Yu Fengge, ‘Lost Dreams’.
(Photographs by Yu Fengge/ 于凤革)
‘Lost dreams’; not only the world of the marvellous and the permanently enchanted, a magical reminiscence of such a world regained; but also a world lost. A lost as a childhood dream; at once insubstantial and yet how redolent of everything that matters. Once removed from our daylight world as dream, twice removed as a dream forgotten. Perhaps not memories of childhood or even matters reminiscent of childhood, but one of a catastrophic removal from the presence of the only world we have; of a paling of that world, of its presence as if through a veil, of mortals lost as only immortals can be… Lost in a world not made for them. Yet we are lost in world made for us, indeed a world that made us: also a world made by us… Art’s reason lies in the irrational wish again to see the world as a world of absolutes, not in the moral field (that path only leads to a new fundamentalism) but a world of absolute value. A world whose value has returned once again to itself and is no longer a slick afterthought of utility. An impossible childhood vision returns to the world, returns to us the world, returns to reinvigorate or re-enchant the world. Photography as the moments of enchantment which remind one of another mode of apprehension. The childhood vision we adults must reinvent in order again to find value in our world.
Photography’s two faces (its own form of the exchange relation behind all representation). One open-eyed: one blind. The eyes opened, opening up new vistas; the eyes closed, foreclosing reality. In every frame, in one click: the double action of revealing/concealing. To make sacred through framing; yet always to lose something (that something lost in translation into the world of the image). Then to use this loss to lose (ones own particular) loss; but in these stills still to remember what we wish to remember (what we hold sacred).
Staircases. Leading where? The suspense is temporal. Footpath to the future or stairway to heaven. If open-ended with respect to what lies before, then even the light touch of the brush of the eternal, even a trace of the otherworldly, provides enough symbolism to make sacred the passages of the everyday. Of the two modes, that of the final exit, offers the presence of steps leading to last things (which thus obliquely refers to death) steps which become a bridge to another world, a passage to the afterlife. Yet the same image can also present to us a prelude to a life to come, a life in this world, whose value comes from this world, but which is sanctified by reference to the eternal (the trace of the beyond suggested by the presence of a passage elsewhere). A potential communion of Self and Nature on the ground of our bestowal of value (our choice of place to be rendered an image, an icon); the return of gift being the renewal of self and life as bestowed upon us - the gift of a future worth living. (And even if the image is read as past - as indeed it is, a record of something in the past, taken in the past, our past, the time before now - then what is before, what lies before, before us, the viewer, is the future-in-the-past, place of the might-have-been; read by us in our present as the place of our future, there before us… before us still).
Horizons: limit point as feature. Again the echo of a futuricity found in the trajectory of stairs (the symbolic life of stairs that is shared by the symbol that is the horizon) Limit as closing and opening, both barrier and threshold; as when we are held, as in our mother’s arms, in a safe world. But also a threshold, opening on to another time, our time as other, our future. At once: the protecting veil that wards of the outside, demarcating our space, defining our place, the geography of a room. And as a horizon approached, recedes, so we are reminded that the barrier is absolute and may not be transgressed. What lies there is the same as what lies here. Either we always approach and are always this side, or the otherside is always hidden, always unknown. And so must be surmised. As the absolute other always looks strangely familiar. Always already known.
And otherwise: the horizon as a line inciting transgression. Invitation to step beyond. The mark of a border with a new place, a borderline with us this side, beyond, on the otherside, a further place, unknown… but not necessarily inimical, frightening. Unknown, yet the source of a call to move on, to step out, out beyond current restraints… Invitation to place ones feet in the water that once reflected only ones self but now shivers apart to reveal…a world of dancing light: and beneath… a world bridging the distance of sight, the coldness of vision - the world of feeling.
Superimposition. Seeing many things at once. And which is prior, to which do we accord priority? The less present is present as memory or prophecy (or even the glimpse of the eternal); yet its frame and the question it poses, suggests that it, and not the present, is what preoccupies our thoughts, provides the centre for our meaning making. Likewise for the double image; the ghostly patina of the supernatural overlays the natural, whose proffered normality is superseded as the ground of meaning. The traditional priority given to presence is denied. Meaning is multiplied.
Seeing many things at once. At once as if in the creation of a meaning (its togetherness) but also the co-existence of planes, of different meanings, perhaps incommensurable, irreducible, incapable of finally being resolved into a finished, whole, an ideological whole, a hole in which to fix the world, peg its dissonance and collapse its disparate meanings. Art as post-hole. Archaeology of the non-identical. Art as post-whole.
Layers are not to be peeled away (to reveal a final truth) but to be admired in their tension and harmony with one another.
Photography is the moment of enchantment that reminds one of the presence of another mode of apprehension, another way of seeing. The childhood vision we adults must reinvent in order once again to find value in our world.
Copyright 2008, Peter Nesteruk