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MADNESS and PHOTOGRAPHY Simber Atay-Eskier

As in the past, today and in the future, classical humanism texts are the essential reference guides. Therefore;

''Erasmus and The Praise of Folly'' According to Stefan Zweig:
''Biggest and brightest star of his era” Erasmus of Rotterdam, “Amongst all creative people and authors of West, first aware European, first to fight for peace, ablest champion of a moral ideal and human sciences. He loved poetry and philosophy, books and art pieces, dialect and folks. He loved the whole humanity for the sake of a higher civilization without color or race discrimination. The one and only thing that he hate deeply in his heart is fanaticism that he deem as contrary to mind. Assuming it as the archenemy of the mutual understanding, he had an attitude against all kinds of fanaticism no matter religious, national or philosophical. He hates all expressions of fanaticism. Absolute freedom of intelligence is fundamental. During his whole life, he fought against mad dogmatism of fanatics all out with his bright and acute mind and even sometimes he could smile at absurdities of his enemies. In these rare and lucky moments, bigoted fanaticism shows up as an deplorable indicator and as of one of the many variations and shapes of stultitia/folly that he burlesque in his The Praise of Folly where he made a classification of it. The meaning of existence for Erasmus’s mission is to synthesise all contradictions with harmony. This multilateral will of agreement, has been appreciated by all his coevals and Erasmism neologism have been derived. As a poet, litterateur, theologist, uniting all forms of creative actions in his personality, Erasmus, always thought that even completely different things have the ability of fusion. Uniting, all gracious people of all races and classes in all lands in one major league of intelligent man was the objective of his life. Living in a stressful time full of hurricanes have been the tragical fate of Erasmus. He is the first German reformist. He is the only leader refusing to take the side of his age. His objective is to preserve global cultural and civil heritage under all circumstances, trying intervention even when the agreements are impossible, abiding independent and confronting fanaticism. His impartiality (nulli concedo!), has been criticised as an apathetic and cowardish manner by his coevals and he became desolated. Bt he managed to keep his moral treasure and confidence on humanity untouched from the hate storm around him. The fate of his coetaneous reformist have a dramatical end. John Huss, Savonarola, Servetus have been burned, Thomas Munzer died under torture, John Knox died young because of the torment and pain, Thomas More and John Fisher have been decapitated, Zwingli have been sabred by his citizens in the battle field. He is also out of this martyr. His soft looking bright blue eyes that Holbein eternalized for us, looks from the chaotic mortification of his age to our age whish is none less alive. He is a bibliophile. No matter where, he always lived in his ivory tower built with his boks and studies. Everything that is complicated makes him angry. He doesn’t like the ones mystical and metaphysical. Wide horizons attracts him but abyss doesn’t. Exaggeration and excessiveness is extraneous on his perfect intellectual mind. No one of his age could get rid of supersititions as much as Erasmus did. He wrote The Praise of Folly as a satire but the book has been introduced as a revolution against all authorities. After his trip between Rome and London in 1509, he showed up as child of lucky hour. The work was dedicated to Thomas More and named as Moriae Encomium/Laus Stultitiae /In Praise of Folly. Incognito that Erasmus masterly depicted here is unique. He’s not the one saying the words that express the harsh truth, he puts Stultitia/Folly on bench. There it praise itself. By this funny quid pro quo the reader never can be sure about who is talking: I didn’t say anything... It was Mrs. Folly talking...

Dame Stultitia / Mrs. Folly discusses everyone: Imposing rhetoricians, niggling legists, starkly arrogant philosophers that all imagine that they can put the globe in their own sack, nummamorouses, academicians and authors, gamblers and battle merchants and finally lovers who are the eternal slaves of their feelings, imagining the object of their love over all beauties and affabilities. A fabulous gallery of human madness has been introduced to us by unique knowledge of Erasmus on human nature. (1).

''Erasmus and The Praise of Folly'' According to Michel Foucault:
Through the end of medieval, in the madness and hesitancies of madness –threat and sarcasm, dizzying foolishness of the world and mere absurdities of people- were becaming main persons and for example mad is the one eliciting the truth in the centre of theatre. Folly  is on the job in the heart of mind and reality, also in the erudite literature in the same way. Folly is a speech subject. The text of Erasmus, in the center of these serious texts. Next: There is a long image dynasty from Hieronimos Bosch to Brueghel.

Death theme prevailed alone till second half of 15th Century or a bit more. End of human, end of times had the same face with epidemic ilnesses and wars. The thing that deformed the human existence is this desistence and this order that no one can beware of. Horror of death is being interiorised in a continuous derisiveness. Afterall death is everything. Folly is the currents state of death. Gradually, madness theme is replaced to death theme. Erudition consists on denouncing madness everywhere, teaching people that they are not more than dead people already and telling that the reason that the two terms getting close to each other, is that the madness will became the samething as death as it cathocilized.
The whole last chapter of The Praise of Folly, is organised as a long madness dance model where every profession and every taboo makes a catwalk to form the big lunatic rondo. There are more similar examples but slowly the good union between word and vision has started to untie.

The rise of madness over the horizons of Renaissence is being realized first among the corrosion of gothical symbolism. Gothical forms… has quit telling, reminding and teaching and became exposing their fantastic existences only to familiar looks apart from all current dialects. The erudition that regulate itself and the vision got rid of the course, has started to orbit around its own madness. The meaning now can not be read in a direct perception, and the form came off from talking by its own; there became a big gap between the knowledge that moves it and the form that it express itself. Dreaming is now allowed. Essential transformation of world of images, compulsion of an extended meaning, saves it from alignment of forms. Despite putting this much meaning under the image, it only presents a mysterious front. And its power is now not from education but from bedazzling. By the madness images created by the painters like Bosch , Bouts , Grünwald, animalism avoided becaming tammed, the dark rampageousness in the heart of humanism showed up... These ridiculous figures infact are the elements of hard, hidden, introverted knowledge. This is a forbidden knowledge. This notifies both the reign of Deamon and the end of the world, final happiness and conclusive punishment, the almighty on earth and falling down to hell. For this, it’s enough to have a look at Dürer’s armageddon riders, the unbridling warriors of mad revenge. On earth victory is for Folly.

Folly attracts people from all sides. Cause the animal that pester his nightmares is his own nature. Folly directs a chorus of all impotency of human in Renaissence. Everything related to dark cosmic expression as Bosch sees in Folly, has wiped away in Erasmus. Folly is no more in wait to capture the humanity all around the world, but now straining backhanded into the human. Or more precisesly a fragile relation of human by itself. Individualization of the first figure that madness drag into its own dance in design of Erasmus, is Philantia / ego-self respect. Cohesion is the first sign of madness. But as the human is attached to himself, he consideres failure as right, lie as truth, violence and ugliness as fairness and beauty. The experiment of madness in 15th Century, has transformed into a moral satire face in terms of expression of literature and philosophy. Although Bosch , Bruegel and Dürer are completely earthling audiences and slided into this madness that they see bleeding around them, they perceive it far from being protected from danger. Bosch, Bruegel ,Thierry Bouts and the whole silence of images, mobilize their Folly powers in pure vision universe. On the other hand with Brant and Erasmus, madness have been taken into evolution of expression with all humanist tradition. It’s being distilled and refined here and also loosing its arms. Every person can bend the knee to it but its reign will be little and proportional everytime; cause it will expose itself in mediocre reality against the looks of the erudite, it will become the object of its smile. That’s why the bays are chaining it. No matter how deeply informed than all sciences, again it has to bend down infront of the erudite that assumes it as madness. It can have the last word but it’s never the last word of the fact of the world. The statement that it legalize itself is only included in human’s critical awareness. But the Renaissence humor that transformed madness into an experiment in dialect, vanished in time. But Sade and Goya witness that this is not a vanishing but a disguising. A deaf tragical awareness remained awake under the the tragical and cosmic experiment of madness, the critical awareness of madness and its philosophical or scientific, moral or medical forms. It is the one to awake the last words of Nietzsche, last thoughts of Van Gogh. Probably it is the one to make Freud to feel being on the edge of his way.(2).

The Praise of Folly:
Whatever they say about me, (cause i know how torn the Folly is everyday even by the loons) i am the only one that scatter complecancy to gods, to people with my celestial effects. Look, i will also make a praise but this will niether be Herakles’s nor Solon’s praise, just mine, i mean it will be The Praise of Folly. Here i am, real dealer of felicity, i am the madness that Latins call Stultitia, Greeks call Moria. In everywhere i look like myself that nobody can hide me.... Why not my so mad audience? The most honorable name that can be given to those who know the proffession of Folly. But as many don’t know my past, let me try to introduce this by the help of Muses.

I got out neither from Chaos nor from hells; i owe my life neither to Saturn, nor to Yafes and to any of those ragged gods. My father is Plutus (Richness). He gave me Neotete, youth as mother. I was born in most tasteful traces of love. I was born in Bless Islands. The two most elegant fairy of earth, Metne the daughter of Bakkhos ebriosity and Apodie, daughter of Pan ignorantia have been my foster nurses. You see them along my friends, hetaeras (bridemaids). By the way i’ll introduce my hetaeras. The one that stares at you arrogantly is Ego/Philantia. The other one smiling, ready to clap her hands is Feign-Friendly/Colacia. The one that slumbers here is Forgetting/Lethea goddess. Farther is Accidie/Misoponia cross her arms, on her elbows. Didn’t you notice Concupiscence/Hedonea by her crowns of roses, by graceful odours that she wear? Do you see the one that looks around with rolling eyes, with indecent, indecisive looks? That is Dementia/Anoia. The one with a shiny skin, pure and fat body is Self Indulgence /Trypea goddess. But along these goddesses you see two gods: Comus/Good Life and Morpheus /Deep Sleep.

I command everything in universe by the help of these loyal servants and direct the ones that direct the earth by them (3).

Madness and Photography According to Roland Barthes:
Mad or bland? Photo is even someone or someone else: if its realism remains dependant, aesthetical and softened with habits of experiment (gathering at a magazine in hairdresser or dentist) than it is bland; if this reality is absolute and let’s say authentic, and if it obliges the loving and frightened awareness to go back to Time, than it is mad: it is an action that inverts the route of the object and when i’m saying my last word i have to say photographic rapture, an action that absolutely tosses the feelings. These are the two ways of photography. The choice is now mine: to present its appereance to the civil codes of perfect illusions or to face the bodacious reality in it.(4)

Photography and Madness:
Photographers record, document, convey and comment the Human Situation. Therefore Madness is a theme of photography. Since 1839, Madness is being documented systematically in terms of medical and science. When we assume the History of Photography/ Photos of History (5) as an utopic visual map, we can see that it is a perfect illustration of The Praise of Folly of Erasmus.

Amateur photographers, approach to madness excitedly for reasons like, satisfaction of primtive espial excursion, a philanthropist show, an opportunity of another characterization depart from political risk, a false pride of taking good pictures. But professionals know that madness means the most authentic otherness and the criteria of photographic quality is defined by identification with him/herself like a personal experience.

Even if it is perfect, is it possible for the photographs of madness to make the pure/endless representation of madness? Cause the relation of people/audience with these kinds of images, mostly depends on random emphaty. On the other hand if we are not doctor, police, journalist, psychologist etc, in these kinds of photographs, madness is always obliged to be a metaphor depart from the professional/functional context but in academical and intellectual context. For Erasmus’s sake! It’s commonly being used as a metaphor in the unaware monologues of intellectuals, in the pale psychoanalysis theory adaptations of social scientist, disordered by methodological stress, in the alienated manners of aesthetes that ignore the severity in photographs in the name of professional audiencity and that only discuss if photography is a chain of evolution in photographic langage, in the slogans of advertisers who use madness in their campaigns, in the bienalism humor formula of caligarist curators. Most directly, madness can be defined in insane and insane asylum category. The aforesiad category, is a paradoxally free areas for photographers. Cause anyhow the photographs will become the object of oligarchical elements like editor, curator, academician, theorist who represent visual culture in general and photography cultural in private.

Beyond its thematic importance even rarely, the existence of “the tragical and cosmic experiment of madness” (6) is determined by the photographer. But this is not a definition or explanation for anybody. It is the secrecy of secret knowledge. Situations like these are the glorious moments of photography.

Samples:
David Seymour, takes a portrait picture of a little girl called “Theresa” in Poland in 1948. Theresa  was grown up in detention camp and when somebody asks her to draw a picture of a house she only doodles the board.(7); Chaos!

Eugene Smith, makes one of his famous essays in Haiti in 1958/1959. In this essay there are also photographs of leproses and insanes. He wrote History of Madness in Haiti (!) before Michel Foucault published History of Madness (1961).

Raymond Depardon, made detailed interviews in insane asylums in cities of North Italy like Torino, Trieste,Venice in 1979/1980. This sublime comment, conserves madness intactly.

Joseph Koudelka made a panoramic practise as he generally does in Palermo in 1988 and 1995. But he has a mythological genre. So our minds are familiar with his wide landscape panoramics. But suddenly we stuck on the floor of an insane asylum; with all other patients!

Steve Mc Curry, takes pictures of insanes and the situation of insane asylums in Kabil during his study in Afghanistan in 1994. They were all abandoned like all others because of the war. Depart from this elegic landscape, no other notion, circumstance or reason have a meaning. Madness demolishes the meaning.

Chien-Chi Chang takes pictures of patients in Lung-Fu Tang Temple in Taiwan in 1998. But things go wrong during the scenes: Is this a photojournalistical interview or a fashion shoot session? These extraordinary elegant figures, amuse themselves with the camera in the funny studio of Chien-Chi Chang in the temple, sure about their attraction and in a sweet and innocent manner.

Lise Sarfati, took pictures in an insane asylum in Nikolsko, Russia in 2000. These pictures are determinations in a souvenir photo tranparency. Further, in a picture, a few insane/a few buddy, gave a sincere group pose for Sarfati.

David Nebreda, works on self-portraits since 1990's. He’s schizophreniac. He exposes himself in his photographs with the iconographical connotations of a primitive slaughtering ritual or a mutual atonement agony both being the believer and being the vow. Schizophrenia is real; Nebreda's schizophrenia is real; his photographs, his albums, exhibitions are real. But how can an isolation be possible in Madrid? Cause in this context madness is an anthropological issue.

Erdal Kınacı, gave a place to mentally ill people in the wide scale of his Photography For Well-Abled Life Project in 2006. Here, the photography, means an unconditional identification with an suffering, aggrieved, deprived being, beyond a humanist documentation. Related to this, the ones being pictured and the one taking pictures, are the common figures of a choreography in a madness theme. The picture of bold man written “Toilet 50 krş” on his head in the Enter-Pass Pension Project (2008), is the crystalized representation of madness notion(8). Kınacı, who performs both in documentary photography and in art photography, practices madness in some of his fantastic constructions. For example: An octopus-man watching a antique sewing machine hanged in space!'' Between the animal and object, more than a sharpness of meaning, a lunatic being, closer to prestiges special to image!(note); Boschious, exclusive temptation figure of Late Gothic-Early Renaissence iconography (9); Enigmatic beauty definition in Maldoror Songs! A neo-surrealist illustration that pop out at a point of anachronical map of postmodern creativity!

1-Stefan Zweig,Erasmus The Right of Heresy,Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul ,Cassell, London, 1951, p.1, 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 34, 38, 54, 56, 77.

2-Michel Foucault, History of Madness I, Translated by Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay from original French, İmge, Ankara, 1992, p.32, 33, 34, 35, 38, 39, 41, 44, 46, 47, 48, 51, 52, 53.

3-Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise Of Folly, Translation and notes Şerif Hulusi ,Remzi, İstanbul, 1956, p.6, 10, 12, 13, 14.

4-Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida. Turkish translation by: Reha Akçakaya, Altıkırkbeş, İstanbul, p123, 124.

5-Andrew E.Hershberger, ''The Past, Present and Future of the History of Photography'', History of Photography, Vol.30, No.3, Autumn 2006, Taylor and Francis, London, s.203.

6-Michel Foucault ,op. cit.,p.52

7-magnumphotos.com

8-Simber Atay-Eskier, ''12 September, Globalisation and Photography'', fotoritim.com, September 2009 vol.

9-Michel Foucault, op. cit. .p.40.

İzmir-February 2010




 
   
 
   
 

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