IRENE CAESAR: BIOGRAPHY
Irene Caesar was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1963 to a professor of psychology and to a history teacher. She grew up in an elite circle of Russian intellectuals. She received her education as an artist in the Peterhof art school, class of Mark Tumin, who transferred to her the legacy of Russian constructivism of the 1920s, surviving only via the oral tradition in word of mouth from a teacher to pupil under the strict veto of communists. The message was to look for the meaningfulness of abstraction or for the constructivist foundations of the meaning. In this tradition, art was necessarily conceptual, and philosophy and art were inseparable. Irene Caesar received her BA in philosophy from St. Petersburg University, Russia in 1985. Her visionary art and mystical teaching became widely known in Russia via multiple exhibitions in the major Russian Museums, radio and TV interviews, newspaper articles in the leading Russian newspapers, two documentary films for the St. Petersburg and all-Russia TV, and her book “Art of Spirits” published and distributed by Ivan Fyodorov, the major Russian publishing house at the time. Irene Caesar participated in the decedent movement against the communist regime, was invited to make a speech at the founding conference of the Free Democratic Party of Russia in the days of the 1991 Putsch, and, finally, after 10 years as an artist in Russia, she emigrated to the US in 1994 with a visa O of extraordinary ability on the invitation of Chuck Levitan Gallery in SoHo, NYC. In the US, she transitioned from the traditional media to the digital media, and refined her conceptualist vision of art by getting a Ph.D. in philosophy in 2009 from the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Her art work is in the Duke University Museum of Art, Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University, and Bayly Museum at the University of Virginia. Irene Caesar lives in New York.
IRENE CAESAR: PHOTOGRAPHY STATEMENT
I only do staged photography, even if I shoot on location. I am not interested in “f/64” documentary reportage, because I believe that reality is a creation of collective and individual consciousness, and the two-dimensional ready-mades of everday existence are simply a thin illusory surface hiding the reality where people truly dwell. However, my take on staged photography is radically different from any staged photography known to me. The difference is that I stage action produced in performances which very closely resemble theatre and cinema. Usually, art photographers who create staged photography use 8x10 or 4x5 view cameras that do not have automatic focus and require subjects to be very still in front of the camera. This carries on into the aesthetics of imaging. The too-static staged photography seems to lack expressiveness and defeats its goals. My goal is to create images of performances that make people live in front of the camera in a more intense way than how they live in their everyday lives. In this sense, my staged photography is a counter-staged photography, as well as it is a counter-documentary reportage. And that is why my images are not simply movie stills, which are the artificial and mannerist cuts from externalized action.
I define my style as theatre of absurd documented by photographic means. The project “A New History of Ideas in Pictures” includes works done in the studio in the form of absurd performances. Each image is a part of a set of images (usually 3 to 5), which represents the entire continuous performance. The overall objective of the project is an ambitious programme to evaluate the major concepts of human civilization, like human nature, the origin of man, the universal good and evil, the Divine father and the Divine mother, the sacred and the profane, the sublime and the bestial, race, gender and its ambiguities, ego and alter-ego, fetish, super-hero, objectification of women, modes of mass consciousness like modes of seriality and patriarchal domination, modes of inferiority and suffering, and the attitudes towards death.
I predict that very soon humanity, as we know it now, will cease to exist, being changed by computational biology. We have little time left to document humanity in its pure form - with all its suffering and imperfection.