January 26, 2012
A New Understanding of Absence
I recently understood how absence often occupies even more space than presence, or better-said, imaginary space filled by fictitious presence. Of course, true presence is not what I'm talking about, as it is all encompassing and enlightenment in itself. Absence, on the other hand, can invite ghosts and those invisible phantoms have little to do with your perception of them. Absence creates a lingering effect that leaks power from your source without your being aware of it. Yet, how do we stop it other than being wholly present in its void? It's not an intellectual understanding that ultimately allows departure from this trap, but a deeper knowing that is both physical and intuitive at the same time. In a way, it's unnamable like the many names of God in Hebrew.
In looking back at my work with absence presence over the last years, I only now fully understand the alchemy of it. That's the beauty of an art practice. It's as though an invisible force drives you to create and in the creating, you are able to work through exactly what's needed. Like homeopathy, the medicine takes its miniscule root from the ailment -- "let like be cured by like" -- and in doing so heals you. Not to say that all art is a healing process, but in the relatedness of all things art itself takes you to the next step of your evolution. It's only in the reflection, however, that you realize where you have been and how you've gotten there.
January 30, 2011
Presence or In Treatment
A year after the first season of the HBO television series In Treatment aired, I had the pleasure of watching it on DVD. I had overheard discussions about the series and had seen Charlie Rose's interview with Gabriel Byrne, the protagonist of the show prior to watching it.
From the interview alone, I knew it was of interest to me. However, I didn't know to what extent it would then make its way into my work. After about the fourth week of the first series (watching one week at a time, which contains 5 episodes) when I turned off the television, Gabriel Byrne or the character, Dr. Paul Weston's presence was still in my space. Something similar used to happen when I used to paint late into the night. My mind's eye would continue swirling colors when I went to bed. Like paint, his presence spoke to me, awakening me to what was there and what asked to be revealed.
The actor's hologram-like presence inhabiting my loft, threaded "In Treatment" with my previous artistic concern regarding absence and presence. The series gave me an opportunity to reexamine my own issues not so much intellectually as artistically. In my experience, understanding is key to awareness, but actual transformation travels beyond the intellect and that's why it's called art.
In preparation for these photo shots I took many photos from the television, some of which I printed out and installed in my loft. I would have preferred the actors themselves, especially Dr. Weston, the therapist, but settled on what was available. The work does not attempt to interpret the television program whatsoever. I've used the faces of the actors only as a point of departure for my own concerns.
Many people think these photos are montages or constructed in Photoshop, but they are not. They are all one shot, taken in the dark. Most of what happens during these shoots is a surprise. The work is highly improvisational and experimental.
I've posted some of these on my gallery, and most have three words in the title, like "absence - precognition - presence".
Many thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this and to look at my work. I greatly appreciate it.
January 15, 2011
Absence Presence Part II
Presence requires inhabiting the body.
Presence is essential to all spiritual practices, religions and to life. If we are not present we are missing our experience and the opportunity at hand. With this in mind an exploration of presence and absence evolved. Although I establish my parameters, my frame, what takes place within that context is unknown, subject to movement and presence. Shooting only at night there is absence of light.
I considered that in terms of movement and what I know about the fluid system, thanks to my practice of Continuum Movement - of which the body and the entire galaxy is a part of - when there is any isolating phenomena, as there was during the Holocaust, the fluid will compress, forming a barrier to the world, stifling circumstance. This results in a kind of "hologram" of survival and can be read as a diary of existence.
The social consequences of these behavior barriers eventuate in a loss of fundamental resonance resulting in an inability to feel. The holocaust was an example of this condition.
After shooting in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, my exploration of absence presence continued in my studio in Brooklyn. It really began with the ghost series before that, however, only in reflection, did I realize that "ghosts" was about absence and presence. In addition, I don't like the horror implications associated with the word ghosts.
Walking into the frame or parameter of the camera and the passage of light, I was/am able to learn something new about myself and my environment. Something invariably hidden yet transparent.
Again, the realization of my purpose usually comes after I'm well into my work. If I think too much about what I think I want to achieve, it tends to get in the way of the work. The "work" or results come from the marriage of the artist and the process. If you hold too tightly to a desired image, you will inevitably be disappointed. Instead, what comes forth is usually stronger, more authentic and much more surprising than what you imagined. It's the same in life. Holding too tightly to an idea produces too much tension and blocks the flow of creation.
Speaking of which, I intended to finish this discourse on absence and presence, but Iíve had enough of sitting at the computer and the onset of one of those malicious flues is threatening me. Time to make more soup.
Cheers ed un abbraccio,
January 08, 2011
Absence Presence. The beginning and more. Part I
In December 2007, I was asked to participate in the exhibition/performances, Pulling Down, about the Shoa, or Holocaust, honoring the Day of Memory, held at the auditorium in Rome, Italy in January 2008.
I was staying in the neighborhood of the Jewish Ghetto and spent many hours walking the streets both in the day and at night in preparation for the exhibition. I sensed that the streets themselves would let me know what they wanted me to express - that I would find my inspiration there - since it was there where the Jews were forced to evacuate their homes.
Coming from a Jewish family, I was interested in exploring my origins and the historical events that took place in those streets during the Holocaust, from an artist perspective. From there, the exploration of absence and presence was born. Examples of this can be seen on my gallery page, entitled "assenza presenza" (absence presence), in the streets of Rome.
Prior to that I had been working, as if predestined, on a series I at first entitled "ghosts." And prior to that a series about "invisible realms." As more an intuitive rather than rational person, I'm interested in the invisible manifestation of movement that resides below the surface of knowing. In the process of creation, that invisible world shows me what is there and its gentle but guiding hand always comes up with more interesting and surprising results than I could have imagined. Obviously, the artist always has his or her hand in the creation and what emerges evolves from every individual artist's unique presence.
In my experience, one phase of work evolves from the previous, but my knowledge of it only happens after the work has been well developed. That's why I said "predestined" regarding ghosts, because when I was invited to participate in Pulling Down, it was the obvious (obvious to me at least) next step, though again, I only realized afterward how it was connected.
The invisible realms phase came out of a virtual dialogue I had with a stranger who had visited my website and whose identity remained hidden. His first email was so bizarre and ridiculous that I was about to delete it, but then, my intuitive self had the good sense not to, recognizing that the email was indeed a work of art in itself. I then documented the five months dialogue with this man, which eventually culminated in an exhibition in 2006, at Studio Fontaine, in Viterbo, entitled "Invisible Realms - Dialogue with a Virtual Prince."
Here is some of what I had written in 2006:
"There is an invisible veil between worlds that creates the illusion of separateness in our lives, however, when people and things begin to materialize from the fiction of one's art, the question arises not only about how everything is connected, but what is actually real and which comes first, fact or fiction? In terms of space, where does the hidden world lie: below, above, next to or as in dreams, inward? Does it matter or is it necessary to place it? Whatever the case there is still a vanishing quality even in the materialization of this invisible world. And the meaning that comes has a multiplicity effect within the ephemeral world implicit in the invisible.
The internet has opened up access to these invisible worlds, unbound almost, by time and space, it bridges the gap of separation between people and events. Yet, paradoxically, it is in itself, another veil that separates. In our technological and fast world, as our sense of isolation tends to deepen, the internet serves our biological need to connect."
My work with digital photography grew out of this virtual dialogue, where the computer had an outstanding presence. Coming from the tactile and palpable world of painting, it took me time to accept the computer and anything to do with its technology as an art form. However, once I allowed it access, it opened realms I hadnít considered.
At first, photographic images and words printed on film transparencies were integrated into my paintings. The digital photograph itself eventually became comprehensive and self-sufficient - with its highly sensitive play of light, texture and surprise - for my concerns with capturing the invisible becoming visible.
...to be continued.
Please check back,
December 29, 2010
Starting Over + Insider's View
Patricia Antonucci and I are very excited about our new interactive program with artists and galleries, as well as the exploration of rich and joyful "Roma." In addition, we are looking forward to discover how the experience will weave its way into each participant's creative expression.
We will spend each day with a different artist in his or her studio, exploring their work by open discussions about their processes, secrets and motivations. Part of the day will be dedicated to wandering through neighborhoods, visiting local galleries, and attending exhibition openings of choice.
We will discuss, suggest and guide each participant toward their individual creation. Besides journaling, to document our thoughts and impressions, we encourage bringing photographic and video cameras. Artists are welcome to bring supplies.
We have lived in Rome for many years, exhibiting and working. As insiders we want to share our intimate and unique view of our beloved city to you.
Barbara & Patricia
November 16, 2010
An Insider's View of Contemporary & Historical Art in Rome
may 28-june 4 & june 11-18, 2011
This workshop will be conducted by Patricia Antonucci and Barbara Schaefer. We are two New York based artists who have traveled and exhibited internationally, joining our creative forces to offer you a week of exciting and energizing approaches to art. As "insiders," we are offering an intriguing week of unusual encounters with Roman artists, art galleries and meanderings through Roman neighborhoods. Through backstreet views we will visit contemporary artist's studios, with a firsthand intimate glimpse of their work and lives.
Weaving our way through the ancient streets, churches and monuments of Rome, where Bernini, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Leonardo left their mark of genius, we will juxtapose the old and new worlds, journaling and eventually sharing our unique observations and impressions. The week will culminate in an individual or collaborative project.
Staying at the lovely Albergo Raphael, down the street from the magnificent Piazza Navona, with its three Bernini fountains, we will breakfast on the roof terrace in preparation for the day. Porta Portese, dining in local trattorias and a day trip to mediaeval Viterbo are a few of the activities on our agenda.
We can be reached: Patricia: 212-243-4702/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org Barbara: 917-686-6205/ email: email@example.com