Tag Archives: Photography

Sublime Now

Though it’s impossible to discuss sublime today without historical references, I would like to use these to contradict the traditional denotations.

The term has its background in the ancient rhetorics, then – mainly through eighteenth-century Western-European philosophy it establishes itself firmly as an aesthetic concept, functioning along and in an opposition to other terms within the area like: beautiful, tragic, humorous, profane, ugly etc.

Yet, it’s probably worth to emphasize that, strangely enough, in E. Burke’s and I. Kant’s understanding the Sublime never fits into criteria of metaphysical or ontological phenomenon (or entity) – it simply exists in a beholder’s mind as a powerful yet transient, fleeting psychological and spiritual reaction, an emotion, feeling of sublime. From a historical point of view is interesting to see how the dialectics of the sublime, used by two great ontologists fits into the nature of the phenomenological school of thought, which is both specifically twentieth-century and opposed to metaphysics discipline. It seems that the concept under discussion never fully integrates into a traditional philosophical inquiry – being more Dionysian than Apollonian in its nature – the sublime is born from paradoxes, it’s based on these and – if it functions in any universal form (out of a beholder’s mind) – it probably takes the form of  an ontological oxymoron, an enigma – as unnerving as it is alluring.

Looking forward to the modern and postmodern times one may be easily dazzled by its potential to embody and to convey the sublime to an intensity not possible ever before. After ‘growing out’ of the Great Romantics’ idealistic enthusiasm on the matter, in the ‘after-God” era when the sublime cannot be simply mistaken for a religious/mystical experience, facing the challenges of  the shattered, discontinuous, idiolects and antitheses – based world, reaching scientific and technological heights difficult to imagine even few decades before – the humankind not longer chases but seems to meet on a regular basis that great oxymoron – the sublime.

It takes many forms and definitions – from the A. Hitchcock’s and C. Jung’s shadows then – G. Lucas’s astriferous epics, from Big Brother’s house grotesque and through the war/terrorism-rooted atrocities to Barrack’s Obama intense political charisma – Burke’s mind-expanding ‘negative pain’ and Kant’s ‘indefinite’ yet desired dread is as indisputably a part of the contemporary condition as Aristotle’s catharsis had to be for ancient Greeks.

Andreas Gursky’s photos, which  embrace the traditional understanding of the sublime as the vast, terrifying, annihilating, formless, liminal etc. and the ultra-modern embodiment of it in digitally mastered photographs of a postmodern – globalized and impersonal universe.

His approach would be that of a shock-therapy and a direct, uncompromising attack – perhaps the best way of a defense against the audacity and the… ridicule of the contemporary sublime.

Both Gursky’s work gives a picture of a formidable, limitless, always deeply confusing, often ugly and grotesque, sometimes eerily attractive spectacle, some sort of Baudrillard’s hypo-reality , and the ancient Roman bloody games – the reality, we live in today.

In Chicago Board of Trade II (above) human beings are nothing more than annoyingly numerous, uniform, yet nicely coloured dots, the well-rehearsed pixels; while in 99 Cents (above, 2) the supermarket goods take their place – and guess what? – one can hardly notice any substantial difference…


Studying Art (15)- A Fire Runs Through It…


A Fire Runs Through It.

Originally uploaded by ms4jah

I’m becoming obsessed by the fire…
The primordial force of no earthy origin.
Of captivating beauty, forever sublime, even in its ashes and fumes…

The spiritual depth, the emotional fever, the power of human and nature’s genius…

The most mesmerizing epitome of the liminal and the paradoxical – consuming and supporting life, wounding and healing, the master and the servant… Perpetual space of becoming, of an annihilation and re-birth…

The element of gods and monsters, the sublimation of hell, the alien lover…

And as such it’s impossible to paint or to convey in words, and just because of that creative people have always been in love with its challenge…

Everyone around me seems to paint water, sometimes the earth. Well, it’s the islanders’ trait and they are good at it…

But I will face flames in my work. I will challenge them with my imagination, my admiration and ambition; I will abstract them and command them to exist as a spirit and the intent of the work. I will probably abandon them soon, yet it’s interesting to see where they will lead me… What sort of a catharsis and inferno the fire, I’m playing with is going to enrich me with…

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Photo found at Flickr. Click at ms4jah account to access more…


Let it shine… (Whilt 6)

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I have to confess – I took my camera with me one Christmas-time evening specifically for this reason – to collect the ‘evidence’ of the tastelessness and prodigality, which flourish in the Irish (and I suppose Polish, French, Spanish… everywhere) towns right from the beginning of November. Why someone would like to keep three Christmas trees under one roof – doesn’t it ridicule the very sense of having it (slightly like celebrate three bonfires in the Roman home)? Why does someone find it attractive and/or desirable to display twenty or so flashing, twinkling, glaring decorations – every one of them kitsch – if even one quarter of these make their point quite clearly (I would say – ‘plainly and blatantly clear’)? Why everyone lets the commercial/consumption machine to devour all the magic and beauty of the season? Why – I’ve been keeping asking finding myself astonished and confused like a newcomer from a far country…

But, after giving the issue a bit of a deepen thought (and what I have learned today) I came to a conclusion that there won’t be probably any straightforward and satisfying answer to these dilemmas. Not only because one is not supposed to discuss the taste of others (De gustibus non est disputandum), but due to the complexity of the whole phenomenon. How a particular culture, country, region and a family responds to the public celebrations/mythologies is deeply rooted in its history and habitual imprint, spiritual/religious background, psychological/mental DNA, economic and even political conditions, as well as the contemporary, today’s challenges and ongoing (that’s why very difficult to analyze) transformations. And even grasping all of these wouldn’t necessary help to decipher why this particular culture/region/house has chosen to celebrate in such a way. One could be completely mislead judging the Roman ancient culture by the Dionysian Festival or the contemporary Spanish nation by their Bull Running pandemonium.

Looking at my photos I have to underline – it was a short walk and no more than a dozen of pics taken – yet, in a strange way, some of them translate an obscene, common or even bizarre scene into a charming image of a welcoming, cheerful or even contemplative environment where – who knows, the true spirit of this time lives on… If a camera is like a ‘dream catcher’ of our thoughts and feelings – I must have found myself unable to expose all the shallow ugliness of the environment, as I was planning to do. Too bad? Well, who knows where the true lies – in my criticism or in these images’ sweet dreaminess?

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Alice, L. Carroll and their land…

I’ve promised her a little post some time ago… Then I excused myself due to the flood of other ‘important’ things to do… Yet, she has been waiting patiently, the way kids do when their intelligence and understanding of human issues surpasses our own…

Alice and her Wonderland – not that long time ago I would adopt that name and – the entire worldview and life-view having a temptation to tease someone (including myself), who tended to cultivate rather his/her own world than to contribute  to the physical, objective reality in a ‘typically’ intense, engaged way.

Yet – Alice is an entity on her own — a timeless authority on the essence of childhood, dreams and imagination… and not a sort of a Barbie- toy our grandmothers would amuse themselves with. It’s enough to reach for Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece again and read it with a fresh mind, with enthusiasm and with a playful manner, as it was meant to be read. It is a compelling lecture and a fascinating adventure – all ages/stages in life allowed! What I find especially impressive and adorable is the writer’s ability to create the entire, nonsense-based world which is perfectly functioning – no character, event, even a sentence/expression is out of place. That powerful, seamless and convincing, if not enchanting integrity of a created/invented ‘reality’ is always a trademark of a great artwork, either literary or in visual/audio arts. It’s there to be believed in because it makes sense – it ‘sounds’, ‘looks’, have a ‘feeling’ of being sensible/born to exist – even if this ‘sense’ is as no-sense you know living day to day, here and now.

I like also the potential of very different, possible interpretations – the whole hermeneutic schools of reading the Alice compete and contradict each other with passion and inventiveness, which one might have thought to be impossible, when most of the contemporary more/less successful fiction was considered. Similarly to the Nutcracker‘s story, there are basically two versions circulating in the audience’s memory – the sugar-coated for 7 years old, which entertainment(money)makers have managed to exploit to a mind-numbing degree, and the original one – complex, slightly dark and sinister with multiple and always ambiguous layers of meaning. And ambiguity is a key-word here, especially when one is aware of the modern witch-haunt which sees Carroll – predominantly and without a trial – as a monster writing stories for little girls out of the ‘friendship’ and the general ‘affection’. It’s been always unreasonable and cowardly for me – to send a great artist/writer/thinker on a stake, post mortem and with a little regret – due to his/her ‘crimes’ against humanity committed few decades or hundreds years ago, accordingly to our contemporary – advanced, illuminated and never mistaken grasp of things…

When I look at Carroll’s beautiful photographs of children (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, as he was born, was an accomplished photographer as well as being a scientist – mathematician and logician) I see the great effort and tenderness to capture the solemnity and loneliness of the little individuals, facing the challenge of growing up in a reality programmed by adults and for adults. Yes, these children are ‘individuals’ – independent, intelligent and troubled,  little masters of their own world – just like Alice is… Seen as that, they stay in a radical opposition to the modern, popular portrayal of the youngest generation –

‘cute’-doll-like, carefree and subjected to a constant supervision and guidance.

Here are my favourite quotes from Alice in Wonderland:

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

An author doesn’t necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else.

Photos above in an order of appearance:

Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell,1858 (prototype of Alice)

Lewis Carroll, Fair Rosamond, 1863

Lewis Carroll, Mary White, 1864


The Face – a short story of existence and annihilation.

Human face. The Face. What is there what our conscience claims as ‘real’ that is more exposed and more impenetrable, more familiar and more uncanny, more loved and more despised?

At the beginning there was a Chaos and…

For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination
We learned to talk
(S.Hawkins quoted by Pink Floyd in “Keep Talking”)

When first cavemen put images of their world on the walls of their mind and space they occupied art had been born, yet something much more had came into existence – man set afire his own genius of distracting the act of being, the Existence from itself, of putting a symbolic Name, the Face on physical, actual Self.

Through ages and generations we have been inventing our humanity cutting through its surface to reach the depths just like a surgeon cuts a mother’s womb to reach the reluctant baby. We’ve created gods and mythologies, in wild yet far from being scare moments of a pure narcissism we gave our own, specifically Human Face to those deities and universes. Asserting and fighting our own being we’ve condemned them to our pitiful and formidable passions, to an imaginable suffering and cruel death, neither curses of perfectness nor blessings of daemons have been spared to those creations of human mind and imagination.

Modern times brought a challenge of extending the limits of our neurological systems and sensual perception through a development of electronics and virtual realities – the old dream of the Multiverse – multi-reality with parallel worlds and alternative time-lines, in which one could exist in multiple incarnations and at various points in his/hers lifespan seems to be closer than ever.

Our grand-grand parents gazed with a somehow stupefied expression on their photographic and/or painterly portrait both admiring and hating its power to capture the being by mocking it in never-accurate renditions. Our fathers made a ritual and a sexual-like act out of having a picture taken – probably more images of the human simulacrum, more Faces has been constructed in the last hundred years than in the whole history of the humankind put together and the technology has been perfected to serve that need – to multiply, duplicate, transplant, construct and deconstruct, perfect and finally – to destroy human Self in its appearance and essence.

Our humanity has been and is still our obsession, my humanity is my obsession.

It’s impossible to imagine a different scenario except that of a madness and other forms of escapism. The most surprising thing I consider to hear today (even though “to be surprised’ is even more surprising than to be alive) is when a creative person paints an abstract shapes or builds an esoteric looking structures and claims that they have nothing to do with her/him – that it’s only an ironic play with concepts, a homage to masters or an activity hanging somewhere between a void and a boredom. There is no art outside you being you, outside your guts and what is the most Sublime in you, outside the trauma and beauty of self-discovery. Art of today acts as an exorcism, a self-hypnosis, a self-therapy. Sartre’s, Freud’s, Baudrillard’s and other post-modern elements are mixed with our blood, no serious alternative has been attempted yet. To dismiss it is to be deluded.

But where to go from this bloody battlefield where dozens of conceptual corpses still seem to breathe (brrr, that sounds scary) and millions of images that have nothing to do with the real, actual being look completely legitimate, even necessary? Humanism seems to be put in fairy tales or at least it is in a serious identity crisis… Is our era is that of ‘post-human’ ? . We make our own avatars, humanoids, we attribute animals and objects with human-like qualities, we know very little about emotions and how to really communicate with each other, we attempt to cheat death – that only equal enemy still anchoring us to our fleshy, “bloody”, so called ‘human’ existence… But maybe I’m going too far after all… Maybe we only lost our Face being blinded by flashes of the contemporary challenge… Maybe…

P.s.

Images above feature Loretta Lux’s work (“Dorothea”), Rembrandt’s self-portrait, Martin Parr’s work (from the “Common Sense” series) and my own snapshot taken just a while ago to incorporate my own Face (or what can pass for it) in the ‘story’.


Change of the Header Image…

My loyal and new-coming readers – please note, that from now my page has got a new Header Image (just above). It’s a part of my photo (see below) featuring my porcelain doll called Maria.

The old one – incorporating a fragment of Joseph Koudelka’s photo could have been read as a violation of the photographer’s copyrights, which action has never been in my intention.

Thank you all for your time. Enjoy.


Nan Goldin’s photos – because truth liberates…

La literature m’assura que les hommes existaient depuis longtemps.
La musique m’apprit que leur melancolie les precedait.
La peinture me precisa que les hurlements peuvent etre silencieux.
(…)
Le jour se leve, gris bleu et m’envahit.
Tes yeux aussi e levent et me rencontrant me sortent de l’obscurite.
Ce qui est inter-dit, entre reel and imaginaire, entre ombre et lumiere, cet
espace inoui et regnant, la, dans le creux, dans mon creux, dans ton creux
qui, se rejoignant, forment ce plein qui nous tient.

Je t’aime

Bruno Renou

Literature assures that humans have existed for a long time.
Music teaches that their melancholy precedes them.
Painting makes it clear that screams can be silent.
(…)
Day has risen, grayish blue, and it has flooded me.
Your eyes have risen too to encounter me and release me from darkness.
What cannot be said enters reality and imagination, night and light, it
Expands incredibly and takes a reign, over a void, over my void, over your void
Those hollows, when united compose a wholeness that keeps us together.

Nan Goldin (b. 1953, American) – fine-art and documentary photographer, widely recognized as one of the most influencing and important photographers working today.

Goldin’s work is a class in itself, at the same time – intensely private but with an universal appeal, shamelessly exhibitionist yet fulfilled with tenderness, almost casual in its visual simplicity yet easily betraying its complex, spiritual content.

The artist lives in New York and Paris and it’s there where she has been dancing her boldly personal and miraculous dance of translating ordinary lives of her close friends – passionate homo and heterosexual couples, HIV and abuse victims, bohemian artists and writers into an ultra modern mythological tales of love, passion, sex, death, sorrow, loneliness.

There is a formidable honesty and – because of that – a huge blow of freedom which her photos pulsate with. Couples make love ignoring us completely, then they sink into themselves – and again, we are invited and ignored, naked modern Madonnas with all the imperfections of their bodies gaze towards the viewer with self-assurance which no male photographer was ever able to capture … and so on, and so on…

These images are mesmerizing in their power to convey humanity – that uncanny quality of being-as-a-human (what, on Earth, does it mean actually?), they obey no tabu or cultural savoir vivre , they cross borders and make any conventions, ‘social contracts’, all sort of ‘polite’ , moral rubbish etc. look so ridiculous, that one can wonder – why does it still control our lives?…

They are so beautifully truthful – they will be still in a hundred years… Tales of souls devoured by passions, abandoning themselves for each other yet always alone, completely exposed and completely concealed, courageous and fragile…

P.S.

“Je t’aime” poem written by Goldin’s friend and ‘model’ Bruno Renou appears in fragments, translated by K.S., all photos featured by Nan Goldin.


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