Boris Eldagsen is a German born photographer and video artist using lens based art to access subconscious reality. I find the combination of a medium that is best known for its connection to the real an intriguing way of going about this. Instead of presenting us with a chronological, rational or even narrative structure Boris seeks to send us a tidal wave of emotion and psychological grip. The work, which he describes as poetry, operates as such. I would describe it as a guttural expression of the inner workings of his subconscious mind. He may or may not explain it. The point is that he doesn’t need to – that’s what the work is for.
What initially interested you in photography?
First, its entanglement with reality. Initially people use photography to show ‘reality’, the ‘truth’. But what is reality, what is ‘the’ truth? From a philosophical perspective, there are over a dozen theories on this, each one based on an unvalidated assumption. If there is no absolute truth, how can a machine such as the camera fix it? It can’t. But it deceives us on this fact.
The second reason is that photography works with light. And that light has always been a misleading symbol of the divine.
The third reason is a paradoxical task that I have given to myself: Can I show an internal psychological structure by using material that is in front of the camera?
What sustains your interest and keeps you making work?
The artist’s journey is a journey of consciousness, of going deeper, of becoming aware of the vast sea of the unconscious. I will never be able to reach the depths. And I am too curious to stop.
Tell us a little about your technical choices.
I photograph at night to explore the limits of depiction. Rather than exploring stories, a place or a person, I hijack and transform the external reality, to paint a reality beyond time and space: that of the unconscious. I create pictures that are inaccessible to the rational mind, and compel the viewer to turn to their own memories and feelings. Thus I call my photographs POEMS.
Without excessive materials or digital effects, I combine the techniques of street and staged photography to create images that sit between painting, film and theatre.
My influences come from art historical movements that have dealt with the unconscious (eg. Romanticism, Symbolism and Surrealism).
Why poems? What is special about poetry that fits with photography more so than short fiction or other writing in your opinion?
A poem uses words in creative ways to evoke feelings and memories. It is much more open than a story. You need to finish it with your mind, heart & soul. Most photo artists and photographers think in series and stories. I left that behind, too.
What do you hope to gain through making images and the artistic process?
Intrinsic reward. Satisfaction. Feeling the Flow. Call it what you like.
You have done a lot of collaborative work. What do you enjoy about this way of working? What does it bring to the final outcome?
I have learned from each collaboration. Collaborating with others opens up new ways of thinking and working. The challenge is to identify the strengths and not the weaknesses of the involved artists. If you manage to create an artistic dance with the strengths, you can create an outcome that you will never be able to produce alone.
What do you hope your viewer will gain from looking at your work?
A new perspective on themselves.
What is your most successful piece of work so far and how do you define success?
When an image works both on conscious and unconscious levels and deeply with psychological archetypes, I call it a success. POEM #90. #98, #91 or #76 would be such examples.
What is the most difficult thing about being an artist?
Being forced to have a 2nd and a 3rd job during the first 15 years.
What have you learnt most about yourself through making work?
That I am a stubborn bastard.
Your installations are creative and impacting. Can you explain to us how you approach installation? How do you design a show in each new venue? What are you intending to achieve in your installations?
I need a map of the space and photographs. Ideally a short smartphone video. That’s it. I started to work this way, because I got sick of hanging 10 images of the same size in a line. It bored me to death and I wasn’t happy with the result. I like immersive spaces, the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. My installations now feature photographs in 5 different sizes on large scale wallpaper. The images are hung like a cluster, like groups of connected emotions and memories. The constant size change forces the viewer to change roles and distances: from being the giant, looking at a tiny picture to being a midget, walking through huge wallpaper.
What is the best thing that has happened in your career so far?
To make friends through my work.
What would be the best thing that could happen to your career in the future?
My career started when I stopped being worried about the future. I live in the now.
Current and Upcoming Shows:
A huge 11x3m photo installation at the oldest dutch festival:
AUG 22 – OCT 11: Pulse, Noorderlicht Photofestival, Groningen / Netherlands
Photo Bienale, Brasil – 1- 10 Oct: FIF
OCT 15: Turn Around Bright Eyes, Berghain, Berlin / Germany (video work)