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15.09.2015 INTERVIEW

Emil Salto Foto: Michelle Korbø Moran.

Performing in the dark - Emil Salto

A photogram is an image made without the use of a camera. Objects are placed directly onto a light-sensitive surface and then exposed to light. Besides being used for scientific purposes, the photogram takes on a significant role in art history, used in countless different ways by artists from Man Ray to Christian Schad.

On a rainy Monday afternoon I go to visit Emil Salto at Peter Lav Gallery, to talk about his use of the cameraless technique, of ethics, time and sensation, and about performing alone in the dark.

AF Michelle Korbø Moran

What was the starting point for your current exhibition, ”Layers”?  
This exhibition begins with a box of bits and pieces that my grandfather left me many years ago. The box contained a one-off manual of how he used to experiment with light, using polarized light. I already was familiar with the techniques, since I took part of them as a child, but it is as it had disappeared from my memory until that box showed up. 

Later on, it became clear that there are many lines to be drawn between my grandfathers box and my work as an artist. This is what this exhibition constantly is centered around; trying to create a description of my grandfathers works and turning them into my own. 

Besides using and processing your family history, which other impulses plays a role in your work? 
My work with motifs are always based on the act that creates them. It is an artistic open-source. The motifs are geometric shapes or pictures, that have been standardized throughout  the modernist period of art history. These motifs I use as a place-holder for my actions in the darkroom – actions which can be characterized as performative and therefore the motifs are performative by nature. 

The motifs are performative? What do you mean? 
I always work with a set of tools, for example carton and formed filters. In the darkroom there ofcourse is no light, and therefore everything is created using only my feelings and sensations towards the different materials. 

The performance is rooted in my lack of getting a visual hold of my works. My senses and intuition are fully activated by placing the materials and trying to imagine how they will correspond with light. It is a long and very medidative working process, in which my inner world is more in focus than the actual visual outcome. The works are created in my mind, and passes through my body in the dark. 

In short you can say, that the actions are the true motifs. 

So, are you interested in technically investigating the capabilities of the photo, or is your passion to be found elsewhere? 
My approach might seem scientific, but in reality it is far from. Sensation and intuition are the dominating forces behind my works. It is about the time I invest in the darkroom where I perform the same actions over and over again. 

This exhibition is made of clear plastic, which I start by placing more or less randomly onto and next to eachother. After this, I use polarization-filters which induces the color to break free fromt the plastic. My role is to rearrange the coincidences – courting in chance as you might say. I still ofcourse have some level of control. It is perhaps a sort of controlled coinsidence, where my artistic ego is challenged by the sometimes unpredictable forces of light and color. 

In my research prior to this interview, I fell across the word ”shaman”… 
It’s not a  word with which I have described myself, but I see where it comes from. A terminology of the dark, and of working so intense with something that it seems to reach beyond yourself. 

I would definetly say that I lean more towards mystic than a scientific approach. Ofcourse there is a scientific aspect in the nature of photography – after all, it does consist of chemistry and time. But I don’t find that interesting. For me, photography is simply the best medium for being able to carry out my performative actions. 

The title ”Layers” makes me think of the making of the photogram – does it also point in other, more philosophical directions? 
”Layers” is a feeling of prolonged time. You can see different dimensions of time directly in the motifs. They capture their own time through light – the time it takes for them to be created. Standing in front of a picture like that, is like standing in front of a portal. The portal is made possible by the motifs’ awareness of being in a moving process. By showing the different stages of their creation, the motifs succeed in capturing and visualizing the essence of time. 

Another aspect of prolonged time, is that I have had a strong feeling of cooperation with my grandfather during the entire project, even though he is not here anymore. There has always been this aspect of ethics involved – is it okay to work with another mans works? Is it even possible? In the end, I feel like my grandfather and I have reached an agreement. In the process I have been down several roads which have turned out to be closed for me – therefore it is important to tell where this originates from and show how i transform it, instead of just taking it and making it my own. 

Thank you. 

The exhibition ”Layers” by Emil Salto will run until September 26 at Peter Lav Gallery. 

Emil Salto: Layers Installation View, 2015. Courtesy: Peter Lav Gallery.

Emil Salto: Layers Installation View, 2015. Courtesy: Peter Lav Gallery.

Emil Salto: Glass on Glass (Egon Salto 1978, Emil Salto 2013-4), 24 x 34 cm each, unique analog gelatin silver prints on fiber-based paper.

Emil Salto: Layers Installation View, 2015. Courtesy: Peter Lav Gallery.

Emil Salto: Layers Installation View, 2015. Courtesy: Peter Lav Gallery.

Emil Salto: X-Ray Eyes, 2014, 24 x 34 cm each, 8 unique analog gelatin silver prints on fiber-based paper from 35 mm color slides.

Emil Salto: Layers Installation View, 2015. Courtesy: Peter Lav Gallery.

Emil Salto: Untitled (#7), 2015, 64 x 54 cm, ed.5, polarized light on photographic paper, C-print mounted on dibond, framed with museum glass.

Emil Salto: Untitled (#9), 2015, 64 x 54 cm, ed.5, polarized light on photographic paper, C-print mounted on dibond, framed with museum glass.

Emil Salto: Untitled (#1), 2015, 64 x 54 cm, ed.5, polarized light on photographic paper, C-print mounted on dibond, framed with museum glass.

Emil Salto: X-Ray Eyes, 2014, 24 x 34 cm, unique analog gelatin silver print on fiber-based paper from 35 mm color slides.

Emil Salto: X-Ray Eyes, 2014, 24 x 34 cm, unique analog gelatin silver print on fiber-based paper from 35 mm color slides.

Emil Salto: X-Ray Eyes, 2014, 24 x 34 cm, unique analog gelatin silver print on fiber-based paper from 35 mm color slides.

Emil Salto: X-Ray Eyes, 2014, 24 x 34 cm, unique analog gelatin silver print on fiber-based paper from 35 mm color slides.

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