Rajkamal Kahlon’s incendiary works trap the ‘othering gaze’
by Rosalyn D`MelloApr 07, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Rahul KumarPublished on : Mar 21, 2023
I was immediately reminded of William Davies's famous line: We have no time to stand and stare, when I stumbled upon a work of visual artist Moritz Berg. He simply tied a pen to a branch in such a way that the tip touched a paper laid out on the floor. With every gust of wind, the branch to which the pen was tied, moved, thereby creating a mark on the paper. “Catching the gestures of nature is a method of capturing moments of mindfulness and meditation. Thus, time gains a narrative and a meaning,” explains the German artist. His overall practice responds to the hyper digital life we live. Information overload and visual saturation, he feels, has caused shortening of our attention span as well as the ability to process things properly. These spontaneous photographs, for which Berg collaborates with nature, capture these fleeting and poetic moments.
STIR speaks with the artist on his preoccupation with 'living in the moment' through his art.
Rahul Kumar: How does your work reference "fast pace of everyday life and points out hidden qualities in supposed trivia?"
Moritz Berg: Time today lacks a solid structure. It dissolves into a constant flow of punctual moments. The flood of information and the shortening of our attention span causes us to receive more and more in less time. Yet, information can no longer be processed properly, since our perception is incapable of conclusion—it rushes from one sensation to the next. But what do we wish to pay our attention to? Since everything surrounding us affects and shapes us, whether we perceive it actively or just subconsciously. Supposed trivia may often be missed—yet having the same impact on us as things actively entering our consciousness. A glance at trivial and inconspicuous things may help us to pause the hectic pace of everyday life. A mindful look at dancing shadows on the sidewalk or at waving trees—a kind of meditation whereby certain intensities and qualities may be discovered among inconspicuous things. But those who always expect something exciting and special will miss the things that might already be there.
Rahul: You have studied architecture and urban planning. How does this inform your art practice?
Moritz: With time my interest in art as well as my very own creative work merged more and more with my actual urban planning and architectural studies. Along the way I learned important principles—knowledge about harmony and composition, the joining of materials, and the positioning of things. A solid foundation on which my current practice is built. Due to the experiences I had working in different architectural offices, I was seeking a different kind of architecture than one that is driven by fashion and shaped by economic constraints. My own serious approach to art developed throughout my thesis, realising how the unlimited nature of art allows one to approach all types of subjects in an abstract and freeway. To some extent using art as a tool to explore oneself and the world one lives in. Ever since a profound urge guides me—a seeking up along the verge.
Rahul: In one of your works that caught my attention, marks are made by the pen that is moved by wind shaking the branch on which the pen is tied to. While it is intriguing that you allow nature to make the work, what is your intended expression through this work? Who is the author of the final painting?
Moritz: Catching the gestures of nature is a method of capturing moments of mindfulness and meditation. Thus, time gains a narrative and a meaning. The atmosphere of a place can be absorbed and understood within. This is how The subtle prompter was born at Lake Maggiore while on a summer vacation in Italy—the piece to which you refer. There was some warm wind waving, the lake spread an amazing piece and the setting sun coloured everything purple. I have a desire to understand and extract qualities of such scenes. Feeling more like a keen observer whose work is not based on concrete ideas but on questions. Over time I developed various approaches to capture these moments. Whether by a simple drawing or photograph or by using the earth, the rain or the wind of those places. Several methods of speaking different languages yet sharing an important essence. The subject withdraws and acts as some sort of channel—the very moment runs right through one. Thereby I have no intentions about the actual appearance of the work. I attempt to step back as much as possible and allow things to occur. One could call it a collaboration between myself and the realm.
Rahul: How does the abstract imagery of your painting communicate qualities of symbiosis of man and nature?
Moritz: The current obsession with productivity deprives things of their durability—we act upon things and indeed vis-à-vis the world in a consuming rather than a using manner. Even perception is incapable of pausing and hurries from one sensation to another. Since one is drawn back to oneself becoming more and more isolated, we become even more alienated from our actual world of life. We feel de-rooted by the pace of life. Yet contemplation may turn the world into a reliable place again. Time becomes inhabitable again. Moments like at Lake Maggiore, as the eyes wander across the lake—the mountains on the horizon emit a peaceful silence and the wind gently weighs the trees. Motifs in my paintings emerge from capturing such atmospheres. Thus, my very own acting merges with nature's gestures throughout the creative process—a symbiosis between man and nature. A compression up to abstract ambiguity marks this language. It suggests a sense of connection reminding us of our native origins in nature. It is a way of remembering—helping one to situate oneself in the present.
Rahul: Finally, why this demarcation—man versus nature? Isn't man part of nature?
Moritz: "Modern man no longer regards nature as in any sense divine and feels perfectly free to behave toward her as an overweening conqueror and tyrant." As Aldous Huxley wrote, man no longer considers himself part of nature rather sets himself above nature by his actions. Yet we all can relate to the sound of rain, the feeling of grass between our toes and the smell of earth. Why is there such a universal language connecting each of us? Simply because it reminds us of what we actually are. Nature. Man is nature. Shinrin-Yoku is one of various indicators of people's desire for hold as the fast pace of our time leads to de-rooting. Dropping down into the very moment allows time to briefly pause. At the same time, we approach our environment more attentively, perceiving the present and thus oneself. Mindfulness as a kind of counter-movement to the fast pace of today—fulfilment not by things but by moments. That is what I try to convey through my work.
by Rosalyn D`Mello Jun 02, 2023
Viewing the exhibition Niki De Saint Phalle in the company of a sea of random visitors contributed to the visceral gush the fleshy works innately evoke.
by Dilpreet Bhullar Jun 01, 2023
The documentary photographer Ciril Jazbec has embraced the value of nature to talk about the rising adversity around climate change in his photographic art practice.
by Dilpreet Bhullar May 29, 2023
Norwegian contemporary artist Hanne Friis responds to changing the way of life with the pandemic, specifically around the use of material in our urban lives.
by Manu Sharma May 26, 2023
Russian artist Maxim Zhestkov discusses his virtual reality project that blurs various creative disciplines.
make your fridays matterSUBSCRIBE
Don't have an account?Sign Up
Or you can join with
Please select your profession for an enhanced experience.
Tap on things that interests you.
Select the Conversation Category you would like to watch
Please enter your details and click submit.
Enter the code sent to
What do you think?