v3.7 / Prior to Light: Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer’s Elemental Forms

contemplatio in calgine divina

“Do not think technology first: rocket and the lift off of the rocket. Look instead, like in the depths of a closed eye, into the opacity of knowledge where, forming one with it, the rocket passes through infinite distances. Think according to the knowledge that steers the rocket as if in a dream, heavier and more transparent than the boundless night it penetrates with a silent thunderclap.” Like the French philosopher, François Laurelle, I do not think of technology when I lose myself in the collodion nightscapes that Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer creates. No cameras, no apps, no programs. I feel instead the depths of a closed eye (strangely, not my own), a boundless night, a silent thunderclap.

Nikolova-Kratzer had the idea of an “emotional imprint” in mind when she embarked on this series of abstractions she calls “Elemental Forms.” The chemistry of each collodion photogram improvises in the mood of Japanese Butoh on the surface of black aluminum. The landscapes that emerge may hint at a river, a tree line, a fire in the offing, a star. But you get the feeling, as Laurelle describes it, that darkness has its own transcendental order, “into which [we] never entered and from which [we] will never leave.”


Selections from “On the Black Universe”

—by François Laurelle, translation by Miguel Abreu

Only with eyes closed can we unfold the future, and with eyes opened can we conceive to enter it.

Light strikes the Earth with repeated blows, divides the World infinitely, solicits in vain the invisible Universe.

Nous ne pouvons déployer le futur que les yeux fermés et croire y entrer que les yeux ouverts.

La lumière frappe à coups redoublés la Terre, divise infiniment le Monde; sollicite en vain l’invisible Univers.

The Universe was “in” the World and the World did not see it.

Black prior to light is the substance of the Universe, what escaped the World before the World was born into the World.

L’Univers était « dans » le Monde et le Monde ne le voyait pas.

Noir d’avant la lumière est la substance de l’Univers, ce qui s’est échappé du Monde avant que le Monde ne vienne au Monde.

Black is the without-Ground which fixes light in the remote where man observes it. Here lies the crazy catatonic light of the World.

Man approaches the World only by way of transcendental darkness, into which he never entered and from which he will never leave.

Noir est le sans-Fond qui fixe la lumière dans le lointain où l’homme l’observe. Ci-gît la lumière folle et catatonique du Monde.

L’homme n’aborde au Monde qu’a travers de transcendantales ténèbres où il n’est jamais entré et qu’il ne quittera jamais.

A phenomenal blackness entirely fills the essence of man. Because of it, the most ancient stars of the paleo-cosmos together with the most venerable stones of the archeo-earth, appear to man as being outside the World, and the World itself appears as outside-World.

Un noir phénoménal remplit entièrement l’essence de l’homme. Par lui les étoiles les plus anciennes du paléo-cosmos, comme les pierres les plus vénérables de l’arché-terre se montrent à l’homme comme si elles étaient hors du Monde, et le Monde lui-même se montre comme hors-Monde.

We believe that reality is horizon and light, aperture and flash, whereas it resembles more the posture of an opaque non-relation (to) light. When exploring the universal dimensions of the cosmic, we remain prisoners of cosmological difference. Our philosophers are children who are afraid of the Dark.

Not that all your suns have fallen—they have since reappeared, only slightly dimmer—but Black is the “color” that falls eternally from the Universe onto your Earth.

Nous croyons que la réalité est horizon et lumière, ouverture et flash, alors qu’elle est plutôt la posture d’un non-rapport opaque (à) la lumière. Au moment d’explorer la dimension uni-verselle du cosmique, nous restons prisonniers de la différence cosmo-logique. Nos philosophes sont des enfants qui ont peur du Noir.

Non que tous vos soleils soient tombées—ils sont déjà revenus, un peu plus pâles—, mais Noir est la « couleur » qui tombe éternellement de l’Univers sur votre Terre.

Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer is a Bay Area photographic artist whose practice is informed by an experimental approach to early photographic processes and her interest in the image as object. She is represented by HackelBury Fine Art, London. Check out her Instagram and Facebook pages for more images and upcoming exhibitions!