Suspended Worlds

WORLD SUSPENSION MEMORIES, by Antonio Mega Ferreira (October 2021)

The Italian essayist Roberto Calasso sums up the originality of Tiepolo’s painting with a catch phrase, speaking of “an anti-gravity coefficient” that characterizes the figures he represents in his pictorial performances. I would like to borrow Calasso's qualification, toutes proportions gardées, to apply to this important selection of photographs by Marc Sarkis Gulbenkian. In fact, if there is anything that connects most of this author's photographs, it is this feeling vertigo that prompts us to let go of the ground, to ascend well above our survival plane, seeking an instant of desired weightlessness that it is only accessible to graphic representation: gravity is our security and our condemnation; imponderability belongs to the domain of representation.
In this quest to surprise these “frozen” moments in which our earthly condition could perhaps be transmuted into another dimension (that of winged beings or angels), the photographer surprises gestures, poses and fluctuations that only occur in the realm of photography: none of us would be able to recall, even if observed in person, any of these moments, actually inscribed in a continuum which is our perception of time, which is an uninterrupted flow and not a succession of single moments.
And yet, nature, simple nature, offers us the possibility of idealizing what suspended worlds would be like, such as those that survive the rushing passage of flood waters, those that emerge, ghostlike, from mists and fogs, those that are inscribed in ancient rock formations. In all of them, it's as if time has stopped to let time pass, as if movement were suspended in an eternal fixity that contradicts itself, as if the irresistible drive that calls us upward were confronted with the inexorable law of gravity. In Marc Gulbenkian's photographs, things (cities, hills, lakes) live in the same immobile moment that we glimpse in the snapshot that surprises the dance of the whirling dervishes or the acrobat's leap: what is documented here are moments of suspension of the world, of the great and impossible victory over gravity and time that bind us. What we wish for is to imprison these moments in our memory and make them our breviary for eternity.

Photographs subtitles by Eduardo Pinheiro