Thursday, July 28, 2011

Visualizing Nothingness—Angst, Nausea, and the Overman through Photographs

Even if I'm technically finished with school (until I go back, anyway), it's incredibly satisfying to be finished with a final project and to like it. Following is my "mission statement" (in quotes because the credibility of such a name is dubious to me), the six photographs I used, the quotes that accompanied each photo and the set in general, and several photos showing the whole setup. I realize that sadly perhaps a lot of the context/presence of suspended photos is lost in blog format, but alas.

Why do we find ourselves creating meaning and structure for our world? We may find ourselves, occasionally, wondering why things are set up as they are. Existential philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre would challenge the assertion that our world has inherent structure. Indeed, they would suggest that such an assertion is a human fabrication designed to impose meaning and structure on an otherwise senseless world; it is precisely this imposition, however, that takes away our will to act as completely free agents.

The response to knowing one has complete free will and that all structure is meaningless can be overwhelming: Kierkegaard called this Angst, Sartre called it Nausea, Nietzsche classified it as the beginnings of the Overman—the person who has become their own master—and all are reactions to knowing one has complete free will and complete responsibility, all are reactions for when traditional points of reference are exposed as potentially false and taken away.

My purpose for this project, then, is to present the concepts of Angst, Nausea, and the Overman through photography. I intend to explore how the uses of shape, light, shadow, overall contrast, and perspective can create an understanding of these Existentialist concepts. To further aid this endeavor, I am not tacking the photos to the wall—I am, instead, choosing to suspend them in the air. While there is certainly a visual appeal to this choice, it aptly helps to illustrate the idea that we have no restrictions and hang in nothingness. Additionally, quotes from Kierkegaard, Sartre and Nietzsche accompany the photographs to help explain what the Existential undertones are.

Here are a few photos of the display (pardon them being cell phone shots):

 testing to see if the weight of the photos would pull down the hanger wires, plus sign asking the hangers not be removed... which they almost were

 testing, different angle

...and with the quotes

The following are the photos in the display. Some I have posted before, certainly without the intention of using them in the project until I realized that I could use them. must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have this chaos in yourselves. From Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche (this is a reprint of the accidental double exposure I made. took a while, but I had to get the contrast fixed)

 Once you label me you negate me. Soren Kierkegaard

 What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under. From Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche

 ...Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. From The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard.

 Your bad love of yourselves turns your solitude into a prison. From Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche

 Freedom is exile. Jean-Paul Sartre

And, finally, the three quotes I had attached to the wall with the photos as a set. I wanted dearly to use them, because they help give better context to the set of photos and my project, and the last one not only fits the presentation of the photos but is simply beautiful. All are from Sartre:

Existence precedes and rules essence. 
From Being and Nothingness

Life has no meaning, a priori... it is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose. From Being and Nothingness

I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves. From Nausea


Cory said...

Hey! Excellent work Hat... Really like what you've done with this - and the wonky mounting sets this off in a fantastic way. Extraordinary!

Nagrom said...

Sorry I've not commented before, been trying to fight off a cold enough to have rational thoughts...
Am really impressed with your work here, and with your photos overall; You've got a lot of talent, and seem to be able to bring that to bear alongside deep concepts very well. That is not something a lot of young photographers (young in terms of serious photo taking, not just age) can do, at least not well... Concepts and thinking often get in their way, or their talent gets in the way of whatever it is they're after (if that makes sense) and the work comes out muddled. You aren't suffering that from what I've seen, and your results are both beautiful and thoughtful. Very impressive.
Please keep it up.