Rockscapes

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Rockscapes, 2017
work in progress










Stories embodied on body

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Stories embodied on body, 2015
work in progress

The project has its origins in the observation that our bodies hold the memory of our experiences. When we think about our own body and the traces it holds, there are several emotions triggered, depending on the lived experience and the remembered episodes, which can be re-created and photographed. Some of us feel ashamed or awkward, others do not like these traces but are at peace with their existence, there are some who don’t even notice them any longer, or better, are proud to have them. These are embodiments of an experience and are part of the personal remembrance, the result of our living in the world, of our interaction with the others and the environment.






















Re-portrait

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Re-portrait, 2008
70x70 cm, lambda print

This is a confession of what I would call my pristine existence. The photographs show the mirror stage as an important moment in the construction of the self, the discovery of the I by the means of vision and sound. The self portraits were digitally enhanced to express the idea of fragmentation, the search of coherence by rejecting the incoherence of the not yet formed self.

Lacan discusses the idea that the birth of a child is pre-mature, if we compare the human being with the animals. The animals have the capacity to walk and act independently very quickly after the birth, in contrast with the humans who require a longer period of time to learn and discover. The infant has low capacity to perceive the world, the most important being sound and vision. He needs protection, caring and feeding, thus becoming dependent on his mother. This experience lasts approximately six months, when the mirror stage starts. The child is still dependent on his mother, but there are some perceptual abilities that start to develop. He perceives his body as fragmented, but mirrors in his mother and sees in her a potential unity to attain. Lacan suggests that it has to be stressed upon the process that goes on in the child when the mirrored image is assumed. At this point one can talk about the Ideal I, a primordial form, before the identification with the other and before the language gives him the function as subject.

The portraits are made against a dark shaded wall and have very few non-human elements. The unifying element is the white crinoline, the one women wear under the dress to give it the desired shape. In this context the crinoline is a metaphor for the primordial form of the I. Another element is the chair, which, in most of the cases, has a distorted perspective. Furthermore, the only element that could be associated with the child is a balloon that hides the face. The act of hiding suggests a game play that is perceived by the child in the process of identification, just like trying to hold a fish but it slips away. I am led, therefore, to regard the function of the mirror-stage as a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality. (Lacan, 1949, p. 505)

These photographs are a medium of discovery and illusion, the same way they are found in the mirror stage. It is a constant search for unity and meaning. What I find is a hallucination that stands for me as reality; I deny my incoherence to embrace the other’s consistency. This is, for me, the transition to the subjective I.

The Ideal I situates the agency of the ego before its social determination. (Lacan, 1949, p. 503) The mirroring process is a drama that acts as a basis of the entire mental development. After this eighteen months period that was described as the mirror stage, the human desire comes from other people. We begin to undertake the social norms, the most relevant example being the Oedipus complex, which makes the incest socially unacceptable. Lacan further evokes the Samaritan ideal which, though it appears altruistic, it is not. According to Lacan we act altruistic as a response to the society (Lacan, 1949, p. 507) (this reminds us of Nietzsche’s idea that we are altruists to gain power over the other (Nietzsche, 1968, p. 416)).

In other words, the process of image formation is parallel with the process of identity formation. If this is the case, and they start their evolution during the mirror stage, subjectivity is the result of the two. Furthermore, if it appears in this primordial stage, it could be one of the reasons why the photographic image had such a great impact and why we perceive it differently than other types of art. The photograph was seen in the beginning like a mirror, because of its great capacity of showing things as they are. La noème de la Photographie est simple, banal; aucune profondeur: «Ça a été.» (Barthes, 1997, p. 176)

I see and hear my mother; I look into the mirror and see myself. I find myself fragmented; I compare this image with my mother’s harmony. This limitation leads me to myself, the point where the subjective discovery begins. Her arms are holding me; I cannot distinguish between her and I. My disjointed limbs, her gracious touch. I am her; we have the same hair, same hands and feet. I discover myself as taller and somehow playful. These first experiences appear in the photographs as a disturbingly deformed body that has little to do with a child’s image.

When the child looks at his mother, his eyes are constantly analyzing her; from the gestures to the way she looks and walks, from a perception to a contradiction, back and forth in a constant oscillation. From this point of view the way the child looks at his mother is similar to the way we get in contact with an image. Barthes writes that the first thing that interests him at an image is studium, which means a kind of general enthusiastic commitment, but without special acuity. The studium provides the photograph with functions: to inform, to represent, to surprise, to cause, to signify, to provoke desire. In a similar way, the child perceives his mother as a medium of introduction to the world. Furthermore, it is the punctum that Barthes discovers at a photograph, meaning cette blessure (...) ce hasard qui me point. (Barthes, 1997, p. 49) Punctum, in the child’s case, would happen after the mirror stage, when he embraces the values given by the society. These are in contradiction with the comfort granted by the mother and intervene in his daily search; it gives a different perspective upon him and the others.
It is interesting to notice that the same words used to describe the mirror stage can be found also in Albert Camus’ description of the absurd freedom and of the process that is going on in the mind that studies itself. The mind's first step is to distinguish what is true from what is false. However, as soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is a contradiction. (Camus, 1955, p. 12) I can negate everything of that part of me that lives on vague nostalgias, except this desire for unity, this longing to solve, this need for clarity and cohesion. (…) What I touch, what resists me – that is what I understand. And these two certainties – my appetite for the absolute and for unity and the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle – I also know that I cannot reconcile them. (…) What I believe to be true I must therefore preserve. What seems to me so obvious, even against me, I must support. (Camus, 1955, p. 38)

If to understand is to unify (Camus, 1955, p. 13), the child should have the capacity to perceive the meaning of this period and discern between what is real and what is imagined, what makes him himself and not the other. But how could a pre-mature born baby deal with all this information? In order to do that one should be able to make presuppositions, to have an already given status. The whole process is triggered when the mirror image is assumed. It is an appetite for clarity, an insistence for identification and an exploration into the unknown that is part of the understanding process. This elementary aspect leads to the idea that understanding means reducing to the I and to the other human beings. Moreover, what the child does is to contradict his lack of clarity and welcome the other’s unity, the other’s understanding.

The child has no other option but to go on with the discovery and understanding. But what happens with the adult when he stops his daily routine and asks himself why is to go back to the primordial stage and reanalyse the relationship between him and the world. He is now put in the situation to see the things differently, to discover whether his way of seeing the world is appropriate and, for the first time he can chose. What will he do next? Go on in the same way, change his attitude towards life, or accept and embrace the only certain thing that exists: death. Everything else is a constant negotiation and illusion. Of course, for the adult the process is more complicated than for the child as he has more experiences and can make a rational judgement, but it is not the case here to discuss.



Bibliography:

1. Barthes, Roland (1997), La chambre claire: note sur la photographie, Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, Gallimard, Le Seuil.

2. Baudelaire, Charles (1955), On Photography, London: Charles Baudelaire, The Mirror of Art, from The Salon of 1859: Phaidon Press Limited

3. Bazin, André (1960), The Ontology of the Photographic Image, trans. Hugh Gray: from Film Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4: University of California Press

4. Benjamin, Walter (1977), A short History of Photography, trans. Phil Patton, New York: reprinted from Artforum, vol. 15

5. Burgin, Victor (1982), Looking at photographs, from Victor Burgin (editor), Thinking Photography, London: Communications and Culture

6. Burgin, Victor (1982), Photography, Phantasy, Function, from Victor Burgin (editor), Thinking Photography, London: Communications and Culture

7. Camus, Albert (1955), The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays, New York: Vintage Books, Random House Inc.

8. Lacan, Jacques (1949), The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience, trans. Alan Sheridan, from Écrits, A Selection: reprinted with kind permission of Associated Book Publishers (UK) Ltd.

9. Lomax, Yves (2010), Passionate being. Language, Singularity, Perseverance, London: I.B. Tauris

10. Lowry, Joanna (2005), from David Green and Joanna Lowry (editors), Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image, Brighton: Photoworks/Photoforum

11. Moran, Dermot (2000), Introduction to Phenomenology, London: Routledge

12. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1968), The will to power, trans. Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage Books Edition, Random House, Inc.

13. Sontag, Susan (1978), On photography, London: Penguin Books.







Beds

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Beds, 2008
50x50 cm, lambda print, work in progress

masque/contre-masque

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Masque/Contre-masque, 2010
140x70cm, lambda print

Masque/Contre-masque consists of a series of six images, self portraits. The technique used is direct photography with minimum computer intervention. For me the mask is, first of all, the theatricality archetype. The stage seems to have lost its real meaning and to have moved even in the most private places of our lives. Each work consists in two kinds of masks: one that imitates the cagoule type of mask (terrorism, military intervention), and the other which is the reverse, covers only the eyes (superheroes). The two types of masks complete each other and, if it were to join them we would get a complete mask that does not leave room to recognize the authentic traits of the individual who wears it. The problems highlighted are the effect of consumerism, media, and the depersonalization. The project is completed with the video having the same title.





video
 video loop, 2012
 
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