It is summer and I’m afraid to open the case where my cameras have been resting since last October. It looks like I will spend this year in the monastery of my mind.
It’s sort of taking a sabbatical from so called “real life”. In the absence of working on something new, I put the final touches on “The Library”. I am plunging a bit deeper within myself. I am a little hesitant to know what I will find out – ashes or diamonds – but the only way to tame my fears is to go through them with eyes wide open.
I can’t take new photos, so I read a lot. It’s the only type of intimacy I have experienced in the past several months. Ideas come to me in dreams or while watching movies, listening to music or closing my eyes. I sleep on pillows of ideas and diluted dreams the way birds hatch their eggs in fragile nests in my garden. It’s been six years since I started “The Library”. Now I am working on the last chapter. The idea came to me in a dream; the dream became an island; the island turned into a dream again. Among the endless pain, chaos and violence of 2020, putting the final touches on an obsessive project about vulnerability and beauty, strength and knowledge, could be my answer to the ultimate question we artists have to constantly face: What’s the point?
Photography doesn’t have to be documentary in the political sense; it could document our inner labyrinths as well. Of course, I am aware of the unsettling realities of our world, but my contributions these days won’t be by throwing Molotov cocktails at the police or blocking a highway with my body in order to protest the injustices of contemporary society. I go on hikes, I make art, I write, I pay attention. While editing images, I am looking at composition, rhythm, balance, values. Photography is one way of putting order into chaos. I listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s cello suites; this is his contribution to my sanity and I silently thank him for that. All of us are in this together. In our individual confinement cells, we do what we can to stay afloat and prove that our ideas and thoughts – our art – matter. I have read sixty books since March. I don’t watch the news. I live on an island of sorts. I often think of Henri Matisse, who in June 1940, after the Germans invaded France, moved to Nice and continued painting his sensual odalisques. It wasn’t a compromise on his part. Painting was his political act, his act of resistance. Today, my monastery is a fortress built out of books, dreams and desires.
What started as a one-time photoshoot in a bookstore in Massachusetts ended up several years later on the walls of Parisian galleries and museums. Initially I shot “The Library” without a clear plan, almost blindfolded by trying to understand the volatile connections between art and decay, beauty and desire. At some point it didn’t matter that the people with whom I was collaborating were nude; the books were nude as well. The physical space of each shoot has been a space of shared vulnerabilities. During this journey, analogies and comparisons have been serving me as maps: the skin blanketing the body like the cover of a book; the “used” old volumes full of stories, tears and wisdom; the sacred repository of a woman’s inner world with all its secrets, knowledge and desires; the need to witness, be witnessed and acknowledged. In the end, all art is about the Mystery
In 2020, even more than before, my photographs seem to function as a horizontal hourglass. Unlike a book, a still image exists in the moment in the sense that it doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end. Photography is the opposite of speed. It is a quintessential contemporary way of expression, ironically at odds with our need for constant moving. When it is honest, photography is a way off injecting the world with silence. What I mean by silence is the ability of all arts to stop the noise pollution of the world and force us to look inward, where truth and silence reside, where we preserve our most cherished resources. The places where we protect beauty are not public places. Once we start using glass as the siding for our homes, the Sacred becomes elevator music. The world would be much better if we’d set more time aside for reading and if we let women run our daily flawed circus. It’s not too late to give it a chance.
About Florin Ion Firimita
Florin Ion Firimita is a visual artist, educator, and writer who traces his interest in art back to his mother’s passion for drawing and his father’s modest amateur photo lab, in Bucharest, Romania, where he was entrusted with mixing chemicals, developing film and printing black-and-white photos at the age of six. Versatile in a variety of mediums, from painting to mixed media and from writing to photography, the artist has continued to explore a wide range of creative expressions.
After immigrating to the United States, he continued his education. Today he teaches, paints, exhibits, lectures and writes art-criticism, essays and short stories. Lately, his art and his writing have been published in France, Australia, Great Britain, Argentina, and in the U.S., in MonoVisions, Dodho Magazine, Silvershotz, Mondorama, House Beautiful, The Sun, and in Andrei Codrescu’s Exquisite Corpse. The Art of Leaving, a documentary film about the artist’s life was released in 2012. The film was the official selection of seven international film festival such as Santa Fe, Durango, New York City, Chicago, and also Montreal’s 23rd Festival International du Film Sur L’Art.
In 2010, 2011, and 2013, the artist was honored at Carnegie Hall, in New York City, where, among a group of American artist teachers he was presented with three National Gold Medals from Scholastic. His work could be found in many private and public collections in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Between 1990 and 2019 he has participated in over 300 solo and group exhibits. His project, the music and spoken word album Fragments from the Salt Diaries, a collaboration with musician Marty Meyer, has been released in the United States, Europe, and Japan, in 2011. In July 2019, he was granted special access to the Rodin Musem in Paris, where he created a series of on site photographs (a collaboration with Megan Klamert). His first novel, Reliquary, will be released soon in the United States. [Official Website]