piatok 15. januára 2016

The Fog, 2015

Curatorial text for the opening of exhibition "The Fog" back in 2015

I'm trying to remember: dozens of people passing through without seeing each others’ faces ... this is some medium-sized town, some coming out of the church, others heading towards it, I'm not able to recognize a familiar face in the fog, I’m trying to use other senses, recognise a voice, a silhouette, or characteristic steps.

Finding your own memories is marginalised in the face of the dominance of film stills, the character in the fog is still such a popular theme – the organic fragment of memories is replaced by the archetype of the film frame. Our life is filled with these artificial archetypes, our imagination is reduced to "remembering" images.

The experiment by Tomas Makara is designed to reverse the process, so that the artificially induced fog provokes the imagination to uncover the earliest memory.

The fog has double meaning here, on the one hand it is what separated us – from childhood, and from all previous influence shaping us. On the other hand, exposure to fog is trying to get artists invited to experiment (some are easily tempted, others with blushes explore still warm shameful areas, others yet react almost with aggression) to extract what is forgotten.

The process of erasing human figures from photos does this in a different way: it intensifies their presence. The presence through absence. Remembering through forgetting. The memory preserved in the photo can be verified - for example, by the process of erasing characters and preserving the background. Objects come to the fore and offer their memories - now they become advocates of the concealed truth. A realistic image containing a set of human figures can be exposed as a fundamental instrument of deceiving truth about the past, because, paradoxically, it distances us from our memory. Strangely, some key events in the life of Patricia are the realisation of this theory. 
The objects in the background of the photo are her closest companions, those with whom she can communicate better than with family and friends. They are her observed world and emotional reality. Only after the hemorrhage in the eye which exposes the growing tumor, bringing her to the edge of life and death, she is able to consciously "communicate" with the world and with herself. The eye - the most important and most intimate tool of perception and communication, which through the entire childhood allowed her to maintain ties with "the sighted objects" suddenly - cracks. The faith of an artist seems to be, if not intended, at least the only possible way of "going out". From the autistic trap of the world of symbols, it slips by harnessing them into orderly work.

Tomas Makara’s experiment looks like a bit of fun around the question of thesis. The thesis that somewhere in childhood, somewhere in the tangle of family relationships lies the hidden reason, or even a sequence of reasons, why we become artists. Not only that, that something embarrassing is hidden somewhere deeper. As if art were to be either an escape or a cure, or a tool used to transform meanings.

Therefore, it is not surprising that such statement can either irritate, or to the contrary, inspire confidence. What could easily escape attention here, however, is that the most important mystery is the condition of the artist itself. Asking questions about this condition is a bit like punching a spike into the ground in search of a long-lost border post - each question is like a punch, and each unsuccessful question - like a misguided punch - allows us to draw a more accurate map of the unfamiliar underground terrain. Wandering questions still target an extensive and dense network of doubt, dilemmas and associations, dreams, fears and anxieties, fascinations and obsessions, and lead to risky confessions, surreal jokes or hastily formed hypotheses. But no answer to the question - why I am an artist and what it means to me – is found.

On the other hand a subtle, surreal map of the territory is created. "The circus came to town, there were horses. I used to ride these horses with my sister. There is a photo - we were on horseback, a meadow in the background, playground, blocks, residents ... and ribbons with house keys around our necks."  Fleeting memories in the form of the cited photograph could serve as answers about the source of Kasia’s decision to explore her sensitivity and use it as a consciously chosen profession. The profession of an artist.

Or another memory: little Darek has just completed a large art piece, he painted over the entire floor, and hears the verdict of his uncle standing over him - you'll be an artist. You'd be more afraid of becoming an artist, than of striving to be one.

Do all these moments in which our mind is placed before a bizarre mystery decide whether we become artists?  Before the rhetorical conundrum placed many times by our parents, neighbours, teachers, classmates? This is the rhetorical conundrum!
Objects exist in their constant form. They can survive in photographs without damage for many years, and we still wrestle with these rhetorical puzzles, with the constant interference into our brains, courts, judgments, badly stated questions, artificial priorities, incentives for aimless investigating, competing, racing in stupidity.

Perhaps it is not praise or encouragement, perhaps, and not vice versa, not a desire to escape or create an asylum that makes us artists. Perhaps this part of our identity "I am an artist" is a natural repellent to treating those rhetoric puzzles seriously. Even if we make an attempt to answer this question, our inner motivation to pursue the truth means that we would not give in to temptation of finding final or binding answers. Hence, perhaps, an artist in the family is an unfortunate coincidence, another disqualified sex, a curse. Being an artist means, first of all, being misunderstood by members of the family. You will be like Cassandra, in the best case scenario, an established authority, a personal celebrity, and thus become marginalised.

The question about significant moments in life (here we get e.g. Beata’s story about her special relation to the drawings by her grandfather, whom she never personally knew) collides with the brutal question of whether an artist is a needed social role - presumably, a paid profession, as what else but a salary would be today’s certificate of social utility.

In case of Tomas Makara’s installation, we have a special situation, when an artist creating a piece of art (something with monetary value due to its social role) asks other artists the question about the meaning of being an artist. He transfers his personal obsessions, doubts and dilemmas in the form of questions onto the Wroclaw artistic community. The community he does not know, but which he discovers in the course of his work. He puts his hand into the bag and feels, once accidentally touching something prickly and once something intimate. Yet, he stubbornly clings to the sequence of questions, that purposely designed template which could format the expected response, but what he gets in return is a hail of stand-alone facts, shrapnel of imagination that hit anywhere but in the cut out shape.

Mariusz Sibila