In May 2022, I was invited to participate in a group exhibition on the theme of »Still Lifes«. The show was curated by the two artists behind »Prolog – Zeitschrift für Zeichnung und Text«, a Berlin-based independent bi-annual journal for networking and ideas in the arts: Anton Schwarzbach and Dorit Trebeljahr.
We were all still nursing our emotional and mental bruises from Covid, the separation from the artistic community, varying degrees of emptiness and dysfunction that had drip-tortured so many people for some two years.
I considered the theme in terms of the venerable tradition of still-life, especially in painting, but one which seems to have dried up in the course of the 20th century, and wondered whether a foreboding of death or loss hinging on images of the tempory intake of breath might also make sense in my photographs. The visual framing of this acceptance – or challenge to accept – the ephemerality of our lives finds an odd paradox in its name in different languages: in English it is known as still life while the French term is nature morte. So in English, the life is still alive, although inert or arrested. Whether this life had previously been properly alive and imbued with movement is not said. In French the life being shown belongs fully to nature, whether the object ever sprouted from earth or grew on a tree or not. Everything that is inanimate or insensate is also part of la nature. But this is now all dead, morte, and certainly no longer alive.
This same distinction runs along a north and south divide in Europe: in the (Protestant?) north, in Germany, England, Holland or Denmark we find still life. In Mediterranean (Catholic?) countries everything is nature morte. Nature that is dead or life that still has time to go? My photos often show quiet, deserted, maybe even bleak vacancy, but some current of humour and warmth still runs through them. The compositions found me in various spots in the world. They spoke to me, dead or alive. I collected them, took them with me. What whispers or murmurs in each one is an appeal to attend more closely and carefully protect whatever is left of life, to show more solidarity and engagement with whatever we have not yet destroyed in nature and community. Something that is obscenely present in the world today.