Guest blogger André Carapinha ٠ Plato, Love & Image ٠

Introducing Nihilsentimentalgia’s newcomer André Carapinha with an essay about the veil of shadows that stands between our perception and “reality”.

Photographs illustrating the essay all belong to Trish Morrissey‘s project Front (2005-07), where she sets out to find families that she joins temporarily, in an “as if/has-been” moment, at the same time manipulating reality and attributing to it the statue of memory.

Hayley-ColesPLATO, LOVE AND IMAGE

A short essay about the importance of the act of remembering in photography, but not exclusively

Things are even more real when we remember them. When we experience them, they come wrapped in a veil of unreality, which is the constant fluxus of the becoming – that keeps us from grabbing them with both hands, that shapes their plastic and mutant character, which makes for everything to be always, always, changing. But when memory comes into play, that is where all the pieces seem to come together and that which is not important, that which distracted us, that whose function of emergence is that of confusing, finally abandons the thing, and the thing is revealed to us in the greatest purity that we ever manage to achieve. Our knowledge is always regional, imperfect, and dominated by an insurmountable and confusing principle, but the moment when we are closer to reality – that is the moment when we remember things.

Plato has shown that the way we apprehend reality takes the form of a picture. Nowadays, most people may find it difficult to understand this definition. It does not only apply to the Plato-ready-to-wear conclusion one often finds in “Plato’s Cave” (commonly the only thing an average person knows, or is convinced of knowing, about Plato), that reality is an image because it comes to us wrapped in a veil of shadows, contrasting with the “true reality” one could access beyond the shadows or the fogs (therefore diminuishing the status of the image as an “ilusion”). In fact, as one understands from reading the book V of the “Republic” and “Theaetetus”, the image is the fundamental status for the apprehending of reality, it is the alpha and the omega of knowledge. Resuming, what this means is that in fact there is a veil of shadows between us and the “real”, but that such veil of shadows is not like a fog that we dissipate but a permanent event in the apprehension of the real; and that the human mind, which is guided by a constant attention to the real, is capable of little more than the production of images of the real, and when we say pictures, we really mean the picture, as it is understood in the realms of aesthetics and art history – in fact, there is no better point of comparison to understand what Plato means by “images”.

KatyMcDonnellAristotle, who rejected Plato’s idea that there are “models” fixed in our mind for the production of images, and for that appears to be more accessible to the “modern” eyes, didn’t failed to admit that for the human observer  the original state of reality is that of “confusion” – a concept that owes much to Plato’s “shadows”. It also didn’t stop him for coming up with a concept such as “categories”, which works as an organizer, permanently present in the act of knowing. And also for Aristotle “true reality” was understood as something inaccessible except by “mediation”, which is something much more profound and complex than the simple mediation of the “senses”, given that it incorporates constitutive structures of the very essence of the act of knowing.

However, I do believe what we owe most to Plato is precisely the idea that the knowledge of “pictures” is brought to us as a “memory” – “memory” of the “pure forms”, that is, of models that guide and shape the act of knowing. What I mean is forms that organize the act of knowing given the fuzz that underlines the essence of reality, when we are first confronted with it. What this suggests is that the best way to understand our surroundings is not by what is happening in the present, always ruled by the volatile and confusing character of the becoming, but through another moment, which in itself is a “memory” (consider the act of “thinking”: when we think seriously about a subject, do we not summon to our mind the whole set of experiences, knowledge, norms, we already have? And isn’t that the moment when the object of our thinking tends to present itself with the most clarity?) Curiously, contrary to Plato’s conclusion, this may also suggest that “artistic production” is more in conformity with the real than the so-called “scientific knowledge”, given that, in Kantian terms, the former has a more “synthetic” character than the latter, which is mainly “analytical”.

It isn’t foreigner to me that this conclusion isn’t very popular – after all, the “scientific model” (of which Aristotle could be considered the precursor, since he inaugurated the “regionalization” of knowledge) has enormous advantages: besides the fact that it seems to “result” (its conclusions may and should be subject to examination and provide evidences), it presents itself as a movement “towards the” real, and assuming that the “fog” is likely to be dissipated, which is a much more comfortable hypothesis. But what is a paradox is that nothing, absolutely nothing in the evolution of scientific knowledge, in the amazing expansion that this “region of knowledge” has had in the curse of history, nothing as I was saying, diminished the status of the real as Plato and Aristotle defined about 2400 years ago. It is not because we know “more” about reality that it ceases to appear confuse, and that the image ceases to be its fundamental status as it is apprehended.

Angela-ReynishLet’s consider a past love that is still very present in our minds. How much noise, how many mistakes, how crazy – everything we call as to not understand who that person was, to not understand what was going on, to instantly begin the process of loosing him/her. But now, as I remember her/him, I am left with the light, the spirit, the grace, the youth – in short, everything that made me love her/him, but that in order to truly recover I needed to remember. Only by losing can one love what has been lost, but moreover, only then can we fully grasp the Other that was lost. It is necessary to get undressed of the daily yoke and of the current noise to fully know the person one once loved – when we locate her/him in the past. And so the Other is revealed to us closer to his/her essence than we could ever achieved.

Love is a strange process. In-depth, it’s such a process that consists in starting, from day one, to lose the loved one. Or else it is a commitment that immediately begins by putting love aside in the name of its sustainability. A strange paradox, therefore. No wonder it remains the most inaccessible human act to the “scientific knowledge” and, on the other hand, the one that art most finely understands, if we compare it to all other types of intellectual production. Short essay by André Carapinha

June-Marsh

║ Ben Gest (Group Portrait – part II) ║

© Ben Gest, Chuck, Alice & Dale, 2003

 

© Ben Gest, Alan & Noah, 2002
“My pictures describe tenuous moments between people sharing their lives together in their homes. These ambiguous narratives of personal and simple everyday activities describe the way people sometimes disengage from those closest to them. They are an outgrowth of my interest in photography’s potential to tell the story of human life while considering its ability to create objective truth.

These photographs are creations of familiar and perhaps anticlimactic events. The struggle one faces in maintaining a sense of self is made more difficult because those who affect us most are the very people we love. How do people maintain their own psychological self when the physical space between them is so close?”

Ben Gest

║ Holly Lynton ║

© Holly Lynton, Untitled #8 (pouring), from the In Between series, 1999 

© Holly Lynton, Untitled #15 (in the basement), from the In Between series, 1999

 

“Someone shouts to me from across the street that I look too young to be driving. At the airport, a woman thinks I am waving goodbye to my sister, not my daughter. People will unabashedly state that I must be twelve, or sixteen, or at a stretch, perhaps twenty-two, even when their assumption defies logic. They will also go to great lengths to share their observation. I am particularly drawn to these moments where assumption, perception, and presentation collide to create fantasy.
I make large-scale, color, photographic prints and videos, turning mundane events and memories from my daily life into fantasies. The events can be anything from playing in the snow, to a bird getting caught in raspberry netting. Sometimes, I respond spontaneously to an event in the world and grab my camera. Other times, I recreate a scene from a past event, and photograph it.”
Holly Lynton

to view Holly Lynton’s full body of work click here

║ Kelli Connell (Domestic Scenes – part I) ║

© Kelli Connell, Private Conversation, 2003
© Kelli Connell, Sunday Afternoon, 2002

“This work represents an autobiographical questioning of sexuality and gender roles that shape the identity of the self in intimate relationships. Polarities of identity such as the masculine and feminine psyche, the irrational and rational self, the exterior and interior self, the motivated and resigned self are portrayed. By combining multiple photographic negatives of the same model in each image, the dualities of the self are defined by body language and clothing worn. This work is an honest representation of the duality or multiplicity of the self in regards to decisions about intimate relationships, family, belief systems and lifestyle options.
The importance of these images lies in the representation of interior dilemmas portrayed as an external object – a photograph. Through these images the audience is presented with “constructed realities”. I am interested in not only what the subject matter says about myself, but also what the viewers’ response to these images says about their own identities and social constructs..”
Kelli Connell

║ Wang Qingsong ║

© Wang Qingsong, Tramp, 2004
© Wang Qingsong, Night Patrol, 2005
” I think it is very meaningless if an artist only creates art for art’s sake. For me, the dramatic changes in China have transformed China into a huge playground or construction site. Whenever I go into the city I feel suffocated by the pollution, social contradictions, and so forth. All of these factors contribute to the fact that artists cannot just make art for art’s sake. I think it would be absurd for an artist to ignore what’s going on in society.
I have the right and I’m capable enough to depict the environment in China because I am familiar with this society and it is close to me. Also, I can do it right and I can do it accurately. I admire some photographers like Andreas Gursky. He took some photographs of garbage, which is similar to something you would see in China every day. I just hope to continue making more and better photographs in the future.”
Wang Qingsong

* for full interview click here

║ Cig Harvey ║

© Cig Harvey, Untitled, from The Impossible Tasks series, 2005
© Cig Harvey, Untitled, from The Impossible Tasks series, 2005

“Harvey’s photographs stream from two series: Eyes Like Disappointed Lemons and The Impossible Tasks, and each contains a lone female figure positioned in unidentifiable locales. Fruits, bodies of water and segments of skin are photographed with beautiful simplicity, culminating in a pleasing visual stew. Mounted on the walls at exactly the same level between the ceiling and floor, each photo shares the same square dimensions. This encourages the eye to view the images as frame-by-frame movie stills. Viewers unravel a narrative—any narrative—from this storyboardlike presentation.
The model in these works is Harvey herself, and this is obviously another instance of an artist playing dress-up, but it echoes beyond authorship as both composer and figure. The figure is feminine, the spaces alternately familiar and foreign, dreamlike or real. But this could be any story—any person—and that quality is precisely what makes the work so appealing. The figure, props and environments combine to create saturated and strikingly beautiful compositions that resonate with a universal presence.”
Ebony Porter

║ Anthony Goicolea ║

© Anthony Goicolea, Boxtrap, 2004, from the Sheltered Life series

© Anthony Goicolea, Dead Tree, 2005, from the Sheltered Life series


“Sheltered Life” is a series of digitally constructed photographs that depicts fairytale-like, timeless places inhabited by contemporary characters. All of the landscapes are punctuated with alternative makeshift living spaces that are made up of, as well as incorporated into, the surrounding environment. Many of the figures in the photos are reduced in size and are almost swallowed by their surroundings. The characters are often masked, hooded, or seen from the back in order to preserve their identity. They operate as a single unit, living in situations that simultaneously reference backyard play dates and hippie communes, as well as detainment camps and disaster relief areas. Their living arrangements and concealed identities cement their status as outcasts or refugees from society. The composed wooded scenes depicted in many of the photos are bisected into two halves and are often times seen as a cross-section of themselves.”

© Anthony Goicolea, Still Waters, 2007, from the Septemberists series
© Anthony Goicolea, Tin Drum, 2007, from the Septemberists series

 

“The Septemberists is a thirty minute black and white film that chronicles the preparations and processes associated with traditional religious ceremonies. A group of boys harvests materials in a dream-like landscape in order to construct the clothing and elements necessary to enact a series of semi-sacrificial rites of passage. Taking inspiration from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” the musical score becomes a substitute for dialogue. Each group of boys functions as a pack of mute workers accompanied only by the sound of their designated musical instruments. Set on a farm reminiscent of an old southern plantation, the characters appear almost like a refined tribe or community living an existence removed from society; half military academy, half monastery. Like cloned worker bees, each group moves in silent, pre-choreographed unison, carrying out their individually assigned tasks. As one group herds and sheers sheep, another picks cotton growing in a steam filled greenhouse, while still a third group meets at a moonlit marsh to catch octopi and harvest their ink sacks.”

Anthony Goicolea