Sticks, Stones & Bones
Images from Transient Landscapes
In the early nineties I began to photograph in Eastern Europe. I was fascinated by the atmosphere of suspended time caused by the isolation of the iron curtain. Czech author, Milan Kundera, declares that the Czech word “lítost” has no exact translation in other languages. He describes lítost as, "...a feeling as infinite as an open accordion, a feeling that is the synthesis of many others: grief, sympathy, remorse, and an indefinable longing." Many changes took place in the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution. I witnessed a culture in transition and I found myself transformed by my experiences there. The changes effected both positive and negative results. I began photographing with a sense of nostalgia and regret for the things, both good and bad that would disappear under the onslaught of change.
I am also investigating elements of wabi – sabi in the landscape. The eccentric Southern photographer, Clarence John Laughlin, once stated that he was seeking “…the mystery of the ordinary”. The idea of wabi – sabi follows in this vein but is at once more specific and more vague in description. Author of a book on Wabi – sabi, Leonard Koren, defines this Japanese aesthetic as “… a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” Wabi - sabi is derived in part from elements of Zen and Taoism. The tenets of Wabi – sabi include: intrinsic simplicity, intuition rather than logic, acceptance of the inevitable, the value or beauty of the inconspicuous and overlooked detail, that nature reclaims manmade elements in the end, and that things are either devolving towards, or evolving from, nothingness. Wabi – Sabi and Litost seem to be intricately related aesthetics. In the development of the Wabi – Sabi, the religious hermit was strongly associated with its emergent foundation. In his solitary existence in nature he meditated on the details of the inevitable cycles in nature from bloom to wither. The melancholic reverie of Litost is very similar. All change is inevitable, things change or decay, are lost, and are swept away by death and/or evolution. This is to be both regretted and celebrated.