Both speaking and not speaking are indicators of being human, and there are kinds and grades of each. Viviane Sassen (b. 1972) knows it very welI. In her photos, there is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the fertile silence of awareness, through which new thoughts emerge; the living silence of alert perception; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos. Sassen’s series exists at the edge of the world, where words break off and meaning fades into ambiguity; the world activated as flesh.
Galleria Sozzani, Milan, introduces a selection of these images; presenting a European show of Sassen’s work right within Milan Fashion Week. The display of these works in one of the chicest district of Milan is not just a coincidence. The Amsterdam-based artist embarked on an international career in fashion photography, but she belongs to a generation of photo-artists who do not make a clear distinction between personal research and their commercial and editorial work. For her, the photograph is almost always a personal view.
Amongst her entire practice, photography is used as a way of understanding the act of living. HC from Of Mud and Lotus or Umana makes an argument for the body as the presupposed root of human coexistence, and Uppsala only further attempts to remove the mind’s obstructed view of the body. Destroying the false dichotomy of the mental and the physical, both of these images encourage the viewer to overcome the notion that the body is merely a substance. Similarly, almost unseen works such as Polyporus Badius and Suffragette, both from Of Mud and Lotus, affirm the body as a vessel which “is”, rather than “has”, creating dialogues with the problems of representation and self-recognition. Within She, the composition uses the body as a landscape, rendering the form as a foundation – a conceptualised geography.
In this solo show, the term “conception” seems to come to the fore rather than “perception” – all of the series generate a new, abstracted gender. Moreover, terrestrial creatures, like in Lara, evoke the idea that human organisms are a distant whole, rather than a division between mind and body – or indeed a topography. Throughout all the series, there is a point made about the spectator dwelling for too long on the idea of logic and intellect as the indicators of life; a gross underestimation of the body’s capacity for both thought and knowledge.
She runs until 12 November. For more information: www.galleriacarlasozzani.org
1. Viviane Sassen – Of Mud and Lotus.