Photography Against Itself: Chain of Belief by JONaEON

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The winter of 2010 marks the long-awaited appearance of a remarkable work by conceptual photographer JONaEON – Chain of Belief is minimal and stripped down, a bare stage on which no human characters appear, and the drama is enacted instead by silent and inanimate forces – the moon, the night sky, billowing fabric, the wind. The first complete set of fifty artworks in the Chain of Belief Series, Edition #1 of 10, will be released in February 2010. An exhibition of JONaEON’s photography may be viewed daily through March 30, 2010 at Flying Saucers Art Gallery in Santa Monica California.

MoonMadonna by JONaEON, from Chain of Belief Series

Chain of Belief systematically counteracts still photography’s tendency toward objectification of the world, and, by implication, its construction of the viewing subject as standing against the world and outside the world.

Chain of Belief is a deceptively simple work, a montage of still photographs of the night sky, framed by the elevator shaft of an apartment building in Santa Monica – an austere concrete structure that has been draped, however, with skeins of sheer red fabric that rise and fall, swell and shiver, with each gust of the passing wind. Though many of the images in Chain of Belief are individually striking in color and rhythm, the work itself is first and foremost a sequence, running evenly from the first image to the last: what counts is the pacing, the unexpected transformations of the simple elements – the square frame of the shaft, the brilliant disc of the moon, the protean dance of the fabric – from one still moment to the next. Chain of Belief insists on placing the still image back in ‘real time,’ that is, as stilled moments within an ongoing flow of movement.

Implicit in the real-time montage is a certain suspicion of still photography as a possible agent or accomplice in the reification of the visual field. Everything around us exists in duration. Durée is the temporal matrix that I, as a living being, inhabit and share with the things of the world. But of this successive, unfolding time the still camera knows nothing; and in place of the shared grounding in co-eval time (the human being and the object world moving through time side by side) still photography gives us a picture of the world as pure object, ‘out there’: the world ‘opposite’ or ‘against’ the human being – a deadened world of facticity and reification.

Chain of Belief systematically counteracts still photography’s tendency toward objectification of the world, and, by implication, its construction of the viewing subject as standing against the world and outside the world. Though so little ‘happens’ (“There was an apartment building. The moon rose. It crossed the sky……”) it is a work capable of generating a remarkable range of intensities in the viewer who is prepared to work with its structure of suggestion. Its slightly dilated exposure times have the property of allowing successive states of change to co-exist without forging a synthesis between them. They take advantage of the camera’s ability not to impose an organizing point of view. If still photography can easily lend itself to the project of mundane vision – seeing objects set apart from one another, in a uniform extended space – Chain of Belief presents a world not of things but of flows and intensities of sensation, textures and colors fluctuating from moment to moment.

The sequence of images advances by progressively canceling its range of determinate forms, forms whose contour or silhouette are tied to fixed markers of legibility. In their place multiply auroras and visionary gleams, the billowing undulations of half-seen drapery, of implicit hoods and mantles, limbs ands faces (salamanders, the legendary creatures of fire). For the viewer who is prepared to run the course, the fiery core of Chain of Belief conjures the sorcery of a scrying mirror where whatever is banished from regulated consciousness can now peer in from the edge of vision, emissaries from the heavens or hells that lie beyond or beneath the terra firma of normalized perception.

(This essay by Norman Bryson, Professor of Art History at the University of California, San Diego, may be reprinted).

Chain of Belief Edition #1 - February Release Announced

CHAIN OF BELIEF EDITION #1 will be released in February 2010, the first complete set of the Chain of Belief Series fifty photo light paintings on canvas, signed and numbered, #1 of 10 Editions. Each artwork in Edition #1 is valued at $2010, or $100,500 for the fifty piece Edition.

Edition #1 will be available for purchase as a whole collection for only 30 days. This 30-day window is intended to facilitate collectors and institutions purchase of the entire collection. Additional information on Chain of Belief Edition #1 is available online at

“The objective in photo light painting is to anoint canvas in illumination with brush strokes of light from a crystal camera lens," JONaEON, in reflection upon his art of photo light painting.

"Chain of Belief,” an exhibition of JONaEON’s photo light paintings, opened January 15th at Flying Saucers Art Gallery. The exhibition may be viewed daily through March 30, 2010, 9am until 5pm, at Flying Saucers Art Gallery, 306 Pico Blvd, in Santa Monica, California.


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Ryan MacLeod Morris

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