On Firday eve, 30th of August Port.Folium team has visited the opening of two contemporary art exhibitions in Prague, Czech Republic. Both exhibitions are open for visitiors from 31. 8. – 12. 10. 2013.
“Property of a Gentleman” (Majetek Ušlechtilého Muže) is a collaboration between Dirk Bell, Nathaniel Lee-Jones and Reginald Alan Westaway, deceased.
What’s particularly exciting to observe in the work presented for the show is a dialogue of sorts between the three men, despite Westaway having passed away in 2008. Westaway continues to influence Bell and Lee-Jones from beyond the grave, not just in terms of artwork they have produced for the show, but also sartorially. Lee-Jones has been wearing pieces of the exquisitely deconstructed and over-sewn, layered and shredded clothing from Westaway’s wardrobe for several years.
The Czech title of the show translates as “Property of a Gentleman”. This refers to cataloguing descriptions by auction houses when referring to items from the estate of those deceased. The artists have removed the title from the cold, emotionless list and transferred it to this group show, exploring the evocativeness of the term in relation to the life of deceased contributor, Westaway (RAW), and Bell and Lee-Jones’ response to it.
The overwhelming feeling one experiences in the presence of these objects and works, where the venn diagram of the experiences of the three men overlaps, is a yearning for lost youth.
On display will be photographs, clothing and objects from the RAW archive as selected and curated by Lee-Jones. Bell will be contributing photography and drawings, featuring Lee-Jones as the model. Lee-Jones will be adding other esoteric, decorative, reflective objects, which he calls “crossover objects”. The use of mirrors is to “experience the reappearance of Westaway”, as Bell puts it.
Tillman Kaiser’s objects and sculptures expand the field of what can still be viewed as a photographic image. Mirrored forms emit fragmented signals from the distant past of photography, from Wedgwood and Niépce all the way to Schad and Ray. Above all, however, Kaiser is a painter characterised by his toying with the legacy of modernity and with elements of pop-culture. He intermingles them into a universal abstract language containing disruptive elements – fragments of black and white photographs. Nonetheless they are always found photographs, not ones he has taken himself. Apparently the only exception is his work Hallucination Engine, consisting of large-format photographic wallpaper employing the motif of Brâncuşi’s Coloana infinitului. He allegedly discovered the original advertising photograph in one of the offices of the Viennese branch of the Rumanian airline Tarom. After making repeated and unsuccessful requests for a copy of the image, and having made sure the airline did not own the copyright for the photo of Brâncuşi’s sculpture, he decided to take a photograph of the ad from the street through an open window.
The blurred colour snapshot has become something of a transitional moment in his artistic practice. Kaiser has progressively moved from reproducing photographic fragments and photographing reproductions to making contemporary photograms, giving a contemporary twist to the old technique of photography without a camera. The black surfaces of the pictures are created using a flash. The white areas remain as traces of whatever cast its shadow on the photosensitive surface. The common trait of the works is an emphasis on the negative image. In its essence, every photogram is a kind of blind negative, a negative that cannot be further reproduced. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was not yet possible to chemically fix photograms, and they could only be viewed in the dark under candlelight. If the photogram was exposed to daylight by accident, the image went black and was irretrievably lost. Even though light is invisible, it has the capacity to create images.
It would be somewhat misleading to only talk about the technical process which long ago laid the foundations for the discovery of the photographic image, however. Proposal for an Altar is also an attempt at a distinctive gesamtkunstwerk, an attempt to rediscover the possibility of depicting the sacred by at least drawing attention to it in its absence. Most religions in their current forms have probably lost their ability to mediate images of the sacred. Kaiser does not make repeated efforts to resurrect the sacred, instead searching for possibilities to capture its absence as faithfully as possible. Photographs capture shadows of reality, his photograms attempt to capture the shadows of paradise.
Texts by: Jiri Havlicek, Pippa Brooks