In Wave, the subjects are a revolving door of living beings. All are connected by conflict, order, disorder, chaos, the experience of push and pull,       ebb and flow.

Although seemingly disparate, the people and places imprinted on Noto’s film might be linked by ancient ideas about time and human activity.    The Greek philosopher, Empedocles, considered the same ebb and flow laid out in Wave: his cosmology recognized the cyclical building up and destruction in nature through the two central forces of attraction and repulsion, or what Empedocles called “Love” and “Strife”. What Love creates and composes, Strife tears apart; on the battle goes, lasting for eternity, a never-ending wave vacillating between construction and destruction, creation and demise.

 

Rino Noto coaxes latent images to life through a complex alchemy of developers and fixers. In these images it is not just his mastery of form, it is the struggle, that tug of war between historical forces, which lies at the heart of Wave’s imagery.

In Wave, the subjects are a revolving door of living beings. All are linked by conflict, order, disorder, chaos, the experience of push and pull, ebb and flow.               Not unlike a Warhol print, Noto boosts the contrast, pushing hues to their most extreme. He draws out the graphic details in bold lines, turning these images into something halfway between realism and fantasy, documentary and metaphor. We see misfits, a majestic forest waiting for its demise, contented friends, outcasts, Caribbean revellers and judged farm animals awaiting their sentence.

The image “We Could Be” reflects an even deeper ethos of Noto’s project. A child superhero, representative of generations to come; his missing shield symbolic of the hurdles the future will face. Our superhero, his fist raised for the camera posing as Captain America, faces the challenges of our future—climate change, economic uncertainty, water depletion—and he’s doing it handicapped, too. He is missing his defence, his shield. Standing in the middle of a downtown street, humming with the pretensions of youth, Captain America leads the throng behind him, one boy versus the principles of existence itself.

Another image makes this conceptual undercurrent especially visible. In Reunification”, a First Nations couple embrace each other during a traditional ceremony, oblivious to onlookers in the moment of their intimacy.                 Their expression may soften a viewer’s heart, but Noto’s framing creates a feeling of transformation. Cut off at the waist, they persevere, caught up in their own internal world. Entwined and dancing with their Ancestors, the couple embodies a continuity of their culture: they are unity in the face of disorder, a loving sight in a discomfiting world.   Noto captures a moment of quiet rebellion: a resurgence against those invisible forces seeking to dominate or exterminate, a stand against the eternal push and pull. Here, in this moment, we catch a wave of colonialism perhaps only now receding.

Noto developed Wave on a sunny day five years ago, when he planted his camera on a beach and shot only what entered his frame. What resulted from those spontaneous clicks of the shutter was a series of photographs documenting the ebb and flow of candid human activity. In one image, a boy runs after a soccer ball; in another, a couple stroll past, oblivious to their imprint on Noto’s film. His subjects would “fall through the frame in waves,” the artist recalls, their comings and goings befitting the crashing seascape. Noto would later use these images to found the series you see here.

 

 This couple’s entwined arms form an unbroken circle symbolic of life’s eternal cycle. Adorned in the bones and feathers worn by their ancestors—and focusing, lovingly, only on one another—the subjects here embrace their rich cultural tradition, allowing the photographer a glimpse into both the sacred ceremony and their own intimate relationship.

“Rino’s walk alongside First Nations as an Ally for the past 12 years gives his work a unique perspective that embodies feeling, knowing and hope. Imbued with Spirit through ceremony, the rich and vast cultures and languages of Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island will endure forever.” 
--
Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan, Six Nations

 

Wave does more than document the flux of life.  Formally speaking, the series delves into the bizarre, abstracting its scenes in order to offer back to the viewer a higher order of representation: it’s not a photo we see, but an artwork reworked, transformed. As in Noto’s previous body of work, Crepuscolo, in which we witness a shrouded figure undergoing a process of decay, Noto’s editing techniques lift his images to a discrete conceptual plane.  Through the distortion of lens filters, layered frames and a warped sense of solidity, patterns begin to emerge. A blue sky becomes a granulated field, its surface undulating in a double-slit pattern, reminiscent of the first experiment to suggest that particles of solid matter behave like waves of energy.

By further fragmenting the images in post-production editing, Noto shatters preconceptions about his subjects, presenting us with life broken down to its basic bits.  Like the snapshots of daily life painted and deconstructed by the pointillism of Georges Seurat, Noto transcends documentary to illustrate the deeper poetry hidden in these scenes. Capturing both the pedestrian and the unorthodox, Noto’s photographs become commentary, an ongoing dialogue on the events that lead up to his final compositions. These images, then, become less about Noto’s subjects and more about the viewer’s perception. They privilege the very act of witnessing. In the context of Wave, as in the strange physics the series invokes, interpretation is everything.

These visual peaks and troughs inherent to Noto’s imagery — that stark contrast between light and shadow, those jarring hues, the unexpectedly bold forms and rippling landscapes — seem to echo the scenes’ conceptual content. Toying with the idea of flux, Noto shoots unstaged photographs, moving with the flow of his subjects. “Ask Alice” perhaps best illustrates this spontaneity. The photo bears witness to a misfit gathering; two masked interlopers forcibly engage our imaginations, staring at the camera dead on, challenging the viewer’s ideas of order and normality. In Wave, we catch a brief, truncated glimpse of life’s cycles: joy, resilience, purposeful absurdity, all presented in one interconnected package.

Although seemingly disparate, the people and places imprinted on Noto’s film might be linked by ancient ideas about time and human activity. The Greek philosopher, Empedocles, considered the same ebb and flow laid out in Wave: his cosmology recognized the cyclical building up and destruction in nature through the two central forces of attraction and repulsion, or what Empedocles called “Love” and “Strife”. What Love creates and composes, Strife tears apart; on the battle goes, lasting for eternity, a never-ending wave vacillating between construction and destruction, creation and demise.

Seen through the Empedoclean framework, Noto offers a philosophically rich dive into the flow of modern life. A caged animal offers affection through its bars.    A dense forest stands still, blooming with foliage, awaiting the inevitable cycle of death and rebirth. Our embracing couple uphold a culture struggling against a current of colonialism. A young boy creates his own superpowers in the middle of a city street. Through these varied scenes a single thread emerges: Noto presents to us an existential contemplation, universalizing these portraits to reflect on the nature of flux, the motion of earthly forces, and the everlasting battles inherent to life in all its many forms.

- Malone Mullin