Aleksei Kazantsev: Relaxing Chamber
As one peers at the cover and begins to delve into this mysterious tome of eerie human portraits, animals and their appendages in various states, and even blank black pages, you feel that you have come across a contemporary photographic interpretation of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. This is no “Garden of Earthly Delights” but rather a photographic treatise on animal consciousness in juxtaposition to that of human consciousness. Aleksei Kazantsev’s black and white exploration does not provide definitive answers to the question but one comes away with a definite sense that certain species of animals and birds do possess the neurological substrates necessary for consciousness. This does not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever had a dog or cat in their life but it is reassuring to find that scientific research seems to confirm what we have often assumed.
The book, itself, is bound in a black velvet cover with dark images of animals and humans intermingled. The first images that are clearly recognizable jolt the viewer as the grainy head of a snake is immediately followed by an equally grainy portrait of a human in close up. One can only assume that the reptilian consciousness is alive and well in both images. This pattern of contrasting the animal with the human plays out throughout the book with many of the human images reflecting an unconscious or otherworldly reality.
The title, ‘Relaxing Chamber’, comes from the entomological term for a container having very high humidity. When insects are dead long before pinning, rigor mortis develops, often resulting in body distortion. In such cases, a “relaxing chamber” is used to make them flexible. One does wonder how this relates to the theme of animal consciousness since insects apparently have not made the consciousness cut as of yet.
According to Kazantsev, the book is a continuously developing series of photographs that revolves around one common theme: the idea of consciousness in humans and animals. The images are motifs of human faces and animal forms, often not immediately recognizable. There are claws and tentacles, thrusting out, stiffened, at rest. And there are people, surrounded by a black void, some seemingly asleep, some in an ecstatic trance, others in contemplation. The project circles around the human psyche and concerns the archetypal symbolism of animals in collective unconscious memory, altered states of consciousness in trance and hypnosis, and related phenomena such as feelings of euphoria, isolation, and dissociation in everyday life.
Aleksei Kazantsev (Slutsk, Belarus, 1975) is a visual artist working in the medium of photography and living in Antwerp, Belgium. He studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. His work intuitively and narratively stems from the visual heritage of archetypal images, as well as our collective unconscious memory, symbolism, hypnotic states, trance, and liminal states of mind. Kazantsev looks for a twist in reality. Using altered perspectives and distorted vision, he moves you to feel disorientation and to recognize the uncanny.
He has exhibited in various galleries across Europe: Belgium (Pulsar, LWM18, National 55, Archiraar Gallery, Liège Photobook Festival, L’image sans nom, PAK-Gistel, Psychiatric Center Sint-Amandus); UK (pic.london festival, The Minories Galleries); Poland (Arsenal Gallery, Fundacia Villa Sokrates, Gray Mandorla Studio).
The book is published by dienacht Publishing and may be purchased here:
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
Lynne Buchanan: The Poetry of BeingSeptember 10th, 2023
Radius Books: Artist Weekend 2023August 28th, 2023
Melissa Catanese : The LotteryAugust 22nd, 2023
Alana Perino: Go To The Land And I Will Show YouAugust 21st, 2023