells several stories about growing up in a rural area that slowly becomes abandoned. A transitional place is formed between the past and the present ways of how the society functions and between the past and the present way ones memory functions.


more of Helga’s work here