Absence – Presence

2011, Photos, Photoshop eraser tool, GNU Octave

Erik Arkadi Seth

“Absence – Presence” – a text by Nele Kaczmarek

“A person you don’t want to think about anymore, you try to forget. It is said that there was someone who wrote down the names of people who disappointed him on a piece of paper. This note was found in his pocket after his death.” Erik Arkadi Seth

Urban landscapes that lose their sharpness meet shadowy figures, and blurred architectural surfaces frame darkly whitewashed, faceless portraits. In the photographs of the series “Absence – Presence” (2012) exhibited in the context of the mhh-kestnerschau “Zeitr√§ume”, the artist Erik Arkadi Seth (*1986 in Gifhorn) preserves moments in which people fade into the background as abstract color gradients. The separation between man and his environment is successively abolished from image to image; in its place is a fleeting intermediate state in the limbo between inner and outer perception, between the past and the present.

The act of blackening depicted figures testifies to the attempt not only to forget or repress personal memories, but to actively overwrite them. With the column-by-column reordering of the digital image space with regard to specific color values, Seth resorts to a mathematical-physical procedure that is also used in the works of the series “Sorted” (2011). Here he transforms classics of the early Florentine Renaissance into high-resolution scans, then divides them apart based on their color pixels as the lowest common denominator and rearranges the pictorial space.

In his desire to systematize memories and feelings as abstract thought constructs, Seth’s photographs move at the intersection of digital and emotional worlds. The softness of the picture’s surface presents itself as an adequate visual equivalent for the impermanence of memory, leaving the viewer uncertain as to how it relates to actual impressions and experiences of the past.