… an inverse constellation, seen only from space: lone figures, dispersed across continents, entranced by vanishing points, alone against the oceans…
Nicholas Muellner’s most recent image-text book journeys through shifting tableaux of exile and solitude in the digital age. Seductive, disorienting, informative and allegorical, In Most Tides an Island is at once a glimpse of contemporary post-Soviet queer life, a meditation on solitude and desire, and an inquiry into the nature of photography and poetry in a world consumed by cruelty, longing, resignation and hope.
This work emerged from two very different impulses: to witness the lives of closeted gay men in provincial Russia, and to compose the gothic tale of a solitary woman on a remote tropical island. Along the way, these disparate pursuits – one predicated on documentation, the other on invention - unexpectedly converged. Shot along Baltic, Caribbean and Black Sea coastlines, distant landscapes met at the rocky point of Alone. From that vista, they ask: what do intimacy and solitude mean in a radically alienated but hyper-connected world?
In Most Tides an Island challenges photographic and literary conventions, collapsing portraiture and landscape, documentary and fiction, metaphor and description into the artist’s distinct form of hybrid narrative. This shape-shifting work is threaded together by the voice of the wandering narrator and the unexpected visual echoes between these far-flung landscapes. A mysterious stream of faceless but expressive online profile pictures further links the divergent stories. These anonymous figures serve as an emotional semaphore, signaling across genres and geographies and between language and image.
Five years in the making, In Most Tides an Island is the long-awaited follow-up to Muellner’s critically acclaimed image-text books, The Amnesia Pavilions (2011) and The Photograph Commands Indifference (2009). Like those earlier works, this book profoundly intertwines language and image into an original hybrid form of photographic literature. In Most Tides an Island questions the fundamental natures of documentary and metaphor, the emotional functions of photography, and the always animate but unbridgeable space between words and pictures.