We are in search of the origin of Alexis Vasilikos. The alternative spelling of his name ΑΛΕΞΗΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΟΣ indicates that he is Greek. Colorful imagery, street views, most people snapped from aside, behind or hidden, leaving them faceless, little arbitrary objects. Alexis’s work explore the presence of the sublime in everyday life and is an intimate contemplation on the nature of emptiness. Furthermore, his latest work is a powerful assemblage of his last, fourth travel to India in 2015. We asked Alexis about his collections of India, a journey of self-discovery and his search of nothingess and the Supreme.
“Back to Nothing” is a series of images from your travels to India. How is it different to grasp on photographing a society where you are not living? Do you feel you have the right to be critical towards it?
Alexis Vasilikos: I have to say that I am not critical about anything and it’s not a question of having the right or not, I just don’t feel the need to be critical, maybe I have this approach because for me making pictures is an act of devotion, a form of praising the Supreme and therefore it doesn’t make much difference where I’m shooting or what I’m shooting, because the Supreme is equally everywhere.
Why did you choose to call your collection of India “Back to Nothing”?
Alexis Vasilikos: Because this is a series about a spiritual journey and this is what spirituality is all about, the coming back of consciousness to itself, to no-thingess. Only when we are nothing, we are free.
Besides your self-image, what has changed in India since your first and second travel there?
Alexis Vasilikos: Many things have changed but It’s not about India you see, what I was looking for when I first traveled there is to meet someone who had realized the truth, a sage, and after I met my Master I visited India to be in his presence. So India is in the background, self –knowledge is in the foreground.
Would you say that your work is reflecting on the problematics of inequality?
Alexis Vasilikos: No I wouldn’t. I’m not concerned directly with politics in my work. My work is about beauty and beauty is a reminder of that which is timeless in us. But if someone feels that my work is reflecting on the problematic of inequality, it does for that particular person in that particular moment.
You state that your work explores the intimate contemplation of the nature of emptiness. Meantime, you personally seem to have been filled with some sort of inner peace and joy during your last travel to India. Do you think this fulfillment has made your exploration of emptiness more complicated?
Alexis Vasilikos: I use the concept “emptiness” because the mind can’t give a form to it and the way I use it is to point to that which is non-conceptual, to that space within out of which all forms manifest, the common denominator. Fulfillment and emptiness are not opposite terms, paradoxically we are truly full when we are completely empty and by “empty” I mean empty of self because this is what we are full of. So when I say that my work arises out of emptiness or that it is an exploration into the nature of emptiness, I mean that there is no “me” there to do or not to do anything at all, it all happens by itself and there is always joy and peace in the absence of self, in fact this is where beauty comes from, the place within which is prior to “me” and “you”.
Is a photograph worth a thousand words?
Alexis Vasilikos: A photograph is worth a thousand words only if you start to think about it. What about when you don’t think about it or when you forget about it? Does it still have the same value?
In my view the highest function of art is to bring the mind back to silence, not to produce thinking, so a photograph that comes from the heart is an ocean of silence, not a thousand words.
Interview by Iren Asandi.