Georges Salameh: Isolitudine
Tell us more about yourself and your practice.
I was born in Beirut, 1973. I Studied Film & Art History at Paris VIII St. Denis. I have lived in Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, France and Sicily.
I’ve been working in the field of filmmaking and fine art photography for more than 20 years now, but my utmost aspiration is still poetry. So in a way I always put my visual craftsmanship at the disposal of this unattainable goal, since I don’t really write in any of the five languages I speak!
My work is an idiosyncratic exploration on the notion of sedimentation, both in the physical and metaphysical sense. Documents, reconstructions, wanderings & a sense of listening, take the viewer on a poetic meander through a creative comparison of reality, of languages and narrations. I rarely begin any work with a preconceived idea. So I’d say that gesture and the need to search are at the centre of my attempts to create stories.
What was your creative process for this series or for your work in general?
In ISOLITUDINE the pictures taken, during the years I was hosted in Sicily (2005-2017), are the fruit of long aimless walks on the island.
They are collected notes of a candid botanist in the largest island of the Mediterranean.
All in a way punctuate the melancholic geography of my wanderings.
ISOLITUDINE is a state of spirit but also a tale of my Sicilian “self-exile” & refuge. It is also a microcosm of my origins where the basin of the Mediterranean is conveyed as a metaphor of my attachment to this island, but in the same time, as my impulse to migrate and carry along in my luggage its ruins & roots.
Sicily has taught me a new language of silence, a stream of sight bearing a submarine map of the senses.
All those years, my endeavour of collecting this mosaic of visual literature was alike Colapesce's* effort to hold in the abyss of the sea, one of the three columns holding afloat this Mediterranean island, and avoiding that it sinks.
What work inspires or has inspired you?
ISOLITUDINE is inspired by Gesualdo Bufalino’s quote:
“Islands within an island: this is precisely the emblem of our loneliness; I would like to define it with a non-existent word ‘isolitudine’.”
Mostly inspiration comes around while walking; you remember something you read or heard, or recall an experience or a place and suddenly it becomes very clear why or what are you trying to suggest with your work, a kind of a bliss. That’s why I would call mainly my approach to photography as a peripatetic one. It all revolves around experiential, direct, non-conceptual photography. Peripatetic photography is the quiet side of urban or landscape photography during which attention is given primarily to the state of mind and not to the hunting of exceptional phenomena. This internalisation of attention brings a more sober reading of reality and a detached way of making more intimate images. In a way you create or inhabit a familiar space as if the world you explore is just another room in your home.
Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?
During my university studies in Paris, I came across many movements that had later some kind of influence on my work, like Impressionism in painting, Italian neorealism in film, American landscape art in sculpture, Beat Generation in literature, Situationism and Postmodernism in arts and philosophy… but in some cases, a particular work had a much more direct impact on my approach to filmmaking or photography.
Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?
Not any in particular, I try to distance myself from ideals or slogans and subsequently let the work speak for itself through the gaze of the spectators and viewers.
Can you tell us more about the narrative behind the work or the idea of creative comparison?
The years spent in Sicily where a period of a long transition in my life. It’s also where - I can say this only now - my visual language started taking shape. What I call creative comparison of reality is a long process of dialectic creativity that accompanies and informs my work through different stages. From the first moment of shooting until the final edit proposal, it’s a continuous flow of layering and shaping. What emerge as a final form of an edit is just the last layer of that process. It can still evolve depending on the medium it takes shape in; book, installation, exhibition, film… We see is only the surface that is hiding the rest of those stages or what I call sediments. Most of my films and photographic series are the result of several years of sedimentation. In ISOLITUDINE it’s 12 years.
What is initially subjective, all along the way, becomes distant and timeless. Oblivion is a fundamental element of the process: Why you took one picture or shot this particular footage? Editing & storytelling come as a meticulous reading of strata of ones experience. Slowly you start comparing it with other material and it starts sliding in it’s own narrative, that hopefully would go beyond your first thought or intuition.
Any words for aspiring artists?
Walk, walk and walk!
Walking is a process and a pretext for introspection.
To our joy and our health, walking is a form of defiance of speed and noise, increases curiosity, encourage humility, causing meditation. It invites us to contemplation, to be silent and become a better listener.
Walking can also turn into a prelude to learn about freedom and establishes itself as a first step in an act of resistance.
Is there anything you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working on different old video materials shot back in 2003, 2007, 2009 & 2012 around the subject of Nostos in a remote northwestern Greek village that disappeared after the mid 60’s. I’m trying to make sense of all these threads, to build a tale in the form of an essay documentary.
What other projects have you worked on which have excited you?
I co-directed a film with Marina Gioti that screened at several festivals and art spaces last year called THE INVISIBLE HANDS.
* Colapesce is legendary character of a Sicilian myth from the 13th century.