Edgar Martins

The Accidental Theorist

‘These nighttime beach images are all about temporal experience – there is a kind of theatricality to them, a sense of observing an abandoned stage, or a stage awaiting some event.’

The imagery of The Accidental Theorist is less a set of pictures than a series of moments that have become independent of causation or function. It resembles a set of location shots for unmade films based on lost scenarios. I am often drawn to spaces where I can prioritise poetic memory over concrete topographies.

I do not see the items which take centre stage in these images as objects, but rather as events. At a glance, one could argue that this work deals with the impact of Modernism on the environment too, but I do hope it goes much further than this. I am interested in the theatre and in performance – yet not in the traditional sense of the word. I am interested in recording the world’s performance of itself – as a set of processes and facts. And the only way to achieve this is to slow down time. That is why I often use long exposures and, in some ways, why I use my photographic camera like a video camera.

Shooting largely on the same set of Portuguese beaches over a period of two years, I sought to distance myself from the conventional spatial representation.

Shot with an analogue 4×5” large format camera and with the use of long exposures (not long enough to register star trails, though), the images are surprisingly flat.

The result is that the beach is little more than a proscenium in front of an inky curtain, which becomes the locus of some odd occurrences and some improbable subjects.

The beaches are littered with various chance discoveries: umbrellas, tire tracks, plastic piping, and piles of sand. While these subjects might appear to be a result of manipulation, they are almost entirely photographed as found – even those which look the most contrived were discovered. The elements found there underscore an ambiguity in these images – the ambiguity between the composed and the contingent.

This landscape is actual, familiar, ubiquitous, and yet imaginary, unseen. The images suggest a poised turbulence. They are full of stillness and silence, yet haunted by mobility, by intangibility and uncertainty, marked by the sense that things are forever unreachable, never arrived at.