Space in photography - photography in space.
The problem of suggestion of space exists in every representational picture, but it is our convention of representation, in its every form, that makes us look for the suggestion of space when we perceive a representational picture. In the case of photography the power of suggestion is increased by the verism resulting from the documentary character of photography. Moreover, mediumistic features of photography may cause the picture to change, replacing the suggestion of space with its illusion or substitute.
Photography in its mechanical representation reduces three-dimensional reality to a completely flat image. Such a reduction, along with the documentary character of photography and the connection of photography with time, whose specific form of registration it is, constitutes the essence of the convention of photographic representation.
Generally speaking, the relation between photography and space may have to do with two questions: the first would be the problem of space contained in the flat photographic image and conceived as the siginificant element of its message, the second one would be the problem of those works where the photographic image becomes itself an element of a spatial, three-dimensional artwork. The latter category may refer to single objects or to installations. Such works are often multimedia in character, as they are usually built from various materials and according to different artistic technologies, not counting photography. But the two above-mentioned aspects of space in photography may also appear together in a single work.
Moreover, the question of the relation of photography to space belongs to the sphere of general problems of art in a given period. It appeared in avant-garde and neoavant-garde art, and it is also a live issue today. In most artistic phenomena in which photography and the problem of space appear, the latter is not just an internal problem of photography, since it also results from the current problems of contemporary art.
The problem of the representation of space in photography has an equally long history as photography itself and - as mentioned above - is a significant factor in our conventions of representation.1 We are usually conscious of other elements of this convention: we realize that photography - in its black-and-white version - is a reduction of a colourful image of the world known to us from immediate experience to a value scale closed between whiteness and blackness, and that the photographically registered image is a fixed fraction of time's some "here and now" of the past. But the flatness of the image and its two-dimensionality, being so obvious, do not usually make us reflect upon the fact that every picture is just a transformation of the three-dimensional world into a flat photographic image.
Almost since the rise of photography its monochromatism and the flatness of the picture have been the object of various manipulations whose aim was to give the picture such qualities as to make it resemble the natural image of the world. Hence coloured photographs - starting with daguerreotypes - and hence the attempts to provide them with at least certain elements of spatiality, its illusion or ersatz, such as stereoscopic photography, which originated in 1856.2
Stereoscopy stands at the beginning of the road which has led photography towards more convincing and more complete illusions in the representation of space. At the end of this road stands holography which creates the illusion of space in a nearly perfect way. But it is curious that neither stereoscopy nor holography has come into "artistic use". The attempts to use holography in artistic practice remained attempts only and until now have not brought too many interesting results. Why? Because of - in my opinion - our convention of photographic representation with its 150 years of history or because of our convention of representation in fine arts in general, where the "naturalistic" character of holographic pictures is perhaps too high to - at least up till now - give the artists a chance for artistic success. Our convention of representation, which makes every artist stand in some kind of relation towards it, has reserved spatiality in the arts for sculpture, although sculpture reached beyond a veristic presentation of a three-dimensional mass quite long ago, becoming, for example, another form of spatial composition.
Photographers or artists who make use of photography treat space like every one of us - as something as natural and "invisible" as the air around us. The obviousness and "invisibility" of space is the reason why space rarely becomes a direct object of artistic experiments and studies. The problem of space usually appears in art in connection with other problems or as a consequence of studies in other areas. Despite the fact that through the ages of transformations of various forms of representation every historical convention worked out its own methods of representation of space in a picture, the problem itself became an object of deep interest to the artists (at first, mainly painters) as late as the 20th century. It was acknowledged by cubism with its attempts to grasp simultaneous spatio-temporal relations in a picture. Later the problem was developed in avant-garde art, but in most cases in ways which are not of interest to us here. It was approached from various points of view. The concepts of spatial relations in constructivist sculpture, for example, did not refer to representation of space, but to its "artistic organization" or the inclusion of real space into a work of art as one of its elements. In painting, on the other hand, the avant-garde in general tried to abandon illusive forms of representation, of space, among others, concentrating its extreme formalist search on a flat image, reduced to the fundamental forms and colours.
Avant-garde art, formulating its functions anew, abandoned the problem of representation of reality and thus the problem of representation of the world. In painting and in other kinds of traditional, manually created pictures, the problem of representation of space ceased to be the object of interest to the artists. In the most radical approach to this question in avant-garde art, in constructivism, the problem of representation of the world was to have been taken over from contemporary branches of fine arts by photography and film. At the opposite extreme, surrealism conceived the functions of mechanical pictures, photography and film in an almost identical way.
Such an approach to the function of art and photography caused the avant-garde to take a closer interest in photography, its poetics and its specific ways of representation, including the problem discussed here, namely the relation between photographic image and space.
Within the realm of avant-garde art the problem was examined most closely by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. This versatile artist and theoretician, studying artistic problems from complex perspectives, penetratingly like no other representative of the avant-garde undertook the question of photographic representation. He was also the first to turn our attention to certain aspects of the problem connected with the representation of space in a picture, arriving at far-reaching conclusions, important both for photography and art in general.
Being aware of the significance of the convention of representation in fine arts and in photography, he began - in theory and practice - to study the question of the transference of spatial relations in photography. He noticed two photographic phenomena in which this problem appears in its extreme forms. The first was a photogram - a photographic picture taken without the use of a camera.3 Ever since he had begun to take interest in photography, Moholy-Nagy had been fascinated by the photogram which he believed to be the quintesscence of the photographic process, resulting from the function of light in a photogram, conceived as the basic element of this process and creating directly, without the use of any optical systems, traces/images of objects on light-sensitive material. On the other hand, Moholy-Nagy pointed out the complete flatness of images of this kind. Photographic images contain no perspective which might suggest the illusion of space. The traces of spatial, transparent or half-transparent objects overlap or combine as if in a single plane. Sometimes such interpenetration alone may create the suggestion of space - so strong is our culturally developed inclination to see the suggestion of space in each and every picture.
The second phenomenon, equally interesting for Moholy-Nagy from this point of view, was X-ray photography, also completely flat as far as the representation of spatial relations is concerned and similar to a photogram due to its specific mechanism of representation - in X-ray photography the rays pervading an object create its completely two-dimensional image on film. The conclusions that Moholy-Nagy drew from analyzing those two kinds of pictures concerned photography and - in a broader perspective - painting. In photography he spoke of the broadening of the range of penetration into the real world by means of this medium, and in consequence of the broadening of man's experience and visual knowledge. As far as painting was concerned, Moholy-Nagy showed how one could create pictures using transparency and permeation of different layers of pigment and transparent or half-transparent materials. The works of Moholy-Nagy springing from these inspirations and reaching into space, beyond the plane of the picture, reached also beyond the problem of flat paintings. The experience gave rise to his transparent pictures/objects as well as the modulators of light and space, whose nearly perfect realization was the "Licht-Raum-Modulator" (1922-1930). It is mainly light within the modulators - the movable structure of reflexes and shadows - that organizes space.
In the complex art of Moholy-Nagy the problem of constructing spatial illusions or spatial situations by means of a photographic image was tackled in a different way in the artist's stage design projects, undertaken at the beginning of the 1930s for the Staatsoper and Erwin Piscator's theatre in Berlin.4 Moholy-Nagy used the projection of photography and film as one of the elements constituting stage space.
The question of spatial relations in photography returned in his theoretical reflections in 1942, when Moholy-Nagy published his "Space-time and the Photographer".5 He points in this text not only to the relations of photography and the photographer to space and time - he also stresses the consequences for the awareness of space in modern man, an awareness resulting from civilizational changes taking place under the influence of modern technology6 and singles out photography as an exceptional means of registering spatio-temporal relations.7 The most interesting cases of this type of representation in mechanical media were for Moholy-Nagy photo-montage and film.8
In the light of further transformations of art and photography after World War II the problem in question disappeared for some time from the sphere of interest of art and artists. Its certain aspects returned later in certain branches of pop-art which incorporated ready-made objects of the real world into its works. Sometimes - as in Robert Rauschenberg's monotypes of the "Hell According to Dante" series - the taking over of the extra-artistic values, characteristic for pop-art, took place symbolically, with the use of photographic images which presented the world and were, at the same time, significant elements of popular culture. Rauschenberg, overlapping fragments of reproductions of various photographs, built flat pictures in which photographic representations of real space in each of the photographs lost their original suggestion of the illusion of space due to different manipulations they had been subjected to.9
The growing interest in the real, three-dimensional object in neoavant-garde art of the 1950s and 60s led some artists towards new kinds of visual art, towards environments and installations. Those forms of art utilized real objects of everyday life to create spatial realizations, and photographs appeared in some of them as their structural elements. In accord with the intentions of the authors their functions were strictly limited to play the part of an object in the structure of a given work. But photographic images incorporated into spatial works of art, whatever their contents might be, retained their own spatial representation, so that photographic representations of space were imposed upon real spatial situations. Another kind of art were works/objects, works/things, which, however, could not be considered sculptures in the classic or even contemporary sense of that term. Sometimes the surface of these three-dimensional objects was completely covered with fragments of photographs. Besides modifications of meanings and functions of objects this led to the creation of complicated spatial relations and to the mixing of the real three-dimensionality of a given object with its illusion in photographic pictures. An interesting and very early examples of such phenomena in Polish art are early works of Józef Robakowski, namely his photographic objects, starting with "The Strainer" (1961)10, up to "The Chair"11, "The Pillows"12 or "The Shadow"13.
A different kind of relation between space and images apperared in the works of Zbigniew D3ubak in the 1970s. It was mainly connected with D3ubak's interest in the consequences resulting from differences between photographic representation and the natural vision of man. One should point out here that this problem was raised at the beginning of the artist's career, in the second half of the 1940s, in his series of photographs of 1947-1950, whose message - considered very poetic and metaphorical in those days, sometimes resembling surrealistic representation - was based precisely on the difference between the vision of man and a photographic camera, as well as on the resulting singularity of the representation of space in photography.14 In his further search of the photographic realm D3ubak has always moved within the same sphere of problems. The consecutive stages of his studies were marked, for example, by "Iconosphere I" (1967), "Iconosphere II" (1968) and "Tautologies" (1971). Those three realizations are equally interesting as examples of the evolution of reflection on media, penetrating the nature of the "photographic language", and as examples of a different approach to the problems raised here. Both "Iconospheres" are instances of environments or photographic installations in which the space of the gallery is complemented by large-format photos and where real space mingles with its illusion in the photographs, while the picture is confronted with the object.
In the case of the latest works by D3ubak or Robakowski we have to do mainly with manifestations of their reflection on media, resulting from the studies of conceptual art and connected with the problem of tautological or illusive presentations in which space and its representation becomes one of the basic questions raised by those authors. Their works contain the problem of the photographic image conceived both as the representation of space and its illusion, be it in the form of "photographic objects", in the form of a flat, two-dimensional photograph (or its fragment) set against a spatial, three-dimensional object, or in the form of photographs used as elements of complex spatial realizations.
The interest in or just the awareness of the mechanisms and differences in the means of media representation is also visible in the art of the 1980s and 1990s. But in most cases it cannot be reduced to the continuation of "media" or "conceptual" search - in the literal sense of the word - of the previous decade.
Generally speaking, with regard to these recent phenomena we can refer back to the division outlined at the beginning of the first part of this text, where we differentiated between two categories of works: the first one includes works in which space is represented and becomes a siginificant part of the artwork's message, and the second one includes those works in which the photographic image appears as one of the elements of a spatial work. In the case of the latter category we might have to do with a "pure" situation, when a photograph is only - at least according to the intentions of its author - one of the material ingredients of a work and nothing more, or with a more complicated situation, when a photographic image not only becomes a creative part of a spatial work but in itself carries a problem of the representation of space - creating an illusion of space in the real three-dimensionality of an installation or as a part of a spatial object.
Another strategy common for this category of works is the juxtaposition of three-dimensional objects (which are elements of an installation or some other artwork) with the flatness of a photographic image. The resulting tensions, the subject matter of a work and authorial intentions notwithstanding, they bear important and interesting relations between real space and its pictorial representation. The problem in question might also possess a psychological dimension, connected with the representation of a person, this person's presence or absence in the picture and his or her individual, personal relation to space.
The picture's plane is also a symbolic barrier, dividing the internal world of the artist and the world of the perceiver. Space introduced into a work of art may somewhat appease the violence of this division but it cannot do away with it altogether.
An interesting question connected with the physical status of a work, also related to the problem of space, is the question of scale, i.e. of the photograph's size. Contemporary photography often makes use of large-scale photographs trying to meet the challenge of "competitiveness" of large-scale paintings or other equally big pictures like commercial billboards, introducing into the problems discussed here the question of a specific kind of substitution of space by a large-scale plane. The perception of a large, very wide and long work makes the perceiver active, forces him to move in the literal space of a gallery, to come closer and to move farther away from a work and thus to "move" in the space represented. A photograph which is a few metres long and wide cannot be seen at one glance of an eye or from one point of view only. The perceiver must change his position with regard to the picture, as he would have to do in the case of three-dimensional works, like sculptures or installations. Besides, the illusion of space in such large pictures is incomparably stronger than in the case of small scale works, of which Baroque and pompier akademic painters of the first half of the 19th century were perfectly aware, as well as the hyperrealists, pop-artists and Neue Wilde painters. Great photographic works by Jeff Wall, Ron O'Donnell, Cindy Sherman or equally large photographic works of Irena Kulik, Piotr Jaros or Krzysztof Cichosz raise the above problem although it was not the reason for the creation of the works. But the effect is clearly visible and, in fact, it does not matter whether the author tries to strengthen the illusion of space or whether he is indifferent to the problem. Standing in front of a big picture, often a few times larger than a human being, we are drawn into it.15
SPACE IN PHOTOGRAPHY
The problem of space in a photographic picture may appear in its simplest form, as its pure representation, and as such concerns every photograph. In the case of the authors taking part in the current exhibition it is never the problem of "pure representation". These artists introduce interesting and original questions into the problems discussed here, mainly through their specific treatment of photography and certain manipulations that go with it.
Representation of the real world, representation in photography and other related problems, like the representation of space, have always been present in the artistic theory and practice of Zbigniew D3ubak. They may be seen in his series of photographs, begun in 1983, called "Asymetrie" ("Asymmetries"). Among many other problems they also raise a question of the specificity of seeing photography and of perceiving the apparently obvious and realistic photographic type of representation. The same motif is usually photographed twice in similar conditions, but with the parameters of the photographic process changed. A slight manipulation of focus is enough to flatten the real spatial relations in a photograph or to create a new spatial suggestion, concerning something completely new, something that was not really there, in front of the camera lens at the moment when the picture was taken. "Asymmetries" continue D3ubak's doubtful question, constantly raised in his works, whether the image is really identical with the object, a question he first put forward back in 1971 in his "Tautologies" and which he keeps asking to this day.16 But "Asymmetries" are also an expression of "the need for control over seeing".17
"Different images and views of the same object lead to its destruction. (...). Thus the photographic structure of the picture brings us closer to the views and images, but destroys the objects, reveals their conventionality and their purely practical sense".18 The objects which appear in "Asymmetries" are devoid of any "practical sense", we see them in tiniest detail, but we cannot determine their functions or essence.
In spite of the passage of time, these opinions on the essential meaning of photographic representation and their consequences, although formulated by Zbigniew D3ubak many years ago and in a different artistic situation, at the beginning of the 1970s, are still valid as far as his recent "Asymmetries" are concerned - even though they differ pictorially from those works which the quoted theoretical reflections originally accompanied. This confirms that D3ubak's views on the phenomenon of representation in photography were correct and universally valid, and makes them a part of one cohesive whole, of the consistent search tirelessly conducted by Zbigniew D3ubak in the field of photography.
The psychological aspects of the problem of space within an image are shown by equally pure photographic means in the series of photos called "Wypełnia przestrzeń" ("To Fill Space"), 1991-1998 by Tomasz Michałowski. The "filling of space", besides its purely anegdotic layer - mysterious rituals taking place under the sky, open onto infinite space - possesses also a metaphorical and symbolic aspect. One might see in it the symbolic relation between a human being and the open, boundless space, containing the elements of air, water and earth, in the face of which we can depend solely on our bodily limitations. Unaided, we cannot leave the earth and rise into the air for a longer period of time, but walking the earth we are constantly immersed in air which opens onto boundless space. Hence our platonic longings, the desire to rise into the open space and the resulting Icar complex, partially resolved today by technology. The photographs by Micha3owski tell the story of this human desire and of the impossibility of satisfying the aspiration to exist freely and without limits in the open space.
Relation to space appears in a different light in an equally pure (as the works by Michałowski) series of photographs called "... cztery, pięć, sześć, ... jedenaście, dwanaście, trzynaście" ("... four, five, six, ... eleven, twelve, thirteen", 1998, whose author is Wojciech Prażmowski. He puts together the images of three negative frames on one sheet of photographic paper. The negatives were made in different periods of time but they show situations which are usually connected by the same place and time. They differ only because of the time that passed between their creation. A short sequence of three pictures is not only a registration of passsing moments but also of a spatio-temporal situation - it is a rudimentary, imperfect and accidental reconstruction of space in which the photographer had once moved. Prażmowski does not manipulate his represented subject matter, whereas in the photographs "Bez tytu3u" ("Untitled"), 1993 of Marek Poźniak, although they are seemingly simple in the way they show spatial relations, manipulation is present. It is based on a subtle operation conducted on the object and the effect is connected with spatial relations. To this end the author used light in its pure form as a projection of lines of light cast onto different objects. Projection as a method of building pictorial structures is used in contemporary art in various forms and functions.19 In the case of PoYniak's works - like in the installations of Antoni Mikołajczyk - we do not have to do with this type of structures and the resulting message. The overlapping of the lines of light on objects, on the folds of their surface and the creation of a layer of light on them makes the spatial illusion in PoYniak's pictures much stronger than it would have been without such manipulations. They bring the object out of the unifying flatness of a photograph thanks to light, the original element of all kinds of visual art. The parallel lines of light, falling on the simplest, most common objects, are also a discrete and transitory sign of the author's presence, here and now, in the continuum of space and time. His subtle interference into a given situation and object does not disturb the object's physical status or its symbolic contents.
A different kind of manipulation may be observed in another series of photographs presented at this exhibition, namely in the set of pictures called "xxx" (1998) by Stanis3aw J. Woo. He uses the colour of gold as a kind of interference into a black-and-white picture and complements complicated spatial relations in his photos by overlapping a few negatives - images of the mountains, the woods, the sky and the clouds. But these operations are not meant to strengthen the feeling of the three-dimensionality of an object or to strengthen the illusion of the images of really existing spaces. The effect of photo-montage used here through the diffusion of images creates the illusion of indescript space contained somewhere between the layers of pictures in which the presented forms seem to be suspended. The alien element of golden colour stresses the unreality of representation.20
An unusual kind of the representation of space may be found in Antoni Mikołajczyk's light registrations of "Partytury miast" ("City Scores"). Light, in a most direct way, sketches in them an image of space of various cities at night. The registrations coming into being as the result of long exposition flatten city space to a degree unknown in normal photography, thanks to the overlapping of city streets lights, car and bus headlights in the pictures. It is almost impossible to identify the image represented, so besides the atmosphere of unreality and sameness of the cities we have to do here with the effect of minimalizing the illusion of space. Although those registrations do not contain completely flat photograms or X-ray pictures, the photographs of the series seem to come close to the notion of photography conceived as a "light trace of an object" and used in the theories of L. Moholy-Nagy.
The problem in question in its both aspects - as a problem of a pure photographic image and of spatial objects - has been of interest to Grzegorz Przyborek almost since the beginning of his career, but for some time he has concentrated mainly on the relations between an image and its object, spatial relations among them. They were first clearly visible in his series of "imposssible" photographs, for example "Wspomnienia z Arles" ("Memories of Arles"), 1990. The objects in them are situated in spaces wherein the laws of gravity and optics are invalid. The problem was later modified and became more complex when Przyborek began to confront three-dimensional objects with their photographic images. This operation, an existential risk for both the image and the object, introduced yet another aspect of the problem of space representation. Manipulation of objects revealed conventionality all the more sharply - not only the conventionality of representation of space in photography, but also the conventionality of our ideas about it. The problem was penetrated further in his next series of photos "Thanatos - on i ona" ("Thanatos - He and She"), 1996 where the relation between an image and the object was paradoxically reversed.21 Preparing this year's version of the series the author used a computer to generate an image of one of the couples of Him and Her, an image in which symbolic characters, existing hitherto ephemerally in real, literal space, began a very similar existence in the artificial, virtual space of a digital image, created solely by a computer.22 Przyborek went even further in his last series of pictures, prepared for this exhibition. They, too, are digitally generated pictures, but they are not objectively or even pictorially related to any thing real and direct.23 One of their main internal problems is the building of space and its illusion in a photograph, but without direct relations with a concrete, real situation. We can clearly see easily distinguished objects, partly immersed in water which reflects their images. A flat image in the water complements the spatial object above it. A suggestion of a hybrid object is created, an object which is partly real and partly consists of its mirror image, reversed by 180 degrees. Let us not forget, however, that we are confronted here with a complex visual game based on overlapping illusions - and it is a game where there are no real, physical objects, nor their reflections, nor real space, so entering the game radically changes the image's ontological situation. The images created do not possess objective equivalents, they are only their digital illusions, composed of zeroes and ones. Virtual models of things remain in accord with the laws of physics and are extremely similar to conventional pictures. The old list is completed by one more illusion - the illusion of conventionality of photographic representation. Such a manifold mystification presents a serious challenge to the perceptive powers of the perceiver who might take these pictures for something they are not, and who is not likely to be able to verify his assumptions. The title problem has also long been present in the works of Stefan Wojnecki. Since the 1950s they have concerned the question of the reconstruction of an object and its spatial existence in a photograph, and since the 1990s they have taken on the form of three-dimensional objects, one of whose elements is a photographic image and where certain operations result in specific ways of building the suggestion of space, their third dimension. Real space, although unattainable by our sense of vision, is also the subject matter of Stefan Wojnecki's most recent work, " Fotografia skaningowa sieci atomów " ("A Scanning Photograph of Atoms' Net"), 1998. The picture is a creation of an extremely refined and complex method of representation - it shows spatial relations of such phenomena of the real world of which not long ago we were not even aware. Although it is an image of a really existing situation we are not convinced about it by what we see. The image of space in this picture is so different from what we experience in everyday life and from our conventional forms of space representation that we do not even see spatial relations in it, but only somewhat flat patterns of plastic forms. Only an intellectual effort based on some rudimentary knowledge of the represented phenomena allows us to see, in a limited way, what we are looking at. We have to do here with a similar approach to the problem of representing space as in the case of digital pictures. In both cases - but for completely different reasons - we cannot identify the images and their objects. As far as digital pictures are concerned, mistrust and distance towards what we see is the result of perfect manipulations of which we are aware or whose effect we can only suspect. But in the case of photographs by Wojnecki we must trust the authority of science and believe that the pictures taken with the use of complicated scientific instruments show something equally real physically as all the other objects accessible in everyday experience.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN SPACE
The problem discussed here grows broader when photographs are made elements of spatial works. The existence of a photograph in space offers new possibilities of representing space or its illusion. Generally speaking, two categories of artistic phenomena are concerned here: artistic objects on the one hand and installations24 on the other, but in each of them we might additionally observe a combination of the above-mentioned problems in two-dimensional works. This category of works is usually characterized by various attempts at the reconstruction of space and three-dimensionality by means of flat photographs and spatial elements. The illusion of space rarely appears here.
The installations of Natalia Lach-Lachowicz have been almost since the beginning tireless efforts at presenting her own self, without an egotistic self-absorption that might be often observed in similar works. We have to do with the representation of Natalia Lach-Lachowicz in these works only seemingly. Her installations, being great sheets of photographic canvas with pictures of the authoress exposed on them and spread out in space, are not simple portrait representations although they show the artist's face. Some pictures have been tampered with: manual painting techniques have been used on the surface of the photograph, while the object - that is, the artist's face - has undergone certain manipulations in order to dramatically mark the presence of the authoress's self beyond her own internal world. The artist's own body, her face (one of the most important factors of self-identification) is also exposed here to a risky dissociation, multiplication and diffusion in the external world, i. e. the space of the gallery. Natalia LL's installations do not draw the perceiver into this drama directly, they do not lead him - contrary to the works of Konrad Kuzyszyn - into the internal space of a work, existing in between the images on the sheets spread out in closed and isolated gallery space. Hence, as perceivers, we are more witnesses than participants in this specific kind of performance without any action. It depends on our personal engagement whether the effort of the artist's existential experience remains futile or whether her experience will be communicated to the outside world, crossing the line between us and the installation, and becoming a universal experience for the perceivers - for us. Space is rather neutral in this case, it neither integrates nor disintegrates anything - at the most it marks and stresses the relation between the private, intimate sphere of the authoress and our own privacy and intimacy. A flat picture is much weaker as far as the exposition of such a relation is concerned - but placing one's expressive images in space makes the difference between our private worlds almost physical.
The problem of space, three-dimensionality and the ambiguous, though very concrete materiality of an artwork in connection with media pictures has long been raised in the works of Izabela Gustowska. It first appeared (through the use of photography) in her series of objects called "Wzgledne cechy podobienstwa" ("Relative Features of Similarity"), created in the first half of the 1980s. Gustowska used photographs of women of natural and supernatural size on photographic canvas, a part of a spatial object which resembled a human figure wrapped like a mummy in a cocoon of cloth. The tautological fact of providing an object resembling a human figure with an image of a human being makes it difficult to call Gustowska's works "photographic objects", although objectification is a part of their subject matter. They refer to the representation of a person and they are individualized because each is provided with a face of a different woman. Later human images entered Gustowska's installations on video, often accompanied by photographs. Spatial placement of all the elements of the installation - objects, pictures, sometimes sounds - is what builds the work's "narrative", but also creates "psychological space" which facilitates the dialogue between all pictorial representations of people used in the installation. The perceiver becomes only a witness to this intimate discourse. He can penetrate the real space of the installation, but the above-mentioned other, metaphorical psychological space is unreachable and closed to him, although that first kind of space is physically open. The influence of the sphere of what is impassable and incommunicable in individual experience is much stronger in the installations of Izabela Gustowska than in those by Natalia Lach-Lachowicz.
Spatial relations in an image and its presence in spatial objects, like installations, were also raised long ago by Józef Robakowski, beginning with his photographic objects assembled in the 1960s and 1970s, as described above. Later Robakowski designed multimedia installations which, besides other questions, raise the problem of the relation between an object in space and its flat image. In an installation "Portret wielokrotny, ciąg dalszy" ("Multiple Portrait, continued...", 1998), presented at the current exhibition, Robakowski refers directly to the photographic "Autoportret wielokrotny" ("Self-Portrait Multiplied") by Stanis3aw Ignacy Witkiewicz, probably from 1917. On the screen of a TV monitor we see the face of Józef Robakowski, looking at his own reflection, multiplied by mirrors. The frame is static and it does not change. The flat picture on the monitor screen is reflected in mirrors, placed at an angle to it. Although the images are flat, their respective positions clearly mark the internal space of the installation - the perceiver stands outside this space and watches the intimate performance from there. Space between the images - the video picture and its mirror images - is absolutely necessary in order for the visual multiplication effect to appear, but it is also provided with one other function. Even if it is not the vehicle of the integration of the visually multiplied representations of their author's person, it certainly enables them to commence a dialogue among themselves and creates a place where the dialogue can be conducted. Multiplying someone is not splitting a person apart, like in Witkacy's photographic portrait in which every single mirror image is different and shows a "different" person, from a slightly different point of view of a left-hand or a right-hand mirror. In Robakowski's installation a real person was replaced by a video image of the person's face. The use of a flat monitor image reflected in mirrors makes the reflections alike, the only difference being that some of them are reversed from left to right or vice versa. That tiny difference and the real space dividing the images make this symbolic and metaphorical dialogue between them possible.
The spatial reconstructions in the installations and objects by Konrad Kuzyszyn also concern the person and the body of the author. Usually the body appears deformed or in fragments - like in "Kondycja" ("Condition", 1994). Small slides lit from behind and spread in space show the fragments of a naked and helpless body, exhibited in the face of dangers lurking in the outside space, a space alien to its internal three-dimensionality. At the same time it turns our attention towards the desire of integration, towards the need and hope for the gaze of an integrating perceiver, someone who could build a new identity or reconstruct the old and lost one. The oppressive image of a body squeezed in a quadrangle of an aluminium tube demands the interest of the perceiver, draws him into its drama and forces him to observe closely and move from one picture to another. It makes us reconstruct the body diffused in images. This act on the part of the perceiver, performed in the space of the gallery, may be a chance for a partial, at least, integration of the body and the person inhabiting it, though performed not in real space but in the equally intimate and psychological act of perception of the whole installation. Thus in Kuzyszyn's works real space does not serve as means of integration - it is a specific element of expression which stresses the isolation, separation and individual existence of each fragment represented in the photographs.
In Wiesław Brzóska's photographic installations space is used mainly to create situations evoking poetical and metaphorical contents. In an installation called "Sennik" ("Book of Dreams"), 1988 photography was used to create a suggestion referring to the physical traces of the presence of the person dreaming and his or her dream, "registered" on the photographic canvas of the pillow. A concavity in the pillow and a vague outline of a human figure under the covers, also made of photographic canvas, suggested an invisible presence. In "Krąg milczenia" ("A Circle of Silence"), 1998 an installation prepared for this exhibition, the person's presence is made clear by its representation in the picture. The photographs of the author's face are pasted inside on the sides of four boxes and look at one another, watching themselves in stillness, immersed in the internal space of the box as if in a block of ice or some indescript, transparent substance. Their status is unclear. They are not a simple multiplication of the author's face because its photographic image has been modified by means of subtle digital operations. The colour and the image of space surrounding the face has been changed to look as if it were filled with some mysterious substance. The images of the author's face seem to be rather unknown projections of his subconsciousness than real representations.
Photography as used by Wojciech Prażmowski has become a means of playing a game with time and its partial reconstruction. Such reconstructions, referring to the past, have always contained the problem of three-dimensionality and different forms of the presence of images in space - like photographs pasted onto a metal sheet or photographs tied into little packets. Their relation to time is apparent and significant for the meaning of the whole work. At some point in time the images of the past used by Pra?mowski gained independence as objects, their existence acquired even clearer objective features and they became elements of three-dimensional objects. Photographic objects by Pra?mowski, though externally similar to, for example, Robakowski's works of the 70s, carry a completely different message. The function of the photographic image does not depend in this case on taking away or giving new meanings to the objects covered with fragments of photographs, but on the structuring of an object with their help - thus the object's form, shape, meaning and content become determined and strengthened by the image constituting its new external surface, on the basis of which we can "read" and recognize them, giving in to the author's suggestions. Their new "photographic skin" does not change the meaning - on the contrary, it helps to create and stress them, but what it represents is not without importance - as in Robakowski's works. Images of the past, fragments of old photographs evoking time that passed and covering, or perhaps filling, some spatial form, create transitory spatio-temporal reconstructions. The contents of the photographs provide the object with more symbolic and metaphorical meanings than the aforementioned "flat" images created by Prażmowski previously. The appearance of the spatial element intensifies the expression of his works.
One of the problems raised in the works of Marysia Lewandowska is the illusion of three-dimensionality and space. She was led to it by the interest in the relation between a certain light or lighting situation, registered in a photographic image - most often in the form of a slide - and the reaction of our feelings and senses under its influence, including the sense of space. Her works are basically photographic objects, containing slides. At first she was mainly interested in light as such and in its features that could change the situation it lit, at any event more so than in the complex game with the illusion of the photographic image and space. The photographic image used in her works since the beginning of the 1990s became the central element of the specific substitute of a real, literal object, as always in the case of Lewandowska's photographic objects, because it could perform certain functions of the real object, like in "Delux Daylight" (1992), an image of a ceiling lamp "shining" on the ceiling of a gallery like a real lamp, or in "Untitled Match (Part One)" (1992), a slide lit from underneath, showing a lit match and wired to a battery. Sometimes Lewandowska confronts her objects with other real objects, usually in tautological couples, like in the case of "Equivalence (Crack)" (1990), a lit object with an image of broken plaster "wrapped" around a rectangular pillar in the gallery. The objects shown at this exhibition, "Niedokończone" (1995), and "Pęknięta " (1995), also occupy a medial position between the object's representation and illusion. Building an illusion they try to evoke the feeling of physical materiality of the object represented, although their own status is ambiguous, half-material and half-pictorial. Antoni Miko3ajczyk is another artist who has been building spatial relations in his installations of light, even though it seems to be such an immaterial element. His aim is not - as was the case with the art of Moholy-Nagy - to modulate space through a free projection of light within it and lighting up of the surrounding objects ("Licht-Raum-Modulator", 1922-1930). Miko3ajczyk establishes his calculated spatial relations by means of projecting light into space and onto objects which had been specially prepared in advance. The effects he achieves may serve to create various illusions and help to create situations in which objects show new qualities or in which light, falling on surrounding objects, becomes an element of a kind of spatial composition. The situation changes when instead of pure light a photographic image falls onto the surrounding planes and objects, like in the work presented at the current exhibition, "??" (1998). The replacement of the projection of pure light with a projection of an image complicates hitherto clear spatial relations, based on the light and the effect it has on its surroundings. Any photographic image projected onto an object is bound to change its "contents". Krzysztof Wodiczko has been following a similar strategy for years, but he wants the contents of the confrontation, the contents conceived as the result of the overlapping of the contents of the object and the projected image, to become a superstructure, raised on the symbolic contents of an object. Miko3ajczyk, on the other hand, is more interested in the visual situation itself, not in the contents which could be generated within it. The space of his installations is closed and clearly marked - it is not an open public space. An image moving in it dynamically affects the visual situations which are far from any stories and plots.
The installations of Krzysztof Cichosz combine the problem of time and space in a very unusual way, at least in the field of visual arts. Cichosz breaks down a photographic image into tiny fragments, almost abstract graphic forms, and splits it into layers which he then binds again into one single image, going beyond the flat photographic image as he no longer performs his reconstructions on a plane but in space. The differentiation of an image broken down into bits of screen - which in itself is also an image, for example of a letter or the dollar symbol - does not destroy the contents of the image or its temporal integrity. What we see in Cichosz's installations does not evoke any doubts as to the essence of the historical connection binding an image with time. Those installations draw our attention to another aspect of photography - its seeming continuity and the unlimited number of manipulations which could be apparently performed on it. But there is a limit to the number of such operations, below which the broken-down and enlarged image ceases to be clear and becomes only a set of points devoid of any contents. A single, undifferentiated element of the image, even if it is a letter or a well-known symbol, means nothing individually, by itself. It is the eye of the perceiver that puts together those sets of points, dispersed in space, and creates an image. Their contents are not comprehensible in all conditions and from all points of view. Grasping the content requires distance and demands movement on our part, because only then the images hidden in the points emerge from the seeming chaos of tiny graphic forms covering each layer of the photograph. Thus the eye of the perceiver possesses the power to create an image, like the camera, which at one point of its "here and now" has torn the image out of the spatio-temporal continuum. Cichosz seems to reconstruct time and space precisely by means of such complicated operations. The differentiation of the image notwithstanding, time was caught in a frozen fraction on a photograph, which already belongs to history. Space, although it really exists between the layers of the photograph, is an illusion, not the feature of the image - it reaches beyond the image, which everyone might see for themselves, changing the angle of vision or coming near to the installation.
The sphere of spatial relations resulting from the relation between the image and the object in photography seems to be extremely broad, while the phenomena it covers are unusually diverse, as they include all artistic problems, their forms and their physical, material shapes. But they all have one thing in common - they constantly force us, by contact with them, to react intellectually, emotionally and even physically. They do not allow us to remain within a petrified convention of seeing, a convention connected with the problems of our personal relation with space and the means of its representation, and concerning not just a photographic image but all representational art in general.
The problem makes us aware of one other, perhaps obvious fact, namely that photography is able to register not only passing events, torn from time at the moment of registration, at the moment of the opening of a shutter, but also traces of presence in some concrete space, which would include a trace of our presence in the dimension of space-time, whose status in this case is more of a psychological than physical nature. It confirms another obvious fact - that although we "do not see" space in the sense of experiencing a simple and direct act of the senses, we experience space indirectly and intensely mainly thanks to all things optical, including photography. It is often underestimated because of its two-dimensional form of representation which cannot evoke the feeling of space as strongly as when it is experienced directly in everyday life, though not necessarily with immediate awareness - but its photographic representation may focus our attention on the existence of space. Thus photography (artistic photography included) in a manifold and intriguing way not only broadens our knowledge of the world, but develops our experience of the world in the most fundamental sense of the word, placing us - creators and the audience - in confrontation with its essential elements, with time and space in which our existence is submerged.
November, 1998, Lech Lechowicz1) In a certain sense the problem of space is also connected with the beginnings of photography and its first popular technique, daguerreotypy. Before he became one of the inventors of daguerreotypy, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre took interest in diaporama, a kind of visual performance in which large, half-transparent, hand-painted screens set in space and illuminated in a specific way created the illusion of spatial representation. Under the influence of those diaporamas Daguerre took up his search for the photochemical method of fixing the images appearing in the "camera obscura" - the predecessor of a photographic camera. He hoped that such a method would facilitate and quicken (since it would make painting a mechanical process) the production of his diaporamas which were in great demand among the public, hungry for such, slightly naive, forms of spatial illusion.
translated by Maciej Świerkocki
2) It was the year when sir David Brewster published his manual of stereoscopic photography.
3) One ought to stress here that photograms, the first pictures developed on light-sensitive material, preceded photography as such. In 1835 Henry Fox Talbott started his research from the photograms of pieces of silk, lace and orchid petals, and ended up inventing his own method of photographic processing.
4) It is also true about the Russian avant-garde. Alexander Rodczenko and El Lissitzky employed photography in internal designing as a significant element of the organization of space.
5) L. Moholy-Nagy, Space-time and the Photographer. "American Annual of Photography" 1943 [Boston], pp. 158-164.
6) "The constant changes of light, materials, energy, tension and position combine in an intelligible way. They express many different things - integration, a simultaneous penetration of the inside and the outside, and the exploitation of the structure instead of the surface." L. Moholy-Nagy, Space-time..., p. 67.
7) Ibid., s. 65.
8) L.Moholy-Nagy claimed in the same text that: "Film, more so than other branches of art, fulfils the demands of visual spatio-temporal art. In his opinion film could be used for the subtle expression of the concept of space-time."; ibid., s. 65-66.
9) A reverse process might be observed in his "combine paintings", i.e. paintings with fragments of real objects added, in which the introduction of real objects not only brings the matter of life into the work metaphorically and literally, but also changes a flat painting into a spatial object, although paintings are not meant to be such objects.
10) A photograph of a metal strainer, glued onto a wooden board with a large nail driven into it where the picture depicted a hole meant for hanging the object depicted on the photograph.
11) An ordinary chair pasted with fragments of photographs.
12) Pillows made of photographic canvas and hung in space on a string.
13) An object consisting of a metal rod secured on a support on which a photogram has been pasted, depicting a photographic "shadow" cast by the rod on light-sensitive paper.
14) See L. Lechowicz, Miedzy awangardą a współczesnością - fotografie Zbigniewa Dłubaka z lat 1947-1950. [in] Dłubak. Fotografie Photographs 1947-1950. [exhibition catalogue], Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, 5th May - 3rd Sept. 1995, pp. 20-21 and others.
15) One might add that it happens independently of what the image presents, if we have to do with a representational image at all. The effect of "drawing" the perceiver into the space of the image takes place both in the case of minimal-art and new expression images, as well as in the case of photography whose realism can make the effect stronger. Here we come to touch upon one more aspect of the representation of space in a given image. The illusion of space - besides other means - may serve to elevate the expression of a work of art. The expressive function of space appears also in installations, for example those by Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, Izabela Gustowska or Konrad Kuzyszyn.
16) Z. Dłubak, Tautologie [Tautologies]. (1971); quote from Z. Dłubak, Wybrane teksty o sztuce 1948 - 1977 [Selected Texts on Art 1948 -1977]. Warszawa 1977, p. 45.
17) Z. Dłubak, Podawać w w1tpliwość [To Question]. (1969), ibid., p. 73.
18) Z. Dłubak, Fotografia - czynnik wyobraźni [Photography - A Feature of Imagination]. (1970), ibid., p. 74.
19) Krzysztof Wodiczko has used this technique since 1980, when he started projecting slides onto public buildings and monuments, deeply penetrating their symbolic meanings. A public performance is to evoke very concrete associations in a perceiver and make him see the political and social contents of a work.
20) It may cause distant associations with the symbolic function of golden colour in conventional icon painting, where this colour is reserved for heavenly spheres.
21) L. Lechowicz, Fotografia na granicy dwóch światów [Photography on the Border of Two Worlds]. [in]: Aleksandra Manczak. Obrzeża i peryferie [Edges and Peripheries]. Grzegorz Przyborek. Thanatos. [exhibition catalogue], Galeria Pusta, Katowice, Galeria BWA Jelenia Góra, May - June 1997.
22) An exhibition: Grzegorz Przyborek. Thanatos - On o Ona [He and She]. Galeria FF, Łódź, March 6th - 28th, 1998.
23) Originally they were conceived as designs for making and photographing installations.
24) Such a division is not always possible. Sometimes it is difficult to contain a work univocally in just one of those categories.