The pandemic afforded me a few possibilities; aside from confirming that even the best-laid plans will mostly change without there being any say in it, I used the time to embark on an MA degree (in something of a last-ditch attempt to re-engage with photography) and it is has been a time to reflect on more fundamental aspects of life. Over the past half-decade, coinciding with (cliched?) mid-life-meltdown (that privileged, irresponsible desire to escape the constant modern cacophony of technologized life and disappear off into nature), I've become concerned with exploring my sense of disconnect and seek out a wider sense of purpose and belonging. For the most part of my adult life, the only constant has been photography. I love the short autobiographical text by Masao Yamamoto in Small Things in Silence (2020) - "I was unsure about my niche in this universe, my 'place' in this existence; and I needed to believe in art in order to keep living".
By 2015, I had fallen out with photography, fallen out with life in England, sold everything I owned and moved to Vietnam. During a brief visit back to the UK, the lockdown was imposed and I've not been able to return - at times I've really struggled with the uncertainty and frustration of being stuck between different mental and physical places. Millions of people have far wider challenges than me and it has really been drummed home that life is simply far too ephemeral and impermanent to not accept, embrace and flow with it - as Bruce Lee said: "be like water".
Through long term admiration and learning about the spiritual and nature-based philosophies behind Masao Yamamoto's work, I started to learn about wabi-sabi - the Japanese derivative of the ancient Buddhist concept of the Three Marks of Existence which is, essentially, about the acceptance, embracing snd ultimately seeing beauty in impermanence, incompleteness and imperfection. These three interrelating principles will underpin the work I want to create. The introductory text to Small Things in Silence (Yamamoto, 2020) by Jacobo Siruela resonates strongly in its articulation of how it is only through impermanence and the ambivalence between what is beautiful (or desirable) and non-beautiful (non-desirable), that beauty (that central enigma of art - 'the goal never attained') emanates from the interminable chain of being. Impermanence and fluidity in nature represent beauty as the opposite of our artificial technologized world.
A bitter-sweet turn of events finds myself lucky enough to live in Cornwall surrounded by ancient rugged land and oceans, with which I feel an affinity. I am just starting the FMP (final major project) of my MA and it's this backstory of the desire to immerse myself in nature, make connections with my 'new' home and the philosophical reflection on the principles of impermanence, incompleteness and imperfection that serves as the impetus for the new work I want to make. Surely now more than ever embracing a return to our sources and origins in nature is vital to the modern psyche after being locked up in isolation for well over a year, not to mention that cacophony of modern technologized input and aestheticized materiality so engrained in our lives.
Yamamoto, Masao. (2020) Small Things in Silence. RM Verlag SL; 1st edition.