My Weather Diary 2001–ongoing (2051)
Since 2001, I have been taking a landscape photograph every day. I connect these photographs to important personal or world political events. These images link personal human relationships and terrorist attacks, bringing up children and genocide, the smell of coffee and the global economy. At present, My Weather Diary comprises thousands of photographs and constitutes a continuous process; hence, all the exhibitions on this topic have been different. The starting point of this work was that world events, personal events and weather will always repeat themselves and merge into one large continuum. Connecting landscapes with the news also concretizes how we are in contact with world events through the media. Everything is brought up close, which also means that events that are truly nearby are no longer close.
The My Weather Diary series has been shown at many exhibitions all over the world, including the 14th Biennale of Sydney (2004), the Belgrade Biennale (2006), the Seventh Biennial of African Photography in Bamako (2007), the MoMA PS1 in New York (2008), the independent curatorial space in St Petersburg, as part of the Manifesta 10 Festival (2014) and the D-Museum, Seoul (2018).Read more...
Text by Alexa Csizmadia
I was traveling on a tram in Budapest when I have first heard about the collapse of the Twin Towers. I overheard the conversation of two passengers as they discussed the unlikely details of the event. I can still remember the streets we were passing, and even the early afternoon sunshine. I rushed home, turned on the television and tried to get a grip in a suddenly tilted world. Whenever I see the images of the Twin Towers covered in smoke I can see the yellow tram as well.
Who wouldn’t be able to recall what they were doing when they first hear news about a major event, or about the sudden death of someone dear to them? The global cataclysms and the most private life-changing events are attached to geographical places in our memory banks, but we are not aware of this when it occurs, usually we realize the connection only in retrospect.
Jari Silomäki searches for these interwoven points of global events and personal history, but does not dig them up from a dusty file in his memory; he documents them as they occur. He has been capturing images on every single day since 2001 and he notes them with texts. The only connection between the image and the text is that they are connected to the same day. They are random marks of the same moment frozen in time. His handwritten texts can record a personal event or refer to a news item picked up from the media. Therefore, the global events become part of his personal narratives and at the same time as the intimate events, or the existential anxiety of the author, manage to gain global importance. The diary-like format and the sensitive poetic texts place his work somewhere at the threshold between literature and fine art photography.
Silomäki applies one rule only; he takes the pictures during his everyday activities without preparing and he avoids composition. By taking an image every single day, he builds a huge archive and he converts the days of his life into images. The pictures and the texts point to different directions. The unengaged mechanic-like photos and the withdrawn attitude of the author reminds one of the first sentence from the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood : “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”
According the rules set up by Silomäki the photographer is an unbiased observer, selection is fault. The images document a section of time without much input from the author. Meanwhile the texts are often very personal and carefully selected, they follow the format of a diary. The mechanical randomness of the photos are taken to another dimension, they are hijacked by the texts. The seemingly opposite directions don’t invalidate each other, instead they create a tension and a strong juxtaposition.
The artist submerges his litmus paper, his camera, into the present, as the first step of the work. He converts the time, the reality, into small, manageable images. The present-time of the images turns to past-tense, by the time he adds the texts, at this point, he reflects backwards in time. As the photographer in Antonioni’s film, Blow up, he wants to find the connections, he is looking for coincidences. For example, a dark sky can refer to some gloomy events of a given day. Antonioni’s hero tries to solve a murder mystery by blowing up an image, he investigates the figures in the background, he is enlarging an image until it is unreadable and he remains empty handed. The reality, or what he perceived as such, is falling through his fingers. “I always doubt everything I see, everything a picture presents me with, I cannot stop thinking about what could be hidden behind it. We can never be sure about what is covered up by an image.” –according to Antonioni.
The images in the My Weather Diary series, often taken at unidentified places, are disquietingly covering up something as well, and this is made obvious by the texts. It is as if Silomäki wouldn’t trust these images, he literally over-writes them, hoping that the diary-like remarks take him closer to the essence of the moment.
These texts inserted into the landscape fragments have another function; they are wedged between the viewer and the landscape, therefore, it is impossible to interpret the images as landscapes. We know from Roland Barthes, that a work has an independent life from its author, and their intentions. It means something different to each viewer/reader, according their personal knowledge and experience. It is a common that a text has as many interpretations as readers, but we cannot deny that an encounter with a work is finished with the act of personal interpretation. Silomäki doesn’t trust the viewer, he tries to channel the reading of the images with the added texts, he wants to launch them to an orbit. He annotates the landscapes with his personal texts, and uses them as an illustration to his remarks. In the case of the texts referring to global events, he invites the viewer to remember “Where were you when the Twin Towers collapsed?” he enters our intimate sphere and we obediently try to recall the given day. His texts are opening up a door in which the whole world is pouring in and the seemingly idyllic landscapes are not idyllic islands any more. The world’s distant corners are shrunken into a small point by global events. The images of the My Weather Diary series illustrate the collective claustrophobia called the global village.
On the day of the bombing of Afghanistan Silomäki took a picture in a small Finnish Town. On the day of Arthur Millers death he photographed an Underground entrance in London. The far away events resonate in both images. The picture of Finlandia Hall was taken on the day when the Twin Towers collapsed, and this image, no doubt, contains the jingling of a yellow Budapest tram as well.
Alexa Csizmadia is a Hungarian curator and art critic