Even though we only first met for this project in mid January, Manuel Vason made me feel at home immediately. It was just so very easy to relax and perform for his photo camera which became a time keeper of our sessions.
Our six days living together would usually start with Manuel waking me up in the morning since none of my devices worked at that moment, dogs barking loud, helping him to wake me up, then having coffee accompanied by intensive dialogues, which would get more and more intimate and relaxed by each day. Taking Ada and Byron out, going to the store, having another coffee in the sun, and shooting. A lot. Until the very late evening.
The use of photography, a 150 year old practice, is perhaps something which will be superseded in the near future, but nevertheless, after working with Manuel, I feel there are still strong stories to tell through images.
Photography has not been by far an obsolete medium in our optocentric society.
I understand our collaboration as a project within a project since I never wanted it to be any kind of a reenactment for public visits to me and Ada that happened only ten days later. The shooting has been an embodiment, a paraphrase and in some cases a symbol of the three months isolation process that my dog(s) and I endured mentally, emotionally, physically.
Within our exchange process, photos have been generally divided into three unofficial segments: the first one captures a subliminal apotheosis on home, as it has been existing in my mind – a cozy broken Barbie house, discretely framed by a barbed wire, as is my projection towards the whole idea of comforts of home. IKEA (hybrid) family, just somewhat off. Different objects symbolizing emotional memory of my childhood, which could in that moment only endure as a set design. While at the same time in that same space at the center of which, to paraphrase Stelarc, … we used the most 'primitive' and ancient, the human (and dog) figure … not as a subject but as an object, not as an object of desire but as an object for designing". (Stelarc, "Prosthetics, Robotics and Remote Existence: Postevolutionary Strategies", Leonardo, vol. 24, no. 5, 1991, pp.591-595.)
The second segment stands as the pure embodiment of my mental transformation during the process. Exhaustion captured as the ultimate underdog position, intimacy of human and dog bodies equal to each other, while still struggling within the paradox of culture nature dichotomy which has been turned inside out. Embodiment of my mental space also since during the whole time of the process, I would identify very much with a character from the novel titled "Adam Ben Kelev" of the Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk, who takes the concept of being treated like a dog to its absurdist limits by exploring the extreme case of survivor’s guilt after the war, while poses familiar questions about who is sane in an insane world.
First published in Hebrew in 1969, this maniacal masterpiece has come to be recognized as one of the central works of Holocaust literature. It is about a famous performing artist Adam Stein who scooped up by the Nazis, is forced to accept a Faustian arrangement: he lives in comfort at a concentration camp as the pet dog along with a real German Shepherd of Commandant Klein, a Nazi officer who remembers Adam’s night club animal act. When not a pet, Adam is forced to play the violin and serenade his fellow prisoners, including his wife and daughter, as they are marched to the gas chambers.
This is of course only the Hollywood populistic version of the plot made for a movie, where even the English title ("Adam resurrected") echoes with redemptive sentiment, but the original title - "A Human Son of a Dog"- is closer to the novel's sense of tormented metamorphosis. The story centers on Adam Stein, an ex-clown and inmate of an Israeli asylum for survivors of the Nazi death camps. Through layers of carnivalesque language, Kaniuk twists Stein into a dog and a young boy. The book's symbolism extends to the asylum, which is figured as a desert paradise, a prison and, controversially, the state of Israel itself. As I have been feeling it could nowadays be as well a paraphrase of the mental state of EU along with the whole contemporary West for that matter, accompanied by the individual as well as the collective schizophrenia of a survivor´s guilt in coping with the reality of another world war. A state of mind which I am so infatuated with, that I eagerly grovel on all fours and bark for attention. As does Adam´s nurse in an asylum.
The third segment of photos stands as the proof of concept. The instrumental, technical levels of the process that frame the actions of breast -pumping and -feeding Ada. This kind of a photo documentation needed to be executed for the project´s archive.
Within the very inspirational process, some images would emerge which can not be placed within any of the above mentioned segments, for those could absolutely be standing as an independent work of art. A certain nostalgia for the archaic, a return to myths and to a primitive iconography, a recovery of essential truths uncontaminated by rationalization and spectacularization.
There is not going to be much text in this post, since these images surpass frustration of language, by presenting themselves to the sensitive viewers, which understand when silence can be as powerful tactic strategy of (bio)political critique as can be spoken and written words.
When all four of us have been driving along Yorckstrasse in a car from the petshop where we just bought a new leash for me and Ada to be shoot with, Manuel asked me: "What kind of art do you think the herbivorous werewolves of your utopian future would be making?" "That´s a very good question", I answered. "Survival art!", Manuel replied.
The sensitivity emerging out of our (non)verbal communication, a kinship grown out of a common need to strip away the surface layers of reality we perceive, a desire to submerge our artistic gaze into a realm of primordial impulses, that have been hunting us ever since you and I have been born. It all was as if in this week the pure reason I decided to study art already at the age of eight, finally embodied in its very essence. This is the realm where I find myself. Completely. Thank you my beloved brother !