May 21 – July 31, 2015
An optical image cast on the retina is but a fossil of a cataclysmic event. Trapped within a micron fraction of a second, this cataclysm is at the same time physical, photochemical and neurophysiological. Separating an ‘image’ from ‘reality’ is only possible in clinical, laboratory conditions – provided we understand this effort as encompassing the workings of our worldview (akin to the age of the world-picture), ideologies of perception, and the atelier of the artist.
The photographer triggers the mechanism of the cataclysmic event, separating its purported layers, transferring a microsecond of vision into the frame of perception. Adopting a position, ‘taking’ a picture, exposing and processing the print only to place it in an album or a gallery are all abstract, isolated stages of the ‘act of vision’, written as a temporal score. All of these – except perhaps for the latter – are already present in that microsecond-long light reaction on the eye’s retina.
The art of photography is always accompanied by an audacious mythology of the image (along with the inevitable references to the painter’s canvas) time and memory. Photography, however, is essentially a frozen ‘reality’, and the photographic image – an image of a different image.
Krzysztof Wojciechowski is a photographer, and thus a clinical doctor and a researcher. The domain of his practice is that of the archive – he strips it of the semiosis of literary litter and demythologises the image. His efforts are more akin to those of a police investigator, lab worker or a criminologist. He feels at home searching for modules, splitting them open and joining again, establishing points of tangency and border lines, formatting the matrixes. In photographing a collection of moss he exposes its fractal character (each part of moss is a moss, just like every cloud, if divided, is a new cloud – following the self-similarity principle set down by Cantor, Gastor Julia and Mandelbrot). Selecting the optimal depth of field, adjusting the frame and the contour, yield an illusion of climbing up a wood-covered hill, or bring to mind a shot taken from high above, perhaps from an aircraft spraying pesticides over a primeval forest. Arranged into diagrams, the matrixes of the residues of the realm of nature bear close resemblance to the algebras, the sieve of Eratosthenes, or fingerprints at an investigations bureau. Street scenes (which involved scanning with an automatic document feeder) are, on the other hand, a distant echo of the Doppler effect – a photographic record of time dilation and of a visual deformation of an object based on the difference between the frequency of waves emitted by a source and the frequency as it is received by a moving observer. This curious picture is made complete with a set of ‘silent music’, where sound is ‘recorded’ on film as range of achromatic grooves of an analogue record. This optics is governed by the principle of potential difference. The suspension of the principle of ‘reality’ releases the energy of local autonomies.
What we’re dealing with here is disassembling and staging, transfer of modules from one matrix to another, search for a transit zone between contemplation and intervention.
Bownik taps into a similar investigative approach in his work. Like Wojciechowski, he regards the image as essentially an image of a different image, a world picture after a picture, an adaptation and reconstruction. By a kind of a mnemonic sleeve, Bownik transfers the elements of an existing photo to the one(s) he intends to take. At times this shift is marginal, on other occasions it consists in disassembling and painstakingly reassembling the same object (like it happens with the flowers from his remarkable Disassembly series). The two photographs of an ‘original’ are typically almost identical. Sometimes the artist’s own signature can only be found in changes of light, an inscription of a technical calculation, or a barely noticeable residue of the original matter (in case of objects these include fragments of tape, and string connecting the previously disassembled parts). The work on objects known as photographs requires acknowledging their reality. In reconstructing this reality, photographing it from a different perspective the artists cancels the designative function and pushes it onto the margin. It is a contraceptive project in its own right – one which puts an end to the proliferation of prints. A photograph of a photograph shifts the focus from the realm of the photographed to the thing called the ‘photograph’ itself. This opens up a new series: a photograph – a photograph photographed anew – an adaptation of a photograph which is no longer a print. Having no trust in the image-creating power of the ‘reality’, Bownik teases it to expose something it, in fact, obscures. Like a policeman offering an illegal transaction – known in the English-speaking countries as ‘random virtue testing’. What is being tested in this particular case is the designative power of the image.
This said, Bownik’s participation in an exhibition about the photographer seemed inevitable. It is all the more important that his reconstructive attempts concern works which, at their very heart, are also based on reconstruction.