Longing and Belonging – Ina Otzko’s visited interiors
Ina Otzko reveals her nomadic tendencies in this exhibition of photographs and video. The interiors that Otzko photographs are the private homes of people she has met whilst travelling. Yet the larger story is denied the viewer - there are no clues as to the relationships or the narratives surrounding each carefully composed domestic interior. These settings exude a masculine geometry; carefully composed lines and planes show a haphazard urban collection of windows, storage shelves, doors, cupboards, various sofas, mirrors, clocks and cushions. Such timeless icons as window, clock and mirror are laden with heavy symbolic overtones; this iconography stretches back into a myriad of art historical references from Titian, the Japanese Ukiyo-e School and Vermeer, to Matisse, Munch and beyond. Far from being comforted by traditional content, there is something unnerving, almost provocative, about Otzko’s art. These private spaces have been made into a voyeuristic stage by the artist. We view an immensely private time when a semi naked woman makes herself at home in a friend’s residence. Completely still, the curves of her body contrast or echo the enclosing lines of each interior.
“To explore how new spaces transpires or is created between meeting and confrontation with inner and outer, longing and belonging, intimacy and vulnerability”. (Ina Otzko)
Ina Otzko’s semi naked self-portraiture imposes itself upon these interiors. As both photographer and model, she is always simultaneously the subject and object of her work. A subtle sense of absence seems to withdraw her from the visual probe of the camera. Her gaze is often directed toward an indeterminate distance outside the pictorial field. Visual pleasure is not present; this semi naked woman is held behind a constantly shifting barrier so that the spectator is made to feel like an intruder. However familiar these interiors appear, the artist’s body is given a specific function and both takes and creates room. The notion of the intimate and private space of the indoors is played out by her presence. Otzko’s posed body gives the viewer a key into a free movement inside each private room. The viewer’s own experiences and history may then infuse these works with new information whereby communication can happen between the work and the viewer. We compare, therefore we are. As an artist and person Otzko cannot remain still, her nomadic lifestyle has led to a series of projects in various geographic sites. But each site involves a primary personal involvement, whereby the wanderer must create her own security, her own safety, by attempting to organise any strands of chaos. These photographed interiors can be seen as moments of order, moments of self-consolidation, which are thereafter classified purely by a house number and a date. In 1971 Martin Heidegger famously stated that “all distances in time and space are shrinking”. Indeed the contemporary pace of life and its information flow seems to confine us into smaller segments of time. There is hardly any time to breathe deeply, let alone meditate.
Ina Otzko’s works highlight the subjectivity of the perception of time. She uses her poise and body to challenge and provoke our ideas of private space. Her artistic methods are seemingly very simple, but they result in images that question the contemporary viewer: When was the last time I created a private moment for myself, a space of contemplation, and allowed my simple physical presence to belong fully to a physical place?
Martin Worts, Author.
Hå Gamle Prestegård, Norway,
May you feel Belonging
When psychologists evaluate child attachment and maternal parenting skills, they create a “strange situation”. Mother and child are placed in a room with a single door;
a stranger comes and goes. The child stays near mom, looks increasingly on her assurance that it is safe and maybe creeps up on her lap for safekeeping. When mom leaves the child re-evaluates and moves away from the unfamiliar intruder. However, children with insecure or missing (mostly familial) connections react differently, they tend not to be as scared as “secure” kids. They can even climb onto the stranger’s lap; furthermore, they then are capable of reacting with indifference when mom reappears. Or they can crawl up in her lap, working alternately pleased and confused - then bite and turn, changing behaviour yet again. Do adults know what they want? Some say that reality begins when childhood is over and so-called adulthood begins; but they are certainly still confused (especially when confronted). Most kids want to be kids, as most adolescents want be adults and many adults hanker after their youthful days again. All three yearn for something, but mostly they know what they have, but don’t know what they want; knowing what we want tends to take the form of wanting something different than we currently have. We have all heard of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, but is it?
It is the realm we pray upon
That something wonderful will happen
That there must be
Today fashion is mindfulness, all about being present in the moment. Buddha warned us against clinging and craving as these needs can never really be satisfied and the quest for gratification keeps making us unhappy. One cannot decide to be mindful more than one can decide to be safe. Assurance belongs together with belonging, but it is unclear how strong that relationship is. Likewise longing is oft associated with affiliation. But these relationships, as with so much else that is important, are often difficult to describe in words. Words can exaggerate. The safe child is unable to formulate its thoughts in words, but it thinks. The insecure child is unable to say what it feels, but it feels. We adults yearn, but we fail to describe what for. Fortunately, there is more than one kind of mindfulness; in Metta mindfulness one speak or thinks kind words, and then observes what happens to thoughts, emotions, body, mind (within), life and the world (without). One sends words out as spaceships to explore or one throws words into the water and awaits the reverberated waves. The rich laundry of life reminds us that what goes around comes around.
May you be well
May you experience loving kindness
May you feel belonging
It’s like going into a room or out into the world without words, without plans and without people to simply accept and notice what happens to you and your environment. Perhaps we are all too taken in by the ever-present digital world and what we really crave is that sense of belonging which that world cannot really deliver – yet?
Svein Øverland, Clinical Psychologist
Norway, January 2015
There are gaps in the world. Not because people haven’t been there yet, but because people don’t see them. The major explorers were searching for the white spots on the map, seeking to conquer the world, foreign nations or to convert pagans and barbarians. Cortez, Cesar and Lumholtz. They came, they saw and they conquered, returning with glory, prompting adolescents to aspire to be either one of them or like them. The ancient maps were marked “Hic sunt dracones” - here are dragons”. It was dangerous, and explorers like hazards, as long as they are in control. The beauty of dragons is that they are large, colourful and very visible. But did anyone ever think that dragons were never actually looking for you. Often, the dragon is seen before it sees you, or so we are led to believe; and furthermore, when you see a dragon, you have the option to attack it or hide. Fantasies aside, there are still unexplored places on Earth. These are among the places, but we often forget to notice them. There are dark spots in everyday life, where you commute, congregate, and communicate and it is often only children who notice them easily. As in the unfamiliar sounds in the house when Mom and Dad are gone. Adults do experience this in the sudden realisation that one is totally alone on Earth, even if you have lived with the same partner for decades. Death does it best for adults who may recognize their own frailty, even if not frail. Many suddenly fear they are losing life by limiting oneself for whatever reason; fear, mostly prevails and leads to the mundane whilst waiting for something that’s never going to happen.
So this is the earth. This is the home of humans. The gray-blue clouds are gathering. The sun went missing. If you tell your young son that you have another family, he becomes frightened. If you tell your daughter that the others in the family have a fun party after she has been sent to bed, she begins to cry. They are never quite sure, how to react, but they feel they have missed something. Does the chair you sit in while watching television have a secret life? Maybe your partner had sex in it once the neighbour came to visit when you were out for a walk? Maybe they got a kick out of doing it just there because you use it every day? You cannot trust anyone. You cannot trust anything.
Have you ever placed yourself close to the objects in your own home to feel how it feels?
Have you floated your hand up a chair leg?
Have you laid your face to rest onto the table?
Have you laid down naked on the carpet in the living-room?
Live for the moment. Physicists call it entropy; everything that is hot gets cold; everything is organised to create disorder; everything alive dies; everything dead disintegrates; everything that goes into solution spreads outwards; everything in motion stops. Buddha said it easier; all that is composed dissolves. Some believe that it is too good while others believe that the following parts are collected together with other devices and so new cycles are born. One can feel it if one want. It’s like when you wade knee-deep in the water in summer. It is warm and pleasant, but by the next step you feel a sudden cold. Perhaps it is a pit in the sand or a small local cold stream. The result is the same; you react, either haltingly or by jerking your foot back. The dark spots are everywhere. They are found in nature, in houses, in other people and in you. They bring fear, but they are mere normal reminders that there is life beyond the usual just as there are dead among the living. The dark spots are like snowflakes in an unexpected cold spring day. They are cold and undesirable, but nevertheless attempt to land gently and with elegance. Are we the living dead? Zombie movies show people persecuted by people who are no longer people but something else. It is easy to see what they are not, but hard to understand what they have become. They eat and bite the surviving humans. They are tearing people’s bodies as hyenas with a zebra. And as hyenas they do not care about killing their victims first. We are frightened by the sight and loathe the blood. But there is something more. Zombie films show us primarily what is missing. The living dead are similar to those living in that they move, they must eat, and they never get satisfied. The films have different explanations for what has caused the apocalypse, but the implication is always that towns die and sounds disappear; factories are empty and rusting; cars are abandoned even though full of fuel - and action often takes place in a shopping mall. We associate a shopping mall with an endlessness of goods behind large glass windows and with people who crave it contained therein, and other people who afford everything we cannot. The malls are created to stimulate our vision but also our hearing and sense of smell. The loudspeakers play quiet, suggestive and promotional Muzak. From perfume counters fragrances dance from the latest designer brands, and in many this mixes with the smell of cardamom and pizza from cafes and restaurants. In the movies the zombies are outside and the people are inside. People can now take what they want. But now there is little that is useful other than some weapons and some canned goods. Jewelry and designer clothing no longer have any value. The silence becomes apparent just as the sound from the scrambling zombies outside is silenced by the glass windows and glass doors. The absence of sound is often associated with emptiness. The empty streets of the Walking Dead, the empty shops in “I am Legend”, the resting dead in “28 days later”, fills us with fear.
Not because of what happens there, but of what doesn’t happen. Although we are afraid when zombies suddenly arrive, it’s like a relief. Just as we are relieved when the terrified woman finally screams, or the first shot is finally fired. There is an absence within us. We don’t notice it in our everyday life. But we recognise it, especially when it bites us on the bum. We try to fill it with life, and with sound. In terms of empty talk, senseless but cheerful music, or by leaving the TV on even though we neither watch nor listen to it. Silence is threatening, more so in this digital age. Why has it come to this? Only a century we lived in cities when living really meant living close to thousands of others; children playing in the streets, parents living next door, cousins and uncles, aunt and grandparents in the same street. What we lack, we lack because we have lost it. We have swapped it for something we thought would be better. But is it better? We may be warmer, entertained by others, have more possessions, travel further, but what have we to show for it inside ourselves? We are protected with an antibacterial reality repellant filter against nature in a mental (and psychological) antiseptic sphere. Safe but lost. And we watch films predicting the arrival of the zombies, which take the place of stories handed down generations of dragon slayers.
Memories are stronger and closer to reality than the experience. But we all have a different memory of a particular shared experience. Words are sounds in a kind of relationship that does provide emotion. Feelings and memories will not be blocked out. Even those you think have long wilted or died. Why is it that the worst afflictions are failing memories of the recent past, with those of distant time clear as day? Dementia, Alzheimer’s. Our belief in control is exaggerated. Final insights are not exciting or excising and thoughts are questionable. The only thing we know is that it’s all about chemistry. It begins in the limbic system. The amygdala and thalamus takes and gives signals, processes information at the cellular level and in microvolts. Prolactin, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, encephalin, blushing in the face extending down the neck, a gentle sweat. The pulse within beats stronger; breath is faster despite the experience of the opposite. Face muscles cautiously twitching, the under jaw moving weightily backwards and downwards. You don’t want it to happen. You know what’s coming, and try to stop the chain reactions of chemistry. You can’t. The parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system dominates. Escape is not an option. The logic is unconscious and paralyzed. The level of Acetylcholine increases, the amount of neurotransmitters reduced. Known and mapped micro electrical voltages; unknown neurochemical compounds. They seep together toward a common goal in the lacrimal glands, where they meet and explode in a physiological endpoint. Nicotine and muscarinic receptors are activated and begin to produce their product. First they gather, but then - due to their own weight - they flow. You close your eyes, but it’s too late. You let the wiping away be, although you have more control now than just a few seconds ago. Hands hanging idle. Still no sound, and the mouth trembles as it feels the first salty flavour from the flowing tears. You lose yourself within the tears.
You know, just as well as me, that most of us gets up in the morning despite the desire to lay in just a little longer. One gets a glimpse of oneself in the bathroom mirror while brushing teeth and one doesn’t like what one sees. After hiding behind makeup or a fresh shave, it’s all about a quick breakfast and dutiful communication with others at home before rushing to just barely arrive in time for work. And at work the same happens every day. Routines, colleagues’ complaints, a lunch that seems too short, and coffee, coffee, coffee – or tea, tea, tea. You are then looking forward to returning back home, but on the way through the door, you have forgotten what you were really looking forward to. Arranging dinner, nagging from the others, annoyance and an underlying murmur was not as it should be. And it’s time for the children’s TV or news depending on how far in family development you’ve arrived. You know you are tired, but domestic chores need to be done. And when you finally have time to do something you actually want, you are dragged toward the TV and couch, again like always before. You know you are tired. You most likely want to go to bed, but that’s too stupid too. It’s not so late. So you lay on the couch and watch something you are not really interested in watching, before your partner pokes you and says “I am going to bed; it’s late.”
Now you know that you just want to sit a bit for yourself. Maybe sneak a glass of wine or eat a snack. So there you sit, alone; slightly discouraged, but also a bit comfortable, until you start thinking about all you should have done. All that creative energy you dreamt about, now wasted; how nice it was some years ago. And just before you fall asleep on the couch, you decide that you want to change things. “Tomorrow I will grasp life and change it just like it should be. You are not quite sure what to do and how you want your life to be, but you want to change something; the grass is always greener on the other side, no? The idea feels right and you fall asleep. The next morning you wake in your bed without recalling how you actually got there. The hour is already late, and you have to run to not be too late. Day by day passes. And then one day you’re dead.
Svein Øverland, Clinical Psychologist
Norway, February 2015
My escape - light and darkness
Ina Otzko comes from the north. In her images she focuses on an unexpected alliance between the light of Sandnessjøen (Northern Norway) and of Positano, two points between which she lives and who are looking for an ideal place, never reachable. It is true to say to find root is a constant need because, as Ina itself says, "everything depends on the relationships that we establish from time to time". This is the key to her existence and her artistic research.
At the Quarta Vetrina she dedicates a large photograph of the Didyme project. Salina, Italy, 2018; a metaphor of personal life: hers and those in front of the image.
Through the use of filters it ignites the vegetation of a blinding white light; while the plain in front of Fossa delle Felci, the other of the two small volcanoes Monti Porri – becomes almost an X-ray of the earth's "rib cage", in which visionary lava drawings stand out.
The sky joins the North Sea to the South Tyrrhenian Sea. A black, opaque, compact background is the fifth to the whole scene: it is the natural darkness, but also the darkness and shadows that belong to the meeting with the other and to the idea of "truth". In fact, as she declares: "from this alternation appears the criticality of the convictions and the complexity of the relationship with the other".
To represent the synchronic experience between place of birth and election, Ina chooses a landscape as if to underline the "naturalness" of the relationship with the other. But for this to happen, you have to turn it into a project and so apply the neon sign on the photo: My escape.
An escape to build freedom and independence of judgment, learning to distinguish unforeseen lights, shadows and darkness. The sentence, suspended in the landscape, is ideally completed outside. The back of the photograph, mounted on aluminium, becomes a monochromatic, clear, reflecting wall. This "white page" works as a mirror in which our figure overlaps with that of passing cars, of houses, of those who walk in front of them. A sort of "vivant" self-portrait between people and places. So the artist seems to close her project of "escape" by offering it to anyone, observing himself in this wall without signs, making up the reflection of himself in relation to the other, visible or not.
Francesca Pasini, Curator