Catrine Val
The female wisdom

Poem of Modernity

Film
Photo


A Poem of Modernity

“A Poem of Modernity” is a response the fluidity and instability of our world affairs and a visual discussion of my psychological reaction to recent Western political developments.  Shaken in the soul with a sense of powerlessness, this work reflects a natural flight response to our changed and more threatening environment… a flight to white.  Colourless white—associated in many Western cultures with purity, innocence and happiness—provides a psychologically safe haven in times of danger.

White, as the sum of all colours in the visual spectrum, fascinates in its relationship between the total absence of colour, and a pale connection to our fragile memories. White serves as a counter-proposal to our colourfully overloaded world of visual stimulation. In a range of diverse media, I create imaginary worlds from close proximity. The white of emptiness opens a chapter in the abstraction of possibility, in an apparently effortless, timelessness abstraction poured into a visual poem. This work is concerned with divergences and convergences in the readings of white. In Western culture, white is associated with innocence, happiness and new beginnings. It has opposing meanings in some Eastern cultures (e.g. in India and China) where white is associated with mourning, sadness and misfortune.  This spectrum of meaning is both a reflection on white, and a metaphor for my responses to the changing world.

“Poem of Modernity” is also an artistic exploration of Being and Time. It engages with Heidegger´s preoccupation with “the essence of being-in-the-world.”  In an increasingly fast paced mechanised and digitised age, the fear of progress grows. Existence as “being-in-the-world” is at the same time a being together in the global context, interweaving in space and time.

According to Heidegger, culture removes men from nature. Apart from my screen, I tested a variety of states of the white on my body and in my world—synthetic white and natural white, macroscopic expanses of white and microscopic, in the mundane and the magical—as a counter-design to the burden of colour in our modern, intensively lived lives.  Frozen, trembling, and taking risks, “A Poem of Modernity” uses moments of freshly fallen snow, meter-high icicles and wafts of mist, as canvases for reflection.

These staged photographs reference the playfulness of art historical metamorphoses. These visual poems move apparently playfully beyond the present and the real—just as visual culture must itself reflect and anticipate sometimes in playful ways, if it to help us understand through the experience of art. In this work, past is interlaced with the present, the real interlaced with the imagined, in a powerful overall poetic collâge.

“A Poem of Modernity” is a reflection on “being and nothingness” and a search for peace in a turbulent world.  It looks inwards, not as a retreat, but to ground one’s self, one’s being.  In these works, we can be light and playful, fearless and fragile, free just to be. Yet the sum of the works prepares us the courage to engage with the unstable world, confident in our own stability and identity, and aware of our social, political and ethical place in the world.