Inaugurated on 14 May 2021, the San Damon Museum is intended to promote the oniroscopic art created by the artist in 2004. It includes photographic, sculptural and literary works (including his poetry collections), as well as his numerous drawings and all of his musical scores, including the Upper Side West Concept, not to mention his latest work, contemporary dance.
Damon and his wife recently moved to Japan where the artist staged and integrated his work with Butoh, thus showing the many facets of his creation. I would not be complete if I did not mention the Grand Duchy of Oniroscopie, which now has more than one million visitors per month.
With a collection of more than 1400 works, the museum will organise occasional exhibitions on lesser-known subjects of the artist, but will keep permanently the works of the great themes that made his fame, allowing to follow and understand the evolution of the oniroscopist art.
But above all, what sets the San Damon Museum, nicknamed "The Manor", apart is its design. The rooms that welcome the visitors are all creations of the artist and we go from the simple recollection that we can have with a work to the technology that allows us to see them differently. Please refer to the different explanatory chapters.
On the initiative of Brian Wilbanks and Luke Kelter, funds have been raised to build the San Damon Museum in one of their properties ideally located in Nassau.
Oscar Bernstein, a great collector of San Damon's work, has donated part of his collection of photographs covering various themes.
Allison Rosenberg is the director and manager of the San Damon Museum. Originally conceived as a private foundation, it has evolved into a semi-private museum. At its opening in May 2021, 600 guests from all over the world, but mainly from Japan where San Damon and his family have been living for a short time, were able to discover the different facets of Oniroscopism created by San Damon.
The Cercle S, the Magenta box, the library, the various lounges, the Dream Room, the Naked Room, the R. (restaurant-bar) and its spaces in this particular setting allow visitors to experience oniroscopic art first hand and to grasp the nuances that San Damon, in creating it, has infused it with.
These eleven works are an entity, San Damon thought of them in terms of psychological reactions, not to mention psychiatric ones. They are the instinct, the emotional ictus, the paraphrenia, the schizophrenia or the paranoia that each of us can feel to varying degrees. That is why these eleven works called by the artist "Introspective Oniroscopic Sophism - Chamber Zero". They were initially set up in front of very disturbed patients, in order to see their reactions, their reflexes and their interactions with the works. Room zero does not exist in a hospital environment, that is the reason for its name.
It is important to know that the patients and then the spectators of the eleven works also had the possibility of choosing three pieces of music composed by San Damon to mix, for an instant, with snippets of Johann Sebastian Bach's Suite No. 3, so that the observer's brain, not to say the witness' brain, would have an unconscious reference. The eight interviewees on these eleven works are recognized academics and intellectuals and often "visiting professors" in various universities around the world. They come from different disciplines such as: Art Historian, Museum Curator, Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Image Esthetician, Doctor of Philosophy, Senior Researcher at the FNRS, Doctor of Neurosurgery, Holder of the CNRS Chair in Visual Studies and Culture, Anthropologist and Doctor Honoris Causa from the Université de Montréal and the University of Lyon II and finally one of the great Jazzman.
San Damon started from the four seasons....oniroscospites....those that we still recognize, to gradually reach abstraction. But undoubtedly, the most challenging thing is the in-between! The missing link, the one that leads us into a kind of delirium that we usually try to avoid. Here they are one after the other....detailed.
For the first time in spring, the ochre, blue and magenta tones through trees on a black background transpose the season to its oniroscopic universe. We can see a chromatic sound, the rendering of the bark of very natural trees allows us to better understand the luminosity that comes from elsewhere in San Damon's works. There is no doubt that these works are illuminated.
Then comes summer, the red blends with purple, blue, magenta, its magenta. But the great director is the black, so present and yet barely visible compared to those reds that burn and bruise in summer.
The axis is broken, while the vegetation of the forest is frontal, all its art of distorting perspectives is masterfully orchestrated here.
When summer is dying, come the autumn when ochres, ochre-yellows, green-jads, bluish mauves and reddish magentas are still flying around. The path is long, it is a tunnel of colours, those of oniroscopism, interspersed with bright and changing whites. On the left we can see a raw colour, a reddish-purple magenta, hard, dark and violent. If we look closer, we can be surprised by fear, no one is on the horizon, we are alone in the world, wrapped in the work of this imaginary and yet very real forest.
The final roughness, winter arrives and in its background the black and ochre light, all the vegetation is naked, stripped and "disoriented" of all these protective attributes. The branch is magnificently messy, the colours are bluish, purplish, white light spots embellish this cold and seemingly warm. Be observant, look at what Damon does not show you at first sight, a small hidden counterpath, leaves that like faces, spy on you.
Hesitation is the fifth element, a kind of child born of four parents, reassuring pillars of what he knows to vanish into the unknown. His immediate impression is the mess. It is dark in various places and in others a light hangs on the ground. Everything is confused, messy, there is no road, no route to follow, he procrastinates.....he probably hopes.
The missing link : We float in absolute uncertainty, everything purple, everything is magenta, a few bluish, blackish branches, seem to block, or... or could eventually serve as supports to hang on to, so as not to slip into the void. Who wouldn't feel lost in the middle of this magma magenta, who wouldn't be afraid to never find his way back. And even more, we are sinking towards.....
The disorder : Madness, certainly madness, the one we have all gone through or will one day pass through, is fury, the one that exults from us, from the elements, an acrid green explodes and torments us. It's the middle of the storm. And who is in the centre, who is losing ground, we, even if we are accompanied, are alone, at least and it is even worse, we feel alone. And there, it is inevitable, uncontrollable.... the fall, the whirlwind, gusts, storms, a dangerous, deadly maelstrom, but which attracts us........ this is our nature (in the sense of human nature).
The imbalance : Suddenly, a brutal wall, some kind of bars, but bars of freedom. The agitation is still there, present, but the tones are warm, if everything is cloudy, blurry... the black is in the distance, a lighter carpet appears and despite these uncertainties a kind of appeasement breaks in the foreground. Yes, in the foreground, a magenta trunk seems stronger than the background, it crosses space through and through. It may be a trap or a mirage, but perhaps it is the one that will keep us away from the nightmare ?
Abstraction, or how not to see clearly anymore! Because it is there in front of us, leading us to confusion, because it seems calm, a kind of waterfall in a soft style invites us. Hieroglyphs solicit us, a similar writing of our ancestors emerges, pictograms, small harmless signs, but which reassure us, soothe us. We must find, seek the solution to get out of this nightmare, this labyrinth of memories, of reminiscences of our past, distant or near, whatever.
Introspection : Now is the time to rest, to slumber, to face one's fears, fears or thoughts, tender or violent. At first sight, the field and its dimensions, the surface and its immensity seem dark. But the dark is not synonymous with worry. Beyond that, lives the peaceful feeling of understanding what happened to us for........
The sophism....to be wrong, to multiply the paths by following them all at once.
What seems true may be the lie. Morality defeated by empiricism. The deep black, so deep that colours explode. You have before you, the infinite.
Citations from the 2 S.O.I. documentary films and additional citations from other documentary films on San Damon's works in order to understand the path to those of S.O.I. :
Jean-Noël Missa (Doctor of Philosophy, President of the Belgian Society of Philosophy)
1.) The depressed, melancholic, precocious dementia patient with delusional ideas, who is waiting for the psychoanalyst, will examine these photos, listen to the music and maybe there will be a spontaneous therapeutic effect, a placebo effect. So I think Master San Damon could somehow patent his installation as the first self-healing machine ! »
2.) The first four photos remind me of the objectivist point of view, where we see trees, neurons, we see the brain, and then we gradually pass through the missing link. It is the link between the brain, the mind, between the point of view in the third person and the point of view in the first person. We pass in the mind, in the solipsism of these psychotic patients who will be treated directly without going through the doctor, since Master San Damon's system, the self-help machine will perhaps help them and therefore the psychiatrist will perhaps become superfluous, he knows very well, the psychiatrist conscious of himself, that his knowledge is very fragile, very imperfect. It is therefore gratifying, I find, that this installation from San Damon, which will soon be called upon to travel around the world between New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Berlin, Paris... between psychiatrists' and psychoanalysts' offices, permeates other cultures with its imagination. "Zero Room" could be seen as a true self-help system invented by Master San Damon.
3.) So perhaps a last word, a last comment on chance and the role of chance in science, photography and art. We know that San Damon, when he invented his oniroscopic technique, was a little helped by chance, since vials....he was in his New York workshop, then vials fell on his clichés. And then he took this random event and turned it into something extraordinary, a new technique, a new conception of photography.
Thierry Lenain (Historian and Art Esthetician) "Analyzing a fuzzy photo"
1.) (...) all these photos, what's more, are indeed silver photos, of a kind, it's true, quite special, but which do not prevent us from making a visual recording of a state of things that was there at a given moment and time. And what is quite remarkable about this work is that this photographic illegibility results in a great plastic power, that is to say that we are almost there in a kind of abstract painting (...) so something organic and spontaneous once again, which of course recalls gestural painting, action painting. Here, we can say that San Damon is a work of a gestural photographer.
2.) This photo is a work that San Damon has linked to the idea of the present with the white stripes that have completely gone black this time, and which also give an extraordinary kind of plastic energy. And we think a little bit about the large black paint strokes of a Soulages Stone, for example, or a Franz Kline, or something like that.
Sergio Purini (Curator of the Museum of Art and History of the Fiftieth Anniversary and Professor of Photography at I.N.R.A.C.I.)
1.) And so, I see the photos, they are just sensations, and it's true that this... well, when I first saw this work, and I still see it now in front of these images, it's true, I thought to myself. wow....there, I'm really in front of a job I don't know, a strong, really personal approach.
2.) In fact, the forest here, as interpreted by San Damon, is a psychoanalytical interpretation, it is the transposition into images of his inner vision of the forest. That's his job, that's what you can feel.
3.) (...) sensations for example of colour transposition, it is finally true that Damon's work is a transposition work and finally this transposition is not far from reality.
Antoine Masson (Psychiatrist and Criminologist)
1.) What happens when a psychiatrist meets the pictures of San Damon? It happens that in reality we discover in these photographs an extraordinary thing that echoes a whole work that was done with adolescence.
2.) The photos depicting the spring and summer of San Damon are real condensations, with their magenta red, the ochre that starts to flare. A kind of incandescence, a kind of inner violence, a kind of burning, a kind of fire that can only remind us of this sentence taken from Freud's words "Father, can't you see that I am burning".
Patrick de Neuter (Psychanist, Co-founder of the Paris Analytical Space)
1.) The photos that San Damon proposed for my reflection have brought out in me an impressive series of memories.
2.) (...) San Damon's desire is to go beyond the simple photo. The will to create something new, the will to recreate reality, perhaps even or almost certainly, to transform it into the reality of dreams.
3.) (...) the colours that San Damon injects and that mix and intertwine with the natural colours. Then the movement he imprints, the camera to which he implies this movement.
4.) Musical accompaniment is an additional strategy for creating these photos, injecting life, passion and drive. It is quite remarkable that Bach's 3rd suite is also, like the photos, transformed in its turn. After a few classic moments San Damon shakes it, then tears it apart with various human cries, with some imported noises from life. And finally, this Bach suite is transformed into a very sharp jazz score, evoking for me desire, passion and drive.
Gil Bartholeyns (Researcher at Quai Branly, Paris. CNRS Chairholder, Visual Studies and Culture)
1.) I have the impression of a totally familiar space, but this familiarity is literally overwhelmed by chromaticism. It is this function of defamiliarization that Victor Shkovski spoke of that is certainly the function of art for him. In other words, to give back, to review again the things that we had no longer seen, here, in the San Damon way.
2.) Summer is in the magenta, in the deep darkness of the shadows, So San Damon invites us to rethink our perceptual or perceptual habits, completely natural or naturalized
3.) So it's for me a landscape painting and the first time I saw it, it made me think of Albrecht Dürer's dream vision, I probably made a link because I know that the photographic process invented by Damon, Oniroscopism, so the dream acts as a look.
Jean-Louis Migeot (President of the Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium, Acoustician)
1.) So maybe it's time to talk about Oniroscopism, since this work is called Oniroscopism. I believe that there is really in this photographic work that is done by San Damon, a well-chosen name, since there is clearly a problem of gaze, of vision that is linked to the word "skopein", in Greek "to look, to see".there is a particular look of the artist. There is a look that we can all take at these photos. And of course, because of the framing, because of San Damon's personal intention in choosing the subject. But also in the somewhat fantastical distance imposed by the chromatic modification, there is a dreamlike dimension that is obvious. And so, Oniroscopism, it is something that is obvious.
2.) (...) you have to know that you use the notion of chromatism in music as in acoustics, you are facing, if you will, something that is in the order of transposition into music. We take a picture, the colours that are present are represented by a certain number of frequencies, of wavelengths.
San Damon here transforms them, modifies them, we find them as the difference that can exist between a concerto in F major and in B flat minor.
Julian Barbour (Physicist, University of Cambridge)
1.) Time and motion are among the most difficult concepts to define in physics. As a theorist, I have been trying to understand them for 50 years. The photos of San Damon and his Oniroscopism highlight a truth, which is this: We can only understand time and movement in concrete terms.
2.) (...) any notion of time, movement and place that San Damon's Oniroscopism evokes is totally based on the concrete images it presents to us in the photos, and that the brain, in turn, presents to our consciousness.
3.) Science has so far not had the slightest idea how to grasp even eternity, let alone movement, Shakespeare may have been right: We are of this material, of which dreams are made, but how do they develop into something of great constancy? The images of San Damon will help us to meditate on these mysteries.
Christian Vandermotten (Urbanist and Geographer, Université Libre de Bruxelles)
1.) (...) the play on contrasts highlights particularly well the shadows, the shadows cast by the trees. And so, the question we immediately ask ourselves is: Where is the sun? How will I orient myself? And when you look at the sky, the sky is black, there is no sun. So basically, it's like Magritte, it's like Magritte, since you have both black and light on the same painting, here, in the same photo, a picture of Damon.
Jean-Paul Dessy (Conductor, Composer of contemporary music)
1.) What is at work here is the result of the Great Alchemical Work, namely the transmutation of matter from reality, from materiality. And San Damon's work, in this case the transfiguration of a landscape, operates through a metabolism of colours. And this chromatic mutation proposes a re-reading of space.
2) There is the creation of a collected contemplative gaze, and it allows a new relationship with reality, through the work, through the gaze of San Damon. This one has a new look, that of the subject looking in relation to the object looking and what unites them is the look. It's the silence of the gaze. This look transforms us and at that moment this sacred movement of art, which can save the world, is initiated. As Dostoyevsky said, we are in the sacred.
Remarks by the Director of the Literature Museum, Marc Quaghebeur.
A photographer with a swaying approach and a quick glance, San Damon rediscovers the urban world through a game of shifting spaces and metamorphosing colours.
Thus he allows time to enter into his images while giving the impression of speed.
The generic term Oniroscopism is perfectly suited to its work.
It uses as much overexposure as blur and an incandescent palette.
Two triptychs, one dedicated to Brussels and the other to New York, have just enriched the collections of the Museum of Literature.
Manhattan borders the Petit Sablon gardens, like the static onlookers of the Central Park fountain with the zebra-style cars of a famous Brussels boulevard.
Symbolism and interpretation of the Last Supper
The abbey permanently exhibits and holds as heritage property "The Last Supper in 13 Acts" of San Damon. The particularity of this work is the only one in the world, certified by the Vatican, to include 13 photographic paintings of each of the apostles and this with their points of view. The symbolism and interpretation of the tragedy is at stake here, both in form and content. The Last Supper, Christ's last meal, is approached here in an unexpected way, for if this painting, or its representation, has often been treated and well before Da Vinci, it has never been treated by taking as its axes of view those of the apostles and the almost real-time evolution of their reactions, a consciousness and intuition of each of the people taken in the heat. This historical translation of this essential act in the history of humanity brings together here, undoubtedly because the characters are from our time, a very special symbolism. Time is no longer in suspense as it is in the other works dealing with this subject, but on the contrary it flows as we observe it: the two double triptychs that accompany the Central Supper allow us to enter at once into the moment, in the minutes that elapse after Jesus told his invited disciples these words: "Verily I say to you, one of you will betray me". Listen to Beethoven's 9th (Scherzo movement) and fix the Last Supper of San Damon, you will see the abundance of trees, the quivering leaves, the bronze characters overwhelmed by their instincts and this guest table set and decorated with victuals staggering under the looming drama... And yet a kind of pleasure that goes beyond takes us, the pleasure to discover its secrets, the joy to know more. First of all, let's take the setting of the Last Supper, the central painting, which seems timeless, its space and place do not determine anything about it; certainly, there is the indication of the characters' clothing, but it does not jump to the eyes directly because we are absorbed by something else....the abundance of vegetation, dense and thick... But our attention is also retained by a slightly rising greenhouse in the background of the characters, it structures what will be played before our eyes.
In the foreground, a very long table with a falling tablecloth almost hits the grass from its folds; Christ remains calm as if he was waiting, or even more, watching the reaction of his disciples. The scenery is exuberant, the flora floods from everywhere and yet the characters are there, charismatic; in the tragedy, there is first of all the human being and his multiple weaknesses. It is now essential to step back from the work as a whole, take the time to estimate everything, then it is good to get closer to the first act of the double triptych. Act I: We have Bartholomew's point of view, I should say, we are Bartholomew, the apostle standing at the far left of the table, he is the reason, the one who wants to know who is the traitor, the axis takes the whole table and the first feelings are felt. The second is fear, Jacques the minor knows the context of authority and apprehends its reaction, we can already see a change that goes through the faces. André presents himself as innocence, he immediately wants to make it known that he has nothing to do with it, his hands in evidence, he marks this fact, the eyes meet and question each other. Judas comes, he hides a purse, which San Damon shows little in his work, you have to look between the characters, between the objects spread on the table.
Judas has a face that the liturgy knows well, his slight smile says a lot about the hours before this last supper, he seems to be the only one who is not really indignant, at this very moment we explicitly feel that he does not know that he will kill himself the next day. And then there is Peter, Peter, who in low mass wants, in John's ear, to give his opinion, without being heard too much, or perhaps to comfort him. Jean or Marie-Madeleine, obscure here too, arrives, but in any case, the character seems sad, resigned, listening to Peter's words. We are at the centre of the table, Christ's power is unquestionable, the majesty is in him, he awaits his fate, serene, knowing that what he will bring to those who believe in him will put them out of reach of all tragedies, he will suffer the worst for them. his face is mother-of-pearl, determined, ready to face offenses.
At this moment San Damon brings on stage a thirteenth character, Mathias, who after Judas hangs himself the day after this meal, replaces him, and above all will be the only apostle to attend the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Mathias bends over to Christ's ear, one can think that he assures him of his support, that he seeks, if the doubt still remains, to know who the traitor is. And for good reason, it is from this seventh painting that the other axes are taken from his point of view, more intimate, close to confidentiality. Emotions evolve and the disorder settles on the faces as we move forward between the disciples. Mathias first turns to his right, the looks have changed again, three faces are in close-up. Thomas the incredulous one, who advances, the accusing index against such a statement, he is the one who questions, who asks for evidence of what he has just heard. James the Greater, sitting right next to Jesus, seems to want to hold him back. He is the one who believes this is possible, he wants us to let Christ speak, he wants to know more. Standing behind them, Philippe, who refuses to be thought of as the traitor. Matthias turns to his right and looks as if in a close-up at the faces of the first six apostles. Some of them are already unclear, as if they were excluded from the debate. Perhaps the implicit consequence that the felon is there. Then and until the last of the paintings, Mathias comes between the disciples, the unusual axes are more likely to better understand the feelings of each of them. Mathieu, who proclaims: "Do you hear that? ", revolted that a traitor was among them. Simon: "I don't understand why such a thing would be possible. Thaddeus is talking, seems to be taking advice from Simon. The conscious imbalance makes us explain the different characters of the witnesses of this last meal. And it is indisputable that the different aspects and contradictions of the human being are represented here.
He is there, it's our time, and San Damon does not skimp on the allegory, powerful.
The work represents Jesus surrounded by an adapted vegetation, sort of a Garden of Eden, the Christ's face expression and his look are resolute but gentle at the
same time. We feel like following him, we understand the forgiveness and what Catholicism is built on.
It's one of the very few crucifixions represented horizontally, which gives it a phenomenal impact, an amazing spirituality and an almost intimate proximity, as well as its artistic production that owes all to the treatment the artist sets up.