The reflection of the eyes as the principle of landscape
The street conducts the flaneur into a vanished time
On one side the city – urban fabric of moving beings. On the other, the double look – the human eye and the mirror game of a photographic camera: frames and cuts. But in the case of Marcus Freitas, there is yet another instance or, one could argue, another mediation in addition to that of optical device(s). The approach on the streets is made in his case by way of deformations, never head-on. From the resulting reflection onto the smooth surface of vehicles (carcass and windows) to the distorted sights screened by rain-washed windshields (on a bus), what you get is hardly what you seem to see.
Marcus repeats, in an extreme way, the principle of Baudelaire’s flâneur. But his flanerie is that revisited by Walter Benjamin, in his early 20th century approach of that distinguished poetry character. A passer-by roaming at random, taking possession of the city in a wavering fashion, having in his hands a camera to operate what Benjamin once labeled the “optical unconscious”. Shooting his double looks he captures, way beyond intention, that which is pure surprise (for the reader which he also is).
The unveiled images/landscapes are those typically normalized by the brain’s automatic distortion-correction feature. We know the tilted buildings recorded by our eyes are made of straight, orthogonal lines, and that their curvaceous look is but circumstantial. In like manner, what the rainy veil conceals is supplemented in one’s imagination by that which we already know about the landscape across. But as photographic documents they perpetuate another form, the unusual one introduced by the reflective processes involved. Now they can no longer be “corrected”, for they are now indices of a “truth” captured by the machine. Such is the great trick by the artist. A trick that opens up the possibility of another, made possible by the digital era: post-shooting distortion of the photographed image, by way of image editing software. This intervention must however be seen in its relation to the original deformation. It is but an addition to the on-site distortions, the result of random shooting. Nothing more than the diffuse perception of a flaneur.
A subversion of form that dates back to the portraits of grand master André Kertèsz, on his surreal spree, all of which named Distortion, 10, 102, 53... And what does that suggest? A denaturalization of the records, no doubt (since it implies some human intervention, some type of choice). But here too there is a dialog with painting, bringing afloat other possible associations, the first of such being the relocation of photography into suggested as a new way to look at everyday life, where everything is given but not necessarily recognized. It is another landscape, transposed from the large city’s routine to the universe (re)built by the author’s fantasy ... Very familiar… And yet very distant.
The street seen through the windows of a bus, or the window of a camera, or the window on one’s monitor: such are the inputs in this case... urban landscapes reflected... also in our eyes.
November of 2006.