In the Silver Wildernesses 在银色的荒野Arno Rafael Minkkinen's Walkabout 阿诺·拉菲尔·闵奇恩的徒步旅行
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 A. D. Coleman, shall not be reproduced in any form without permission.
A. D. 柯曼
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。
这些图片作为一个整体，记录了一个史诗般的长期远距离旅程，也是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。
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