IN THE ABSENCE OF THINGS. (->read text)
Murmansk (Russia) November/December 2011 The project 'In the absence of things' explores life in darkness and the difficulties of true communication between people. Every year the city of Murmansk (because of its arctic latitude) descends into darkness for forty days; the sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon. These are the 'Polar Nights'. Note: the captions in the work are ‘bites’ of conversations I had during the project. A few of them are my own thoughts, all the others belong to various people I have met. ABOUT THE PROJECT. This is not a project about Russia, it is a project about being human... and yet the fact that it was shot in Russia does matter. It was born from an urge to explore darkness. Both the inner human darkness that sits inside each of us in different forms and shapes and moments, and the 'real' darkness; the absence of light, the obscurity, the experience of living in a place which is (almost) completely dark for some part of the year. I wanted to see how this 'physical' darkness affects the people who live in such a place. My initial idea of simply documenting daily life in such an environment faded quickly once I arrived. I chose not to tackle obvious issues like depression, conduct formal interviews or document normal activities literally. What really mattered was how the darkness felt, how it slipped under the skin in such a strong way as to make people 'blind' to its effect. The project was left to unfold spontaneously. I wanted to allow myself to just experience the place and become close to the people I met, being a guest and a spectator but becoming a friend also, quickly absorbed as part of people's daily mundane routine... I allowed the people and the place to slip under my skin and let the pictures take themselves. For this reason I decided to spend a month in this relatively small city, with no prior commitments. There is no story, it's the tale of a feeling. In my conversations, two themes came up again and again: darkness (both inner and 'real') and the limits of human communication and of mutual understanding. The project is the result of my personal experience, and because of this the images and texts may seem jumpy. Its fragmentary structure reflects the nature of human existence - we all perceive the world in different ways and because of this, sometimes struggle to communicate our experience, which is after all influenced by our personal history, our language, our mood, our current context, as well as those of the receiver. Because of the infinite complexity that results from these myriad factors, our communication is always a continuous process of translations. The lack of a point is somehow the point. And yet, common, universal experiences DO exist: emotions are the unifying element of the human kind. They create a bridge over the incommunicability, they get us closer and sometimes even allow us to overcome geographical and cultural barriers.