Why did we make sunsets so difficult?
We’ve been looking at sunsets from the very beginning of our beginning, and slowly they collected the excess burden of kitsch, that we bestowed on them because we never had enough. Over and over, we would point out their overwhelming beauty, until we became ashamed of our own reaction to them and turned them into a taboo, especially in art.
At a certain point in an artist’s life, you’re either told or you come to your own realization that GOOD artists never engage sunsets, unless they find a smart way around it. In art, sunsets for the sake of sunsets are a no-go.
Sometime during the autumn of 2014, I immersed myself into the second volume of Susan Sontag's diaries titled “As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh”. Deeper into the book, I discovered a passage that stuck in my head. It was an entry from 21st February 1971. Here, Susan Sontag wrote self-reflective notes about the allure of lists as a way to “perceive value, confer value, create value, even create — or guarantee — existence...”
I spent the summer of 2017 at an artist residency at NIDA Art Colony located in Nida, Lithuania. It was here when I started creating, discovering and filming scenes, atmospheres and associations. I approached them as visual narratives based on Sontag’s list of likes, rendered through my personal vision and preferences.
But maybe more than that, it was a way of navigating my solitude in a sudden abundance of time and nature, in a new and remote environment.
This is how Sontag’s list, written in 1977’s Manhattan island exactly four decades later transcended time and space. The peninsula of Neringa, where my artist residency was located, was geographically very similar and yet a very different place. I named the project “Fires Venice Tequila Sunsets”, after the first four items on Sontag’s list.
When it came to the fourth item, I was very excited. Sunsets. SUNSETS! And so all those nights, when I was staying at the beach aiming my video camera at the steel blue Baltic Sea, I was indulging in the fact that Susan Sontag might have legalized sunsets for me. Sunsets became a way to spend my lonely evenings. While doing so, I would actually reflect on everything but sunsets themselves. And the waves were beating their soothing tattoo to my thoughts, as Virginia Woolf put it.
I used to sit on the high sand dune next to my tripod until the burning orange disc dipped into the Baltic Sea. I liked to imagine the Sun seeping into amber buried somewhere deep down in the seabed. At least that’s what I liked to fantasize about. Allowing myself this childish naïveté of not knowing that the Sun moves on to the West and continues shining for someone else, or that sunsets are, in fact, endless.
From sunsets on the beach to sunsets reflected on the floor of my studio, I ended up with 24,6 Gigabytes of sunsets. So at the moment you’re reading this, maybe they are still - accompanied by children’s voices and the sound of waves beating against the shore or just quietness - stored in my computer, collecting virtual dust.
"Sunsets" is a part of my art project titled "FIRES VENICE TEQUILA SUNSETS", a series of short essays, videos and photographs, inspired by Susan Sontag's published diaries.
Click on the link below to read more: