Irene Caesar, Ph.D. is a conceptual artist-provocateur who creates ideological and aesthetic subversions via absurd performances documented by photography to put to the test major concepts of human civilization. She bases her aesthetics upon staging role-games, which express some concept in a metaphorical, symbolic or aphoristic way via making participants interact with some symbolic object or prop, with themselves, or between each other in some very intense or boundary situations – all thoroughly absurd and pushing participants out of the ordinary or acceptable way of behavior toward revelatory experience. This makes her staged photography very different from the other staged photography, even the one, which is dynamic, rather than static. Role-games she produces always engage herself into close interaction with the participants of her performances – via verbal and energy-field communication, as if she stands not behind the camera, but in front of the camera. Her recent projects include "A New History of Ideas in Pictures," "Counter Portraits," "People of Art as Objects of Art," and “Dissent.” “Dissent” represents portraits of dissidents in the style of dissent, including such renowned Soviet-era dissidents as Elena Bonner, Pavel Litvinov, Alexander Esenin-Volpin, Andrey Grigorenko, Father Michael Meerson, and others. The stills from this series constitute a part of the experimental film project by Victor Balashov (an important Soviet-era dissident and political prisoner) “Dissidents,” for which Irene Caesar is a co-partner / photography director. The film, still in making, is the original video and photo archive of the intellectual dissent history and underground culture in ex USSR. "A New History of Ideas in Pictures" creates some kind of conceptual encyclopedia in the form of staged and photographed role-games testing the most general concepts of human culture, such as human nature and the origin of man, the sacred and the profane, the universal good and evil, the Divine father and the Divine mother, the sublime and the bestial, race, social modes, gender and its ambiguities, ego and alter-ego, fetish, super-hero, objectification of women, modes of mass consciousness like modes of seriality and patriarchal domination, modes of inferiority and suffering, and attitudes towards death. "Counter Portraits" represents portraits as absurd performances documented by photography. "People of Art as Objects of Art" includes conceptual portraits of art crowd, featuring "Arthur Danto with Wise Puffy Cheese Doodles". This project validates major art concepts of the 20th century by making some important artists and art critics enact some art concept via creating an art piece in front of the camera. Among the participants are Arthur Danto, Vadim Perelman, Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid, Dan Cameron, John Haber, David Gibson, Larry Litt, Carter Ratcliff, and others.
I only do staged photography, even if I shoot on location. I am not interested in “f/64” documentary reportage, because I believe that reality is a creation of collective and individual consciousness, and the two-dimensional ready-mades of everyday existence are simply a thin illusory surface hiding the reality where people truly dwell.
However, my take on staged photography is radically different from any staged photography known to me. The difference is that I stage action produced in performances which very closely resemble theatre and cinema. Usually, art photographers who create staged photography use 8x10 or 4x5 view cameras that do not have automatic focus and require subjects to be very still in front of the camera. This carries on into the aesthetics of imaging. The too-static staged photography seems to lack expressiveness and defeats its goals. My goal is to create images of performances that make people live in front of the camera in a more intense way than how they live in their everyday lives. In this sense, my staged photography is a counter-staged photography, as well as it is a counter-documentary reportage. And that is why my images are not simply movie stills, which are the artificial and mannerist cuts from externalized action.
I define my style as theatre of absurd documented by photographic means. The project “A New History of Ideas in Pictures” includes works done in the studio in the form of absurd performances. Each image is a part of a set of images (usually 3 to 5), which represents the entire continuous performance. The overall objective of the project is an ambitious programme to evaluate the major concepts of human civilization, like human nature, the origin of man, the universal good and evil, the Divine Father and the Divine Mother, the sacred and the profane, the sublime and the bestial, race, gender and its ambiguities, ego and alter-ego, fetish, super-hero, objectification of women, modes of mass consciousness like modes of seriality and patriarchal domination, modes of inferiority and suffering, and the attitudes towards death.
I predict that very soon humanity, as we know it now, will cease to exist, being changed by computational biology. We have little time left to document humanity in its pure form - with all its suffering and imperfection....