By A. D. Coleman

On September 2, 1971, on the outskirts of Millerton, New York, the Finnish-American photograph- er Arno Rafael Minkkinen began making images of himself unclothed — and never stopped.

Minkkinen does not seem to have set forth deliberately to carve out a territory separate from that of anyone else. He simply gave himself a specific set of ground rules and stuck to them. He would use only the rigorous photographic techniques of the U.S. version of high-modernist photography: no double exposures, no darkroom interventions. He would investigate the actual physical surface of his own body, literally head to toe. He would generate pictures about that body as a scape in itself, and also about its expressive and communicative visual potential when interactive with the material world. Corpus as diegesis — his corporeal self as the connective thread for a body of work.

Minkkinen couldn’t have anticipated what lay ahead of him when he shed his garments and framed his image that day. Yet the seed of what would constitute a life’s work got planted at the instant he allowed that ancient light to strike his body, bounce off that mirror, and register itself on his film by tarnishing the particles of silver suspended in its emulsion. In that fraction of a second he stepped forever into what The Kalevala, Finland’s epic, calls “the silver wildernesses.”

Aside from a devotion to the gelatin-silver print as an interpretive vehicle for his imagery, what Minkkinen took from Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, his two primary mentors, and others with whom he studied included a commitment to the individual photograph as an autonomous utterance; an understanding of its potential role as a component of a larger statement; an acceptance of the rhythm and pace involved in the slow, patient, accretive construction of a durable body of work; and a deep engagement with what the late Walter Chappell called “camera vision” — an awareness of the transformative aspect of photographic seeing.

Minkkinen is self-defined as a photographer — not a performance artist, or a conceptual artist, or a maker of “body art” or “photo-based art,” or an “artist using photography,” Yet wherever he locates himself in that regard, the substantial project that he initiated shortly before the advent of postmodernism and has sustained through the present pertains to many of the movements and issues of contemporary art and photography, among them performance art and body art, the construction of identity, and the male nude. Clearly it relates in various ways to the use of self as subject, model, or both that would come afterwards in the work of Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Francesca Woodman, Tseng Kwong Chi, and others. No less obviously, it has

analogues in the activities of such diverse contemporaries as Andy Goldsworthy, Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Dieter Appelt — each of whom has initiated transient events that endure primarily through the photographic documentation thereof.

However, Minkkinen hasn’t made his photographs merely to annotate and inform the viewer about these adventures of his as such. His priorities flow in the other direction: He’s performed these acts for the purpose of generating potent images. Elegant, witty, inventive, and often stunningly beautiful, the pictures he creates in these circumstances stand first and foremost as acts of visual creativity. This perhaps provides the strongest evidence and signification of his roots in photography. Otherwise, while his work emerges in some ways out of the field of ideas of photography, it’s hardly typical of that visual discourse. Its closest precursor is probably Alfred Stieglitz’s cumulative “portrait” of Georgia O’Keeffe, the first true Cubist work in photography: an open-ended series of observations of an individual, seen from different perspectives and made over an extended period of time, gradually layering or collaging themselves into a many-faceted whole.

In any case, identifying his own lean, angular, agile, unclothed form as the primary subject and locus of his creative activity, Minkkinen has since 1971 traveled throughout the U.S, western and eastern Europe, Japan, and the Nordic countries. Though he has made notable images in historic cities — among them Paris, Prague, and Helsinki, the city of his birth — as well as inside his own home, Minkkinen mostly stages these events for his camera in and around natural, even elemental settings: forests, lakes, rivers, mountains, deserts, canyons, oceans, fields of ice. In aggregate these photographs form an astonishing account of one man’s primal engagement with the civilized and natural worlds, and with himself –- both a physical odyssey and a psychological voyage of the solitary human spirit.

Among other things, these pictures, taken as a whole, record a journey of epic duration and distance, as well as a series of tests of courage and endurance — the very essence of the Nordic literary form known as the saga. The reading of Minkkinen’s project as an ongoing vision quest stems organically, even inevitably, from the work itself. In actual fact, Minkkinen has for three and a half decades engaged in his own persistent version of a seemingly perpetual “walkabout,” and the images bear eloquent witness to this restless seeking. Given the self-evidently purposeful nature of his wanderlust, we might then consider his pictures as equivalent to Australian Aboriginal “dreamtime” paintings, a process not of staking out territory or claiming it in any proprietary way but instead of psychically “mapping” in images the complexly layered physical and spiritual dimensions of the land, a means of establishing what Bruce Chatwin tells us those “first people” think of as the world’s “songlines.”

In the course of these voyages Minkkinen has returned again and again to certain prosceniums: assorted natural environments, European cities with deep historical and cultural resonances, situations in which female friends can serve as protagonists, and his own home and family. Minkkinen’s long-term project meets all the conditions of epic-scale quest: travel to distant and

exotic places; the exploration of unfamiliar territory; deeds of strength and valor; the enduring of long stretches of solitude; the imperative of mission or purpose, even if unarticulated. Plus, as motive, the process of coming to terms with a wound both psychic and literal.

There are at least three intertwined narratives in Minkkinen’s work with which one can engage.

First, you have the chronicle of that eccentric fictional character who exists only in these photographs, a changeling whose peregrinations, travails, exploits, camouflages, and self- exposures as he wends his way slowly homeward enchant the viewer.

Second, there is the engrossing and often breathtaking physicality of the model for these pictures, and his acrobatic performance for this photographer’s camera and film, unparalleled in the medium’s history — a set of actions that position him somewhere between athlete, contortionist, daredevil, and dancer. Minkkinen evokes through his pictures what I would call a kinaesthetic empathy.

Third, one can choose to track the photographer’s creative visual play with the potential inherent in the interaction between various environments, his physical form, and his lens, camera, and film: his ceaselessly inventive use of the external world and his own body as raw stuff from which to generate a continuous, never-repeating stream of indelible pictures.

But there is a fourth dimension to this work, a plane on which that character’s multiplicity of personae, the model’s impossible agility and grace, and the photographer’s concerns as artist and craftsman merge with the communicative purposes of a man, a storyteller, who would speak to us through them about himself and his life. A rich complexity of thought, emotion, and mood runs like a river within this body of work. Despair, grief, anger, fear, solitude, loneliness, and a deep inwardness all make their appearances here — as do revelation, humor, exuberance, playfulness, celebration, ecstasy, generosity, and love. Above all, an endless delight over the privilege of existence in the moment, and in the world. If the dominant note of Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s work is one of transcendence, it is not a juvenile or frivolous state of mind but an adult’s earned, courageous, and mature achievement, a purposeful balancing of darkness with light, a triumph of levitas over gravitas that acknowledges and honors both.

© Copyright 2008 by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved. By permission of the author and Image/World Syndication Services,

This is a considerably shortened version of the curator’s text for Saga: The Journey of Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Photographs 1970-2005 (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005), which serves as the catalogue for a traveling exhibition of the same title.

In 1970 the Finish American photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen began making images if himself- and never stopped.During these decades he has steadily generated astonishing and memorable pictures exploring his body’s interaction with the physical environment while pushing the boundaries of both portraiture and landscape photography.

Though he has made notable images in historic cities(Paris,Prague,Helsinki) and even his own Massachusetts home,Minkkinen mostly stages these events for his camera in and around natural,even elemental,,settings:forests,lakes,rivers,mountains,deserts,canyons,oceans,fields of ice.He has buried his lean,unclotheed body in snowdrifts,hung from ski lifts,submerged himself under rapids,dangled over precipices—and simply dipped his fingers into shallow water.The actions he performs frequently demand strength,test his endurance,and invole considerable risk.

Elegant,witty,inventive,and often stunningly beautiful, the photographs he generates in these circumstances are first and foremost acts of visual creativity.Minkkinen,who occasionally uses friends and family as participants in his pictures,always makes the exposures himself.He does not subject the resulting images to digital intervention or darkroon alterration;the depict what actually took place before the lens.Cumulatively, they constitute a unique mix of performance art,body art,and photography—while forming an satonishing account of one man’s primal encounter with the civillzed and natural worlds.

Saga,the most extensive presentation of Minkkinen’s project to date,distill 35 years of his lift’s work. It takes as inspiration The Kalevala, the national epic of Minkkinen’s native Finlan,organizing his images in narrative form and so allowing them at last to unfold the mythic adventure they describe.Essays by novelist Alan Lightman and critics A.D Coleman and Arthur C.Danto explore the ramifications of Minkkinen;s accomplishment ,contextualizing his oeuvre from different perspectives, The result provides the deepest of insights into a major artistic endeavor.

1945年,阿诺出生于芬兰赫尔辛基。后移居纽约。 他使用单一曝光的方法进行自我肖像的拍摄,从不刻意调校相机或在暗房里对相片进行更改。 至今已发表五部摄影专题:《冻伤》、《水印》、《身躯之地》、《萨迦:阿诺•拉菲尔•闵奇恩之 旅》《作业:芬兰影像》。这些作品集在世界范围内出版并被大量展出。 他的许多作品被收藏于纽约现代艺术博物馆、乔治•蓬皮杜国家艺术文化中心、波士顿艺术博 馆、东京大都会摄影博物馆以及世界上多个博物馆。


1971年9月2日,在纽约的米勒顿郊区,芬兰裔美国摄影师阿诺·拉菲尔·闵奇恩开始了人体自拍创 作,并从此再未停止过。能构建⼀一生事业的种子被播种下了,就在他让那从远古而来的光线从镜 子反射到他身体上,然后再把它记录在他的胶片上,让悬浮在感光乳剂中的银粒子失去光泽的那 几分之⼀一秒开始,他永久地踏入了名为”银色的荒野”的芬兰史诗—-卡勒瓦拉(The Kalevala)。

闵奇恩不是行为艺术家,不是概念派艺术家,不是”人体艺术”或”光影艺术”的制造者,也不是以摄 影为创作手段的艺术家,作为摄影师闵奇恩有自己的界定。他在后现代主义出现前不久开始这个 课题并且⼀一直持续到现在这个拥有行为艺术、人体艺术、身份解构、男性裸体等运动和议题的大 氛围。然而无论在什么情况下他在这个充实的摄影课题中去定位自己,他的做法很明显和别的⼀一 些把自身作为主题或者模特或者两者兼而有之的各种方式相关。这些方式都在诸如Cindy Sherman、Robert Mapplethorpe、Francesca Woodman、曾广智等人的作品之中有体现。同样明 显的是,他和形形色色的同侪在行为上有相似之处,例如Andy Goldsworthy、Ian Hamilton Finlay a和 Dieter Appelt,他们每个人都发动了长久载入摄影史册的瞬态事件。

然而,闵奇恩没有仅仅以其这样的敢做敢为来吸引观看者和给他的摄影做注脚。他优先考虑的 是:他所做的这些是为了拍摄有影响力的影像,优雅的,设计巧妙的,有创造性的,并且常常伴有让人震惊的美丽,他在这样的情况下拍摄的图片最首要的是作为⼀一种视觉的创造力。

在任何情况下,他将简洁,瘦削,敏捷和裸露的形体定为他的主题,并且注重了他的创造行为。 闵奇恩从1971年开始旅行,遍及美国、欧洲的东西部、日本和北欧国家。在许多历史名城他拍摄 了值得关注的影像,例如巴黎、布拉格和赫尔辛基—他的出生地,闵奇恩几乎是为了他的相机和 周围的自然而拍摄的,甚至是自然的基本元素:森林、湖泊、河流、山脉、沙漠、峡谷、海洋、 冰岛。作为总体,这些图片的产生有令人惊讶的理由—-⼀一个男人关于文明与自然世界最初的信 奉,还有他自己精神上长期探索和⼀一个孤独人类灵魂心理的旅程。

这些图片作为⼀一个整体,记录了⼀一个史诗般的长期远距离旅程,也是⼀一系列对于勇气和耐心的测 试—像人们知道的北欧传说英雄萨迦(SAGA)。将闵奇恩的作品作为正在进行的视觉探索来品 读是很自然而然的,甚至是不可避免的 。事实上,闵奇恩35年坚持不懈地从事看上去永无休止 的”徒步旅行”的视觉工作。 这些图像留下了永不停息的探索过程中强有力的见证。

完成这个史诗般的长远计划需要各种各样的条件:要到那些没有人烟的荒芜之所,没有被开拓的 蛮荒之地,需要具备力量和勇气,忍受长时间的孤独,还要清晰认识达到这些目标的条件,甚至 还有各种未知的因素。需要指出的是,这些过程中无疑有对精神和心理上的伤害。

⼀一个人物多样性的表现形式,在作品中表现出⼀一个模特不可思议的机敏和优美,作为艺术家,⼀一 个男人抱着交流的目的来讲故事,通过图片向我们介绍他自己和他的生活。这些复杂的思想、感 情和情绪像河流⼀一般流淌在他的艺术中,绝望、悲伤、愤怒、恐惧、孤独、寂寞和深深的内心世 界,让他们在这里⼀一⼀一展现出来。启示、怪诞、丰富、趣味、狂欢、迷幻、包容,还有爱。尤其 重要的⼀一点是,在这⼀一刻,这个世界上,无限的欢乐已经超越了特权的出现,如果阿诺·拉菲尔· 闵奇恩的作品是⼀一次超越,他这不是幼稚和轻佻的想法,是⼀一个成年人应得的,英勇而完美的成 功,像黑暗中的光芒,是超越名利之外的非凡成功所带来的喜悦。