Melancholy/Melancolia

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Melancholy, Presence of Absence

EN/   Melancholy

Today is World Mental Health Day, so I decided to contribute to the Awareness week by posting a project I developed at university in 2014. It was the first week of Year 2, Semester 2 and we had to get into groups depending on the subjects we would work on to create a photography artefact to be exhibited in a gallery. I wanted to work on something related to the fading of time, passage or memory somehow. That was when some students approached with their initial ideas of working with family and loss. At first I felt I wouldn’t fit into the group, and that I didn’t wanted to work with such tense subject, but then realised it could be related to the feeling I had about time, more or less related to family, generations and loss that are always present  in a way in my life.

Analysing this I noticed that I could work on something I have been thinking about a lot in that past months, which is the fact that I am melancholic and through the years I felt it in different ways and have to deal with a contrast of feeling it brings me. For these past months I read a lot on this state of mind/being, before deciding working on it for a photography project, which helped me to understand how I feel it, making me see it in a good inspirational way, as part of the person I am.

There is no reason to feel melancholic, but once I feel it, it is like being drag back to things in the past that can never come back, or simply the fact that in the present I am having either good or bad time, and can´t be with people I used to, loved ones that are far away and neither I can be part of their life totally and neither they can be present on mine. Due to leaving my country in the age when you get your best friends, moving around many times and not being able visit them and family members also, always have this melancholic feeling. This made the exhibition called “Presence of Absence”.

I decided to read more about this to be able to develop my project, looking at Ancient Greek and Roman Mythologies which I have always been interested on and that have a peculiar view on this subject. Mourning and Melancholia by Sigmund Freud, which was complex to read but helped me a lot to see specially the differences and similarities between these two feelings that our theme involves. I noticed that like me other people see it in good and bad way, sometimes choosing only one side of it, but in my case I deal with both and think both are important to live so that I develop myself as a person and end up having something constructive from it.

The set of photographs is portraying in an abstract way the state of mind of Melancholia with similarities and differences to the loss/mourning feeling. The fear of loss and constant knowledge of the existing or future absence from someone’s life is present on my life and having to deal with it inside is what inspired to produce the work. Approaching the different ways this feeling gets personally manifested, I interpreted them making emotion visual by using distinctive medium and tones: one brutal & extremist (using medium format camera with B&W film) and other inspirational & poetic (photographing digitally and in colour).

See the project on my Fickr album, Presence of Absence


Here are some research I did and reading suggestion on the theme:

“The melancholic in contrary of someone who tries to hide their weaknesses, find through an extremely self critical behaviour, a profound self knowledge.”  Freud

Theories before the Renaissance, linked Saturn and melancholia.

Ancient Greek and Roman Mythologies

The Romans identified Saturn with the Greek Cronus, whose myths were adapted for Latin literature and Roman art. In particular, Cronus’s role in the genealogy of the Greek gods was transferred to Saturn.

Saturnalia festival in the Roman calendar led to his association with concepts of time, especially the temporal transition of the New Year. In the Greek tradition, Cronus was often conflated with Chronus, “Time,” and his devouring of his children taken as an allegory for the passing of generations. The sickle or scythe of Father Time is a remnant of the agricultural implement of Cronus/Saturn, and his aged appearance represents the waning of the old year with the birth of the new.

Saturn in Astrology

Saturn takes rulership of the signs that govern midwinter, like Capricorn. Therefore governs the melancholic temperament in these individuals. The colours of Saturn are those that want for the vibrancy of additional hues, being typically dark and black (Saturn’s contact can add an element of darkness to other colours), white and pale, or a grey, ashy colour. They do not display their emotions easily, but their emotions, like their imaginations, can be profound. Such individuals are observably deep, sincere, and generally gather respect.

Walter Benjamin on Origine du Drame Baroque Allemand
The influence of Saturn makes people “apathetic, indecisive, slow”
“ I came into this world under the star of Saturn- the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays…”

Susan Sontag on “Under the Sign of Saturn”:
“Slowness is one characteristic of the melancholic temperament”

Victor Hugo “Melancholy is the happiness of being sad.”

“Saturn and Melancholia” Authors: Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl
“The planet Saturn commanded the days in which human’s vital energy would get minimized, turning them almost infertile.”

Pictorialism symbols: hand holding head, Durer painting

Lars von Trier’s film, Melancholia

Literature, W.S. Sebald “Rings of Saturn”

Italo Calvino “Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness.”

Aristotle explained brilliance of mind and the exceptionality of great men in literature, politics, philosophy and the arts in terms of melancholy, that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly melancholics.

Freud, “The melancholic in contrary of someone who tries to hide their weaknesses, find through an extremely self critical behaviour, a profound self knowledge.”


PT/    Melancolia

Hoje é o Dia Mundial da Saúde Mental, então eu decidi contribuir para a semana de consciência postando um projeto que eu desenvolvi na faculdade em 2014. Foi a primeira semana do segundo ano, no segundo semestre e tivemos que entrar em grupos, dependendo dos assuntos que iriámos trabalhar e criar um artefato fotográfico para ser exposto em uma galeria. Eu queria trabalhar em algo relacionado com o passar do tempo, mudanças ou com memória de alguma forma. Foi quando alguns alunos se aproximaram com as suas idéias iniciais de trabalhar com os temas, família e perda/luto. No começo eu senti que eu não iria me encaixar no grupo, e que eu não queria trabalhar com um assunto tão tenso, mas depois percebi que esses temas poderiam estar relacionado com o tempo, mais ou menos relacionadas à família, gerações e perda que estão sempre de uma forma na minha vida.

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