Spatial Silence

Beautifully draped mosquito nets, worn sockets and poetic reflections of sun light on bare whitewashed walls. In her sensuous and subtly tactile interior photographs, Louise Bøgelund Saugmann focuses on rooms used for the practice of meditation. More specifically, the series entitled He who knows, is a master of himself consists of a number of photographs shot at Dhamma Giri – Vipassana International Academy, which is the main centre of Vipassana, situated in India. Methodically inspired by Surrealist automatic writing as a tool to reach the unconscious, the series is photographed after 10 days of meditation undertaken in a state of complete silence.

The photographs perform a balancing act between the sober registering of actually existing rooms on the one hand and a poetic hinting at imaginary and spiritual forms of spatiality on the other. Saugmann thus uses the medium of photography as a method to draw attention towards the otherwise overlooked, the apparently banal and prosaic. This strategy becomes apparent by means of the perspective, which is neither idealizing nor aestheticizing, but rather curious, open and straightforwardly engaged with the surrounding environment. But the strategy also becomes apparent by means of the motifs, as the photographs of stickers haphazardly glued on the walls, a key bundle left in a door and the sole wing of a fan hanging in the ceiling contribute to the effective expansion of the limits as to what can be included in the photographic repertoire.

Saugmann’s photographs are devoid of human presence and therefore do not depict the act of meditation as a concrete, physical practice. Rather, the interior photographs aim to explore how the medium can capture mental conditions and experiences of stillness, calmness, immersion and intense energy. These conditions are not located in the photograph as such, but are brought to life in the encounter between the image, the depicted interior and the imagination of the beholder. This is the locus from where the meditative stillness spreads and becomes a state of mind to be experienced by us as viewers.

By Sabine Nielsen