AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA … the phenomenon, and the enigma.
(photo: courtesy Azsacra Zarathustra)
The Russian philosopher/artist/author who goes by the name Azsacra Zarathustra is both an internet cult phenomenon and an enigma. A phenomenon due to his voracity in creating provocative art and writing which is enigmatic in itself. Also a phenomenon due to his play upon both curiosity and the predilection in humanoids to self-destruction. But for Azsacra self-destruction is not an end unto itself, but rather the route to self-discovery and Samadhi. Just as sexuality can be a Way to Enlightenment, it is not the sexual act in itself that is enlightening but rather the act of self-obliteration … or release of a false feeling of omnipotence. And thus, in the embracing of the simplicity of being – without illusions of the Ego – humanoids can begin to become more of the essence of God (or the Over man’s Over: the Over-Over).
Time and time again, Azsacra has bombarded the public with staged photographic series dealing with illusions of sexuality, death, fauna and self-harm, and always with hints of a deeper and more esoteric philosophical foundation. Over the years his internet following has grown to the point where he is now an underground cult figure. There are many questions and opinions on internet and YouTube forums as to what his art and philosophy really mean. Azsacra has no need to explain or justify his work in these forums, and his literature and art must and should stand on its own. And yet, as his videos become more sophisticated and employ ever more symbolism and depictions of violent destruction, Azsacra’s cult following increases. This in spite of much of his output representing languages and cultures other than English/Western, and despite the fact that many who comment obviously lack the historical, philosophical and esoteric foundations of knowledge that Azsacra Zarathustra both masters and plays with. The ShunyaRevolution is no ordinary revolution. It is rather a state of being and nothingness … the reduction of all Ego to a series of zeros. Could it be that Azsacra Zarathustra the Phenomenon has appealed to the masses on a deep subconscious level, without their knowing how or why? Azsacra is wise to use a pseudonym, as that increases the enigmatic appeal, but also underscores the destruction of Ego and the Power of Nothingness. Azsacra has – thus – little baggage to carry with him … in this world, or the next, and can ride the power of the Over-Over already now.
Youtube.com currently has over 70 videos made by Azsacra Zarathustra. Azsacra has a natural sense of aesthetics in regards to stark black and white photography, often in the form of subdued or constrained over-dramatization. He has successfully transferred these skills and visionary spirit to his countless short internet videos, some in black and white and others in full color. He freely combines his sense of the philosophical, the historical and the theatrical with his excellent sense of graphic presentation, and has reached out into the musical as well – thus creating an ongoing mini-series of short-short esoteric-philosophical avant-garde theatrical works of almost Wagnerian scope. His play with age-old esoteric symbols from the Norse, Indo-Aryan and pagan civilizations against the fears and skepticism of today’s culture in regards to anything that may be perceived as “dark” is a catalyst for both internal confusion and for the outing of oneself as an “Under-man” who has given in to fear and Ego. For there can be no experience of Light without Darkness, Goodness has as many knife-edges as does Evil, and any perception of God outside of one’s own Emptiness is perhaps Folly. So, Azsacra leads us to Samadhi via self-destruction of Ego and annihilation of the certainty of Ego, fear and attachment. In that sense, I would agree that ShunyaRevolution is true revolution.
For more on the philosophy of Azsacra Zarathustra, see this essay by Katya Ganeshi:
An exciting new art photography exhibition by Karl-Kristian Jahnsen Hus has reached Oslo, Norway. Read my interview with the artist.
“FADING FACES”, Karl-Kristian Jahnsen Hus new art photography exhibition in collaboration with Silk Agency (Norway).
FADING FACES consists of 25 large-format portraits of Simians, 20 of which are black-and-white and 5 in color. The artworks are mainly exhibited in 200 x 133 cm. format, but all are also available in a smaller size (133 x 88 cm.). The artworks are dated from 2017 to 2021 — thus representing four years of work in the field and in the artist’s studio/laboratory. The works are in editions of 5 and 11; with corresponding 2021 prices of NOK55.000,- and NOK18.000,-
This exhibition opened at a Pop-up gallery at Henrik Ibsensgate 40 in Oslo, conceptualized and driven by Silk Agency. The current exhibition period is from 29.10.21 to 21.11.2021.
KARL-KRISTIAN JAHNSEN HUS (ARTIST).
Interview questions posed by Adam Donaldson Powell (artist/author/critic – Norway) and Katya Ganeshi (author/artist/animal rights activist – Russia).
ADP: Good morning! This exhibition is fascinating — both in terms of the subject matter and ideas behind the exhibition, and the amount and quality of the artistic work put into it. Katya and I would like to pose some questions to you.
Karl-Kristian, can you tell us about your own process as regards this art project … What was the impetus, how did you go about planning and executing the travel, cooperations and permissions to photograph these beautiful animals? And what is the intention of the exhibition? Is this a teaching and social learning exhibition as well as an exhibition of your creative ideas and skills?
KKJH: I have always had a deep connection with nature. The main force that got me started with this specific project was from watching a documentary named “Virunga National Park”. Listening to the rangers’ stories and hearing them say, “I’m willing to sacrifice my life for the national park and the animals living here” resonated deeply with me. Before traveling, I find someone local that can take me around the county that I am visiting, we create a plan for the trip, and then I go there. For my art installation “Fading Faces” I have captured images from five different countries, displaying faces of animals that the human-animal easily recognise itself with: monkeys. The art installation is made to help the human-animal open its heart to the living world around them. It is a combination of teaching for social learning, and of showing my creative ideas and skills. Personally, I feel that Art should give the participants something to think about and feel.
ADP: Do you have any stories or anecdotes from this four-year process — regarding challenges and difficulties, amazing or funny experiences? Please tell us about some of these.
KKJH: When photographing one can become consumed by the process, always wanting to achieve the best that one can do. When I started the project my focus was much on capturing the absolute best expressions I could get, but that focus did not allow me to enjoy the moment. The mentality of always criticising oneself, and of not being satisfied with what I had sometimes gave me the sensation of drowning. So I have let myself step back and observe more, thus allowing myself to be more playful. This has given me much joy, and I think it has made me a better photographer. I have had many wonderful experiences while traveling, and they out-weigh the bad ones. Many situations have been scary: like being charged at by two big silverbacks or having a big male orang-utan swinging down from a tree and trying to grab me. Now, looking back, I think of them all as good stories.
ADP: There has been much debate in recent years regarding various ethical issues in relation to artists’ usage of animals (living and dead) in art exhibitions. This particular exhibition embraces social responsibility and the ethic of “doing no harm”, whereby neither the animals nor their environments have been harmed or influenced negatively. Can you tell us about your own artistic and social ethics/politics as regards the question of using animals in Art? Is this exhibition not about allowing the animals to teach humans about better respecting other animals, our shared and not-shared habitats … and eventually saving all species, including humans ourselves? Speak freely, as an artist and as an animal lover.
KKJH: For me speciesism informs my practice. Moral obligation and respect for life are essential in my works. Much of my art — not just my photography — encourage greater awareness to the natural world. Animals and nature have indeed been a source of inspiration for artists through the centuries. I think that we have to look at creating art including non-human-animals in an ethical way. Much as with art including the human-animal, there are many things artists would not do as it is inhuman. It seems to me that some artists don’t always take care of and respect the content that is displayed in their art; but that is perhaps merely a reflection of human societies’ brutality towards the planet. This lack of moral obligation might be the reason why the artist can at times seem to be a cruel and savage person. Or it can be that one tries to mirror the human species lack of empathy towards the living world. In the end, as the creator of art, one has to consider what is ethically right, and not.
ADP: You have primarily chosen to make these portraits in black-and-white. I personally feel that black-and-white portraiture is oftentimes quite effective in portraiture, in that it adds to the mystery, subjectivity, and intimacy of the moment captured. But why have you — the artist — mainly chosen black-and-white photography for this series? What cameras and lenses have you used? How close were you able to get to the animals, and where were these photos taken?
KKJH: I think that accepted standards of how a photograph is “supposed” to be displayed has informed us in the way of choosing classic black and white. It has taken photography a long time to be accepted in the Art World. As the black and white format was the first to arrive, it apparently has more value to some than others. Through this four year journey of photographing I now see myself enjoying color photography much more, and it was not until after being introduced to analog photography I came to love colour photography. The old photography masters thought that black and white is the way to display the soul, and that colour can not do so. That can be hard to argue against as one has learned and thought that it is a factum. Photographs displaying the souls of the animals i have encountered is what one will see in the installation. I have selected four photographs that are shown in colour, two shot on a digital camera, and two shot on medium format film. To me, the vibration of colour is an important aspect of truth and artistic expression, and I’m still learning about how different people perceive the colour images in contrast to the black and white ones. I aim to show more of what I personally love, through my photographs … and the colour images are some of the favourite ones in the eyes of the visitors. For the installation I have used four different cameras. I started with a Canon 5D Mark iii, before investing in a Canon 1DX Mark ii, a Leica M10 and a Mamiya afd645. There have been a varity of lenses used, my main choice of lens being a Canon EF 28-300mm, as the build and function suits me. The 25 different photographs are shot in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Indonesia. The level of professionalism surrounding the governance of the different national parks has varied, and there are rules in place regarding how one should act around these wild animals. You may get close, but not too close — this for both the safety of the animals as well as your own. We can transmit disease between each other. Sometimes the limit for the distance is broken, for example when a young gorilla punched me playfully in the ribs.
ADP: What is the hoped-for effect of this exhibition? And where do you hope to take it in the future?
KKJH: The aim is to open up peoples’ minds and hearts to the living world around us. I want to show the installation to as many people as possible, and I care more about the impact it makes than completely selling out the photograph series. I have gotten much positive feedback from the people who have visited the exhibition.
ADP: And now, Katya Ganeshi, my colleague in Russia has a few questions to ask you, Karl-Kristian.
KG: How can human thinking be changed with the help of monkeys (and other animals)?
KKJH: For example: the construct of the alpha male in human society, where one has oe be strong, fearless, ruthless and not connected with what’s looked upon as feminine is different within other groups of animals. When experiencing chimpanzees I have (of course) seen the side that we humans refer to as being an alpha. However, that is only one side of being the leader of the group; one also has to be loving and to care for the others in the group. To me that is true strength.
KG: Can monkey-thinking outperform human-thinking in the future?
KKJH: If society as known fails and we no longer have a system to depend on for our survival, many of us will starve to death as food could then no longer be obtained at stores. We will then have to go back to our roots: being hunter-gatherers living off the land. As of today most humans cannot perform the task of feeding oneself without the comfort of our society. When we then look to the animal kingdom we can see them being able to sustain themselves, and I think we have much to learn from them when it comes to living with nature instead of destroying it.
KG: The philosopher Bruno Latour considers modern scientists to be the same “savages and barbarians.” Do you share his opinion?
KKJH: Sadly there is a lot of harm being done in the name of science “for the better of humanity”. Playing at being gods and harming life through this justification is a sure sign of speciesism.
ADP: Thank you Karl-Kristian, Jesper, and Katya. Katya and I wish for the best of success with this most important exhibition.
“FADING FACES”, Karl-Kristian Jahnsen Hus ny kunstfotoutstilling i samarbeid med Silk Agency (Norge).
FADING FACES består av 25 storformatportretter av Simians, hvorav 20 er svart-hvitt og 5 i farger. Kunstverkene er hovedsakelig utstilt i 200 x 133 cm. format, men alle finnes også i en mindre størrelse (133 x 88 cm.). Kunstverkene er datert fra 2017 til 2021 – og representerer dermed fire års arbeid i felt og i kunstnerens atelier/laboratorium. Verkene er i opplag av 5 og 11; med tilsvarende 2021-priser på NOK 55.000,- og NOK 18.000,- Denne utstillingen åpnet på et Pop-up-galleri i Henrik Ibsensgate 40 i Oslo, konseptualisert og drevet av Silk Agency. Gjeldende utstillingsperiode er fra 29.10.21 til 21.11.2021.
INTERVJU MED KARL-KRISTIAN JAHNSEN HUS (KUNSTNER). Intervjuspørsmål stilt av Adam Donaldson Powell (kunstner/forfatter/kritiker – Norge) og Katya Ganeshi (forfatter/kunstner/dyrerettighetsaktivist – Russland).
ADP: God morgen! Denne utstillingen er fascinerende – både med tanke på emnet og ideene bak utstillingen, og mengden og kvaliteten på det kunstneriske arbeidet som legges ned i den. Katya og jeg vil gjerne stille noen spørsmål til deg. Karl-Kristian, kan du fortelle oss om din egen prosess med dette kunstprosjektet … Hva var drivkraften, hvordan gikk du frem for å planlegge og gjennomføre reisen, samarbeidene og tillatelsene til å fotografere disse vakre dyrene? Og hva er intensjonen med utstillingen? Er dette en undervisnings- og sosiallæringsutstilling så vel som en utstilling av dine kreative ideer og ferdigheter?
KKJH: Jeg har alltid hatt en dyp forbindelse med naturen. Hovedkraften som fikk meg i gang med dette spesifikke prosjektet var fra å se en dokumentar kalt “Virunga National Park”. Å lytte til skogvokternes historier og høre dem si: «Jeg er villig til å ofre livet mitt for nasjonalparken og dyrene som bor her», ga meg dyp gjenklang. Før jeg reiser finner jeg en person som kan ta meg rundt i fylket jeg besøker, vi lager en plan for turen, og så drar jeg dit. For kunstinstallasjonen min «Fading Faces» har jeg tatt bilder fra fem forskjellige land, som viser ansikter av dyr som menneske-dyr lett kjenner seg igjen med: aper. Kunstinstallasjonen er laget for å hjelpe menneske-dyret til å åpne hjertet sitt for den levende verden rundt dem. Det er en kombinasjon av undervisning for sosial læring, og av å vise mine kreative ideer og ferdigheter. Personlig føler jeg at kunst skal gi deltakerne noe å tenke på og føle på.
ADP: Har du noen historier eller anekdoter fra denne fire år lange prosessen – angående utfordringer og vanskeligheter, fantastiske eller morsomme opplevelser? Fortell oss gjerne om noen av disse.
KKJH: Når man fotograferer kan man bli oppslukt av prosessen, og alltid ønske å oppnå det beste man kan gjøre. Da jeg startet prosjektet var fokuset mitt mye på å fange de absolutt beste uttrykkene jeg kunne få, men det fokuset tillot meg ikke å nyte øyeblikket. Mentaliteten med å alltid kritisere seg selv, og å ikke være fornøyd med det jeg hadde, ga meg noen ganger følelsen av å drukne. Så jeg har latt meg gå tilbake og observere mer, og dermed tillatt meg selv å være mer leken. Dette har gitt meg mye glede, og jeg tror det har gjort meg til en bedre fotograf. Jeg har hatt mange fantastiske opplevelser mens jeg er på reise, og de oppveier de dårlige. Mange situasjoner har vært skumle: som å bli overfalt av to store sølvrygger eller å ha en stor mannlig orang-utang som svinger seg ned fra et tre og prøver å gripe meg. Nå, når jeg ser tilbake, tenker jeg på dem alle som gode historier.
ADP: Det har vært mye debatt de siste årene om ulike etiske spørsmål i forhold til kunstneres bruk av dyr (levende og døde) i kunstutstillinger. Denne spesielle utstillingen omfavner sosialt ansvar og etikken om å “ikke gjøre noen skade”, der verken dyrene eller deres omgivelser har blitt skadet eller påvirket negativt. Kan du fortelle oss om din egen kunstneriske og sosiale etikk/politikk når det gjelder spørsmålet om bruk av dyr i kunsten? Handler ikke denne utstillingen om å la dyrene lære mennesker om bedre respekt for andre dyr, våre delte og ikke-delte habitater … og til slutt redde alle arter, inkludert mennesker selv? Snakk fritt, som kunstner og som dyreelsker.
KKJH: Når man fotograferer kan man bli oppslukt av prosessen, og alltid ønske å oppnå det beste man kan gjøre. Da jeg startet prosjektet var fokuset mitt mye på å fange de absolutt beste uttrykkene jeg kunne få, men det fokuset tillot meg ikke å nyte øyeblikket. Mentaliteten med å alltid kritisere seg selv, og å ikke være fornøyd med det jeg hadde, ga meg noen ganger følelsen av å drukne. Så jeg har latt meg gå tilbake og observere mer, og dermed tillatt meg selv å være mer leken. Dette har gitt meg mye glede, og jeg tror det har gjort meg til en bedre fotograf. Jeg har hatt mange fantastiske opplevelser mens jeg er på reise, og de oppveier de dårlige. Mange situasjoner har vært skumle: som å bli overfalt av to store sølvrygger eller å ha en stor mannlig orang-utang som svinger seg ned fra et tre og prøver å gripe meg. Nå, når jeg ser tilbake, tenker jeg på dem alle som gode historier. KKJH: For meg er artsisme grunnlaget for min praksis. Moralsk forpliktelse og respekt for livet er avgjørende i mine arbeider. Mye av kunsten min – ikke bare fotograferingen min – oppmuntrer til større bevissthet om den naturlige verden. Dyr og natur har virkelig vært en kilde til inspirasjon for kunstnere gjennom århundrene. Jeg tror at vi må se på å skape kunst inkludert ikke-menneskelige dyr på en etisk måte. På samme måte som med kunst inkludert menneske-dyr, er det mange ting kunstnere ikke ville gjort, siden det er umenneskelig. Det virker for meg som om noen kunstnere ikke alltid tar vare på og respekterer innholdet som vises i kunsten deres; men det er kanskje bare en refleksjon av menneskelige samfunns brutalitet mot planeten. Denne mangelen på moralsk forpliktelse kan være årsaken til at kunstneren til tider kan virke som en grusom og vill person. Eller det kan være at man prøver å speile menneskeartens mangel på empati overfor den levende verden. Til slutt, som skaper av kunst, må man vurdere hva som er etisk riktig, og ikke.
ADP: Du har først og fremst valgt å lage disse portrettene i svart-hvitt. Jeg personlig føler at svart-hvitt-portretter ofte er ganske effektive i portretter, ved at det øker mystikken, subjektiviteten og intimiteten til øyeblikket som fanges. Men hvorfor har du – kunstneren – hovedsakelig valgt svart-hvitt-fotografi til denne serien? Hvilke kameraer og objektiver har du brukt? Hvor nærme var du i stand til å komme dyrene, og hvor ble disse bildene tatt?
KKJH: Jeg tror at aksepterte standarder for hvordan et fotografi “skal” vises har informert oss om hvordan vi velger klassisk svart-hvitt. Det har tatt fotografering lang tid å bli akseptert i kunstverdenen. Siden svart-hvitt-formatet var det første som kom, har det tilsynelatende mer verdi for noen enn andre. Gjennom denne fire år lange reisen med fotografering ser jeg nå at jeg liker fargefotografering mye mer, og det var ikke før etter å ha blitt introdusert for analog fotografering jeg begynte å elske fargefotografering. De gamle fotomestrene trodde at svart-hvitt er måten å vise sjelen på, og at farge ikke kan gjøre det. Det kan være vanskelig å argumentere mot ettersom man har lært og trodd at det er et faktum. Fotografier som viser sjelene til dyrene jeg har møtt er det man vil se i installasjonen. Jeg har valgt ut fire bilder som vises i farger, to tatt med digitalkamera og to tatt på film i medium format. For meg er fargevibrasjonen et viktig aspekt ved sannhet og kunstnerisk uttrykk, og jeg lærer fortsatt om hvordan forskjellige mennesker oppfatter fargebildene i kontrast til de svarte og hvite. Jeg har som mål å vise mer av det jeg personlig elsker, gjennom fotografiene mine … og fargebildene er noen av favorittbildene i øynene til de besøkende. Til installasjonen har jeg brukt fire forskjellige kameraer. Jeg begynte med en Canon 5D Mark iii, før jeg investerte i en Canon 1DX Mark ii, en Leica M10 og en Mamiya afd645. Det har vært brukt en rekke objektiver, mitt hovedvalg av objektiv er et Canon EF 28-300mm, ettersom konstruksjonen og funksjonen passer meg. De 25 forskjellige fotografiene er tatt i Etiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania og Indonesia. Graden av profesjonalitet rundt styringen av de ulike nasjonalparkene har variert, og det er regler for hvordan man bør opptre rundt disse ville dyrene. Du kan komme nærme, men ikke for nærme – dette for både sikkerheten til dyrene og din egen. Vi kan overføre sykdom mellom hverandre. Noen ganger brytes grensen for avstanden, for eksempel når en ung gorilla slo meg lekent i ribbeina.
ADP: Hva er den forventede effekten av denne utstillingen? Og hvor håper du å ta det i fremtiden?
KKJH: Målet er å åpne opp folks sinn og hjerter for den levende verden rundt oss. Jeg ønsker å vise installasjonen til så mange som mulig, og bryr meg mer om virkningen den gir enn å selge helt ut bildeserien. Jeg har fått mange positive tilbakemeldinger fra de som har besøkt utstillingen.
ADP: Og nå har Katya Ganeshi, kollegaen min i Russland, noen spørsmål å stille deg, Karl-Kristian.
KG: Hvordan kan menneskelig tenkning endres ved hjelp av aper (og andre dyr)?
KKJH: For eksempel: Konstruksjonen av alfahannen i det menneskelige samfunn, hvor man må være sterk, fryktløs, hensynsløs og ikke koblet til det som blir sett på som feminint, er annerledes innenfor andre grupper av dyr. Når jeg opplever sjimpanser har jeg (selvfølgelig) sett siden vi mennesker omtaler som en alfa. Det er imidlertid bare én side ved å være leder for gruppen; man må også være kjærlig og ta vare på de andre i gruppen. For meg er det sann styrke.
KG: Kan apetenkning utkonkurrere menneskelig tenkning i fremtiden?
KKJH: Hvis samfunnet som kjent svikter og vi ikke lenger har et system å være avhengig av for å overleve, vil mange av oss sulte i hjel ettersom mat da ikke lenger kunne skaffes i butikker. Vi må da tilbake til røttene våre: å være jeger-samlere som lever av landet. Per i dag kan de fleste mennesker ikke utføre oppgaven med å mate seg selv uten komforten til samfunnet vårt. Når vi så ser til dyreriket kan vi se at de klarer å opprettholde seg selv, og jeg tror vi har mye å lære av dem når det gjelder å leve med naturen i stedet for å ødelegge den.
KG: Filosofen Bruno Latour anser moderne vitenskapsmenn for å være de samme «villmennene og barbarene». Deler du hans mening?
KKJH: Dessverre er det mye skade som blir gjort i vitenskapens navn “til det beste for menneskeheten”. Å leke med å være guder og skade livet gjennom denne begrunnelsen er et sikkert tegn på artsisme.
ADP: Takk Karl-Kristian, Jesper og Katya. Katya og jeg ønsker lykke til med denne viktigste utstillingen.
Karl-Kristian J. Hus was raised on a small island called Bjorøy at the Norwegian coast on the outskirts of Bergen. Exploring the field of fine art photography while working as a carpenter and constantly developing relations and interest in the object of nature and animals, has given him a unique sensation. After using a broad selection of means to enhance this skill, he is now immersing his expertise through visual arts school in Australia.
Faces of the ones without a human voice – Solo – 2018 – Vault Studios Bergen
Wild Ones – Group – 2019 – Lyons Gallery Sydney
Open Day Exhibition – Group – 2019 – University of Wollongong
Fading Faces – Solo – 2020 – Veiten 1 Bergen city, Norway
After becoming infatuated with several of the photographic works on your blog, I naturally became curious to know just a bit about how you see your instinct to create. You have written quite simply:
La fotografia è una passione, un modo di vedere le cose, il mondo. Ciò che pubblico è sempre da me scattato con il mio iPhone 5 ed elaborato attraverso varie applicazioni, direttamente sull’iphone. Per tale motivo è possibile riscontrare imprecisioni.
Un grazie a chi passa da qui (per caso o per scelta), a chi attraversa le mie fotografie…
You write quite well — both here and elsewhere on your blog — but no words can compete with the exquisite language of your art photography. It is in your art that you betray yourself, i.e. reveal glimpses of your many layers of personality and expression … and perhaps also hints of significant changes that you have experienced and reflected upon in your lifetime. While many of your photographs give the illusion of “having arrived!” it is all illusion – certainly even for you. I suspect that – for you – the journey itself is rather the goal and destination, and that successive photographs are all connected in some way(s). Perhaps all are even more or less related manifestations of the same instincts.
Likewise, I notice your balance of “the classical and the proper” with sometimes almost hallucinatory expressions, achieved both by photo processing and your own instinctive artist-hunter talents. A photographer on the hunt is most often a predator that operates alone, but artists are rarely “lonely” … The worlds artists see, interpret and expose are all much too alive in their darkness, light, color and dynamics for us to be lonely while we photograph, paint or sculpt. But to project and convey the sentiment of loneliness to our viewers – ahhh, that is art, poetry and philosophy – all in one. That being said, your photographs are anything but dismal. Sometimes they convey beauty that can easily be connected with joy, but at other times the beauty is seemingly indifferent to labels, emotions or meaning. You have an interesting way of engaging the viewer – of inviting him/her to co-create experiences and art together with you. Whether, or not, those created experiences actually happened is perhaps irrelevant and unimportant. In my mind, you provide the beauty, and let the viewer decide if he/she will get stung – or not. In my mind, you are not driven by the need for approval but by an inner force within you, and thus you defy both classification and all responsibility beyond standing behind your own work.
This talent of yours — for suggesting beauty in the mundane which is perhaps often beyond comprehension – is a drug on par with a psychedelic pill. I will attempt to describe my own “journey” through ten letters where I react to several of your photographs.
(NB. All photographs copyright Sandro, and from his blog)
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number one.
I have my own name for this work: Déjà vu.
It represents and recalls that brief moment of eternal recognition: memories of places, sounds, flavors and smells experienced before, and yet — on a superficial level — still for the very first time. How many times have I blindly hurried past buildings like this, without offering a second thought to what was really there before me? But this time, while hop-skip-jumping through the streets and dreams of your blog I stumbled over this photo and was thrown into an alternative consciousness. You reached down, gave me your hand and pulled me to my feet. I had quickly turned my head to thank you when I saw what you wanted to show me … in an instant; out of the corner of my eye.
It was a warp in the time-space continuum … a slight tear in the dimensional perspective, where the angles pulled apart just enough to reveal a crevice through which we could pass. To begin with, there were flashbacks of historical events and non-events, priests, artisans, horses, noblemen, and Botticelli damsels being pursued by satyrs etc. After some seconds the circus of ghosts disappeared, leaving us alone with the architectural shell … which was itself a breathing organism which morphed continuously — both in color and image.
I stood there beside you, in amazement. With each pulse, the structure’s lungs forced out a new kaleidoscopic reality … not unlike Mount Vesuvius, in full glory. As the tower reached higher and higher, threatening to overtake the heavens, the windows begged to be used as steps for climbing … screaming joyously each time we took foothold onto a new window sill. And the tower eventually became a monolith, before turning into a huge phallus sprouting tree limbs and branches, and finally becoming a fairytale beanstalk — swaying high above the ground.
And there we sat … you and I, Sandro. I wept tears of joyful astonishment and remembrance, as I embraced myself with my own arms and rocked back and forth. And you were lost in your own reality: taking photos of the ground below us, while smoking a cigarette.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number two:
Viva la rivoluzione!
Your photo moved me greatly. To see the stadium filled to the brim with thousands of naked factory-made wine glasses, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, clinking and singing in protest against the country’s new austerity measures was invigorating. Most were orderly and remained in their assigned seats, but some in the bleachers stood on their heads to emphasize the undignified nature of emptiness. The wine shortage means that many, if not most, of these glasses will be long-term unemployed and many will never leave the factory. They are not alone in their protest. There are reports of several glasses in private homes and institutions allowing themselves to be filled with milk or orange juice before violently hurling themselves into fireplaces in shows of martyrdom and solidarity.
Here there is no humor, wisdom or solace to be gotten from flippant remarks about glasses being half-full or half-empty. These wine glasses are empty, and quite unhappy about it I might add. I say: ” Fill these proud glasses with wine, and ‘Viva la rivoluzione!’ “
All satire aside, this is a lovely photograph both in terms of composition and visual effects. The wine red background is very effective, and your interplay between light and glass is simply breathtaking. You have given an otherwise rather mundane still-life an air of elegance, dignity and class.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number three:
Nighttime storms are exhilarating, especially as they first approach. It usually begins with wind murmurs and whispers, a pervasive pre-ejaculatory dew-moisture ritually-anointed by the rex sacrorum Janus, and finally the roar of thunder in the distance and a magnificent series of lightning bolts — both designed by Jupiter to expose all living and non-living entities as powerless subjects under his celestial dominion. The thunder is — of course — all pomp, but the lightning is the playful photographer-god’s attempt to leave a flash imprint while using his enormous camera obscura to document the fear engendered. Unfortunately, Jupiter either does not always have very good aim or vision, or he simply does not care if the lightning brings destruction. He has, after all, thundered several warnings admonishing all to get the hell out of the way. Those who do not heed are certainly either fools or daredevils. (Sigh) I love his photography exhibitions and Wagnerian drama, but I personally prefer to watch the show from inside my room … at a safe distance.
Kudos! My dear Sandro, in these two photos you have captured the spirit of the photographic flash of Jupiter … in all its electrifying glory, as well as the quiet comfort of the room with the view – yes, a veritable safehouse from which to follow the approaching storm as the mist slowly envelops all sensibility.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number four:
There is a profound spiritual quality to these two photographs: both of overpowering refracting Light emerging from Darkness, and simultaneously reflecting Divine essence. One suggests a primordial universe while the other attests perhaps to the classical traditions of prayer and of man-made refinement, often achieved after human struggle or invention. Is it at all possible to understand the nature of Light without a background of doubt, uncertainty, and Darkness? You, Sandro, have answered that question …
Truly, all entities represent both Light and Darkness, and both are prerequisites for existence and spiritual maturity.
Gloria in excélsis Deo!
Alleluia … Alleluia …
Although our backs are broken,
and our wings are tattered;
our hearts and souls
will forever sing your praises.
There is only one God,
but the ways to You are many.
Alleluia … Alleluia …
Alleluia … Alleluia …
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number five:
“quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius!”
Certainly, as above so below.
Lying on my back, looking into the sky — which is really the Arctic Sea or the Antarctic Sea, hovering above the endless flotilla of iceberg islands, rushing from nowhere to no man’s land, making me dizzy, wondering if I am moving, hoping the clouds will turn upside down and take me for a rodeo ride across the sky-prairie, feeling lazy, the iPhone is heavy, my arms are tired, I am falling asleep, falling into the down-feathered pillows above me, downside up, too much wine … too many clouds stampeding.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number six:
Art photography enables us to be “social voyeurs” without being judged, and also to peek at and surveil the spaces, lives and private moments of others, without necessarily feeling the need to make a value judgment about what we think we see. However, not making a value judgment does not have to mean that we do not make up stories and imaginings about the persons or events our eyes encounter. When we pass by a window without drawn curtains or blinds, the reflex to glance through the glass and into the room is automatic, and irresistible. Like when sitting on a bus, train or the metro, examining our fellow passengers becomes part of our transportation experience … it is the “in-flight movie” included in our ticket.
We are all quite interested in interesting people, and their secrets. In most dwellings the room least likely to have drawn curtains is usually the kitchen. And yet, kitchens are perhaps the rooms that house most secret conversations, that best expose eating and social habits, and that also best reflect personal organization, hygiene and the level of happiness with oneself and the household in general. It is therefore not strange that dinner guests readily volunteer to help out in the kitchen … transporting food, dishes and drinks, opening cabinets and drawers, examining the contents of the refrigerator etc. It is perhaps even more entertaining and revealing than spending enough time in the host’s bathroom so that one can investigate the perfumes, medicine cabinet, hair products and try out the bathroom scales.
The rest of the house is usually a blur (if we are not alone then we must focus on the other people in the room and suffice with a general comment like: “Your place looks great!”; or because the rooms are off limits socially, i.e. bedrooms or offices).
These two photos are great illustrations of the above. Sometimes things seem much clearer from a distance, and when we are all alone.
N’est-ce pas ?!!
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number seven:
There is something magical about ruins at twilight, or under a full moon. At those times, shadows cast off backlighting and remind us that the energy forms and history archived within the structures are still very much alive — despite their now-altered physical forms. This manifestation of life beyond death gives a mystical dimension to our perception and experience, and allows us to temporarily transform ourselves into personalities that are no longer bound by time, space or physical reality. Sometimes the best context in which to discover who we really are and what we are in the process of becoming is perhaps retrospective:
over the decades,
endings muted into beginnings
like swirls of blue-grey smoke
creeping toward alabaster palaces
in primordial consciousness.
there, in the garden of creativity,
the ashes of one zillion charred
impulses rained heavily upon
furrows of expectations,
cultivating dreams with experience.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number eight:
What a fabulous creation! Portals are doorways to eternity, and windows into our own spirituality and psychology. You have achieved the effect of a charcoal drawing, giving an organic and healing quality to the image as well as facilitating an introspective experience within the viewer of this photograph. Most important is the impression that these hallowed closed doors can be easily opened by those who yearn to forge the keys of self-knowledge, and who have the courage to discover and embrace the mysteries behind the doors.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number nine:
In this photograph you give the illusion of geometric abstraction, allowing non-objective practice to supersede the function and presentation of objects. The objects (possibly the undersides of two overhanging rooftops) are joined together with the cloudless blue sky background to form a geometric design which is actually non-objective. Together with manipulated textures and shadows the end effect is suggestive of the ideas behind the works of Wassily Kandinsky, and perhaps other abstractionists such as Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, as well as “hard-edge” painters of today.
While geometric abstraction is not uncommon as a genre in modern photography, your approach with this particular work is refreshing in its originality and welcoming effect upon the viewer.
Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number ten:
I would like to see more of your portrait photography. Here you have presented a fascinating self-portrait exposing one half of your face peering out of the darkness, with a smoke-cloud as your only stage prop or “clothing” to adorn an otherwise naked countenance. The eye swallows the gaze of the viewer, almost as if to dare or challenge him/her to attempt to penetrate the inner home of “Sandro, the photographer”. However, the viewer must not confuse the expression with emotion or deep contemplation. The nakedness is — perhaps — due to the fact that the photographer is no longer behind his camera, which is an integral part of his being. By looking into his eye the viewer is actually looking into the lens of a camera. And Sandro is both taking your picture and recording the event … each and every time you look at his self-portrait. In addition, the shadows, skin tones and softness give this portrait the look of a detail from a painting by an Old Master.