An Interview, dated 10th September 2017, to coincide with publication
Floria Hay: Aldo, you have just brought out a new book detailing your photographic research between 2010 and 2017. The book is titled ‘Shadow:Other:myself’. My first thought was why not a symmetrical ‘Self’ and so why ‘myself’?
Aldobranti: My first consideration when I saw the gap emerging between my form/body and an animated and separate shadow was the need for honesty around my treatment of the Shadow as a potential equal in any transaction. I wanted to go further than self and to take responsibility for my part in any dealings with the Shadow. Given too, that as the author of this text I can contain the scope of any self-analysis I can afford the minor indignity of a title in lower case letters.
FH: Your process is described in some historical order. At what point did it become essential to include the Other in the research?
A: I had found a quotation from Novalis which while researching Shadow in the Surrealist cinema. This was early 2014 and the reference to Light’s Festive Tents drove my final MA project and the next year’s work. When I read more of Novalis and the German Frühromantik the notion of Self became less clearcut. There was a lot of book based research there but relatively few images to show for it; one strand was to work through a set of naked self-portraits. I could begin to see a separateness of Self as a metaphysical construct distinct from the physical, optical device of Shadow.
An aside: when I’m in the darkroom, lights out, I frequently have the sensation that there is a light behind me ready to fog my film. Similarly I could not get very much further with this work without understanding that the Other was waiting for attention.
FH: So Shadow began to look like the Other?
A: Well, no and yes. I was stumbling around to create separate spaces for these. The Shadow and myself can rely on finding representation in photographs as inherently optical devices. I had been using the protective clothing suits in the Festive Tents as placeholders for Self; when I began to use them in the naked portrait studies they began to take on other roles, other identities. While developing separate spaces for Self and Shadow I had to extend the same openness and honesty to this Other as previously I had extended to Shadow.
FH: You reference Carl Jung’s Shadow archetype as a location for the darker side of existence. Are you personally aware of a darker side?
A: It would be strange if 7 years’ work could skate around any confessional aspects of myself. It does seem that every New Year or Lent I resolve to be less judgemental. I should like to avoid jumping to positions about other people and avoid condemnatory remarks. I am probably not a very good person.
I am reading more of Paul Ricoeur’s later ethics, I got pulled into this by his work on narrative identity and it’s only a small matter of reading towards his ‘Oneself as Another’. I’d like to work to the slogan “Embrace the stranger with kindness”. I look forward to the beauty of the unknown.
FH: You comment in the text that the ‘I, Butades’ sequence reveals “a titanic struggle” between the Artist and the Shadow. Are you, were you aware of this?
A: My initial drive in that project was as for a lot of my working method: to find out what a photographic record would look like. It was apparent very early on that there was some opportunity for some dramatic depth. I think it important to bear in mind that we may occasionally project the positive onto another--not wishing to see ourselves in as favourable a light as the other. Maybe as I continue to refine my understanding of what is going on here I could begin to see this as just the essential but honest dialogue of my inner identity. Maybe I can begin to identify, own and embrace my own strengths and goodness.
FH: Can you tell us a bit more about the use of the laser spot?
A: I hope that it is not more significant than a technical necessity to lay down a very strong trace of the outline of the shadow at the moment of drawing. Technically, I was using a green filter to darken my skin tone, using a green laser meant that the spot becomes the heaviest element on the negative. I like the certainty of this weight; it seems very definite that this is how it was. I have been writing about this work that I attempt to circumscribe the Shadow which tends to support the description of struggle.
FH: Thank you