Promises to Keep by Max Pam
With a title that invites you to imagine even before you’ve flipped through the book’s pages, Max Pam’s album, a compendium of maps, photographs/postcards and notes, recalls, most immediately, a travel journal.
The journal of a long voyage begun in the 1970s, which has repeatedly taken him back to India, to the Far East, to London or Paris, and whose starting and ending point is always Australia.
Max Pam travels like he breathes and photographs with the same spontaneity, with the intrepid lightness of the surfer, with curiosity for sirens, artificial paradises and hippy communes. A self-conscious “anti-tourist,” he is not indifferent to the symbolism and the enticement of souvenirs, to those panoplies of the perfect tourist which he joyously appropriates.
Ultimately, however, and notwithstanding the importance of travel to the artist’s trajectory, this is not so much a travel journal as a diary that confirms Pam’s interest in photography and his turn to it as a form of autobiographical expression. In order to tell his own history – as well as his stories – Max Pam has invented and gradually perfected an original visual language that recognizes no distinctions between writing and photography, between an image borrowed and an image taken, between the effects of chemistry and those of painting, between collage and patchwork. The result is a collection of forcefully suggestive images that, in breathtaking sequences, establish dialogues among reality, hallucinations, references of all kinds, the intimate and social spheres.
Moving beyond the well-trodden paths of photography and of any kind of conformism, he plays with clichés like a juggler; his images are liberating, they infringe taboos and preconceptions.
Books constitute the ideal support of his universe. Dense with images, signs, messages both direct and subliminal, devoid of empty pages or margins, breathless, they produce a trance-like effect. Like esoteric objects, they surprise and captivate one moment, provoke and frighten the next.
Promises to keep confirms this principle and goes still further, in its intriguing miscellany of iconographic sources, whose provenances are diverse and effects oneiric: pages from atlases, maps, posters and “fake” postcards. A continuous intermingling of past and present.