We’ve been observing Solaris a long time. With modern instruments, we’ve been at it for decades. But in some sense, we’ve been trying to figure this place out for hundreds of thousands of years. The more rigorous our investigations, the stranger Solaris becomes. The stranger we become. And in the end: the stranger our message.
Maybe this doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t seen Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic, Solaris (1972). But I’m talking about photographer Roberto De Mitri’s Solaris series as well—to the extent, at least, that both have something to say about the importance of остранение, of strange-making, and of expressing what is unique in each of us, however indecipherable.
On Solaris, “Everything seems remote, distant, foreign,” says De Mitri. “Everything feels alien. And that’s because these landscapes originate in us, and we in the universe. And we are always near the horizon of that universe, behind which, nothing of us belongs. Immobility and impermanence: our planet orbits these two suns.”
De Mitri’s photographs take us to the surface of his own strange and wondrous reality. The waters there, and the land masses too, have yet to settle themselves from the “Let there be” of the great Void. Such is the Solaris in you and me too: forever unfinished, volatile, and for all that, utterly sublime.
Solaris: “Reality Illusion” and “Photography Expression”
by Roberto De Mitri
There are places that materialize before us as a direct expression of our state of mind. The landscape changes and transforms in pure manifestation and vivid reflection of our feelings, acquiring dispositions and the evanescences by them, transcending the materiality of the elements themselves. Not soil, salt, wind, cloud or water, therefore, but forgetfulness, loneliness, a sense of abandonment, melancholy, lack.
Solaris is the oneiric condition of the soul. It is not physical or tangible. It is an introspective, speculative, kaleidoscopic, illusory dimension.
Within this world, our sense of reality depends on emotions, their alternation, the void left by their absence. They are landscapes suspended between immobility and impermanence—landscapes that desire forgetfulness. They become gray in tone and color, like memory. Their shapes are nebulous and blurred, like ghosts.
We project outside of ourselves our concerns, our obsessions, our fears. And in so doing, we give substance to the dark matter that nestles in the most unconscious and abysmal depths of the soul. We create new universes.
Our emotions determine the flow of the rivers and paint the shades of the shore. Our sense of detachment expands the vastness of the plains. Our desire for oblivion colors the waters ink black and deepens the seas. Dreams shape the dunes, sorrows blur the horizon.
All of our emptiness pours into the shadows and fills the clouds with melancholy and drama.
The wind carries away our dream of infinity. Silences cradle the waves.
We face a mirror. It shows us what secrets the unconscious hides. But this doesn’t mean that we have reached the destination. The more Solaris grapples with the complex mosaic of Being, the further Being’s tesserae scatter. What we get instead is a clearer picture of our conflicted nature that is, in its own way, absolute and eternal.
The landscapes of Solaris are moments of contemplation and reflection. But at the same time, they elicit a strange empathy—a kind of detachment that somehow brings us closer to everything around us.
Everything seems remote, distant, foreign. Everything feels alien. And that’s because these landscapes originate in us, and we in the universe. And we are always near the horizon of that universe, behind which, nothing of us belongs. Immobility and impermanence: our planet orbits these two suns.
Solaris is immobility in transience. It is eternity in impermanence. It is the union of two irreconcilable paradigms—an illusory reality because reality itself is an illusion.
Our sense of reality depends on emotions, and it is impossible to refute a sensation or a feeling. Our emotions create the world, the only world we truly experience.
Photographic thinking develops within this vision.
Photography is a representation of reality, but reality itself is a representation. It should not reproduce the superficial but capture the essence. It should bring to light the unconscious and emotional dimensions of existence. What the poet does with words, the photographer does with images. The poet is not interested in the real. The poet does not reveal the empirical. He aspires to the indefinable, the sublime, and the abysmal. He explores these dimensions of darkness using the light of words.
In the same way, photography should go beyond stereotypes of faces and duplications of landscapes. It should pursue the elusive.