The Chiffonier: Sergei Sviatchenko - Art, Archetypes and Philosophy
Written by Sviatchenko, Sergei
Sergei Sviatchenko: Art, Archetypes and Philosophy ï¿½Sergei Sviatchenko is an artist constantly in flux. His shape-shifting art draws on the world around him, harnessing the cultural tides with twenty-five years of image-making. Sviatchenko speaks a unique creative language. His art sits somewhere between the known and the unimaginable ï¿½ merging pop culture with politics, personal memory with collective histories, or architecture and science with the logic of dreams.ï¿½ (Faye Dowling, curator and photographic editor at Dazed & Confused, London) Sergei Sviatchenko strikes me as an artist who is comfortable with the fusion of contrasting elements. That is, an artist whose vision does not carve the world up into mutually exclusive categories. An artist whose vision speaks to people across time and space. Sviatchenko states that the ï¿½purpose of [his] work is to find some sort of codeï¿½, that resonates on an ï¿½unconscious levelï¿½ within people from both his generation and the ï¿½new internet generationï¿½, in order to ï¿½create the act of communicationï¿½. More specifically, he intends to ï¿½createï¿½ this ï¿½new visual languageï¿½ by combining traditional collage methods with the new ï¿½digital mediumï¿½ of the internet. In his project entitled ï¿½LESSï¿½ (a collection of multimedia photo collages), he encourages us as spectators to ï¿½reflect upon the power of images and think about how meaning is attributed, exchanged and constantly contestedï¿½. That is, he encourages us to view an artworkï¿½s ï¿½meaningï¿½ as a fluid concept; subject to different perspectives from different individuals and perhaps even within the same individual. His artworks thus seem to merge the familiar with the unfamiliar, the essential with the particular, and the traditional with the modern. In particular, Sviatchenko refers to the notion of ï¿½archetypesï¿½, as outlined in the Analytical Psychology of Carl Jung, as a primary source of inspiration, believing that it provides a ï¿½nourishing basis for the creative imaginationï¿½. There are some who share Sviatchenkoï¿½s interest in symbols, myths, dreams and the realm of the unconscious in general. For example, Michael Stratton, in his article ï¿½Akira Kurosawaï¿½s dreams: creating an unconscious autobiographyï¿½, examines the significance of eight dreams presented in the film Akira Kurosawaï¿½s Dreams. For Stratton, this film not only provides revealing insights into Kurosawaï¿½s life, but it also enables us to ï¿½further explore our own lives through the viewing of the most primitive yet advanced aspects of ourselves ï¿½ our dreamsï¿½. Furthermore, he promotes the concept of ï¿½dream appreciationï¿½ rather than ï¿½dream interpretationï¿½ as he believes that the latter approach is somewhat ï¿½reductiveï¿½, ï¿½leaving us with simplistic answers for symbols that may have many layers and resonate in different ways in response to different tonesï¿½. According to Stratton, the ï¿½shift in perspectiveï¿½ that occurs when we view the world and ourselves through the ï¿½lens of a work of artï¿½ or ï¿½our dreamsï¿½, ï¿½can offer us a cornucopia of options for perceptionï¿½. He thus seems to share Sviatchenkoï¿½s view that an artworkï¿½s ï¿½meaningï¿½ (for want of a better word) is fluid, rather than merely static and unequivocal. On a broader level, perhaps what is most striking about Sviatchenkoï¿½s artworks is his fusion of the eternal and immutable aspect of existence with its changeable and contingent aspect. On the one hand, he draws upon the Jungian notion of archetypes, that is, the symbols, myths and images that are embedded in the ï¿½collective unconsciousï¿½ and that thus transcend time and place. On the other hand, he is also concerned with the evolution of these ï¿½archetypesï¿½ through their confrontation and intertwining with the empirical aspects of existence, that is, the continually changing social, political and historical environment in which they are embedded. As Sviatchenko states, ï¿½My memory keeps and reflects the historical and political events, music, style and art of the 1960s-1970s. Those powerful and important years break through from the unconscious and stimulate actionï¿½. While Sviatchenkoï¿½s artworks seem to seamlessly fuse change with changelessness, this fusion between these two apparently contradictory elements has not always been seamless in the philosophical tradition. It would perhaps be interesting to explore these notions of archetypes, change and changelessness (that are suggested in Sviatchenkoï¿½s artworks) by tracing them back to their philosophical roots. To this end, I will discuss the philosophy of Plato, Heraclitus and Nietzsche. Platoï¿½s ï¿½Theory of Formsï¿½, which is crucial to his Metaphysics and Epistemology, presents us with one of the earliest notions of archetypes. For Plato, ï¿½formsï¿½, being divine, immutable and eternal, are ï¿½special entitiesï¿½ that ï¿½exist outside of space and time and that are both the objects of knowledge and somehow the cause of whatever transpires in the physical worldï¿½. These ï¿½formsï¿½ are ï¿½universalsï¿½, in other words, ï¿½feature[s]ï¿½ or ï¿½propert[ies]ï¿½ that can be ï¿½sharedï¿½ by ï¿½manyï¿½ or a few things. A paradigm example of a Platonic ï¿½formï¿½, which is particularly relevant to art, is Beauty. According to Plato, only those who are able to differentiate between the ï¿½ideaï¿½ (i.e. the ï¿½formï¿½) of ï¿½absolute beautyï¿½ and ï¿½objects which participate in the ideaï¿½ (e.g. beautiful paintings, flowers, people, etc.) possess ï¿½knowledgeï¿½ (rather than mere ï¿½opinionï¿½). Furthermore, only these people may be called ï¿½true philosophersï¿½ or ï¿½lovers of the vision of truthï¿½. In contrast with Platoï¿½s emphasis upon the realm of eternal and immutable forms, Heraclitus (as he was interpreted by Plato) presents us with the ï¿½flux doctrineï¿½ or the idea that the ï¿½materialï¿½ or physical world is continually changing. (Please note that Platoï¿½s interpretation of Heraclitus has been the subject of much debate over the years.) Nietzscheï¿½s notion of ï¿½becomingï¿½ bears Heraclitusï¿½ imprint. For Nietzsche, ï¿½movementï¿½ possesses ï¿½real immortalityï¿½, in other words, what is unchangeable is change itself. He thus (rather poetically and cryptically) describes ï¿½becomingï¿½ as the ï¿½everlasting and exclusive coming-to-be, the impermanence of everything actual, which constantly acts and comes-to-be but never isï¿½. In fact, it is probably Nietzsche who links art, change and changelessness in the most interesting way. He encourages us to view the ï¿½worldï¿½ in which we live as a ï¿½paintingï¿½ that is continually ï¿½evolvingï¿½ and ourselves as the ï¿½paintersï¿½ of this ï¿½worldï¿½. Unlike Plato who views painters unfavourably as being ï¿½imitator[s]ï¿½ who are far removed from the ï¿½truthï¿½, Nietzsche thinks that this ï¿½worldï¿½ that we have painted with our ï¿½moral, aesthetic, and religious claimsï¿½ is the ï¿½result of a number of errors and fantasiesï¿½, but nevertheless contains a ï¿½collected treasure of our entire pastï¿½. As the abovementioned statement suggests, Nietzsche is not overly concerned with the dichotomy between truth and illusion. Truth, for him, is simply a human creation or construct, the ï¿½sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and bindingï¿½. The question remains as to where we could situate Sergei Sviatchenkoï¿½s artistic vision in this philosophical collage. As an artist who, in Faye Dowlingï¿½s words, ï¿½is constantly in fluxï¿½, perhaps Sviatchenko is attempting to capture this ever-changing and fundamentally human world of art in his collages and films. A world wherein meanings and symbols are simultaneously solidified, eroded and propelled along the ever-flowing river of time. A Heraclitean world wherein ï¿½You cannot step twice into the same riverï¿½, but also a world containing both eternal, Platonic forms and tangible, sensuous delights.