Katia Peristeraki: A Mild Wilderness – #TheNewOnes

Little, soft and gentle pulses from the waves, a cold breeze and a visceral grainy feeling, as I’m standing in a full emotional call. Now I hear all and nothing, the full and the emptiness, the silence and its loudness, the gravitational force between me and a world that I am now in need to understand in its distance.

This is one of the rare cases in which I wish to write as little as possible to make you all understand everything by the words of the author, so I’ll try to be concise.

It’s important to say that Katia Peristeraki is more an artist than a photographer or author itself. She has a personal and intimate need and we are fortunate enough to witness it.

If I have to explain what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I see Katia’s work, I’d say Derealization. It’s a heavy concept, could be interpreted in a thousand ways but, still, it’s what fits the most. If we look at her work by this viewpoint, we certainly discover that the derealization I was talking about is there because of more than one reason: she is inviting us to share her inner-self, and despite this, we need to maintain a connection between us and this new world we are about to experience; yet, all is happening in an unreachable distance, as to grasp the reality was an impossible task to complete. We are making two steps and, as the horizon, this state makes two steps too.

As her life unfolds and develops, Katia tries to catch the deepest part of her in the surroundings, to make us able to try to understand it and to understand ourselves. There’s a heavy sense of incommunicability, also feels of loneliness and vulnerability are the main way we are now trespassing and experiencing.

As we go deeper in this world, the subjects become symbols, and a frightening sense of complete and powerful freedom starts to rise. Even before we can understand anything, we are standing in a totally different and parallel reality. It’s distant and calm. Nothing has a tactile and material presence even though we can witness the existence of everything we are seeing. Everything exists in its own state of being and we are here to do the same.

We are calmly unveiling and accepting what sits in the deepest parts of ourselves, in a total state of contemplation. Even if the process has no mercy at all, the sense of peace and gratefulness are heavily present.

At this point, I can say that her work is not at all distant from drone genre. I feel like Katia’s work could be a close enough representation of Tim Hecker’s and William Basinski’s work. If you want, I suggest to take a listen to Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again, Harmony in Ultraviolet and On Time Out of Time while travelling through her pictures.

Now it’s finally time to leave you to the interview. Enjoy.

Hi Katia, I really appreciate you are taking the time to answer my questions. Tell me something about yourself: who are you and how photography became the way to express yourself?

Hi, Matteo and all Jugaad Magazine people! Let me seize the opportunity to thank you for your invitation.

A few things about me: I am a middle-aged translator, a cinema lover and keen reader (mostly poetry).

My interest in photography aroused some twelve years before in a rather strange way. Someone offered me the Petrified Forest, a photobook by Sotiris Lamprou, a Greek photographer. His art captivated me by its moody beauty, its story-telling quality. Moreover, I could feel poetry in each and every photo of his dystopia. For several years, I had the opportunity to watch him working in the field. I was completely fascinated by the mastering of his techniques, the choice of his subjects, the way of approaching his art; I was also enjoying spending time in his darkroom, together with our conversations about art, about life, about poetry.  And, suddenly, six years before (surprisingly enough, regarding my choice of gear), I felt the need to start shooting my first photos with a cell phone. So, I have no academic formation in photography, but I can tell I am imbued with photography, poetry and cinema.

Do you have some main influences? What’s the mental or instinctive process behind your shots?

As previously said, I had no interest in photography before my encounter with Sotiris Lamprou’s art, therefore there must be an impact of his work on mine. But, I am also a cinema lover, with a preference for asian films inviting to contemplation. I guess there are influences, but I am not able to detect them; let the viewers find out! 

My process is rather mental, since my art explores the connections, potentials and co-habitations of poetry and photography. Images are right brain, they are meant to arouse feelings; but creating scenes with thoughtful deliberation is a left brain matter.

You currently have two Instagram accounts, each one with a unique style. Why did you decide to split your work in two different profiles?

I created this second account, because I wanted to showcase another aspect of my work, on an experimental basis. I was curious to see what would be the reception of these photographs, without confusing my actual audience.

Now, I am sure enough that I am not ready to touch color. I feel somehow aggressed by colors, in a way an autistic person would be by an overload of sight stimuli (and, believe me, I know what I am talking about). Perhaps, I’ll come back one day more prepared to take the challenge.

Let’s talk about one of your accounts, the monochromatic one (@katiaperisteraki). I’d say I’m really impressed by your style; your black and white pictures remind me of Daisuke Yokota’s works. I feel like your shots have the power to talk in distance, they feel like distant echoes full of dust. Also, the scenes you capture seem to have an ephemeral nature, but at the same time they feel like a permanent state of being, almost like a set of memories. What are your thoughts on these statements? And what do you think is the nature of your pictures? What do you want to express with them?

Being compared to Daisuke Yokota is a big surprise and a huge honor I honestly feel I don’t deserve. Because there is such a hard work behind his art and his approach is totally unconventional.

One might say, though,  we share the same ambition to aspire and reverberate the silence, in this sense, that my figurative referents are mostly solitary people in a deserted, abandoned, moody place. Or, that I somehow shoot the same subject, which in some extend is true. There are patterns in my art, together with a strong will for my scenes to carry time within them: in this sense, I am elated to hear that one can feel this manipulation of time. Still, I wonder if there is an effective way to portray memory and time.

Doesn’t matter what are the elements in your pictures, the subjects you are capturing seems all alive in their own state of beings. There is also a big feel of incommunicability in your work, it’s like everything is happening in a casual and uncontrollable way and it cannot be changed. It seems like you are making us experience and observe as thirds, and you are asking us to understand this distant world. How much of your life is actually in the picture and how this can affect the experience of the life itself? How much of yourself  is in these incredible pictures? (When I talk about life, I’m referring to the relationship you have with your subjects – people, trees, natural elements, light and even yourself – as well as your own intimate philosophy of life, also how you live the moment itself.)

Life itself is a mess, unpredictable and uncontrollable in many ways, but there is no will to express ideas of fate in my photography. There is a scent of incommunicability indeed, in this sense, that there are acts and thoughts one would like to keep for oneself, sometimes as heavy secrets, sometimes like precious treasures. Light and darkness, gold and rust coexist in our inner microcosms.

Landscapes in my photographs are my every day surroundings, but I am not a landscape photographer, so I’m deliberately trying to delete details that would mislead viewers’ attention. There is a quest for simplicity in my art. I try to render an inner landscape, my own mild wilderness as stated in my bio. Therefore, there is inevitably a pretty large amount of me in my scenes.

These images are certainly difficult to understand. At first sight, they give you some sense of danger and nihilism. But I must say, the more I look at them, the more I feel part of them. This gives me a sense of comfort, I now feel detached from this world and part of your personal space, as I’m living what I’m seeing. It’s a nice and powerful contrast, all based on feel. How do you feel about this? Is that what you hope to reach with this work?

I am always happy to hear that there is a kind of coincidence of the viewer’s vision with mine. Then, I feel that my ‘personal space’ ceases to be mine without been invaded: it becomes shared and understood. This is an extremely gratifying experience.

I feel like all the elements are there for a reason, that they may represent some symbol connected to a meaning. What is, for you, the nature of your subjects? What does a person, a tree, the landscape, or the other subjects mean to you and what they represent in the frames?

A series of symbols is, indeed, included in my work and they are all deliberately chosen. As I mentioned it previously, there are trees, there are rocks, there are seas, but the scene stays always minimal and has nothing to do with the “real” location one can touch and see and smell and walk within. And almost always, the presence of this solitary personage, merely a silhouette with no distinct characteristics. She/he could be anyone, the most evil of us or even a saint. Most of times, we see hers/his back, as he wanders in this dystopian space.

I would prefer not to answer about their meaning I invest them with though, I would like to leave the viewers wander freely around them and invest them with their own meaning.

A more technical question: would you explain how you manipulate your pictures? You can explain the process as detailed as you want.

I am a cell phone photographer, because a mobile phone is a friendlier tool to the novices; besides, it is something that I can easily carry around. I always use improvised filters to alter light, to delete unwanted details and to create this “dust”, as you said previously, and this is the most difficult part of my task.

The processing of my pictures is practically minimal, almost simplistic, since I only adjust the light and the contrast on my cell phone. No Photoshop at all, I am the lazy kind of photographer.

Can you explain to us how did you came up with the definition you have in your bio? “A mild wilderness” could be an interesting way to describe the randomness of what happens in the everyday life experience, in the inner part of ourselves. What’s your idea and why did you choose this (perfect, for me) statement for your work?

It may sound somehow lyric, but I believe that true self can only be found in wilderness. My wilderness is a symbol, a topos of the human soul, a space of owe and freedom. As one progresses in this dark side of her/his psyche, accepting hers/his mistakes, fears, failures, the wilderness appears to be milder.

Now let’s talk about your color account (@katia_peristeraki). Traveling from the other style we talked about, this feels like a new world. Now I feel like this is an active observation (both yours and ours as spectators) of your own reality, you are searching something as deep as in the other pictures, but this time they are closer, warmer, quieter and they have the power of a personal observation space and, in my opinion, a subjective search for nostalgia. How would you describe this other side of your work? How would you explain the nature these pictures come from?

I have already mentioned that I created this account on an experimental basis, meaning that I was willing to be confronted to a new challenge. The need for introspection still remains intact, indeed, but pictures are more extrovert, I’d say, mainly because of the color. The feeling of nostalgia you rightly detected is a tribute to every fleeting moment.

You are also changing some particular things here: in some pictures there are sharp subjects, now we can recognize the shapes of these elements. Why did you decide to make us able to see those shapes? This certainly brings a safety feel that the other monochromatic pictures lack, at first sight. Then, there happens the opposite developing process: as in the monochromatic shots, the more I look at your pictures, the more I feel part of them, but this time it’s not accompanied by a comfort feel; instead, I’m starting to develop a sense of surreal. Do you find this intentional? What are you trying to tell us with these pictures?

Curiously enough, I guess there is a coincidence between your vision and what I said before about my autistic perception of my color photos. This effect of sensory excitement is not intentional, at least it is not conscious, but it is a very interesting and deeply thoughtful feedback I will keep in mind.

At this point, I’m starting to think about your work on a level that is screaming “LIMINAL” to me. This is certainly an abused term, difficult to explain as it refers to a feeling. I’d say that, in this case, this term could be linked to the sense of heavy emptiness in your pictures, linked to a sense of surreal loneliness, opposed to the sense of chaotic energy your monochromatic work carries. Also, I have the impression that here we are not in a permanent state of being anymore. The time runs, the space is perceptible. What are your thoughts on this side of your work? What are the main differences to you?

It is very exciting discovering my photographs through your eyes! Your interpretation is absolutely right and gives me food for thought. “Liminal” seems the perfect term to describe the contrast between the monochromatic and the color work. I am not sure that there are any differences between them, I would rather consider them as two coexisting aspects of the same theme, which is life itself.

In both of your works, it seems like you are in a never-ending developing process, and you are making us part of that, almost quietly asking us to do it ourselves, for those who are willing to do it. Is it true that both of your works could be attributed to some sort of stream of consciousness? How do you feel about this proximity that is created between the viewer and your work?

I believe this point has been exhaustively answered: there is a quest of self-knowledge and inner peace in my work and, yes, somehow I’m suggesting people not to be scared by  their wilderness, one has to explore it to reach the deep serene. But, as you have noticed, I am suggesting sotto voce.

Are there any projects you’re working on at the moment outside your two main “flows”? How do you see yourself in the future in terms of photographic production?

I have no particular projects right now, except I should take a short break perhaps, to clear my mind and decide what to do with my color work. Your remarks provided me a strong motivation to re-think everything.

If I could project me into the future, I would see me more active with processing methods. There are so many things to learn out there!

Kindest thanks for hosting me. Jugaad Magazine is definitely an equally cosy and interesting place to experience. Special thanks to you, Matteo, for your insight and your thoughtful words.

It was a pleasure to present and interview an artist like Katia. If you are interested, you can follow her work here and here.

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