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The bond between photography and memory is obvious but not as straightforward as it may seem. Photography is a means to capture a real world image defined by light and while that image is clear, realistic, and comprehensible, it also inevitably awakens personal and often indescribable memories of the photographer or the keeper of the image. A plain photographic print ‘contains’ memories as some undeveloped negative image, an invisible dimension of the picture, which has content and meaning because of the viewer’s or photographer’s experiences projected onto the image. Photography almost inevitably awakens memory as it always captures moments of the past, whether it’s yesterday or days long gone – each photograph is a road sign on the trip down memory lane.
Aleksandras Ostašenkovas’s photographs are inspired by the artist’s personal memories, but the direct documentary connection of the places or objects captured and the artist’s life events is insignificant in this case. It is, of course, even less likely that the world depicted in the images could be relevant to the viewer’s personal experience. And yet, the detachment of the artist’s or viewer’s personal memories of the from the pictures allows to reveal a unique bond between memory and photography. In much of Ostašenkovas’s work memory is stimulated by emptiness, absence, and nonexistence, which photography seemingly cannot capture and show. Flowing water, mist over an empty field, light falling into an empty room are ephemeral images without an event or story; but because of this, the viewer can project their own personal experiences onto the images unimpeded by the documentary content of the pictures. Ostašenkovas’s works include few objects or events commonly seen in photography which suggests that the seemingly insignificant scenes captured are of great importance to the artist. In fact, the uninformative, supposedly ‘empty’ photographs is the richest work in terms of meaning and emotion that Ostašenkovas has created. They evoke a feeling of emptiness in the present that is emphasised by the memories of an unseen past life of the artist or perhaps the viewer.
Ostašenkovas’s photographs have both the feeling of emptiness and melancholy. Emptiness shows in the eternalised moment of the photographed present, while melancholy arises from the longing for what has already passed when the picture is taken. The memories preserved in Ostašenkovas’s photographs are personal and melancholic.
Ostašenkovas captures passing events in nature and the decay of man-made environment as if they were signs of loss and demise observed by the artist but created by time itself. Other signs of time are not coincidental but come from the artist’s imagination and they are more common with a clear symbolic meaning. Symbols found in the environment or designed specifically for photography reveal the cause of the melancholy – first, the passing of the artist’s loved ones that already happened and then, the end of existence that the spectator anticipates in the future.
Ostašenkovas’s pictures can never lose their relevance and allows to find endless different meanings because memory is constantly at work. The photographs show memory to be a subjective and personal experience in the face of death. In such scenario, the memory lane has two directions – it leads not only to the past, as is usual, but also to the future where nonexistence awaits the subject engulfed in memories. From this perspective, the present is also experienced as a memory, a moment that is constantly being lost, and an object of melancholy. That is the attractive but daunting chance offered by Ostašenkovas’s photographs – to look at the present from the standpoint of the future which belongs to an undefined eternity rather than the usual linear human lifetime. By taking this chance it is becomes obvious that memory does not perish along with the person who is reminiscing, but becomes depersonalised, concrete, and tangible, just as the trenches of war or a path treaded in the grass that are preserved, transformed, and revitalised by nature.
(Annotation prepared according to Tomas Pabedinskas’s text “Memories of the Present”)
An epoch outlived and experienced, transferred through emotional nature and perception, is becoming a state of mind as a reaction to subjective truths. This is a meditative talk about human nature and his or her unique and unrepeatable features, ingrained in existential glimmer. One perceives this gift as an exclusivity, a possibility to contemplate, feel, grieve and enjoy the process of Life, to watch and wonder at the Mystery, to approach and be alienated from its unriddling. Only the one who is capable to hear and analyse silence is capable to feel and experience all the diversity of life.
‘Another Shore’ is a metaphor, a kind of projection of an event in time, a layout of human experience and soul. This is a state of mind, grown into one with you, a certain stage in yourself and in time. This is a painfully your own state of mind as spiritual pain, intensifying with coming autumn. Life is fascinating because the soul feels pain. A sensitive person opens the Door to a related soul. After decades of meditation and conscious wandering through the labyrinths of existence, the soul has chosen its own portrait as an object of observation and analysis. I am grateful that it has not left me at critical turns of life and allowed me to uncover the veil of the Great Mystery by using the language of photography. Everything has its beginning and end. Only Another Shore, travelling in time, never approaches. It stretches towards Infinity and Eternity.
When I look through the window, I see the town. Smoke is coiling from chimneys, melting in the mist. Leafless trees are swinging gently. Early spring. The horizon is invisible. Somewhere underneath people are walking and cars are running. I don’t see them – the frame of the window is obscuring the view – I only hear the noise and voices. Above all that – a grey sky. I will stay like this for a while…
Lithuanian Council for Culture