Art in Words
First scene of the last act
Pliocene is an added element to what is already new.
Eschatos describes an end beyond which point no return is possible.
Eschatocene is therefore the age of the new ending, yet the composition of the word Eschatocene suggests the beginning comes after the end where the world is ending one last time. This ambiguity reflects thus the paradox of the infinity loop:The meaning of time disintegrates in this loop. The aspect of drama and the persona are inherent to time and therefore fall apart at this point where thought no longer finds an objectifier, i.e. the reflector that will mirror the subject.
This moment of oscillation into non-directional being is comparable to the singularity where matter loses its equilibrium and changes state irreversibly, a change that is not recordable, therefore leaving no memory. This also means any notion of territoriality vanishes, in fact becomes a vanishing point, elusive…eschatological, immaterial, in a way, pointless. This pointless intervention is pivotal.
In response to the theme of the city and the approach to its centre, the market place, the initial idea of the dissolution of temporal traces in the revolving cycle of exchange between metaphysical spaces has grown into a more physically orientated interpretation, where hands and textures take form in the ritual of nomadic communication; because the market is not really constant but a discontinuous flux. I attempt to enter into the flux that contains, in a condensed almost meaningless shape, the journey of all living beings intertwined in a dance macabre. Have we as a species been lured into the great attractor of mercantile dominion, an arena governed by signs devoid of personal meaning but full of universal promise?…
The market, perhaps is a black hole of illusory fulfilment, and more importantly, the cradle of false self-hood where what is favoured and in a sense worshipped as it was in ancient times through central sacrificial rituals, is status, corporeal fulfilment, and adoration of appearance . I began in this work to explore this question. During this research, the contradiction and unhappy association between play and work also arose. This is symbolised by the interlacing of traders and buyers with artists experimenting with the same concept, exchange of values perpetuating on one hand a cycle of artificial survival based on the notion of a social contract and on the other, a receptive interplay of thoughts and action beyond the morale imposition of usefulness. Hands became the central actors of this dichotomy. This became the play ground and the journey of human hands from trivial exchange to the act of creation.
MAGMA Mnemonic City, Moving Streets at DOOMED Gallery, 26/27 April 2013
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2013
A Narrative of Objects
Objects lie still; we know this from a phenomenological standpoint, until we move them. In this work, the possibility arises for the viewer to place him/herself in the house of an object, the house being the photograph, to arrest the motion of the eye and reflect. Where is the object? What is it? What is it made of? What is behind it? Who does it belong to? Where was it before someone put it there? Will it stay there? … The viewer perceives a story the object is hiding within its concave opacity. It is the oracle still obscured by the mundane, tilting on revelation. What language does it speak? Why do we reminisce as we become ensnared in the charm of the secretive form that despite having a contour will not yield all its significance to the public eye? It should be simple, it is trapped in a frame, it is embedded in the chemistry of the image, it is static and mute. It is our prey, humbled, and apparently recognizable.
There is a definite revolt against abstraction. The object sits as a figure, in many guises, playing a part in the amphitheatre of our gaze. But here, the photographer has travelled inside the life of the object, to follow the thread of a narrative. Each object can be a phrase, a verse, punctuation, a word in this story; may be a single letter, a sound that leads to the sense of a place rather than the function of a thing. In certain ancient civilisations, objects were recreated as miniature versions, sculptures of the originals to accompany the deceased on their journey beyond functional interaction. These were therefore not usable by common mortals, but symbols of a relationship between one form of existence and another.
The objects I suggest in this work are similar. The context of their utility and previous meaning has dissolved in the past but they have gained the position assigned to amulets such as Ushabti in Egypt, also known as answerers; tiny replicas of the buried bodies, guarding the necropolis of the photograph until the stillness of an audience exhorts a spell, a sense, not of nostalgia but of immanence “existing or remaining within” as Deleuze put it, deriving the idea from Spinoza’s “single substance”. The object therein, despite having no physical form, is in fact complete within its inaccessible realm; it has become a new substance. A substance through photographic emulsion added to paper or any other chosen medium. As it was the case with Egyptian books of the dead, the images are based on a personal vision, a private moment; the reality of life on Earth. They do not speak of a remote ideal.
I have extracted them from several projects, such as, Le Monde de la Chose where a collection of personal souvenirs has been placed on a micro theatre stage, Metapocryphal Chimera where ancient stone beasts have become embedded in the evocation of a modern apocalypse, Anonymous Inanimate, a world of beasts whose existence as death masks is turned inside out by alluding to their past…in colour, black and white, digital or analogue. The internal wordless narrative alters the context. The object is the photograph; the photograph and the object are one.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2013
Digital and analogue based animation, duration: 12.45 minutes, 2012
A project by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
Foreword for the screening at the Vibe Gallery-Bermonsey-London
It all began in the most mundane of places, some deem lit bathroom, a damp murky floor, a dark corner. No one seemed to notice something growing there. I found it amazing that once again, a form of life found the insane will to emerge in a particularly hostile environment where frankly even humans were in hygienic peril. The absurdity of it and the vulnerability of this object inspired me to record it. I did this every day for a several weeks. The object struck me for its resemblance to an ear and later to a foetus. I thought of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet opening scene, and as the editing work progressed, it found echoes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Odyssey‘s cosmic inferno and the last scene. Animations by Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay also inspired the abstract visceral undertone of this project.
The mushroom took a life of its own and dictated a new identity. It spoke of primordial formations in the depth of the Earth, then, turned into an embryonic utterance in the eye of a storm in the aftermath of the Big Bang. It congealed and exploded day by day, a figment of life intertwined with a figment of imagination.
It reflects a view of the world from the perspective of the unborn or the departed; of the outsider as the observed but equally of the witness who cannot grasp the essential substance of their condition and for this reason continually seeks to possess the flux of life, an impossible solution, the cinematic product reflecting thus an approximation of immortality since time is recaptured endlessly within the experience of the medium as it unravels fictional truth before us.
Although there is no linear narrative, the composition parallels our empirical knowledge and our instinctive comprehension of the cosmology we belong to. It refers certainly to the first moments of universal creation but also paradoxically to a more mythological story of human evolution. More over, the sequence develops as a sensation, evoking the internal perception of a world we cannot yet see or touch as it would be in a womb in a state of perpetual transformation. It is a glance into the primeval cave of shadows and lights, prior to our entry into the world of physis. For this reason, it resonates with chaos and the feeling of a sublime solitude; a world latent within us as much as it is inaccessible outside of us. The images are constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed, out of a vast archive of previous analogue records and various video sessions.
London, March, 2012
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Le Monde de la Chose-Souvenirs of an Invented Childhood
Entering a living space is also apprehending a constellation of autonomous traces of life still moving inside a memory cell. It is not a ghost we encounter, but a disjointed and equally harmonious pattern echoing a deep human emotion, the solitude and the resignation one encounters on the threshold. By trespassing thereof, we the passengers and the observers, also walk backwards into the mind of the departed.
I had not known this person, yet the objects, carefully placed, now left on the furniture, the window seals, hardly gathering dust, and those packed so attentively, wrapped in newsprint, inside a few cardboard boxes, still glowed like shells under water, no one having yet severed them from their natural surroundings. The impression of revisiting childhood dreams remains. The forms not yet distinct, of a longing, disordered sonnets, wordless songs…objects held by someone resembling an adult returning, in jest, to the childhood they have lost. These objects contained stories; undecipherable ones but also the secrets of a private mind for ever silent to us. What emerges from this vision however bares no relation to their past.
Compelled to rescue them from their plane of absolute immobility, these inanimates began to enact, in my eyes, journeys to places disregarded by adult humans. These places had never existed but in the imagination. I proceeded to ‘remember’ them through the act of playing, recording the order, the position, the composition and the scenes thus created with the full flow of external conditions proper to their usual environment. This was a diver moving sea creatures into his field of vision knowing each would slide out of it of their own accord, capturing in that instant the peculiar trace of their evolution.
The transience of a phenomenon merges with a form of eternity; the instantaneous glimpse collides with apparent fixity. They allowed me this presumption, the knowledge of their graphic presence impressed into the chemical shifts of a paper sheet. Thus, each photograph is like one page of our precious book, turning slowly as we look, the book of childhood, the childhood that never really was, yet will always be with us.
I dedicate this work to the owner of these objects who passed away in summer 2010, Katarzyna Kocaj.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011
Edge of Extinction
The color of poetic visual experience is monochrome, or as a friend put it, there is a color inherent to the black and white two dimensional representation of reality; it is in the form itself. How can we interpret such a strange statement?
Before photography, artists have incessantly come back to the reduction of color in their work, challenging their own vivid understanding of nature as viewed through the full spectrum. The grisaille method was common at least from the 14th to the 18th century, often used to mimic relief or as an under painting pattern although Giotto, Bosch and Rembrandt expanded on the potential sculptural realism of this medium. Out of an imitation exuding rich panoply of hues, the painter would make the impression of a stone imbued with volume. For without color, there can be no mimesis, we are left with interpretation. This was a deliberate choice as was the utilization of black ink engraving finding an artistic paroxysm in the works of Goya, Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer a century earlier, where the graphic brutality of the symbol surged forth at a time when Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro in particular began to disturb the dream of eternal beauty. We should ask what the nature of the relationship between the absence of color and the vision of the artist might be. What do we wish to convey through black and white that cannot be conveyed through color?
We know before all that color emerges from the wave length of light. How much light is absorbed or repelled will determine the color of the object. It all therefore depends on the receptacle’s chemical composition in the presence of photon radiation. The short wave length emitted by the moon transforms a prairie of multicolored flowers into a surreal desert of marine flora. In such a grisaille landscape, the mind wanders differently, inwardly.
Many of the artists invited to provide an opening into the mystery of monochrome visuality have hinted on their need to desaturate. But how can color, such a ‘natural’ occurrence, be removed from the realm of our perception without diminishing our comprehension of ‘reality? What happens is in fact, it seems almost the opposite. Some have equated monochromatic photography with ‘Lunar vision’, seeing the world at night in Moon light. By logical psycho-analytical extension, the color image pertains to the conscious where as the Black and White ‘filter’ pertains to the unconscious. The recurrence therefore of the word “desaturation” in relation to this differentiation is worthy of inquiry. We are familiar with it since most of us use photoshop. It relates to the tool enabling the complete de-coloration of the image thus turning it into a monochrome.
This process reflects partially that of turning a black and white still back into a negative. Even god was described apophatically, and the first evidence of an innate photographic vision by the printing of hands onto cave walls, positives and negatives shows the remarkable immediacy of this vision; this battle field of nuances between the brightness of white and the velvet darkness of black although primeval red earth was then the basic opaque medium at our disposal. Our senses must accommodate, yet do we not find it surprisingly easy? An optician once told me that although our frontal vision is in color, the side of our eye only sees in monochrome. This, he continued, enables us to detect movement more rapidly, the superfluous detail having been removed, i.e. color. The function of frontal vision however was directed towards focus on the prey as opposed to defense from a potential attack from the edges, the conjunction of both devices ensured our survival, a prerequisite for adaptation, and spatial negotiation. It has remained with us albeit in a more subdued form, a form adapted to technological parameters, the prey having been superseded by the color sensations offered by daily advertising in multifarious forms, so abundant in promises of satisfaction and pleasure. It is designed for the repressed hunter in us. We need color to rekindle our connection to the flesh of life. The senses of the predator will seek the brightness of flowing blood, the raw pink of meat, the vivid green of vegetation where his prey may await its fate. Yet if nature was a source of sustenance, it was also a mystery inspiring in us a desire to transcend the boundaries of physical laws through the practice of sacred ritual which appears to continue permeating our surrounding through the emanation of ‘acolored’ imagery. Perhaps there is more room for optical illusion in color than there is in its absence. This color vacuum however is filled by a parallel universe where the rules have changed.
The symphonic instruments have been replaced by the madrigal. We may glimpse at history through the corner of the eye; the shadow that passes and can never be grasped in full view. We are not confronted with extreme proximity but invited into the distance. Perhaps the flux of color converted into a flat surface turns potential thinking space into a stagnant unit of perception. Perhaps the monochrome image, be it video, photography, film, or digital initiates a philosophical and poetic rapport between the image and the viewer. It responds to a rather more abstract sensitivity rooted in an ancestral communion with the esoteric sphere of the psyche. One member of the public told me she was not always sure whether she had seen a photo in monochrome or in color. She even remembered the monochrome in color, re-saturating her vision through memory; color in a latent state. In this cacophonic arena, our contemporary civilization, we may find that such a vision rather than outmoded is at the apex of modernity since it provides an alternative mode of transport into the uncertain future. A vehicle for the metaphysical traveler tired with optical veracity. Audiences, replete with multicolored bounty, will find a solace in the deeming of the light, the intimacy of a line, the depth of sfumato, on the edge of extinction.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011