Three-legged Dog

Three-legged Dog, Bagan/Burma, December 2015

This is the illusion: That we’re living a mediocre life. Our day-to-day lives is extreme in almost every aspect. The killing industry that we built up to feed us daily meat for fun. We’re no longer killing out of necessity but for fun and profit. An industry that constantly engages us in some scheming that usually ends up in a never-ending string of wars. Countries that we topple or don’t save, breed unrest and confusion and endless suffering. The poor die because we somehow don’t have the nerve to kill the rich. And we look at screens all the time in order not to deal with ourselves. We are never where we belong, it is always better where the ads promise: The next film is better than the one you are watching, this music is not as good as the one that comes out next month, watch TV to be promised better entertainment in the following week.

It is ridiculous to say, that this is a mediocre life.

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You’re all indicted!

You are all indicted; stand up! Stand up as you would for the Marseillaise or God Save the King….
Dada alone does not smell: it is nothing, nothing, nothing.
It is like your hopes: nothing.
like your paradise: nothing.
like your idols: nothing.
like your politicians: nothing.
like your heroes: nothing.
like your artists: nothing.
like your religions: nothing.
Hiss, shout, kick my teeth in, so what? I shall still tell you that you are half-wits. In three months my friends and I will be selling you our pictures for a few francs.

— Manifeste cannibale dada by Francis Picabia, read at the Dada soirée at the Théâtre de la Maison de l’Oeuvre, Paris, 27 March 1920

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La lumière qui revient

Smoke, Frankfurt, August 2017

Ta voix, tes yeux, tes mains, tes lèvres.
Nos silences, nos paroles.
La lumière qui s’en va
La lumière qui revient.

— Paul Eluard

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Moustache Bed

Moustache Bed; Athens, May 2016

A patina of nostalgia and Parisian romanticism now covers Eugene Atget’s images of early 20th-century Paris: We tend to forget how much Paris was in turmoil at the time. Haussmann had just demolished the medieval quarters that formed the fabric of Hugo’s novel with Notre Dame at its center – with its wide avenues and covered arcades, he had essentially turned Paris into the blueprint for today’s shopping malls. The first mass-produced goods began to appear in the shop windows, and the slow displacement of crafts and manual labor that had begun with the rise of the electrically-powered loom had begun to accelerate.

And while his pictures of the first auto repair shops now evoke a sense of nostalgia in us, his feelings must have been those of astonishment and horror at the disappearance of the world he once knew. In the last years of his life, he retreated to the parks of Saint Cloud: Gone were the signs of modernity, gone were the zombie-like mannequins that populated his shop windows. All that was left were quiet lakes, a statue in the mist, an abandoned bench.

In 2016, Greece was still ailing from wave after wave of austerity that had rolled over the country to whip it into what was deemed fiscal responsibility. On the cusp of a massive sell-off of public property into the hands of looming investors, public spending fell, labor income disappeared, unemployment rose and eventually shops were closing down. With a shock doctrine previously reserved for Central American countries, Greece had become the first neoliberal laboratory on European soil.

None of this was visible in the images I brought back from a short trip to Athens in 2016. Although the despair was palpable as you walked the streets, life went on: The markets were bustling, there were some small shops in the center still open for tourists, and of course, the Acropolis still towered over the city: We’ve seen worse, we’re still here. The ruins of abandoned houses, the closed-down shops took on a general meaning of the “cycle of life”: The “creative destruction” of economic forces turned out to make “good pictures”. By ‘picturesque’ we mean the concealment of social and economic realities under a vague acceptance of the transience of human life.

Eventually, Atget’s pictures were claimed by the Surrealists: And so began the petrifaction of his first experience of a rapidly changing Paris.

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“[Capital] has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”

— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books)

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Crete, April 2023

“We were a heap of living creatures, irritated, embarrassed at ourselves, we hadn’t the slightest reason to be there, none of us; each one, confused, vaguely alarmed, felt de trop in relation to the others. De trop: it was the only relationship I could esta­ lish between these trees, these gates, these stones. In vain I tried to count the chestnut trees, to locate them by their rela­tionship to the Velleda, to compare their height with the height of the plain trees: each of them escaped the relationship in which I tried to enclose it, isolated itself and overflowed.. -And I-soft, weak, obscene, digesting, juggling with dismal thoughts-I, too, was de trop…. Even my death would have been de trop. De trop, my corpse, my blood on these stones, be­tween these plants, at the back of the smiling garden. And the decomposed flesh would have been de trop in the earth which would receive my bones, at last; cleaned, stripped, peeled, proper and clean as teeth, it would have been de trop: I was de trop for eternity.”

— Sartre, La Nausée. Paris: Gallimard. 1938

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