On September 22nd of 2015, I was in New York City, at a park with my partner and friend. Across the country, in Portland, Oregon, my identical twin brother smashed into the passenger side of a van while riding his motorcycle home from work. Among a host of broken bones and bodily injury, the harm that placed him (and subsequently, me) on the precipice of death was a frontal lobe injury and a sub-dermal hematoma, which necessitated the removal of the right hemisphere of his skull for some time. I received a call just as he was going into his first craniectomy.
There were all the things one might imagine or empathize with: dread, trauma, fear. A violent loosening of sense with the looming spectre of loss in it’s replacement. A fog that inhibits basic function and rationale. A screeching ensemble of all of these at once, an overwhelming cacophony. All of these would be presumed correctly, but this event also presented a different scope, one larger than my history being created.
Events have the maneuverability to be different than history. History implies a continuity, a destiny of sorts; a prefigured dialogue. It is the rearing of events to normalize them into a narrative not our own, but one of a cultural language. The collision of senses and the interruption of twinness here permitted an energy to erupt, and the ability afforded by that energy for new forces of power and relationships to reveal themselves runs adjacent to history. There is the brutal and absolute dissolution of a pre-determined configuration when, finally, a situation transcends the construction of self. This was not merely unexpected, jolting. It did not merely offer the hallucination of a new perspective. It was the first lesson of otherness in a twin. The first lesson of lonesomeness.
An unexpected but serendipitous analogy was born here. Jean Baudrillard writes of photography about attempting to secure a hidden twinness, an otherness, in the subjects of images. A phantom twin of the subject that ideally sits at the very center of an image, dislocating it; a secret otherness. A "nothingness" can then permeate the specificities usually imposed inside the object of the image. The truth of the subject-as-object can only be captured when the subject has withdrawn from it. The revolutionary magic of photography (one that has been swallowed nearly whole by art) is in its transfiguration of subject and the nothingness of subject-as-object. That nothingness, or the punctum, as Bartes coined, is the space where a pure form of establishing meaning can exist, one that permits an energy to accumulate. One that defies pre-established modes of operation and defies common, long co-opted symbols to flourish. So, just as an event can run against history’s attempt at swallowing it to feed its own ends, the capturing of a moment searches wildly for that truth that cannot come from a pre-existing set of relations, it searches for that nothingness where meaning is dissolutely established instead of interpreted. It abolishes the void of subject presumption and contextual pre-supposition in which all images can be lost. If it is not where all our truth in creative representation is derived, then it is at least where we may come to define types of truth in the form of photography; one that goes beyond or often squarely obstructs aesthetic practice. Here also we can witness a freeing from “art”, the cultural and social dissolving of nuance born in the personal. It is one to be pursued (as all truths), one that is infinitely difficult and objectionable to capture in the image of a person. In my suspicion (suspicion, as I’ve know no other self) that as a twin my rubric is curved subtly out of shape to address such issues, my experience shooting these images was written by Isaac, the subject of the photos. For now, unassailably, ahistorically, in regard at the possibility of true meaning winking dimly out of representation, I know that the only place I can possibly exist when taking a photograph of my twin brother is somewhere he is not. It is a self-identification I have not known prior.
-Subject as object as twin and other