Charalampos Kydonakis‘ photographs from ‘My Dreams Your Nightmare’ are based on the photographers interpretation of Francisco Goya’s ‘Pintura Negra’, or ‘Black Paintings’, that the artist created in the last years of his life. The 14 works are intense, haunting pictures that are often seen as a response to his fear of insanity and bleak outlook on humanity. It’s through this lens that Kydonakis perceives the world in film. Dark, brooding, full of horror.
The accepted critique of Goya’s paintings are of less importance to Kydonakis than his own revelations. For him these photographs are a prayer to the masters nightmares, an attempt to articulate human existence, from birth to death and the temporary transitory stage we call life. It’s a fascinating subject that is layered in philosophical, spiritual and theological questionings, a matter that concerns us all, that pervades our sub-conscious and rules our lives as we fight to stay alive despite the meaningless of our material existence.
For over four years Kydonakis has been taking pictures for this series, each image part of a puzzle that has yet to be solved, an ongoing quest into the nature of life and our constant desire to escape the inevitability of death. This journey has led him to the world of a giant of modern Greek literature, Nikos Kazantzakis – better known for his novel, ‘Zorba the Greek’ and ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ – and his book ‘Ascesis: The Saviors of God’, in which he wrote a series of ‘spiritual exercises’ that strive to go beyond philosophy and metaphysics.
Kazantzakis thought that there were two streams in life: the first one runs toward ascesis, synthesis, life and immortality, while the second one runs towards dissolution, matter, death. However, both streams are part of the universe, and being so, sacred. One of Kazantzakis’ main concerns was what force drives the uncreated to the created. As opposition seems to be intrinsic to life and infinite, human beings should strive to ascend to a harmonic view of these oppositions, to be a guide for thought and action. Here’s an excerpt from his book:
We come from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we call the luminous interval life. As soon as we are born the return begins, at once the setting forth and the coming back; we die in every moment.
Because of this many have cried out: The goal of life is death! But as soon as we are born we begin the struggle to create, to compose, to turn matter into life; we are born in every moment.
Because of this many have cried out: The goal of ephemeral life is immortality!
In the temporary living organism these two streams collide: (a) the ascent toward composition, toward life, toward immortality; (b) the descent toward decomposition, toward matter, toward death. Both streams well up from the depths of primordial essence.
Life startles us at first; it seems somewhat beyond the law, somewhat contrary to nature, somewhat like a transitory counteraction to the dark eternal fountains; but deeper down we feel that Life is itself without beginning, an indestructible force of the Universe. Otherwise, from where did that superhuman strength come which hurls us from the unborn to the born and gives us – plants, animals, men – courage for the struggle? But both opposing forces are holy. It is our duty, therefore, to grasp that vision which can embrace and harmonize these two enormous, timeless, and indestructible forces, and with this vision to modulate our thinking and our action.
What I love most is his epitaph – he’s buried on the wall surrounding the city of Heraklion because the Orthodox Church ruled out his being buried in a cemetery – ‘I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.’