All posts by marina

A Chronicle of the exhibition of Marina Black by Pascal Ordonnéau


‘…Les visages qui disparaissent sont comme effacés par la lumière, remplacés par une clarté. La déchirure du visage que montre l’autre photo, au contraire fait venir l’obscurité. Il y a bien quelque chose d’autre si on efface ou si on déchire. L’ensemble des images de Marina Black paraît être tout entier tourné vers la mise en valeur de l’épaisseur, si on veut bien « ouvrir » visages et personnages, mise en valeur de l’effacement, remplacement, substitution qui fait passer les choses et les visages et les remplace par ce qui vient du fonds de l’image…’ par Pascal Ordonnéau. Si vous voulez en savoir plus, continuer à lire en suivant le lien ci-dessous…

The real wounds are always open: an interview with photographer Jack Burman by Marina Black

Chachapoya mummy - Peru 16th c.

Chachapoya mummy – Peru 16th c. by Jack Burman

















MB: I wanted to start with this: it is hard for one to assess oneself. It is a hardship not only prompted by the immodesty of the enterprise, but because one is incapable of understanding himself fully. However, if I were to summarize, my main interest in many artists’ work is the nature of time. What time can do to a person? Your work seemed to be particularly concerned with the subject of time. Is this confrontation with time also an attempt to confront death, to understand how much we can endure? Or is it to show how dying can turn into eternity and is incomprehensible?

JB: Yes I seek ‘time’ in each print. Function is to some extent form in this: a ‘still’/’stop-time’ camera; ‘slow’ film; long exposures, during which I…..; locations in the ‘Old World’ (western/eastern Europe) or ‘tribal’ world (S. America) or world ‘out of time’ (Mexico). But ‘death’? To be honest I know no more of what that is or means than anyone else nor do I expect to learn much more.

MB: French philosopher Julia Kristeva addressed the question of whether beauty and death are facets of the same experience or opposites. “Is beauty inseparable from the ephemeral and hence from mourning?” she asks, and concludes that the creation and appreciation of beauty springs from the sublimation of grief. “Beauty represents an artificial imaginary conquering of death that allows life to continue.” (ed. Vanitas: Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art 6). What is the notion of beauty for you in context of death & art?

JB: Roughly, I guess, what you & Kristeva have sketched in here. I myself have no words for what beauty is, what death is.

We tell kids to “use your words”, don’t get violent. But for beauty & death I’d rather use violence.

MB: This makes me think of one of my favorite directors, Michael Haneke. His work is particularly concerned with the subject of cruelty and violence. In our emails exchange you once mentioned his movie ‘White Ribbon’. Haneke is a piercingly honest filmmaker, often at the expense of being merciless. He also often talks about things that are unjust, that yoke to repressive personalities or society, that are morally and physically disintegrating, although no one’s is really prepared to confront it. We haven’t had a chance to talk about this movie afterwards, and I wanted to ask you what specifically do you like about it?

JB: 1] the gorgeousness of b & w tone & detail in each frame

2] the superb faces & bodies of the actors

3] the spacious slabs of silence

4] the smooth unerring respect for evil/gentleness/horror/scum/light

MB: Have you ever experienced violence against yourself?

JB: I’ve been fortunate.  In Cambodia when UN forces were trying to eliminate remnants of the Khmer Rouge, the sounds of artillery were part of some days in Siem Reap.  But the shelling stayed at a distance.  In central Mali we arrived in the town of Mopti a day or 2 after some Tuareg had kidnapped a pair of French travellers.  We heard later that they had been killed.  We saw various Tuareg in the town but were left alone.  In Mexico all of us were pulled off a bus for long, thorough body checks by a special element of the military looking for weapons & drugs, but I was among those allowed to go on.  In northern Peru I travelled with a driver who vowed not to move outside daylight hours, to avoid remnants of the Sendero Luminoso who worked the highways at night.  Occasionally we’d get into a town just after dark & he was visibly tense.  But as I said: I’ve been very fortunate.

MB: In your artist’s talk during the Magenta Festival you dedicated a great part of your talk to the concentration camps. You photographed Auschwitz II-Birkenau in Poland…

JB: …and many other sites…

MB: … and many others. It was an attempt, as you said in one of your interviews, to approach a place where the body is taken to its limits—in extremis. “At Birkenau the bodies are (outwardly) gone from a place that’s physically vast. But what we are, what we do in our Western civilization, is centered in that place. I felt I could start to know how we are with each other, how we live.” Like Kiefer or Boltansky you belong to the generation of people who experienced the war second hand. Some of your family members went through the Holocaust. I can relate to this as my family has been deeply affected by the war. I grew up breathing in its stories. Do you think that violence in art is capable of bringing about the waning of injustice or radical forms of suffering?

JB: Can art have this effect? On more than, let’s say, 3 or 4 people? Not at all.

MB: …Or would you say that whether or not one intends for one’s art to express or stir compassion, to address or rectify some forms of cruelty or social injustice, may end up irrelevant to its actual effects? Is embracing cruelty a path to moving beyond it?

JB: It could do that to certain individuals who are open & able to respond in that way. It’s a question whether such individuals ever committed much violence in any case, given that they are open & responsive to that. But these individuals are just a handful of humanity. The vast majority are unaffected by such art—or even aware of it. It would have no effect on the elimination of violence.

MB: This used to be different. Art used to be a powerful tool in the hands of the Church for instance, and affect a large number of people…

JB: Well, I don’t know. To this day, tho’ in shrinking numbers in many areas, there are gently spiritual souls who attend different religions & places of worship & either learn or confirm the need not to hurt others, & that’s great. But (for example) the Catholic Church, like many other major religions, has of course been in bed with some of the worst violence in human history. & the art of the Catholic Church is drenched in violence, in endless forms of physical violation—& of course also drenched in the ornate, cosmetic gilded overlay of precious objects & materials, often gathered at the expense of mass genocide.

MB: So there is a paradox between giving with one hand and destroying with another…

JB: Yes. Unleashed artistic violence & the perpetration of violence for the sake of Church art, without which we would have none of the magnificence of Caravaggio or Tintoretto or Bosch or Bruegel (or even, say, Francis Bacon?)—linked on some level with the blood of the church’s victims, the blood of slaves, & the proud perpetrators. (Remember the old pun for the Spanish order of proselytizing monks? Domini canes. Hounds of the Lord. On the hunt for prey in the New World.)

MB: Tarkovsky’s ‘Andrei Rublev’ comes to mind, who showed this contradiction quite well.

JB: Catholic Poles & Orthodox Russians would know this, wouldn’t they?

St. Alexander - Germany 18th c.

St. Alexander – Germany 18th c. by Jack Burman

MB: Do you share your work with your children and what do they say when they look at the pictures?

JB: Not a lot. They’ve been young through most of the work. The older is 25 now, the younger 21, & I’ve been doing this for maybe 30 years. They’ve been either not in my life or else very young for much of the time. I haven’t shared any of it until recently. & I’ve never taken work to them & said: look, you need to sit down with me & see what I’m doing. That’s not how I want them to look at the work. My girl, who’s grown in good understandable directions that don’t coincide with the art, doesn’t express opinions about it. Most people live in directions that don’t coincide with my work. Among them are numberless sensitive, strong humans. I’d like to think of my daughter among those. My son has some interest in it. But we don’t talk much about it, because I don’t talk much about it—as a rule.

MB: Interesting, that you don’t share…

JB: …Only if someone asks—like you. & my son’s asked a few things in the last few years. But some of it’s still: ‘Dad what’s up here, why?…’

MB: …you mean, why you are photographing this?

JB: …Of course. But most people wonder—those who look at the work & learn it’s been going on a long time…as if I had to do this, always. So it’s why? –everyone, immediately. Occasionally my son seems silently aware—not anxious, just wondering why, maybe because, more or less on his own, he’s started to pick up a camera. & it helps to bridge the gap between us. But you can’t explain that much to a young man who doesn’t yet have the material to work with: the sense of these bodies, places, times. He’s gotten outside Toronto just a few times, hasn’t yet gone into the ‘world’. I’ve divided my last 30 years between this town & the places I go to do the work: every year, far from here.

MB: Why is that a choice by the way? Why do you photograph outside of Canada?

JB: Because with a few exceptions the work isn’t available to me here.

MB: I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, I am curious about your take on the ethical questions that are often raised specifically here, in the North American society: whether you are exploiting the subjects in photographing them. In the photographs of the dead the issues are more confused, since presumably the subjects had not consented to be photographed, or even preserved as specimens to begin with. Unlike many other cultures, here death is hidden.

An English anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer claims that death had become the new pornography, replacing sex as society’s greatest taboo. He also writes that pornography would appear to be a concomitant of prudery, and usually the periods of the greatest production of pornography have also been the periods of the most rampant prudery. Bodily waste, death, decay are aspects of humanity that our society considers abject. What do you say to people who are concerned with this?

JB: I say, yes. In North America death is largely disgrace, filth, failure, expense, ‘waste’, worthless distraction, litigation: thus many viewers here know how to feel shock & force when they see my work because it’s one of the last things they want to see & so must repel it with force—which some do quickly.

I think, put very briefly, it stems from North America’s Protestant ethic, the governing ethic of the last 400 years. The Westernizing takeover of North America was & is in the spirit of Protestantism. It oversaw the rise of a culture that strives to deny what I do. Fine. Trains & planes & cars work. I like the going. It’s like an unending gift. & I get to see a lot of what isn’t in North America.

MB: And you’ve been doing this series, you said, for almost…

JB: 30 years, something like that. Haven’t been counting.

MB: It seems rather unusual, considering that contemporary artists now are working mostly from project to project…

JB: Yeah, maybe. The work, it can shed its skin & seem to wear different ones. An abandoned registration/tattooing room in Birkenau can look a long way from a dissected woman on a steel slab in São Paolo. But in ways that matter to me they’re the same image, even unto the framing: the panoramic spread of these images is the physical window on the same ‘view’ of the body. & I’m aware of some difference too—merged deeply in the sameness. When I’m in what’s left of some of the camps, it’s good to work (in a way) toward the bodies that are gone from there. The piping’s been ripped out of the registration-tattooing room at Birkenau, probably soon after the camp’s abandonment in January ’45, by either the Russians or local Poles; the windows are smashed; ceiling-panels are broken & powdering onto the floor: & you’re in the room where tattooed forearm digits were the entrance to the body’s 8-week purgatory/hell (the average life-expectancy of those not selected on the nearby arrival ramp for immediate gassing). It was a place of the most finely-calibrated violation of the body—on a 400-acre massive, rusting, industrial scale. It was of course a true industry: debits & assets; double-entry accounting; a largely Western mode of keeping score: how magnificently naked in that sense are the SS invoices for shipment—by the dozens & hundreds of kilos—of Jewesses’ hair, for use in mattresses, socks & bomb fuses back in the Reich? I held & photographed such hair at Majdanek.

—& is it a mere coincidence that so much of the great thrust of modern anatomical study, investigation, probing, advance, is German? The institutes of anatomy that I have worked at in Italy & France are superb; so are others in Poland & Hungary & Bulgaria & Argentina. But one still is overwhelmed by the unending richness of those in Germany, most of which extend through hundreds of years of continuous achievement.

So for me, the camps & autopsy rooms & anatomical storerooms in Germany or Brazil or Peru are the same place, the same road. So are the desperately sensual, ordered, exploding churrigueresque retablos in a hard Mexican town like Tepotzotlán. It’s the same image, the same want, all the time. Let there be some surface flux or apparent difference in the work: there is in each of our bodies.

MB: You carefully plan your pictures ahead of time, they are done in a very meticulous manner. Is it a question of being able to explain what you want or more a case of feeling comfortable knowing what’s going on?

JB: It’s partly that I do stupid things when I try to move fast in those places & times. Partly the way of the physical machine: big, old, slow. Partly the reciprocity factor of T-Max & Portra which extends exposure to something slow. Partly the inertial remnant-flow of the months/years/whatever of negotiation & travel & waiting that have made for an act that is without start & finish: aka slow. Partly—by far the largest—the achieved stillness of this man or woman’s head within reach of my hand.

MB: Can you talk about different ways of preservation of the remains in different countries where you’d photographed. Do you think that the relationship to this subject of death and dead is also reflective of the culture? If yes, what does it tell you?

JB: I’d say no. Or rather it’s as reflective of time as of culture. The Chachapoya dead from the 1500’s in Peru were ‘dry’-preserved—so finely, in such slow layers & stages of protecting—by their own what? Relatives? Priests? Shamans? while the Argentine dead of the 1920’s & ‘30’s, not far away in space, were often ‘wet’-preserved by Pedro Ara, well-familiar with the evolution of preservative methods from the 16th century to his, an evolution that (until plastination) moved away from dry methods for good & obvious reasons.

Otherwise: if by ‘culture’ you mean something larger than scientific method, then of course I think the relationship between the dead/body & place varies by culture. I’ve long known that my work—at least in the Western world—must be done mostly in (once-) deeply Catholic regions—where the body/spirit/son-of-God/his Mother/”saints”, all steeped in sensual blood & dying, stand in for what all of us are or want (while in Protestantism the drive is to strip down & away, sever all relations but the ‘rational’ & linear, give the logic-acid-bath to anything wild & tortured/dead).

03_France #2374, 2013

03_France #2374, 2013 by Jack Burman

MB: On the surface you are depicting death. When people die our bodies decompose, and become generally not appealing. Your images have painterly qualities in them, intentionally or not but they look beautiful despite the depiction of the decomposition. The images possess both austere realism [the way the work of August Sander could be, for instance, almost documentary-like] and yet poetically beautiful. I know that people who develop a familiarity with death (nurses, soldiers, etc.) can eat in the same room with a corpse. Many people are both drawn to and repelled by death. Do you find death repulsive or soothing? How do you find possible to reconcile the formal sophistication — and beauty — of your photography with its “repulsive” elements?

JB: You’re drawn to your way, not repulsed by it. Each head/hand/torso/foot is ‘the way’ & when I’m a few feet from them it is there. The rest of the time not. The problem is with the rest of the time. That time is work—at a remove. You have to live with the remove & work.

MB: So it’s an obsession…

JB: Of course, what art isn’t? It isn’t something that you do some of the time.

MB: How did you start photographing?

JB: In the ‘70’s, in my 20’s. Never went near a camera before. I was writing before that–& one day picked up a camera for reasons I don’t recall, unspoken then & now. I picked up a camera & the writing went through it.

MB: Did you get any training in photography?

JB: No. Only the self-inflicted …

MB: …Pain? [laughs]

JB: That’s it. Just making mistakes & looking at the mistakes. You know the deal [laughs].

MB: What were the subjects of your photography when you started?

JB: The usual. You know what that is. My earlier shows can be tracked & I don’t have problems with them. But there were no dead in them to speak of.

Q: Most artists have had a turning point in their lives when something really crucial happened to them – what was yours?

JB: A time when I went over a line for some years to where everything’s true.

MB: I’m guessing…

JB: That’s all I can give you.

MB: … oh, no, I am not asking about it! My question is different. I am guessing that was a difficult time, but did it force you to work more, or did you abandon making art for a while?

JB: Both.

MB: What state of mind, or what emotions make you the most productive? Are these things related at all?

JB: I don’t know how to answer that… I try not to produce nothing–ever. I can’t piss away too much time.

MB: And you don’t use any assistance…

JB: …Almost never. Let me throw in this: it’s physical work—in the literal & figurative ways that it should be & is. I work through my body to theirs.

MB: Do you remember your first photograph related to the subject that you have been photographing over years of your practice, would you be able to describe it?

MB: Not my photograph but his, Peter Hujar’s: the image on the cover of his book Portraits in Life and Death which I found in a remainders bin back in the 70’s or 80’s—of a dead body in the catacombs of the Convento dei Cappuccini in Palermo. The title is accurate because most of the book displays New York art-world people: anywhere from his lovers to Susan Sontag & other SoHo types with good faces, good bodies & good willingness to sit for him: “Portraits in Life”. These didn’t really interest me & still don’t. But then he appends this image group at the back of the book, probably sensing that he should end with the strongest work, of varying success at times but including some images that are superb: of the dead in the catacombs. At that point I started raising airfare to Sicily.

MB: How old were you?

JB: Maybe 30,31. I’d been shooting in the American desert for the previous 7 or 8 years, every year, 4-6 weeks in the Southwest. Learning heavy camera equipment, moving around, film, working with light.

MB: Basically you came to this body of work as a mature man…

JB: …Sure, right. Mature in some ways…[laughs].

MB: Are you still writing at all?

JB: No. Not with words.

MB: Originally you wanted to become a writer?

JB: Yes.

MB: A British writer, Jeannette Winterson in her book Art Objects writes that ‘sincerity of feeling is not enough’. She believes that ‘the true writer knows that feeling must give away to form. It is through the form, not in spite of, or accidental to it, that the most powerful emotions are let loose over the greatest number of people. Art must resist autobiography if it hopes to cross boundaries of class, culture… “ In one of our conversations you mentioned that your writing of the doctoral thesis on Melville’s Moby-Dick became very personal. You chose to explore it through Melville’s book as a form. Would you consider your photographs equally personal [expanding outwards] the way you made the parallel between Melville’s story and yourself?

JB: I work with (as the lawyers would say) the ‘person’ per se—English & Latin almost duplicate for good reason.

“Call me Ishmael.” It wasn’t Melville’s name until he wrote it & even then it does not show on the book’s cover, but he made & put on the being as I strive to do with each face of ‘another’. & his ‘Ishmael’—“the Biblical Ishmael, son of Abraham by the slave Hagar”—the slave—“was sent forth into the wilderness with his mother”—as I & my mother were in 1954. “In accordance with the prophecy of an angel, Ishmael was ancestor of a vast nation, but he and his descendants were visited by a fate that the angel also prophesied: ‘And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him’” [see Genesis 16, 17, 21, 25].

I can’t know my legacy as ‘ancestor’—but I work in the knowledge that [loosely, but importantly] every man’s hand is against me. (But hands can do different things. One day a girl in Ukraine—the region of my ancestors tho’ she could not know that—emailed to ask if she could have ‘Germany #49 (Katatonie), 2009” tattooed on her body.   After a while we agreed. The start of a legacy—no? Or else just an intersect with the registration-tattooing room at Birkenau.

MB: It’s interesting that the subject of your PhD thesis was primarily Melville’s Moby-Dick. What interests me is a thread that runs through: the subject of a shipwreck, of survival, isolation & loneliness and finally the telling of the story of hardship & survival. What made you think of picking up Melville over some other authors?

JB: 1st: because I would not bring Faulkner down to the filth-strewn arena of ‘doctoral research’—so Melville entered as the poor man’s substitute. But then his beauty & rawness guarded against all ‘scholarly’ degradation to my deep surprise & relief. Otherwise it was of course as you say: there is only one story among us ever: to reach for without end & with brief grip & then live on to learn or relearn all that was let go: which only a few have written or painted or filmed well: 1 of them Melville.

MB: You’re still a voracious reader…

JB: Yes.

MB: Who are the writers/artists other than Faulkner and Melville whose work moves you the most?

JB: Shakespeare; E. Dickinson; S. Beckett; Cormac McCarthy; W.G. Sebald; Caravaggio; Tintoretto; Goya; Robert Frank; Arbus; Witkin; Ingmar Bergman. & maybe one other, now that I’ve heard Geeshie Wiley’s ‘Skinny Leg Blues’ a few dozen times.

MB: Do you reread books?

JB: Of course. Not that I don’t read other things, to allow time to pass so that I can reread the Faulkners & Becketts. Those are the engines.

MB: Are they motivating you to photograph as well?

JB: Of course. Their striving is a model.

MB: … this is once again about obsession. You mentioned Faulkner. I’m not as knowledgeable about Faulkner’s work as you are, but among things that I recall Go Down, Moses comes to my mind as an example. Faulkner’s character Ike McCaslin recites the virtues that are important to his life: loyalty, courage & pride, tolerance & forbearance… He renounces his patrimony thus putting an end to the procession of the [to-some-extent criminal] generations, to become a simple carpenter. This seems to be Faulkner’s own voice in understanding of what ‘a man’ should be. He struggled a great deal to realize these qualities in the reality of the world, including his family life. I’m talking about another one of his obsessions: his alcoholism and the violent outbursts. He was writing when he was sober but in the ‘in-between time’, in the time of ‘being with the world’, he struggled profoundly, often drinking heavily. I remember once reading the accounts of his daughter, who said that during these attacks the servants had to hold Faulkner so that he wouldn’t harm his wife and daughter…

JB: He was out of his skull—where others were concerned—when he was drinking. I hear you… I don’t think you & I have any problem saying that on one hand there’s ‘an ideal man’ who could well have the qualities Faulkner names. He wasn’t saying he was an ideal man. He certainly had some of these qualities—some of the time. But he had others you’ve mentioned that weren’t ideal. Like the rest of us.

MB: I guess, what I am trying to say is that what he was expressing through his work was a way of reconciliation with the impossibility of this ideal as well…

JB: …& he achieved that. Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about him here. He did it through long hours & years of work at the writing desk…working toward the knowing & measuring of the ideal–& the equally-superb knowing & measuring of what wrecks the ideal.

MB: I wanted to come back to this divide, when we feel inadequate with the world, then there is this separation that we all struggle with on the every-day basis…

JB: …that obviously creates a mess, a conflict that’s going to have hard effects, particularly in a society like our industrial, Protestant-based one, which ultimately despises art. It does not even know what to do with artists. Should it oppose them because they’re not part of the plan, of ‘progress’, or should it ignore them because they’re so profoundly irrelevant. This has to bring a bit of mess into a life like yours or mine. But you’ve got your Asiatic/East European Russian blood in you, your non-North-American blood…

MB: …it makes it even harder, I think [laughs]

JB: …& I’ve got my Polish & Ukrainian blood on both sides. So maybe that’s part of why you & I do what we do, salvage things that matter: like death.

MB: …although, it’s an immigrant society…

JB: …sure. But it’s an immigrant society started & controlled thereafter by non-artists, people with radically other concerns than art. It’s a headless, artless society of the (largely) desperate-to-survive from the 16th century on down. No artists to speak of came on the Atlantic boats. The fresh start, the last conquerable, habitable land-mass left on the earth was taken without art: taken, regulated, owned to this day by a society bent on ‘progress’, not art. You & I are a generation or less from bloodlines that are anything but North American. That may be why I’m talking to you today. Otherwise, I’d be in business.

MB: I hear frustration in your words when you’re describing this world, this place…

JB: Really? That’s not what I feel—or not without adding: bring it, North America. Sure, it’s a broken, tragic world—but is another available? Or have I moved elsewhere to seek it? Not at all. Every year I go out for the work–& then come back. I like the cold open clear air of this place, Marina.

MB: … which also means this world’s brokenness…

JB: … You’ve read Faulkner, you’ve read Moby-Dick, Kafka. There’s no difference. The entirety of Moby-Dick & The Trial & Absalom, Absalom! is that: magnificently-stylized rage & frustration with what they were describing obsessively. The same is in your work. “The world’s okay, it’s sweet”: –that’s not what your work is about. & it’s not what my work is about. Nor any of the others I’ve mentioned.

MB: …there is so much blackness in Goya’s work…

JB: Yes. Even in the judicious commissioned portraits there are black stains at the edges so while they look nice to client eyes, there’s a bleed at the edges for the few who might see.

MB: You mentioned Caravaggio’s paintings as your necessary companions.

There is a painting that comes to my mind, where Caravaggio depicted David with the head of Goliath, in which he painted his own face onto the severed head of the slain giant as if predicting his own death circumstances, which are still debated by scholars. David, although looking perturbed, has an expression of compassion. It looks strikingly similar to the way you photograph faces of the human remains.

What drew you to paintings in general and also what particularly attracts you to Caravaggio’s work

JB: This is of course too big for a clear shapely answer but I think you’ve already started the answer for me: as in Goliath’s case, but absent the explicit symbol of that (self-)portrait, take any of the other great torturer/murderer/bystander-to-vileness heads—as in the man pointing downward in ‘The Beheading of St. John the Baptist 1608’ or the Hun in ‘Martyrdom of St. Ursula 1609-10’ or Judith in ‘ J and Holofernes 1600’—in front of which I stood for a long time one day in the Palazzo Barberini irresistibly & pleasurably aware of the extraordinary painted/breathing blush of her full breasts (those of I-forget-which-favorite, good-looking whore-model of Caravaggio’s) that breathes through her thin-fabric top some 400 years later, alive & beautiful but still subordinated/integrated perfectly & truly with every other dark/light death/eros piece of the canvas: & you realize: Caravaggio penetrated all parts of his seeing, all of the surface of the work with one sharing, one lust, one truth.

MB: Your work is abundant with art historical references, Baroque staging and lighting. Why painters not photographers?

JB: Maybe because the painters got there first & did it as well as it’s been done. I think it matters too that the painters (almost all 16th – early 19th cent.) worked in the ferocious upthrust of the ‘modern’ world’s break-out in their time, were seminal & inseminated in all senses by that time—while Arbus/Frank/Witkin/Kiefer/Bacon, tho’ true-practitioners, only ride on the backs of Caravaggio & Velazquez.

MB: Finally: many of the remains that you work with are located in medical institutions—placings of caring for the body, of healing or training in healing. Do you think that art has anything in common with medicine? Could it be a way to survive, or a form of resistance? Or would you say that it is an outlet [or what Aristotle suggested, ‘a catharsis’] for a certain measure of bloodlust that humans have? Unlike Plato, who wanted to banish all poets from his Ideal Republic, Aristotle had more of a practical social-control stance… He was more pragmatic, politically speaking…

JB: I’m with you & Aristotle to some extent. We go back & circle the dark holes, irresistibly—some of us. But I see & feel no healing or ‘outletting’ ever. I don’t feel that. The real wounds are always open.

Jack Burman’s website:


Jack Burman – The Dead (Vol.II) 

Toronto: June 11 – July 2, 2016 – Gallery House Founder Belinda Chun announces the highly anticipated showing of new work by memento mori photographer Jack Burman, continuing his haunting, and often beautiful meditation on the intense, shocking and gruesome reality of Death.

The opening is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday June 11, 2016 with the artist in attendance. The show coincides with the release of his book The Dead (Vol.II) (Toronto: Andora, 2016), a continuation of his previous publication, the limited-edition hardcover The Dead (Toronto: Magenta Foundation, 2010).

Jack Burman’s photographs of the dead take us to the very edge of the thinkable, and beyond it.” – John Bentley Mays

An interview with a Canadian artist Peter von Tiesenhausen

A Canadian artist Peter von Tiesenhausen worked for a month [May of 2013] in Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. Peter and I sat down on the stairs of the back garden of the Goldfarb Art building for coffee and a conversation. Here is a transcript of this informal interview:











PVT:    I always wanted to be a writer.

MB:      Do you write poetry, Peter?

PVT:    Not really, but, I guess, visually. My language-poetry is wanting. That is why I am so reluctant to even to talk about any specific work. I can tell you how it was made, or I will tell you about the joy of making it but I am reluctant to tell you what it means. Because it is, hopefully, far richer than what I can convey in words. When I am asked to write an artist statement, I think of how come writers are not asked to do paintings.

MB:      It’s a strange thing to do, isn’t?

PVT:    This is not my language. As you can tell from the presentation I made, [ed. public talk about his work as part of his residency] I do love to talk.

MB:      And you are good at that. You are an excellent storyteller…

PVT:    Yes, I really enjoy telling stories, engaging people and through that engaging myself and getting a different perspective. I am just in wonder of the world. I am excited about everything. I feel so fortunate just to be able to observe. And by observing more you make things happen, and then observe them. If I explore through the making of things, the chances are that more things will happen that are somewhere in my memory banks.

MB:      Do you remember where it all started? You were born not very far from the place where you live now. Your father was a farmer. At what point did you realize that you want to become an artist? Were there a special person, or an event that prompted you to make this decision or was this desire growing gradually?

PVT:    Right from the very start. I remember I was 4 years old and my cousin would come to visit and I would ask her: draw something for me, because she drew better than me. And she would say: I’ll draw the school bus or the road going to town. And I still remember these drawings. The wonder of seeing something transcribed from here to there, even when it wasn’t me doing it, was fascinating!

When I was 6, my father was building a house. On one of the nights it rained, and the siding wasn’t on the house yet. I remember being on the back of the house, there was a puddle of mud and I was taking this mud in my hands and drawing a giant face on the wall of the house. My father was so disgusted: “it’s a brand new house and you put mud all over it!” But it was good drawing (laughs)

MB:      …in some countries, in old Ukrainian villages for instance, they used to put mud and mix it with straw and cow’s dung in order to make the walls steardier.

PVT:    I ‘ve done that too. There is something so honest about that. It’s right here. You take what is here and build a little shelter from the things you have. All I have to do is to open my eyes. I love this idea! This way you can live anywhere.. And coming from where you came from… you probably have seen much more than we have. I remember before the curtain came down hearing about the shortages of food…

MB:      yes, in the early nineties…

PVT:    You didn’t have the availabilities and ridiculous abundance of what we have here. In some way you are far more fortunate then all these people here for having experienced that.

MB:      and being able to appreciate this…

PVT:    I grew up in the country, and we were poor but we always had good food because we were farmers. But things like oranges, or something like this, were only on Saturdays, for instance. My father was Baltic German. Our history is from Russia as well, so lots of Russian traditions were there. His father was aristocrat and they had lots of money. My father said that it was important for us to understand that. So occasionally, he would treat us with a good food, so that we knew what it is like.

MB:      When was it?

PVT:    When I was a little kid. He wanted us to be exposed to something that was possible for the appreciation: good meal, good company, and nice home. I can go on…

MB:      You don’t hear these stories from artists often. Most of the time artists talk about how to survive, exhibitions, etc rather than what makes them create things.

PVT:    Survival is just happens, if you trust. I can’t explain how and why but somehow over the last 22 years I didn’t have another job, and my wife didn’t either. We live in the middle of nowhere. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity. And Teresa [ed. Peter’s wife] is just an incredibly supportive person, she would say to me: don’t worry; we’re not starving yet. Sometimes it gets pretty tight, money wise, but never tight enough so that we loose the farm. I hope it continues but if it doesn’t, I’ll have to do something else. And it always works somehow. It’s some kind of faith, and not the one in anything outside of my own capabilities, but trusting that something will come along. Even if it’s hardship, it’ll be a good thing to experience. And to learn that every minute is valuable whichever way it presents itself.

That thing broke today [ed. a bronze stove Peter was making while in the York residency] We have worked for almost 3 weeks on that box. All of the student had worked so hard if not more than I had. I felt sorry for them because they didn’t see anything for their work. And they were all looking at me saying: you must be so disappointed because it could have been in a show.

And for me it was not a big deal. We just hope that the next one works a little better, but it’s not the end of the world. And we had a good time in the process, even through failure.

MB:      It seems that you look at your life in a very similar way that you look at your artwork.

PVT:    I think it’s the same thing. I can’t discern anymore a difference. I am here [ed. at York’s residency] and am I making a product? Not really. I am for the students and for myself and for the teachers, for the school and the reputation of the place. The biggest thing I can do is to be present, and to see what presents itself, and enjoy the people and the making of things.

MB:      So you rely on your intuition. Can intuition be learned or is it something we inherit? How do you become one with nature? Would you say that it is possible to deal with life experiences in a way that we ‘train’ our abilities to deal with ‘essential questions” about life?

PVT:    Intuition can be learned to some degree. I think it’s there anyway but it has certainly gotten richer when I embarked on my own track, when I quite my job and took art on full time. Intuitive aspects of my world just expended unbelievably: intuition, coincidence, synchronicity and all kind of things. I can hardly believe in all of them. And even though to some degree, it was always present but it got profound and even ridiculous.

MB:      Could it be also be due to the lifestyle that you lead. You are pretty isolated, away from many urban pressures, excessive socializing. There is solitude there that requires certain strength of character. For many people being alone is the hardest thing to do.
PVT:    I think it’s the easiest thing to do. And the older I get the more I love it. I have recently picked up meditation over the last 3 years. There you are with yourself to begin to understand what is the essence of life within this particular being. One of the reasons why I made the face cast is to observe my own aging, my own demise. Every ten years I do a cast of my face to see that time goes so fast. And then you realize that you’re alone in this world no matter what, even if you’re married and have kids, and friends but in the end of the day you are completely alone. And the sooner you accept it, the better: what do they say, die before you die, right? And what you did, is one of the most precious experiences because it cuts out the bullshit [ed. 2 years ago Marina went through an experiment by setting up the day of her own fictional ‘death’ to live with it in mind for the whole year. The experiment was inspired by Stephen Levine’s book ‘A year to live’]

And from this point every day becomes like a bonus, a pure gift. How many times in our lives we had close calls, and every one of these chances is a reminder. To be alone, you get a chance to look at that stuff and be astounded by that. And I am learning that.

MeccaMB:      You are still learning that…

PVT:    It is an ongoing thing. You don’t know it and you have to continue to know it. It’s easy to forget. It is like if you see the bus and you think you have to run to catch it but I stop for a moment and think, maybe there is another bus and I’d rather walk and feel the weight on my feet.

MB:      You are using the same approach when preparing for your installations. You often look for the material to complete them just a few days before the show, scouting the local area in order to spontaneously find things. It seems to me that you are forcefully putting yourself into a state of crisis in the face of potential failure. It’s rather an unorthodox process, many would find uncomfortable and extremely stressful.

PVT:    I got a lot of failures in my life. Not at the shows but in other areas, I guess we all have. What happens, just like this failure here [ed. at the YorkU residency], we can take a safe way or we can take a chance. Maybe it will spur another idea and change the way I think. With the installations it’s the same thing: I am trying to get into the new territory that is interesting to me. I can kind of paint and draw but it’s kind of boring. So why not to push myself to do something that surprises me? And I am moving to the territory that is like a new country every show. And it allows me to grow faster and deal with a fear of it. There is lots of fear because it might turn out like shit. But usually it’s not.

MB:      How do you deal with that stress?

PVT:   You have to calm down. It’s like in meditation. My mind is racing and I have to calm down. All the materials, just like all your food, are right here. Everything I need is right here. I just don’t always know what it is yet.

I’ll give you one example. I went to Warsaw, Poland, to do a show. There was 2 days because the tour around Poland took 28 days and I hadn’t brought any work with me. Well, I brought 2 photographs.

MB:      This is a lot for the installation [laughs]

PVT:    I got there and went to see the building. The building manager showed me around, there was a bunch of material, all floorboards. I thought: this is the same material I use at home to make my figures, for instance. I thought of doing something about Warsaw and for this I would need a torch, white wash, salt and an axe. I got those at the hardware store but forgot to buy salt. I am sitting in the parking lot, thinking that my time is running out. There was a dumpster down there and I decided to look, what if I’ll do something else? And what do you think I find in the dumpster? One hundred salt shaker, the little ceramic shakers from the Soviet era. And all of them were full. Every piece of material that I needed was within 100 feet from the gallery where the show was going to take place. And then I needed something to hold these boards up, and went to the flea market. There were old rot iron hinges that would work too. They were cruciform the way they were set up. And later on someone comes up to me saying: you’re Baltic German, there was battle where Germans lost to Polish people and the symbol for this battle was 2 swords stuck in the ground. That’s what they saw in these two hinges. It had a huge meaning for them. Here we are coming together again after centuries after that hierarchy. I couldn’t even make it up, it just happened because of the materials I found.

MB:      I remember on one of your interviews you mentioned that you’re an atheist. However, the experience that you have just described, this perception seems to be rooted in your knowledge of spiritual traditions that see human experience differently from our western scientific world view, and assume that ‘knowledge’ has not only to do with intellectual activity but also the result of the totality of our sensual perceptions? Am I going in the right direction here?

PVT:    I think what rings closest to my way of understanding the world is Daoism, Zen, and recently Vipassana meditation, I don’t know if you are familiar with it.

MB:      I am a Vipassana meditator too. [Laughs]

PVT:    Really? Well, you know what it’s like then. This body is not who I am or what I am. Right now it is but it is my vehicle to understand the world. From the experiential level this is what really hit home for me. Just being part of nature. Somebody has constructed this need to identify all but we are just this flow of energy. Because of my artistic practice, I was already exploring that naively. But when I went into the meditation it became so clear. So am I an atheist? I don’t believe in a hierarchy. I don’t believe in anybody being greater than anybody else. I just believe we are part of this whole thing and all of the sudden there is no fear of death because we are morphing into the next thing. I did the meditation strictly as a technique because I had to, because I was an angry person.

MB:      You were an angry person?

PVT:    Yes, and it forced me into there. Because it becomes too painful to live in this world. We have to find the way to survive it. With this community project, the building, the politics were a nightmare. The building itself, the people who worked there were awesome but there were lots of people who showed the side of them that I had no expectation of, no understanding. It hurt like crazy! Psychologically.

MB:      Did it change your perception of what people are capable of doing?

PVT:    You think that because I am in the arts, and people in the arts, for the most part, are thoughtful, they reflect and you can usually reason with them. They are smart and usually left wind, compassionate but there are lots of people out there that are not, and those who are willing to engage or trusting. I was just blindsided. I went into the massive depth of sadness and disorientation. I had no idea where to go from there.

MB:      How do you reconcile with the fact that people who enjoy looking at your work may not necessarily share your environmental concerns, or support your political environmental activism?

PVT:    It’s like writing on a railroad track. I can’t change people but I can take my drawings and mash them up and stick them into my cabin walls and use them as insulation. I know that I can purify my own mind; it’s all I can do. It became more evident as I went into Vipassana. Thank God, somebody pushed me this far! Thank God! I have always been a happy person but now even when I don’t make work, in all these in between times, when I am away from my family, lonely in a hotel somewhere, it’s different.
MB:      You don’t seem to believe that art can change anything about people who look at it?

PVT:    They have to be open to change. The community center was an attempt to that. And people who didn’t want to be changed. And you realize; it’s your loss. Those who were willing to change were amazing. The relationship that I build with them, they were strong before, but they became rock solid. Because they had confidence in themselves, they didn’t mistrust because they were trustworthy themselves. You can imagine someone else doing what you are capable of doing. We ran up against some people who were negative because they didn’t trust us.

MB:      I believe it was Susan Sontag who once observed that focusing on the question of whether or not an art work retains the capacity to produce a strong emotion sidesteps the problem that having a strong emotion is not the same thing as having an understanding and neither is the same thing as taking action? Because my own work over last years particularly has been dealing with the subject of loss and hope, I often wish that it will not only affect people but that someone actually needs it. So it’s not only for myself. Do you get disappointed when it doesn’t happen with your work?

PVT:    Of course, but less so now. It does affect people but sometimes it doesn’t work till 10 years later. The work has to be an end in itself. Somebody said, and I totally agree with that, ‘I make work for the audience of one’. And anything that happens beyond that is a bonus. It’s not my fault because I did it with a purest intention. If I do something at all, lets doing with a best intention. That’s what writing on railroad track is all about. It’s a kind of prayer, a belief that the world will be better. It can be better.

MB:      It does look like a prayer. In China there is a tradition of making little wooden boards, tablets, with prayers on them when someone passes away. And when I looked at your board with the outlines of a person, it struck me as similar.

PVT:    I’d like to see that!


MB:      It amazes me when someone in a different part of the world, not knowing what you are, is thinking about similar ideas, and you may not be even aware of it.

PVT:    We are all stem from the same thing. There are common thoughts that happen. I don’t understand it and I don’t have a need to understand it.

When my father died, I was hundred miles away and I knew what happened. I knew it immediately, even though he wasn’t unhealthy necessarily. I was working on a gold mine on a very loud piece of equipment. It was a beautiful sunny morning, all of the sudden, bang! I even said it out loud to myself. It was an instant! An hour later my wife comes, she wasn’t my wife then, and she didn’t have to say a word. By the time I got to her I was already crying. What is that? Collapsing of space and time? It’s almost like you can remember the future.

What is that when you make an artwork, you suddenly recognize that it’s powerful? How do you know what the last brush stroke should be if it never existed before? Light is on the inside.

MB:      Over the last 5 years, after the community project, you also did a project Celebration of the Bow River, that involves collaboration with other people. This is different from the work you were doing before.

PVT:    I did the Celebration of the Bow River project while building a community center. I also do installation involving the community, like here for instance. I am teaching, well… but I am not really teaching, I am just hanging out with a bunch of kids. And I like that. But after the community center the work became very introspective: like ‘The Thousand Drawings’ that are packaged up. It was a regrouping. Community project alleviated my need to do something for the community. I always worried about what can I do for a planet or sustainability, and now I have done most of what I could do.

MB:      Someone mentioned to me that you wanted to claim the copyright on the land around The Forest Fence that you built to keep the oil companies at bay. [Peter has built a life line fence on his property near Demmitt which he has been building for 22 years.]

PVT:    We have done that. We have about 800 hectares of forest and a couple of fields. We bought them over the years to protect them, and I built the fence around. I grew up there, and oil and forestry industry have just devastated it. And whenever there would be a piece of land that we loved, we’d buy it even though we don’t have much money, but somehow it worked. The oil company wanted to come across with a pipeline. And I said: No! And they said that I don’t have any choice because we own the top 6 inches and they own everything else underneath, the mineral rights, etc. That’s the way it works in Canada. And I said: you can put your pipeline as long as you don’t disturb the surface. Of course, it’s pretty much impossible or very expensive. But it’s not the field or just a forest, it is an artwork! And they realized that they have a case. But for last 15 years they have left me alone. We will see how long it goes, so far we had a couple of disputes with them, but we always win. We always settled it before the court. They realized that I am not going to budge. Of course they can win. It’s often who has more money, or more corrupted. The authorities are. I am just happy that we bought ourselves some time and are consistent and give the same answer. As long as you don’t compromise…

MB:      You are fighting against a big machine.

PVT:    Yes, but we are wining!

MB:      You were also planning to bury an iron sculpture beneath the downtown Sarnia Street in reaction to Prime Minister’s Stephen Harper’s negative comments on art and culture in Canada. (Shawn Jeffords, “Art Gets Down and Dirty,” The Sarnia Observer, 21 October 2008).

PVT:    No, it was one of the takes of it but it was more like a seed. It coincided with Harper’s saying these things but it wasn’t a political move, more like an intuitive thing. They were digging up the street; my sculptures had been made in the gallery, the Giant Feet…

MB:      This is when your son went through the heart surgery.

PVT:    Yes… The reason I made the feet is because when I made The Watchers, the wooden sculptures, and we transported them by helicopter from the ship to the barge, one of them lost its feet. If you go see the sculpture on Queen Street you can see that one has bolts and has remade legs.

MB:      The guy went to war at sea [laughs]

PVT:    He went to war and he lost his legs at sea. There was something crazy about this metaphor. The test piece for making the steel iron sculptures, it s bust, and it was so nice that I made 2 or 3 of them. Then Lisa said to me..

MB:      Lisa Daniels is a curator of the gallery in Sarnia?

PVT:    Yes, she said: would you like to donate something to the collection? And I agreed on the condition that they had to bury the sculpture under the street. They were digging up the street anyway, and when they’d get into the main intersection, this was where I wanted it, underneath the pipes, so that they’d never dig it up again. And she said, OK! And it’s a lot of work. But she had this trust. There is poetry in that… this bust would be buried underneath this street, one block away from where the coast guard head office was. There was a woman working there that said that I could put my figures on the ship across Canada. She worked in that office! Without that woman and that office these Giant Feet wouldn’t exist and iron sculpture wouldn’t exist. You can put these things in a gallery of course but then it’s just an iron bust that kind of nondescript. Or you can bury it under the street where it captures an imagination of anybody who cares to think about it. Or they can start to imagine: what is that iron bust? There are many good photographs of it; it’s just the idea that everybody becomes a creator. And it’s like a seed. Does it make any sense? [Laughs]

I am not a great artist. I am just a person who wants to be interested and excited by everything. And I generally am. It’s a pretty good life! It’s getting better all the time.

MB:      Is it? [Laughs]
PVT:    That’s what you make of it. You make lots of mistakes in the first 50 years and in the next 50 years you’re trying not make as many.

MB:      A Bavarian artist Nils-Udo once mentioned that: ‘Even if I work parallel to nature and only intervene with the greatest possible care, a basic internal contradiction remains. It is a contradiction that underlies all of my work, which itself can’t escape the inherent fatality of our existence. It harms what it touches: the virginity of nature…

I’m interested in the specific idea “It harms what it touches: the virginity of nature…Is it possible to protect without harming?

PVT:    No, I don’t think so. I just did dharma service up in the Vipassana retreat center. We were cleaning up the site, chain sawing; this is so not so Buddhist [laughs] I grinded up so many bugs! And I was saying: do we really need to grind all this stuff? I had a hard time meditating after this [laughs] I just killed hundreds and thousands little things!

Even when I am making an ice boat, which seems benign, I’m trapping fresh water shrimp in the ice, cutting them, killing them, there is always harm by being alive, just by walking, but out that death comes life. I think the biggest thing is to not toxify beyond your own life with radioactivity, for instance, or introducing toxins into the environment. I am casting bronze and it’s toxic as hell and uses up ridiculous amounts of energy. That’s why I wanted to use sunlight. But there are still all kinds of toxics going on. But it is about the principle of it, to head towards more benign. The iceboat feels better than a giant thing on a concrete.

MB:      Do you think that it could be one of the reasons why many of your pieces are in the state of decay/collapse/disappearance? Things in nature are constantly dying and yet it is a different kind of death, the one that is more akin to the cycle of transformation. It probably dictates the choice of these materials?

PVT:    When I am casting the rotten wood into bronze, something is going to fall apart. You are turning wood into a solid bronze, one of the more durable materials, and I handle a piece of rotten wood casted into bronze to someone, not you in particular, because you are already sensitive, but to others. And they go all of the sudden: Wow! They look into details, and lines, and the growing moss, which is the way I’d like to look at the world all the time.

MB:      You are not inventing much you are just taking what’s there…

PVT:    I am not inventing a damn thing! I am limited in my capabilities for thought.

MB:      But lots of people like your work…

PVT:   Just enough…

MB:      You mentioned once that ‘art shouldn’t look down on people’

PVT:    Did I say that? That’s good. I still agree with that [both laugh]

MB:      What I am trying to say is that there is a gap between the general Canadian public and the Canadian art world. Most of the people who are going to exhibition openings are artists themselves. For many, art represents something that regular people ‘don’t get’. My impression is that sometimes audience is not comfortable finding itself in the state of ‘not-knowing’ that you often talk about, on one hand, but on the other, the work itself might be so overly intellectually elite that it has very little relationship to people’s lives.

You refuse to explain your work, the path that many artists unfortunately began to choose often lately. What can bring more people into the art or rather the other way around, in order to escape the aesthetic elitism we find ourselves in?

PVT:    The journey around Canada was in a way about that. I ran into people who hated me for it and loved me for it. I realized it had nothing to do with me, but their interpretation of what I was doing. And I was just doing and observing, having my little adventure. But it engaged a lot of people. It’s not that I have heard from them again, but one of the stories I remember when I was putting gas in my truck somewhere in Ontario, I used to do it a lot. One of the gas station attendant said: What’s this? What are you doing?

MB:      This was when you had to travel with The Watchers at the back of your truck…

PVT:    Yes, yes. I had just started to answer him but he started telling me what he wanted to do. It was empowering him! He started telling me about his dreams of building something, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it seemed that I opened some possibility for him. I have always been disappointed when my audience is always artists. I always hoped to hit the audience of real people who are searching for something. That’s why I love to give artist talks because this is exciting, not my work, but the freedom of being able to express yourself and things you stumble upon by searching. I didn’t make any of this shit up, it just happens, and I happen to recognize it. I am not really good at anything except for living really. This wooden sculptures, the patina on them from travelling 10000 km in a sever weather, is better than the carving that I did.

MB:      You let the nature to take over.

PVT:    I love to make marks but then I hate my own marks because they are just ego. And who cares? But when you can stick a bunch of stumble weeds in the wall trying to make them look like what I have seen before in a forest.

MB:   Let me ask you the last question. Iris Murdoch, the Irish-born British writer and philosopher, once suggested that in order to understand any philosopher’s language we need to ask ourselves what it is that frightens them. I like to apply this same idea when attempting to understand artist’s work, including coupling the notion of fear with the question of what an artist loves. Because artistic practice is often about the the hidden that brings these two essences, fear and love, together. What are you afraid of and what is it that you love?

PVT:           I used to fear a lot of stuff. But there must be something. ….

I love a lot of things. I love everything… life. I hopefully will love death.

MB:             but you are not there yet?

PVT:           It’s coming, I think, in phases. There is part of me that is already dead. When I first pulled out the mask of my face, I thought this 30 years old guy is dead, pretty much soon this 50, 57 years old will be dead too. And I’m kind of enjoying that. I’m trying not to fear the death of people that I love. I have accepted the demise of the world or what it is going to be. And I have lots of small fears, like not making enough money to live on but then I think, what’s a big deal? My father’s family lived in the same place for 700 years and had 2 weeks to leave in 1939. Or with you in Russia, everything changed in a instant? Where is the security?

But the big fear…I suppose I fear screwing up in a big way, messing up the last half of my life or wasting it. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t fuck up.

peter von tiesenhausen


Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence Peter von Tiesenhausen explores sustainability and community through art

The moment. Notebooks

Usually I work in long stretches, until the moment comes when the air of the arbitrary suddenly vanishes, and bits and pieces of the picture suddenly fall into positions that feel destined. The pictures might seem like a dream but it’s not. You have to be both sophisticated and innocent about it. It seems like a real impossibility. It is not safe either because you can’t begin with what you are going to end up with. Do I think first and cut or cut and think after? Perhaps, it’s like having a baby, you don’t want to know much about it. You just want to have that baby.


While you held me