is photography which reaches beyond the medium, does not function as a means of communication and is not used to convey world images. Photography freed of this traditional role turns to itself and experiences its own problems. They are not features typical of media, belonging to conventional photography. Post-media photography reveals its own extra-media features through itself. Such features - which disturb the veristic character of a photograph - are eagerly concealed by producers of photographic equipment. The extra-media features of photography are revealed in the context of the forms of seeing, that is the Kantian contribution of the mind to the perceived object. The extra-media traits of photography may be changeable features, dependent on the way photography functions - and functions in art are sometimes only hypothetical. They are, in a way, a certain kind of interaction between imagination and representation. Post-media photography is concerned with the outskirts
of a photographic image and expresses the idea of photography after photography.
Post-media photography belongs to the tradition of photography concerned with plastic arts. In the 1920s Bauhaus helped to define autonomous means of photography's artistic expression or its aesthetic features. Analytical photography of the 70s was looking for media features of photography as a medium of communication. So it is worth repeating that nowadays we want to reveal its extra-media features, having freed photography of the necessity to be a medium of communication. All the more so because digital photography changed the way we conceive photography.
* * *
Post-media photography can be treated as something that fills problem gaps beyond photography conceived as a medium of communication - which means exploring the extra-media features of photography. Reference to reality is only an example of an artistic idea. The justification of my opinion is as follows:
One of alternative ways of understanding postmodernism is to see it as a continuation of modernist tendencies, although this continuation takes on many forms. Let me quote Andrzej Mi¶ and his Contemporary philosophy: "...postmodernism is something that followed modernism and inherited its problems and solutions, and thus is, in a sense, a continuation of modernism... First of all, it can be a reinforcement, a radicalization of modernist arguments... Secondly, reaction towards modernism may be such that it suggests a conscious and critical return to what modernism questioned, or at least a return to and use of certain elements of premodernist culture". Postmodernism as a continuation of modernist thinking explains the tendencies in contemporary photography - both the return to the sources and the filling of gaps. Such an understanding justifies the idea of post-media photography which reaches beyond modernist problems along with its name and the prefix "post", adequate in terms of the situation of contemporary civilization and culture. Let us bear in mind, for example, such notions as postindustrialism, postrationalism, postreligiousness of Western Europe, posthistoricity, postmodernity and postcommunism.
But my conclusions are imprinted in an even more current tendency than postmodernism. I mean a general turn towards the past - and that futurology loses with history. I mean that various historical gaps are filled, gaps which were not mentioned in official text-books of history. I mean the darkness of the past, the discovery of black pages of time past pushed into social oblivion. I mean a revision, a revenge of memory. I mean the awareness of the influence of primal, irrational levels of the psyche on our attitudes, and the awareness that attitudes can block knowledge.
Nearly all photography based on chemical light-sensitivity in inclined to function as a broadly conceived post-medium
I also mean the connection between modality of the senses, the body and the features attributed to photography. This is because the role of representing the image of the world is being taken over by digital photography and the hypermedia. Only some branches of science and especially non-applied art will remain indispensable sanctuaries of traditional photography. In this last respect the idea of post-media photography becomes, when translated into emotional language of artistic practice, the strategy of the future
Poznań, 23rd October, 2000 . Stefan Wojnecki
A photograph taken through a pinhole in the shape of a vertical aperture.
A photograph of material reality.
A metamorphosis of a plane into an image of a block, which seems to have been produced by movement. That is how the world would look like were our eyes a camera obscura with a pupil in the shape of an aperture.
(size 76 × 150 cm)
A photograph taken through a pinhole in the shape of a horizontal aperture. The starting material is a digital image produced without the use of
a camera and seen on a monitor screen. Its author is an artist, Martin Dörbaum (the title is "Mikroviseur 2000/H").
A photograph of virtual reality.
(size 93 × 112 cm)
A photograph taken through a pinhole in the shape of a triangle. The starting material is an option of a circular spectre of colours on a monitor screen.
A photograph of the Photoshop programme reality.
(size 92 × 120 cm)
A photograph taken through a pinhole in the shape of a circle. The starting material is a reproduction of an untitled duogram (through a lenticular screen) on a monitor screen.
A photograph of interactive reality.
(size 92 × 120 cm)
The Shape of the Pupil
Stefan Wojnecki's works, from his first impulsographic works through duograms to the registrations of "light drawings", invisible to the human eye, have always originated in the author's interest in physical and optical processes which are a part of photography. Such is also the case of his latest works - photographs of reality (both material and virtual), taken by means of lensless cameras equipped with apertures shaped in various geometrical forms. Professor Wojnecki in his art persistently tries to reveal mathematical and abstract worlds. At the same time in the calculable world of natural sciences the author leaves
a place for incalculable and unforeseeable elements.
Vilém Flusser once wrote of a certain affinity between photography and philosophy. Both fields are a continuous question concerning their own limits and a struggle to retain independence from technology which influences our lives more and more. Technology, claimed the philosopher, may be a threat to us as long as we do not realize that we are entangled in it. That is why we should ask ourselves how to retain freedom without getting trapped in "the camera's programme". "The task of philosophy of photography - a media theoretician wrote - is to reflect on the possibility of freedom, and thus its meaning, in a world dominated by apparatus; to reflect on the way in which, all things considered, man can give meaning to life in the face of inevitable death."* The space of freedom is marked by the ability to create and communicate cultural meanings. Since in Flusser's opinion technology deprives us of this ability to create meanings, the task of the artist is to avoid the traps of technology and to return to us the freedom to decide what the communicated meaning should be. Thus the workings of a photographer are based on playing
a constant game with a machine and leading it towards its own limits - conducting a kind of "guerilla warfare" which would question its authority.
In his artistic programme Wojnecki follows this advice - camera obscura for him is simultaneously a game with technology and a carrier of meaning. What meaning, one could ask? Let us think about it, referring to examples. In of the pictures presented here we have to do with an unusually ambiguous reversal. The professor photographs "a borrowed" digital image, generated by Martin Dörbaum. However, let us observe that the selected photograph has been created in the image of the world we know from experience. In the photograph we can distinguish the outlines of a staircase, a door: an ordinary, everyday world. We know, however, that this image is a computer simulation. In this case Wojnecki goes against typical photographic practice where photographs of material reality are reworked by means of computers - here the material of photo-chemical photography is an image of virtual reality. The reality problem gains a deeper dimension in this way. Let us remember that photography is commonly conceived as "an image of reality" or an image of "something that was". Wojnecki, however, changes the way we think of photography. Materiality does not have to be its foundation. Although the starting point of the photo-chemical, material process is but an algorithm here, the final effect of a binary operation possesses a material dimension of a photographic print. The definition of photography's objective relation is thus broadened. It does not have to be a material object or the sphere of the visible. Virtual objects are equally real.
Wojnecki is interested in the multitude of "realities" whose images may be registered by means of photography. So he takes photographs of "mathematical reality", "painting reality" and "virtual reality". However, let us bear in mind that they are all linked within "photographic reality". The author never forgets that photography is a game of preserving freedom, a game conducted between what has been programmed in the apparatus and what will appear when changes are introduced within the camera: for example, when the shape of an aperture through which light passes into the camera is changed.
Another affinity of philosophy and photography comes to mind here. If there was curiosity at the root of the former, the foundation of the latter is the desire to see a multidimensional reality with the eye of "the Other" - the eye of, perhaps, a post-human creature. Photographs serve to amaze us with images they produce. In his description to one of the works Wojnecki writes: "That is how the world would look like were our eyes a camera obscura with a pupil in the shape of an aperture". The author wants to see what reality would look like through an aperture in the shape of a triangle, a square or a circle, and the images he produces still multiply the number of realities. But what do the photographs change? The world or its image? Obscura gains a very specific position here. The oldest member of the technical media family turns out to be man's dearest relative from man's point of view. Before our eyes, an extraordinary and unforeseeable world unfolds. The camera still lets us see, not only calculate.
Marianna Michałowska, Poznań, April 2002
* V. Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, trans. Anthony Mathews, Reaktion Books, London 2000 p.82
Copyright ©2002 Galeria FF ŁDK, Stefan Wojnecki, Marianna Michałowska.