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Attracted to Light
Texts by Victor Pelevin, Demetrio Paparoni,
Vladimir Nabokov and Doug & Mike Starn
A Blind Spot Book published by powerHouse

A Blind Spot Book
A sumptuously oversized and exquisitely produced book, Attracted to Light premiers Doug and Mike Starn's extensive conceptual portraits of the nocturnal moths’ mysterious journey and the undeniable draw that light has over them. “Captured” in 83 photographs and video stills, this book focuses on their explorations into the conceptual and physical relationship of light and darkness. With an introduction by Demetrio Paparoni and accompanying texts including excerpts from Vladimir Nabokov’s "Father’s Butterflies," and a commissioned fiction by Russian novelist Victor Pelevin entitled "Horizon Light" that reprises the central characters from his 1993 novel, The Life of Insects. Institutions ranging from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Philadelphia Museum of Art already have acquired art works from the series. According to essayist Demetrio Paparoni, “For the Starns, light is more than enlightenment; it is the gravity of all our past experiences and our future, the conscious and unconscious, the external and internal factors that drive our lives. The pull of gravity that light has over the corporeal body of the moths is like breathing, like thinking, impossible to deny; involuntarily, moth’s wings bring them to the light. These sensitive portraits of insects caught in the gravity of their desire are brought to view in the photographic prints ... They reveal, the pathetic but real and gentle strength of the moth in its inexorable struggle to reach the light… The enlarged scale of the insect isn’t purely for our lepidopterical study of the moth in its habitat; in addition, it is to allow us, bound in gravitational fields of our own making, to see ourselves existing in their scale.”

Attracted to Light D (ephemera)

In development for more than 7 years, these reclusive artists have deepened their explorations of photography and their lexicon of light. For the Starns, light is a metaphor for power and knowledge: “It is history, the future, and spirituality…Light is what controls every decision and action we take; light is thought.” Attracted to Light is the first “movement” of the Starns’ investigations into light, which include five new bodies of work with studies of nocturnal insects, brain neurons, desiccated leaves, and silhouetted dendritic trees.
Most of the images for the Attracted to Light series were captured on the porches of the Starns’ lakefront properties in upstate New York. To create their very unique portraiture of moths, special macro lenses were custom made. Then, as is the artists’ practice, they created printing methods and techniques that approximate and imply the metaphorical meaning of the subject and concept itself. Here, in the printing of the photographs, a technique was refined over years in which silver emulsion softens during darkroom development and minute flakes of the image wash away, mimicking the moth’s delicate and tattered wings after banging against the light on the back porch while the soft paper echoes their velvety texture. Likewise, the construction of the photographs, pieced together in parts, recalls the very personal interpretation which our minds view every moment of life.

ATL Film Still #8


About the Texts

Demetrio Paparoni, born in Syracuse 1954, lives in Milan, is the author of several important monographs including Chuck Close: Daguerreotypes; Brian Eno/Mimmo Paladino; Timothy Greenfield Sanders, amongst others. Paparoni focuses on art philosophy and theory. He founded one of the first Italian international art magazines, Tema Celeste, in the early 1980s, and continued as publisher and editor until April 2000.
As an independent curator, he was commissioner for the Italian Pavilion at the1993 Venice Biennale. In the same year he curated Abstraction Redefined at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, San Marino, the first major show in Italy on the new abstraction. Working for the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1996, Paparoni curated the New Abstractions exhibition organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia at the Palacio Velasquez in Madrid and at the Galeria de Arte Moderna in Barcelona. Currently, he collaborates with the magazines Anna and
Capital of the Rizzoli group.

Victor Pelevin, born in Moscow in 1962 where he currently lives, has established a reputation as one of the most interesting of the younger generation of Russian writers. He is one of the few writers today who writes seriously about what is happening in contemporary Russia, but with a style of ironic detachment characteristic of his generation—one which never had time to absorb the ideologies, accepted or rejected, by its predecessors.
Pelevin has written for The New York Times Magazine, Granta, Open City and was selected by The New Yorker as one of the Best European Writers Under 35. He is the author of Omon Ra, Buddha’s Little Finger and, The Blue Lantern, amongst other novels which have been translated into several languages.
In Attracted to Light, Pelevin reprises his central characters from his beautiful, surrealist and seminal 1993 novel, The Life of Insects. Two moths, Mitya and Dima (both diminutive forms for Dmitry, a single moth halved into separate entities, not unlike identical twins split from the same egg), experience their instinctive quest for light.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), the exiled Russian master and one of the twentieth century's most insightful, innovative, and darkly humorous writers, was also an acknowledged lepidopterist that worked for Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. The illusive transactions made between art and life and his obsession with memory and butterflies pervade his fiction.

New York Times Book Review by Andy Grundberg
Photo Eye by Darius Himes
ArtReview by James Crum