Veiled Landscape

“It is difficult to speak rigorously of the image. The image is the duplicity of revelation. The image is what veils by revealing; it is the veil that reveals by revealing in all the ambiguous indecision of the word reveal.”

Maurice Blanchot

“Veiled Landscape” presents part of the photographic portfolio that Nelson Miranda has been constructing around industrial, commercial and institutional buildings that are currently found in a state of complete ruin or advanced degradation.  

Any reflection on photography can be expected to deal with the relationship between the photographed image and the model or subject captured therein (the subject). It is          thought, moreover, that that reflection should clarify the level of proximity between both,  since – whether intended or not – the essence of perceiving a photographic image is still founded on co-presence: the fact that the photographic device requires the presence of the subject at the moment of the capture, means that the image proves, unequivocally, that the subject existed. 

In this way, and contrary to what takes place with other modes of representation where the viewer’s opinion tends to be more concerned with the conceptual or aesthetic, the contemplation of a photograph invites one to perform a mental reconstruction of the whole ‘time-frame’ of that particular moment. Curiously, the encounter with architectural ruins seems to trigger a similar process in the observer: an attempt at reconstructing first the general outline of the building, then its possible use, and finally the circumstances that led to its degradation.  

In “Veiled Landscape” both image (photograph) and subject (ruins) belong to the semiotic category of the index. Both present ‘what was there’: the image brings the ruins into existence, and the ruins, in their turn, bring the building back to life. The photographs contain two distinct pasts: the past of the photographic act, and the past of which the ruin is what remains.  An observation of “Veiled Landscape” involves a double displacement in time: initially by the camera’s action, and shortly afterwards by the observer’s mental reconstruction of the ruins, which is inevitable when contemplating the photographs.

In the photographs that Nelson Miranda presents, the instant of the images reverts back to a time belonging to memory/imagination, and this would be the focus of the observation were it not for the fact that most of the images are quickly brought back to the present by evidence of a something outside the photograph, green, vibrant and alive and that insinuates between the gaps in the ruins.  The importance given to the elements that reveal what is beyond the scene framed by the photographer competes with that of the main subject of the images.  Windows, doors and other openings that allow light and nature to enter assume, in turn, the role of main characters, overlapping with the architectural elements, spreading a fantastical atmosphere and, in this way, giving to the photographs a natural quality that is almost documental. 

The dynamic between the man-made and natural elements enriches the interpretation of the work “Veiled Landscape”. If on one hand, the expression implies from the start the abandonment that the buildings, unused and removed from social routines, have undergone, on the other hand, the ruins, by evoking a memory, act as something that prevents access to reality (to real time), to the here and now embodied in the natural elements, drawing a veil over it.  Surprisingly, in this observation we find a new parallel between the representation of the ruins and the photograph itself, since the act of framing the image involves excluding or obscuring the ‘un-interesting’ from the eyes of the viewer.

Maurice Blanchot has already made the metaphor of a veil when addressing the complexity of the image: “It is difficult to speak rigorously of the image.  The image is the duplicity of revelation.  It is the very thing that veils in revealing, the veil that reveals in re-veiling […]”1. The effect of concealing the complexity of the actual subject is integral to the image, to any image, so as to impose on it an observation, a perspective, an order.  The image conceals (veils) because it shows (reveals) a point of view.  However, what is also integral to the nature of the image is a perpetual return to the subject in its so-called essential state, or in its state before the image existed: “The image is image by means of this duplicity, being not the object’s double but an initial division that permits the object to be portrayed; it is an unfolding, an about-turn, a ‘version’ that is always in a process of inversion […] 2.

Vera Carmo

1 Blanchot, M. (1993). The infinite conversation (Vol. 82). U of Minnesota Press. Chicago.

2 idem

Vera Carmo (1980, PT) is an independent curator and, since 2017, assumed the artistic direction of Espaço Campanhã. She is co-editor of the quarterly publication MOLA, dedicated to the dissemination and critical reception of the activities of the independent cultural spaces of the city of Porto. Detains a Bachelar Degree in Fine Arts / Sculpture and a Master Degree in Museological and Curatorial Studies (School of Fine Arts, University of Porto, 2004 and 2013). Currently develops a PhD in Contemporary Art at the College of Arts of the University of Coimbra.