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Front cover of book
below is description of book project

 


INTERVENTIONS

A Walk across Europe to Kosovo


The pretext to my photography is difficulty, complication and obsession. Pictures that are diffcult to catagorize in terms of both style, genre and subject. I think of a photograph as a document of an event which has taken place, either in the 'real' world or our perception of it. The idea that a photograph is only interesting if the event was significant or if the environment in which the event took place was unique, is to me rhetorical and unimportant. For me photography is about all those other pictures that you do not see on TV or find in the magazines. Those pictures that are overlooked, unnoticed or indifferent. Pictures which do not exist in our visual vocabulary or overexposed mind. Pictures that do not exist until you are confronted with the image.

Interventions was conceived under the influence of war in Europe and my anger and frustration with the conflict in the Balkan and the representation in the media. In the guise of a landscape painter (plein air) I began walking through Europe putting myself in the picture as a frontman; my own subjective broadcaster, interpreter and adventurer. I wanted to challenge the artist's social function and explore people's perception of art and its possibilities of creating a dialoque for peace. The European landscape was my canvas to set marks upon and to draw a line. To interrupt and to engage with the environment and with the people. Using my own body as the medium to express, reference and question the notion of pictorial representation and practice through the use of photography and video instead of paint to a canvas.

My idiosyncratic performance during 78 days across the European continent is an inquiry into distance - the journey itself. It is the existence of the journey, and not the essence of the destination. Kosovo is not the subject of my work but a mere stop to my journey. But at the same time I cannot detach the name Kosovo from all its associations with war and my project is a chance to think about that area - its topography in relation to the rest of the European landscape - in a another way. My position is akin to that of a passer-by constantly trying to situate himself in a moving environment and the project is concerned with re-interpreting photography as a performative (dynamic) activity rather than a static image by interrupting narrative and sequence with photographs that rest uneasy between traditions in documentary and landscape photography.

My accession to landscape photography is my interest in the human made landscape. Landscape photography is often associated with an affirmation of concepts about national identity or nature's divinity. For me it is rather a constellation, a desire for knowledge, an interest to study relationships between nature, culture, identity and landscape - behind or rather besides current representations and semantics.
In my photography I especially look for that which normally does not get photographed. I endeavour not to take pictures, which are immediately conceived as beautiful or interesting - but attempt to bring different forms of aesthetic meaning to question. My pictures are neither romantic nor socio-political and there are no invested priorities in composition or motif. But the pictures are not devoid of engagement, anger or joy. They can be quiet or busy, but remain silent and are a combination of 'democratic' and 'topographical' photography of the European landscape as seen and experienced from the roadside.

The point of view from the immediate roadside is of importance since the roads are a network that enable us the freedom to connect with the rest of Europe and its people. But in normal terms we do not think of the roads as a potential source of interest. We use them as mere transport routes between one destination to the other, one place to the next. Roads have a concrete and specific relationship to time and space - we use them to be transported both in time and space, and often with a purpose. Concurrently driving on the road is outside time and space; the travelling time is often experienced as time wasted - you only get a fleeting impression of the landscape that you are passing - and the landscape seldom has a meaning in relation to the journey's purpose. My inclination by walking and taking my time is to 'get off' and explore an unknown and overlooked terrain.

The people portrayed have all played a part in my ongoing performance either through a brief curiosity of my presence on the road or accommodating me with food and shelter. In our normal everyday life brief encounters with other people are trivial and we do not value their interaction. The text in the book is sporadic conversations of some of these meetings (transcripts from video) and observations of the environment (text from diary.) Some video stills are used in a non-sequencial way as visual registrations of these encounters.

What is left as a remainder of the ultimate adventure is pictorial vestige representing the uninterested and unnoticed from areas of Europe at the turn of a century. Fragments and visual souvenirs captured like postcards that are too late, recorded after or before the event. Postcards that do not inform us about an essence, but a mere existence. The (un)eventful and indifferent produced through photography and video that is neither narrative nor abstract but in media terms remains elusive, generating and destablizing viewpoints made up of alternating fragments of reality, memory and imagination. A movement through images and the memory of them experienced in a non-chronological, non-linear way. Each intervention is another fragment of the story that is being invented and a challenge to the narrative and economic structure of Western representation.

Break down of book format:
Size: 260x224 mm
188 pages, tri-lingual (English, German, Danish)
124 colour photographs
140 video stills
30 pages of text
Forword contributed by a political or cultural personae
Comment by art historian/ critic.
CD-rom containing 20 min video footage (optional)

Martin Toft, November 2001