Can you imagine?

Can you imagine? Will you get yourself deceived? Do you really believe what you see? Are you sure you can see everything and miss nothing? Welcome to the reality where nothing is obvious and clear at a glance. Welcome to the universes where it is easy to get lost, if only you let yourself be taken off guard for a while. Meet the artists who are going to try your imagination.


Joan Fontcuberta, Augustin Rebetez, Noémie Goudal, Martin Kollar say: do not believe, but instead ask, be an inquisitive and attentive observer, do not trust photography. Under the joint theme Can you imagine? we present four different projects. What they share is their special language, which mixes fiction and reality – in order to question the credibility of the medium, tell us about the non-material reality or direct our attention to the absurdities of every-day life. They also share the gesture of the artist towards the viewer – an invitation to participate in the show. With the use of various strategies and esthetics, the artists and curators pose challenges to us and force us to take a closer look at a single picture and the context in which it is presented. At the same time, they prove that the form which employs fiction, though seemingly separated from the reality, tells us more about this reality than some documentaries.


“No ideas. No concepts. Just a total artistic universe”, this is how Augustin Rebetez describes his creative method. His universe is characterized by black birds, human-like creatures and incredible installations in pure gallery halls. Rebetez is currently one of the most intriguing artists of the young generation. He is active in the fields of photography, painting, drawing, film, graphic design and the curatorial practice. His works are site-specific installations with which he introduces the viewer into the surrealistic, poetic and punk worlds, where fiction is mixed with reality.


The Fotofestiwal exhibition curated by Rebetez features sixteen artists, such as Christian Patterson, Birthe Piontek, Reiner Riedler, Yumiko Utsu. Their works will be included in the installation, with photography being the central but not the only medium. “I want to use artists’ photos just as if I was creating an exhibition of my own works”, says Rebetez. “I want this exhibition to be good, modern, refreshing, instinctive, precise, coherent and non-colorful, with scenography playing an important role. I am mostly interested in the body, ritual, religion, technology, teeth and fire.” The final installation will be the result of a process directed by Rebetez, but impossible to be predicted even by the author himself. If you decide to enter this reality you can’t stay here just as a witness.


Joan Fontcuberta’s artistic universe stays in complete contrast to Rebetez’ spontaneous creation. It is intellectual, planned and well-considered in the slightest detail. Fontcuberta is the master of juggling fiction and reality. In 2013, he was granted the Hasselblad Award for i.a. “innovative investigations of photography and its relation to reality as well as for his playful challenges of various authoritarian truth claims” Fontcuberta was the curator of Fotofestiwal in 2013, and now he returns to Łódź with his individual exhibition (for the first time in Poland so many of his works will be presented), which involves three projects: Fauna (1989), Herbarium (1982) and Constellations (1994). Herbarium and Constellations take the viewer into the fantastic world of quasi-botany and pseudo-astronomy. Fauna is a documentary-like project about the research conducted by some unknown biologist who discovers new animal species. A snake with centipede’s legs or a monkey with the body of a horse are just examples of the specimens found.


These three projects relate to different fields of science. After all, we trust photography used for scientific purposes. Moreover, Fauna is a precisely developed archive – with a photographic documentation, handwritten notes and exhibits. Herbarium refers to the famous typology of plant forms by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Blossfeldt is regarded as a representative of the New Objectivity, an approach which assumes absolute objectivism of the photographer. And so, yes, Fontcuberta does apply certain conventional means to add credibility to the phenomena presented in his works, but in fact nothing here is what it seems and we fall into one trap after another.


Joan Fontcuberta employs fiction, but what he uses most are our habits, expectations and limitations. In this way, he questions the credibility of the medium and draws our attention to the fact that, as he says, “the meaning of an image is not determined by the manner in which it was created, but by the way it is used, in other words, it depends on the constellation of intentions we use when approaching it”. Therefore, we believe in the existence of a semi-monkey or a semi-horse or in the photographs of the sky full of stars, which in fact are not stars but just insects squashed on a windshield.


Noémie Goudal describes her early works:“They don’t belong to a particular geography but lie in between the real world and the map of the human imagination.”. She continues to explore this boundary – from a simple play with perception to metaphysical reflections. The exhibition presents the Southern Light Stations (2014) project. These are subtle but at the same time powerful installations, huge balls which resemble balloons or planets, unproportionally great in comparison to the background against which they are photographed. The author does not hide the fact that they are made of paper and set up with some rope, sometimes crumpled and slightly ripped.


Here, on the boundary of fiction and reality, there is a space for viewer’s imagination. For his feelings, questions and intuition. There is also a space to speak about the unexamined relation between the human and the sky, about his eternal search, fragility and longing for the answer.


Then, there is Provisional Arrangement (2016), the latest project by Martin Kollar, who spent a few months travelling around Europe and searching through his own artistic archives in order to present “the transience”. The project can be interpreted in many contexts: as experience of the generation who grew up witnessing the post-communist transformation, as the sign of modern artists’ interest in landscapes and abstraction, or, as Kollar says, as a portrait of modern reality that is based on constant change. What attracted us is the way the author “winks” at the viewer. Provisional Arrangements is a cognizant and precisely edited set of documentary photographs. Still, even if you are aware of this, at some point you begin to wonder about the probability of the situations presented, the credibility of those images and the photographer’s intention. You start wondering if maybe you have got deceived?


Fotofestiwal 2017 curatorial team: Marta Szymańska, Justyna Kociszewska, Agata Zubrzycka, Franek Ammer, Krzysztof Candrowicz


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