sabato 24 dicembre 2016

August Muth and the pure form of the analogical holography

"Holography is the demonstration that when a technique is performed in a perfect manner, the result that is obtained is artistic." TG

August Muth

Last april at the MIA of Milan I met August Muth the best holographer in the world. Holography is a real 3D kind of photography more practiced in the '80s that in the years later. This technique desappeared because holography films were discontinued. This is the interview I recorded with  Mr. August Muth that explains how he has been able to bypass this problem.

Tony Graffio: Is this the indipendent stand of an indipendent artist, isn't it?

August Muth: Yes, we are very indipendent (he laughs).

TG: So, at first I would like to understand why holography is here in a photography art exhibition?

AM: Well, as we utilize a photo sensitive emulsion formula that was developed in the early 1840's; before the current emulsions had been not even discovered. It goes back for a very long time, it was one of the very first sensitive liquid emulsion and has a different type of light recording than a phtograph.

TG: Does people know holography?

AM: In general no, it's something very new to them, but in terms of the world knowing holography there are many things in nature that they are basically holograms. Like the colours in bird feathers or in butterflies wings; they all use similar structures how holograms break light up to the colours.

TG: Holography was quite popular in the '80s, also myself I learnt how to make an hologram with a laser and simple instruments. What has changed in these last 30 years?

AM: Technologically the latest development in holography had to do with digital holography, where they take digital files and convert them in holograms. I'm not very interested in it because I really believe in a pure form where you utilising just the laser light itself to make the hologram. And they are extremely high resolution, much higher then any resolution of any other media that exist on the planet at this time. Something like 10 billions pixels per inch. When we make a hologram it records the molecular structure of the material that the hologram subject is made of.

TG: Does exist also a way to make video holography?

AM: Yes, there is something that people are calling holograms in video, but what they are is different. There are video displays systems. I see these more and more now on the web, people talking how they are making digital holograms, but in truth they are not making holograms at all. They are just paper ghosts.

TG: Would you like to talk a little bit about your education and your career please?

AM: I grow up in New Mexico wich is very much about light. Many artist from over the world travel to New Mexico because of the light. In the early age I was very interested in working with light and working in the realm of the photon. As I discovered holography I made a self training with this discipline beacause there is no educational system out there to train with holography. There are just a few people who do it. You have to learn from those people and then you go off and really self-train and discover how to improve the matter. And that's a lot of what I've done. I have developed a method where I'm making larger holograms with this emulsion in anyboby in the world. Soon I will do holograms much larger, so I 'm going to rebuild my studio to make 1,5 meter X 1,3 meter. When I will return to New Mexico that's what I do.

TG: Is anybody collaboratig with you?

AM: Yes, Dora Tass came in my studio and we worked together to produce the typewriter series. She had the contacts in Italy, so we have been invited here to the show in this fair. I've never been to Italy before, so I decided to come here with my works.

TG: You don't work with films anymore?

AM: No, holographic films don't exist anymore, we work only with gelatine emulsions, a very old process, and we coated in this way the glass plates. It's very much like in the very first photographs. We make the hologram on the gelatine and then we laminated another piece on glass on top to the gelatine to protect it from the enviroment. Essentially from scratches and things like that. 

TG: What's the difference in working with film and with gelatine emulsion?

AM: The emulsion I use doesn't really has grain at all. The structure is very fine so you can obtain a extremely high resolution, but very few people work with this emulsion because you have to coat it quicky because it only has two weeks lifetime after you make the emulsion on the glass. Then it's dead and it's not good anymore.

TG: Do you prepare the emulsion by yourself?

AM: Yes, and I make my own formula; it's like I make my own paint, because the formula as to do with what colours you research. Results depends by different formulas I mix and how old emulsion is. If it is fresh you get ones and if it has aged you obtain a different palette. So, it's very alchemical and I don't follow the same palette all the times. I'm very loose with my technology. Producing holograms is an experience more then obtaining the exact results I want.

TG: Does this involve a lot of experimentation?

AM A lot of experimentation, yes. To see what would works and what it wouldn't work.

TG: Are you able to obtain the holograms immediately or you need to try more times before to have a good result?

AM: Sometimes it takes many, many tries to get the result because the emulsion I use is very unsensitive to light so the exposure time is seven minutes. If anything move more than 1/10'000'000'000 of a meter in 7 minutes you don't get the hologram because the laser light ought has a phase with itself, so there is nothing in there. Everything has to be very still for a long time, but occasionally things move and you have something that is not there at all. Sometime I move a piece a little bit and sometime they are totally still, so they are very clear and bright. It's all part of the creative process of what I do. Everything is very experiential.

TG: Is your art appreciated in USA?

AM: It's well received, yes. I have many galleries there where I sell working, but at the same time it's something very new. People are not really used to this type of work and I'm really knowing that there is not much of this work in the United States, so there is nothing for people to compare it to. So, this is always a problem that I had. I'm very unique and individual in terms of this work, but at this point I've been doing it for 30 years and this is all I do. I don't do anything else.

TG: Does people understand the difficulties of your technique?

AM: No, not at degree at all.

TG: It's crazy!

AM: I've made many many things in my life: sculptur, photographer, for a while, when I was in college in my early days. This is by far the most difficult thing I've made in my life. In some parts of it, you must be very precise, very controlled and very scientific. In other parts of it I have to let it go and let nature be my partner in the creation of the holograms.

TG: Have you anything to do with the Multiplex?

AM: No. Those are not real holograms because they are the rays of two dimensionals film source, so it's not really a three dimensional source. I really like making true holograms, in the sense to have a real light information storage device, if you want to be scientific about it. They are real. Most people come to see my work and they say: "Ah this is a great illusion!".  No. They are real. What we see is the illusion, we see the light in a eye transfer to electro to chemical impulse, back to electro impulse to the brain. In our perceptions this is reality, or what we think reality is. Hologram is reality, just it has no mass. Because it doesn't need any mass.

TG: How much do you sell your works?

AM: In the USA usually, in my galleries, my pieces go for $ 18'000 to $ 22'000.

TG: How much time do you need to make a piece?

AM: Between 40 and 80 hours from start to finish a piece. There are many many steps, from coat the emulsion on the glass to make the exposure of the hologram. Then I have to process, to laminated and to finish the glass and creating a framing system for. There are many processes in what I do. 

TG: Do you make these processes uninterruptedly?

AM: Oh yes, it takes days doing these things, because when I coat the emulsion I have only one week of time or two days in summertime when the days are warm and humid. In wintertime when the weather is cold and dry I have to wait 4-5 days before the plates dry up. Sometimes, just the heat from my hands would go into the glass and bend the glass and so you have to wait from overheat until the glass relax again, so the glass is not bending during the exposure time. So basically everything is nearly seattled. I load a plate one day and next night I make the hologram. I load a plate next day and the nex night I make the hologram.

TG: Are you the only one to work in this way?

AM: Yes, I would say yes. There may be a few people hobbyist who do it, but I am the only one who is doing this at professional levels. And Dora. Dora comes to my studio and collaborates. I consider her as my partner. I have facilities like no other in the world, so the only way other people could produce is collaborating with me. Some people collaborating with me to produce my works and I'm able to collaborate to produce their. It's a very fluid collaboration we have (I heard from other source, a gallerist, that also James Turrell holograms are produced by August Muth).

TG: Every piece is one of the kind?

AM: Yes. I don't use masters. I want each piece is individual light recording. It's the recording of half the light interacted with the subject one year ago or six months ago. As if you look at the stars  you look at the light emitted by the stars millions years ago, but you look at the present. When you look at a hologram you look how the light reacted with the subject matter one year ago, also in the present. There is an analogy with the stars and what I do. There is a communality also in photography and what I do because I'm parcially using really old photographic techniques. Platinum photography is much more sensitive than dichromate gelatine, what I do is dichromate, and it is 4 or 5 times less sensitive than silver halides emulsions.

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August Muth was born in 1955 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, now his studio is based in Santa Fe. New Mexico, USA.

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