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Images Without Substance

Medieval philosophers were fascinated by mirrors. They inquired in particular into the nature of the images that appear in them. What is the being, or rather the nonbeing, of these images? Are they bodies or nonbodies, substances or accidents? Should they be identified with colours, with light, or with shadow? Are they endowed with local movement? And how does the mirror receive their form? […] The mirror is the place where we discover that we have an image and, at the same time, that this image can be separate from us, that our species or imago does not belong to us’. G. Agamben, Profanations, 2005

Dérive noire is not a narrative about the way that the night transforms architecture, the city, and people. Nor is it a journey to zones where ghosts and shadows rule and from which the habitual human element has been dismissed. Rather, it consists of images that result from the effort to conquer nocturnal time, that time that is non-linear, non-literal and non-sequential. Here, what matters is not the revealing, documental and real power of the photographic image but its creative and inaugural ability: photography creates a space and inaugurates a time.

Nuno Cera’s work has always been characterised by a preference for those areas of photography in which images do not reproduce or represent an object or landscape but present an idea or an experience, and, in essence, create areas of feeling. For this reason, rather than describing a real place or a historical event, these images nourish a state of suspension and expectation in which, in a Kantian manner, the subject finds himself, his pulse, and his vision through a sort of submersion in the images.

This new series of works creates a space in which the body and the eye can drift in a manner that involves no sense of disorientation and loss but is experienced as a way of sharpening the attention towards differences in forms, reflexes, and every chromatic hue. The grain and the range of blacks and greys of which the images are composed, bringing them closer to the sense of vibration felt in graphite drawing, obliges us to undertake movements of approximation and distancing, concentration and dissipation: the impression on the zinc plate makes the images dense and deep and the grain of which they are constructed heightens the sensitivity not only of the “things in the images” but also of our human relationship with them. A relationship that aims not only to bring clarity to or to decipher image codes but also to intensify elements in the visual field.

The theme of this new series by Nuno Cera is not architecture. Rather, it shows the way in which material devices are primitive systems in the relationship between humans and space and how they evoke the most primordial human memories. This series does not undertake an exploration of the relations between façade/structure, skin/body, interior/exterior, private/public. Instead, its meaning lies in the way in which each stone, each pane of glass, each constructive element tells the story of its makers. And it is in this respect that these works distance themselves from the current and common relationship between architecture and photography: the taste for symmetry, regularity and the relationship between forms and space gives way to a taste for the void and the enigma that is always being produced by the mirrored, insubstantial, immaterial images that cannot be fixed on any surface. Images whose being, as Agamben says, is a continuous generation: sempre nova generatur.
Nuno Crespo