MSU, Zagreb: Richter’s View

09/26/2013 – 11/23/2013

Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb

“… as its main task, the group considers directing the artistic activity towards a synthesis of all artistic directions; secondly, we want to give an experimental character to artistic work as such, as no progress in the creative approach to the visual arts can be imagined without experimentation.” (From the Manifesto of EXAT 51)

When documenting artworks in the Collection of Vjenceslav Richter and Nada Kareš Richter, located at Vrhovec 38, Tomislav Šmider was, in his own words, fascinated with the way in which Vjenceslav Richter had organized the space for his sculptures and objects. Observing them through the lens of his camera, Šmider was introduced to new worlds: the interplay of empty and full space, the moveable construction elements, and – of course – the interplay of light and shade.

It may be that these outstanding achievements and influences of Richter’s work often remain concealed to the casual observer, and Šmider wanted to use the solarisation process in order to accentuate certain details in Richter’s artworks. According to the author, the solarisation process was meant to additionally emphasize the elements that create, for example, the elastic form of Richter’s systematic sculptures. Besides, given the fact that the outcome of the solarisation process is mostly unpredictable, Šmider approached the task of photographing Richter’s sculptures because he wanted to enhance the experimental aspect of his photographic work.

The result of this experiment is the series of photographs Hope, Relievemeter, Centria, or Bynom, which are on the border of abstract art and offer an entirely fresh and surprising view to sculpture. The solarisation effect, which underlines the contrast between the lighter and darker segments of the photographs, is obtained by allowing light to enter the process of film development. This effect was well-known to Daguerre and is considered to be one of the earliest photographic effects. However, Man Ray and Lee Miller were the ones who perfected this procedure, although the 19th-century publications on photography show that the phenomenon had been rediscovered many times, whenever the photographers accidentally allowed light to enter the dark chamber while working on their films or photographic plates.

It may be superfluous to note that the solarisation process can nowadays be successfully imitated by using various tools in digital cameras or computer programmes. One must therefore note that, by using the “historical” procedure, the artist intended to explore the gaps between the “old”, chemical technology and the new, digital one, seeking to answer the question how and why one should use a dark chamber at the times of digital photography. Besides, this series reasserts the author’s opinion that the difference between analogue and digital photography is only one factor in a far broader context, which is the continuity and evolution of the photographic medium. The solarisation process, as applied in the photographs of Richter’s artworks, compels us to ask ourselves how and why we use a particular technology – and, of course, why and to which purpose.

The multimedia artist Bojan Gagić has also been exploring the use of technology, but he is more interested in hybridization and interconnection between optical and sound phenomena. Thus, in his video Richter’s View, Gagić has focused on the perspectives and details of the garden in front of the family house of Vjenceslav and Nada Kareš Richter, trying to reconstruct the way in which the artist saw the garden and the land plot while creating his sculpture park. Gagić’s work is characterised by a complex view of the sculptural and spatial reality, where a decisive role is played by the relationship between sound, light, and the body. Therefore the garden of Richter Collection is shown from the position of interspace, that is, as the first space in which the visitor perceives the concept of private and public sphere, the space of change in his visual perception, in his rhythm of walking and in the sound register with regard to the space of the street. At the opening day of the project, along with his video, Gagić will have an audiovisual performance in the garden of Richter Collection, which will combine sound, music, and coloured light. In the spirit of Richter’s inspiring ideas on the synthesis of all arts, Gagić has consciously introduced sound into the Richter Collection, keeping in mind all the theoretical explanations that support the idea of its importance for the visual culture. Thus, for example, the often quoted Canadian theoretician of cinema William C. Wees has proposed in his book Light Moving in Time that the human brain largely processes the visual information in cooperation with the other parts of brain that are in charge of perception, which means that the eyes actually play the least significant role in our experience of seeing. Similar conclusions have been reached by the French theoretician of cinema Michel Chion, who has in his book on Audio-Vision explained the trans-sensory perception, in which the entire human body participates in processing the sensory information.

The research project of Bojan Gagić relies here precisely on the visitor’s trans-sensory perception, that is, on the ability of sound and light to occupy space and to reorganize it. Using its previous experience in working with sound, Gagić has used this project to reassert its equivalence as a creative medium, at the same time contributing to the emerging media culture of multilevel and immersive installations and performances.

Instead of a conclusion, one may say that Richter’s View is a project that completely corresponds to Richter’s idea about the synthesis of all arts. Richter’s motto “As long as there is an atelier to experiment in, EXAT will persist, in any time” acquires a new meaning and significance through such projects, in which authors coming from scientific professions are able to modify their perception and treatment of the reality, reinventing the experiment as the very core of creative activity.

Leila Topić

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