Interview with Ania Mininkova & Shu Yeung - Away from the Night
Is “placelessness” necessary to finding identity and belonging?
Ania: Personally, I associate placelessness with a geographical change. I grew up in Ukraine, studied in Poland, worked in Russia, Thailand and Indonesia before moving to Australia, and eventually the US.
There’s an American photographic tradition implying that to be an expatriate is to be crippled. Stieglitz, Strand, Hartley – their photography was drastically affected by the relocation to Europe, but I think the time was different then.
My work is very much informed by this movement through cultures and movement being different from drifting. I believe that apart from finding your place of belonging and identity, placelessness widens your circle of compassion – an ultimate artistic goal for me.
Shu: In order to find something, you first need to feel the want of searching for it. In that sense, displacement is necessary before arriving at a place.
For me the search for identity and belonging are very much linked to my photography. Photography is a vehicle with which I understand the world but it’s not enough to capture it with a camera. What is being recorded? Why is it important? These questions displaced me from where I was - an observer - to a space where the very purpose of photography came into question.
Two people- one photo. How would you describe working in collaboration with one another?
Ania: Working with Shu has made me think and see the world in a myriad of new ways. Planning, shooting, editing and writing with someone gives you a unique opportunity to learn from another artist, and build on what you already know.
Most importantly, collaboration taught me to articulate my thoughts, solve problems, and have a good time working on a project together while being independent photographers with different aesthetics and interests.
In regard to our process, I would quote Terry Tempest Williams from “When Women Were Birds”:
“We test our ideas. We hear our own voice in concert with another. And inside those pauses of listening, we approach new territories of thought. A good argument, call it a discussion, frees us.”
Shu: It’s been a very special experience to be working with Ania. I’ve learned so much about the world, life and photography from when we started this project together. Photography is a collaboration with the world and in that sense it is a lonely pursuit. The act of seeing and making photographs is an individual’s defiance of disorder and so too is framing these images in the greater context of existence. It’s a daunting and difficult journey, which is why I owe so much to sharing this journey with Ania.
What is someone’s “night sea journey”?
Shu: The night sea journey is an archetypal hero’s journey described by Carl Jung. It is a journey from West where the sun sets, through the night to the East where the sun rises. The passage of night threatens the existence of the hero as they confront their waking phantoms. It is by confronting these phantoms that the hero is able to see themselves through the night and arrive in the East.
Ania: The night sea journey or a journey to the underworld happens when one confronts the dark side of life and own humanity. One goes deep into recesses of their darkest thoughts, and either re-emerges changed, better equipped for the tragedy of the human condition or sinks into the primordial sludge of nihilism and curses the being.
Humans don’t become spiteful, vengeful, and murderous in one day. It takes one bad journey to get there, so it’s good to have a map before it starts.
What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?
Ania: I’m amazed daily that individual humans live and cooperate in complex societies, make scientific discoveries, art, raise next generations despite that human condition, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.”
For the same reason I find nihilism, relativism and postmodern malaise cringe-worthy. There’s never been a better time to be a human being and to make an impact as an artist than now.
Shu: The Second Law of Thermodynamics - that in a closed system entropy increases over time. It’s popularised as an understanding that things naturally tend towards chaos and effort needs to be made in order to counter it. The universe itself is a closed system with a particular order that over time will become a disorder.
Life is a defiance of entropy. And it’s this defiance that’s both beautifully inspiring and upsetting.
Interview by Nate Warburton
Wednesday - Friday 11:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday - 11:00am - 3:00pm