Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.


Jun 01, 2021 - Irina Shkoda

It was May 2020, I escaped from a stuffy city apartment at the invitation of an artist friend (I will further call him Z.) to the southern city, where we isolated ourselves in a cave by the sea. Z. is an old-fashioned and very toxic person, sometimes it can be difficult to communicate with him. But that spring, he was the only one with whom I wanted to meet the end of the world.
We lived among huge stones in some distance one from another, under a high rock that saved us from sun and rain. There was a path and a juniper grove over the rock, the smell of which was maddening. As befits Russian artists, we drank vodka, diluted it with juice, and talked about meanings, read to each other aloud, listened to lectures on modern philosophy and practised our poor English. Smartphones were charged from a solar battery, cameras were stored in rock hollows, and we went to the nearest village to get food and fresh water.
I woke up to the cries of seagulls and sighs of dolphins, and hobbled with tired legs to the sea, jumping from stone to stone. In the evenings, we burned fires or cooked food on a small gas burner. At night, ferrets swooped around our cave in search of food. Such a life required very little money. It was a feeling of endless freedom.
Asceticism condensed all thoughts, focusing them on the main thing, discarding vanity as unnecessary. It was like meditation (which I never mastered even after the Thai retreat), a different level of perception, concentration, thinking, feelings.
On one of these days, I went to sleep early. I lay looking at the darkening sky, at the stars slowly showing through, of which there were a million, and felt a strange emptiness. And so, when the outlines of the rocks drowned in the darkness of the sky, I suddenly remembered with amazing clarity fragments of conversations that had taken place between us in the last two weeks. Suddenly all this began to take shape in vivid pictures and concepts, the images lined up in a harmonious sequence. I grabbed my nearly dead phone and frantically took notes.
With excitement, I felt chills, the visions did not stop. I realized that this is more than just a project. That I finally understood what my life is about. I wrote it down until the phone got down. Then I thought about what time it was. I wanted the morning to come and I could share my insight, as it demanded an exit. I hardly could lay and realized at last that I would never sleep, that the night would never end, that I would die if I did not do something, some kind of artistic gesture.
Then I drank some beer for courage, lit a candle, took a pen and tore a piece of paper from my diary. To somehow indicate the descending revelation, I wrote a very sublime text (the upbringing in the priest’s family affects), took a candle and in the pitch darkness wandered from stone to stone to the place where Z. slept. The candle blinded my eyes. I had to bend almost to the ground to slightly highlight the outlines of the nearest stones. It was a long and unsafe journey and my thirst for action was fully satisfied.
I did not dare to wake up a sweetly snoring Z. Having pressed the note with a small pebble next to him I quietly left, regretting, however, that he was asleep so soundly. When getting back, I sat alone for a while, made sure that the stream of revelation was over, drank some water and fell asleep like a baby.
In the morning I found a response text written on the back of my late-night message. It said that Z. was very happy for me as an artist, but that I was a crappy hostess. That a bottle of water had been knocked over and a box of provisions had been opened and plundered by ferrets. I was hurt to tears, because the day before I had put everything in perfect order, but in a fit of night madness, I forgot to put a bottle of water on a plastic container, which allowed the beasts to have a nice time and eat.
One way or another, I owe this night not only to my Miserere project, but also to my overall understanding of what I want to talk about, no matter in what medium. I also thank Z. for three weeks of unity with nature and important conversations that allowed me to finally find my voice.