"When you dive deep into yourself to reach the essence of your soul you meet mankind as a whole and turn into a water drop in the ocean."
© Eva Wallenberg from the story Strix Nebulosa
Eva Wollenberg is a visual artist and writer of Polish origins, currently living in the mountains of East of France, where she works on long term projects. Although graduating in Visual Arts at university she is mainly self-taught in photography. Her work has been presented in France, Germany, USA, Turkey, Ireland, The Netherlands, Japan and is in private collections worlwide.
To what extent is STRIX NEBULOSA a reflection of yourself?
It has to be a reflection of myself, of course, because we each see the world how we are, not how it is. Plato describes in Alcibiades 1 (132e - 133a) in a sensitive way how we see our reflection when we stare deep into the pupil of another, how it acts like a mirror. In the same way we connect to certain landscapes and atmospheres because of who we are. They are maps. The outside and the inside are the same thing and the sense of separateness is a mere illusion. When you dive deep into yourself to reach the essence of your soul you meet mankind as a whole and turn into a water drop in the ocean. Similarly, when you connect deeply to another being that person helps you get in touch with your own soul. To share the Self with another adds meaning, but when you create and share your art you turn easily into a giant projection screen. You have to remain grounded enough not to feel overwhelmed by people's expectations of who you're supposed to be, of what you're supposed to create. At the same time, you have to blur enough your limited human identity and become a nobody, act like a channel, so they can project, dream, and feel connected to something vast. I like the story of Ulysses blinding Polyphemus when the cyclop asks his name and Ulysses answers: "Nobody". This image of Nobody can also be found in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, the type of archetype you meet or become during important transitions and metamorphoses. That work is also an incantation and I am the taproot as I explore my relation to light via the phenomenon of synesthesia that is part of my neurological disposition. I am in love with light. It is my absolute passion; the trouble of intimacy with photons.
The forest and it's mystery clearly plays a big role in your work, can you tell us a little bit more about your connection with it?
I love the physical charisma of the forest surrounding my nest in the French mountains where I live; the wild animals, the smells, the sounds. Mankind always had a paradoxical relation to the archetypal forest. On one hand, we fear it, as it seems to contain the most primitive energies that could threaten and destroy us. We find such visions in Dante's Inferno and in Virgil's Aeneid, the selva obscura or selva subterranea becoming a metaphoric allusion to our own psychic complexities and inner underworlds, a place where initiatory rites of passage take place. We can also think about all these references to various forests in folk tales, and I like to hear about such stories by the powerful cantadora, the keeper of the old stories, Clarissa Pinkola-Èstes. On the other side, forests are refuges. There we find the little cabin where we regenerate, the wise hermit's sanctuary, the nurturing contemplative silence and a connection to the wild soul. The kind-hearted renegades we invent, like Robin Hood, or the flamboyant freedom fighters go to hide in them. The poet René Char wrote wonderful poems about the forests where I live, while seeking refuge in them during WWII as a resistant. They affected him deeply. I think I became the landscape I grew up surrounded by. I like to have the humus of the forest on me, its leaves and pine needles in my hair, its scents in my lungs. In urban settings I feel homesick and lose my creative energy. So whenever I go to a city I bring the whole forest with me. It is behind my eyes, in my ears, in my mind, in my attitude, in my words.
© Eva Wallenberg from the story Strix Nebulosa
What are your thoughts on man's relationship with nature?
We drink nature, breath it, eat it, use its energy and share the same molecules and particles. To consider we are outside of nature is a grave mistake and to destroy it is to destroy ourselves. Humanity needs to evolve towards more sustainable and wise ways of living. Eco-centrism and deep awareness of interdependency are part of our future. We have to work with nature, not against it. I'm taking some astronomy courses at the moment, studying other planets and various moons of the solar system, and I ended getting involved in projects to help scientists finding exoplanets. People have to realize how lucky we are to live on Earth, and we need a massive paradigm shift and breakthrough on that level. I don't see nature with rose-colored glasses on, it is also violent and amoral; there are limits to the romantic vision. Dreams and ideals are good; illusions, not. Thank you Werner Herzog for Grizzly Man! I try to be a dog whenever I’m with other dogs as much as I can. The reality of the differences between species is not an authorization to consider them inferior and make them suffer. Such behaviour lacks grace. Happily, a growing number of people are realizing this and evolving courageously. We are living in exciting times. The old guards with their values and ethics of dominion over nature are dying (and trying hard not to, clinging to their own corpses instead of embracing metamorphosis), and a new humanity that is more aware is being born, willing to live in harmony and inventing new solutions. Cynics will whine, as usual, grey, embittered, toxic, and dusty; but they can't prevent reality from happening and balance from being restored. No destruction can last forever; that is enantiodromia. It's the very nature of the universe, of life itself, its cycles. Night seems always darkest right before sunrise.
There is a sense of a tension between light and dark in this series, in your own words, the "deep violet" and the "golden sun" - how far are these images an invitation to viewers to understand more about you, and how far is it an invitation for them to explore those parts of themselves?
We are all capable of being our best and our worst, depending on the moment, context, bad trigger, company. I always carry in my heart the lines by William Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "Thus one portion of being is the Prolific, the other the Devouring: to the devourer it seems as if the producer was in his chains, but it is not so, he only takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole. But the Prolific would cease to be Prolific unless the Devourer, as a sea, received the excess of his delights." If I know I can be ruthless when needed, then I have the choice to not be. Energy is neutral unless directed. The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow. I don't trust people who appear to be perfect and radiant all the time -- so "healthy"! When you fight against something to the extreme, you become the very thing or person you try to run away from. Balance is an extremely difficult art. I am interested in psychological alchemy, in how we transform our raw prima materia, our psychological conflicts, into a potent life force and symbolical gold. It is tremendous work and sometimes it feels like climbing the Everest, but it is worth the effort. I would like to say to people not to fear their own depths, there is gold in everybody and it often hides mischievously exactly where we fear treading the most. I always push people who come to ask me advice about their own creative process to go deeper, shine, individuate a lot, actualize their potential. If my own vision and creative practice helps trigger self-exploration as well as blossoming in another person, then I feel happy even more. Art empowers people. Artists are lions planting seeds.
© Eva Wallenberg from the story Strix Nebulosa
How has giftedness changed your approach to photography and your work?
Pier Paolo Pasolini defined an action poem as the way a human being presents himself to another and the result of his interaction with reality (from Pasolini l'enragé by Jean-André Fieschi, 1966). How I exist, the "being" and the "doing", how I connect differently to life because of some inherited neurological characteristics, obviously colors my action poem and what I have to offer as a singular and non-diluted force joining the collective action poem. I have always been very out-of-sync with my environment, full of idiosyncrasies, rather androgynous and multifaceted, struggling to relate to most of my peers (asynchrony of development, Silverman, 1993) and it has been a huge relief to finally be officially diagnosed by a medical expert at the age of 31. Many gifted people find in the arts a type of experimental sanctuary in which they can fully be themselves and not bonzaïs. Strix Nebulosa allows me to focus more on the body and anchor the experience of being creative in my divergent perception of reality (synesthesia). There is constant, Promethean data firing in my brain and I naturally prefer to be the conductor in charge and build my own complex architecture of artworks. Photography is one specific instrument in my mind’s symphony. The need for constant mental stimulation makes me quite restless and I need to work on several long-term projects at the same time. I constantly need to learn and expand, knowledge is like food for me and I am a fast learner, so if the environment in which I evolve isn't stimulating, I start to feel extremely frustrated and nervous. In some way, I can also say that art finally changed my relation to giftedness. When you read Nietzsche's story of the three metamorphoses of the spirit (from camel, to lion, to child) in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, you see how a childlike state of wonder is the true creative spring. I am slowly reaching again the inner treasure that was mine when I was a child, before normative elements of society amputated my wings making me feel afraid of my own giftedness, causing me to develop patterns of learned helplessness. Art is the medium I use to free the inner bird child so it can sing and fly again.
To know more about Eva's work, visit her profile.