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Nocturnal Tides: An interview

A renewed and poetic re-imagination on the symbiotic exchange between humanity and nature underscores the world of London-based artist, Lena C. Emery. Photographed for TEKLA, Nocturnal Tides is a visual study which ruminates on the nature of conscious and unconscious reality: on mind, body and matter, substance and attribute, potentiality and actuality.

Creative Direction Rana Toofanian

What was the intention behind the Nocturnal Tides’ black & white diptychs?

LENA: I keep asking myself, how can the ideas and images we produce form part of a larger conversation? Our biological clocks are connected to the natural earth rhythms and cycles – like the tide that draws in while the moon rises. So to create pairings that assume a relationship between human and nature as a living, elemental entity seemed like a felicitous way to represent the idea of sleep. As a format, the juxtaposition of the imagery encourages the viewer to create their own symbolic ties, while the intentional use of black and white allows for the necessary abstraction from reality: disrupting the existing visual brand language in order to forge a new, distinctive dialogue.

What inspired you to write the poem – Live In Your Head – to support the campaign? RANA: The poem was inspired by the visual diptychs within Nocturnal Tides. In all our states of consciousness – whether waking, dreaming, hypnagogic – our minds have the capacity to both imagine and deliver us to new realms. As children, and even as adults, we are encouraged to disconnect and retreat from our internal worlds – to get our heads out of the clouds and ground them in the material world. For me, personally, ‘Live in Your Head’, is just a short rumination on expansiveness of having a rich internal life – which feels right for the times we are in.

You mentioned dreams. Can you elaborate on their significance within the series? RANA: There’s a quote from Noam Chomsky: “While winter reigns the earth reposes but these colourless green ideas sleep furiously.” Like that sentence, our dreams are simultaneously non-sensical and incredibly sophisticated. All the areas of our brains associated with visual and emotional processing are still active while we sleep, and our dreaming brains actually possess superior narrative abilities. Everybody dreams. Each night, we experience our own ‘Nocturnal Tides’. We go to sleep, and wake up again, over and over. Each image in your series expresses a singular idea or feeling, but the arrangement and combination of your photographs, and the entire body of work, evokes the dream state.

Is there a symbolic value you place on clouds and water? LENA: The interconnection between water and clouds are a beautiful metaphor for the nature flow of existence. Their interdependent relationship reflects the notion of “inter-being” – an understanding that everything in the world co-exists and connects. The tide that ebbs and flows, rises to form clouds.

Giant interstellar, molecular clouds that exist out in our cosmos, collapse to birth stars and planets. All the atoms inside of us are constantly moving and renewing. The symbolic value isn’t rooted in the idea of reincarnation but in biological theory. On a microscopic level, the molecules that make up our bodies have once been a part of clouds, mountains and oceans. I like to keep these connections and the concept of ‘interbeing’ in mind when I approach my work as they encapsulate the vast and boundless symbiosis which is present within all of nature and humanity.

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