Artist website: http://elisabethajtay.com/
Interview with Elisabeth Ajtay:
Talk about the process of making the piece moonABC.
My work is a result of sometimes months-long considerations of digging and letting go.
The idea of creating a moon alphabet started somewhere in 2014 with me sitting on the stairs in front of my house, finding calm in the ever-present light of the moon. I was working on my artist visa in order to stay in the US, and felt tied down with no status, no existence – practically being an alien resident on hold. So I had plenty of time thinking about how I could push my work with the moon further, in terms of overcoming that which is visible. The moon has been exposed and explored to numerous artistic expressions and scientific ones. I did not mean to repeat but to expand. Also, having been working for almost 20 years with a camera, there are moments when I am tired of the medium. I began making art with my hands first, drawing, painting and even dancing and for many years I would consider myself a very physically-based artist. Making images with a camera is very different, the body is less involved, instead, a lot of editing and thinking, once the “click” happened. One night I simply grabbed my camera and began tracing the light. First randomly, then more purposefully, with the intention of putting my body into the image. Movements.
I wrote my initials and from there, I began practicing letters. Realizing I was creating a “moon font,” I took the time to work towards a complete alphabet during each cycle when the full moon returned, and to train my hand towards as much perfection as my body was able to offer. During these two years, I was reading numerous books on communication and technology. The points that fascinated me outlined how technology alters our brains, our level of empathy, and how we change our social patterns within society. Those readings were my impetus in exploring my physicality in conversation with nature, or, the physicality of the moon.
On another level, creating an alphabet is to some extent a reflection of my multilingual presence. It is sometimes hard phrasing thoughts when the tongue is moving differently, or you have another language’s rhythm inside you. It can confuse, cause mayonnaise. Having inside and on the outside (history repeats itself).
The phrases that I wrote are notes that I made in my sketchbooks over the past few years. I am not interested in total technical perfection and I have never been. I love mistakes and incidents. I love the imperfection of the human body. I love the beauty of decay.
How does the moon, or other natural elements, factor into your art practice in general?
I grew up in Transylvania. There was a beautiful interview with two designers from Transylvania where they were being asked why their design is so dark and why they use so much warm, natural elements such as wood, they replied that it is part of the landscape of Transylvania. There is a darkness to nature, in terms of richness. The soil is of a nourishing, deep black. The greens are saturated, and everything is more “hefty,” intense. So that is where I grew up and what marked me.
I strongly believe in humans being by far more influenced by the surrounding nature than by abstract concepts such as nations. Back then, I grew up in a dictatorship. When I reached Germany, the West, I had to realize, that people thought we came from the moon. From nowhere. Romania and the entire East was pictured really poorly in Western propaganda.
Eastern Europe was the “new exotic” place to be after the revolutions passed and the borders opened. Growing up without Ken and Barbie but with inventing games and tools with whatever we had allowed me to be happy. The environment was down to earth and people were creative. I grew up with gardening, slaughtering, ballet and the opera. All at the same time. One did not exclude the other. I believe that is where my love for all natural forms/behaviors comes from. That is why I do think about death as something beautiful. And of course because of Baudrillard as well. Life is a cycle nature. A computer, as much as all other technical achievements in the Western hemisphere, are part of our lives, yet they do not prevent or save us from our mortality. We live in a world that is in a contrast between natural and artificial elements and we learn to grow with it. We have this urge to constantly explore everything. To expand. The moon has been explored and then dumped. Now science is moving beyond the moon, towards the invisible ends of our universe. However, the moon is crucial to the continuation of our existence. If we lost the moon, our planet would lose its balance. Working with the moon is a reflection of the given natural presences that we depend so much upon, yet we take for granted.