Umetnost na kraju veka

Serbian (Latin)
Serbian (Cyrillic)

Project Rastko


Estela Bjelica

Đorđe Odanović, Crtež travom / Grass Drawing, 1992.

Resumes of different phenomena in current art, made for the sake of analyses and judgements, may lead one to imprecisions and inadequate conclusions. Circumstances outside art influence a dissolution of culture and necessarily pose the question of the survival of art in a time of general crisis. Different transformations of the world we take part in by merely living at a certain moment in time, make us wonder over the existence and continuity of art within a postmodernist framework, and whether this framework is gradually shrinking toward the end of this decade; we also wonder which new postulates will appear on the disjointed and tempestuous artistic horizon.

Today, a century and a half after Daguerre discovered how to record visual impressions by means of light, photography is the most popular medium of articulation. It has never been more vital, diverse in form but also never more controversial. Discussions on the character and values of photography have persisted since the time it was discovered, however, today they seem to be more imposing. The growing interest in the study of photography has disclosed numerous questions related to the very nature of this medium. And viewpoints on this problem are also diverse. There is one common element in the majority of them – photography is defined as a reproductive medium, although artistic practice has proven in its realizations that photography can also be an autonomous work of art. The most frequently asked question is whether photography is just the means and the expression of the so called "mechanical reproduction" (W. Benjamin) or can it be related to art? In the system of visual communications photography is often unable to interrelate on a higher, artistic level, because of various prejudices caused by its openness and its ability to easily establish a dialogue with the audience.

Đorđe Odanović, Snaga centra / Power of the Center, 1991.

Photography is an art for itself. It has its postulates and its regulations which sometimes come close to and even intercross with the norms of the visual and applied arts. It would be useless to try and fit photography in either of these frameworks, because of the intensity of its meaning. The very act of looking at it makes photography alive. It begins to radiate only when it has a direct commentator in front of itself. The problem of defining the structure of the language of photography within the context of official art has existed since the discovery of the medium in 1839. Today it is equally pressing. However, the replacement of modernism by postmodernism has "brought about" an acceptance of photography as an autonomous medium – as an artistic discipline separate from the system of the visual and applied arts inasmuch as it is permitted to have different aspects of creativity.

Aleksandar Kujunčev, Bez naziva / Without Title, 1989.

In the contemporary Serbian art photography is trying to secure for itself the position it deserves. Since the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of photography (after the exhibition held in the Gallery of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts called Photography with the Serbs 1839-1989) there has been a real photographic expansion, and a multitude of different standpoints have been initiated in connection with the development and presentation of this medium. One can discern different paths Serbian photography was taking in the past years. They are not numerous, but they are very specific and each functions for itself. A glance backwards on the past six years, with no temporal detachment and no interval in active observation, can bring only a panoramic survey. In order to avoid this kind of presentation, one could seek a more objective justification in a review of individual concepts. This approach is possible in case of the contemporary Serbian photography, because there are powerful, creative individuals with distinctive personal poetics.

Aleksandar Kujunčev, Bez naziva / Without Title, 1990.

If we focus our attention to the names of Vesna Pavlovic, Djordje Odanovic, Aleksandar Kujucev, Talent, Sasa Gajin, Dragan Dangubic and Stanka Djoric-Dangubic, we will have the satisfaction of observing individual attempts made toward the realization of a different reality, not only the one surrounding us, but a higher, artistic reality. These artists in photography express their internal voyages by their light trapped and recorded in messages, and they consciously negate the present definition of photography as an exclusively reproductive, even manipulative medium. A photographic work can be all that at the same time, but what elevates it above these reasonable and accepted functions and protects it from incorrect interpretation is its ability to transform the messages it brings and offers. A picture of the real world is equally creative and experimental as it is evident. To copy scenes from real life, even in mere hints, is a very inspirational procedure. Although everybody requires truth, photographers are constructors of reality – photographs are not documents of reality, nor its transcriptions. In reevaluating our own aspiration toward photography we have to admit our inclination toward the concrete and representational, regardless of how disguised and concealed it be.

Talent, Ćirilični bukvar (projekat za Moskvu u toku / Cyrillic Text Book (project for Moscow)

Photography is most frequently defined as a mirror and/or extension of reality, and in that sense as an imitative medium. It is also accepted as a document and a testimony of the time past, but also of the current moment.

Many photographs bear an unmistakable sign, an imprint of time, and this author's works can prove that. An intensified political and social suspense turns into the subject matter for photographs that are simultaneously poetic representation and concrete illustrations of a contemporary, real life situation. Its ability to record the moment of experience negates its definition as a mimetic means. A new view of the known reality and another description of the felt emotions in the photographs of Vesna Pavlovic suggest that photographs, as such, may be untrue, but true as pictures. Although inspired by ordinary themes, the photographs of Vesna Pavlovic are full of the aesthetics of everyday life that can be likable but as a source of forewarning also freightening.

Among other things, concept is very important for photography. Since it has the power to materialize, snapshotting can materialize art itself. To develop and realize a concept by means of such a visual form as photography, is a challenging process for authors like Dragan Dangubic and Stanka Djuric-Dangubic. Their works show an obvious bond between the mental and physical levels of effectiveness. In avoiding the functions photography offers as logical traps, from misinformation to puzzling conclusions, they approach photography as an extraordinarily manipulative means and try to reveal what the seemingly visible is trying to communicate to us. In that way, to recognize some "stories" in the context of contemporary surrounding, either artistic or not, can be as inspirational as to recognize and apply the elements of an established aesthetic system.

Talent, Duden - Slikovni rečnik (projekat u toku) / Duden - Pictural Dictionary

Photography as a conceptual and not only reproductive medium is found in the works of Talent, Sasa Gajin, Aleksandar Kujucev and Djordje Odanovic. They use it to investigate their own poetics and internal experiences. The artificial quality of their works indicate a direct connection between photography and the visual arts. This level of their communication permits an adequately high aesthetic codification of photography.

In a specific way Talent attains a dialectic unity of form and subject-matter. Transformations of recognizable elements from real life are performed in this artist's darkroom to such technical perfection that even a well-known content becomes absolutely unrecognizable. He accepts and represents photographs not only as documents or interpreters of certain themes, but as the means of expressing his own visions. Talent's skillful manipulation with the medium can surprise us, confuse and shock. These effects represent yet another proof that photography is never a passive discipline of art.

A simultaneous promotion of photography as reproduction or document, and as fiction, can provoke confusion and reactions. Communication between these, equally important, levels of photography is possible when one investigates the medium. Such preoccupations, or obsession, we find in Sasa Gajin. He enriches the visual arts aesthetics by approaching photography as an aesthetically authentic form. He finds this medium very suitable for articulating his thoughts, shaping his visions and expressing his emotions. His photo-installations confirm the thesis that photography is an ideal means for expressive communication and announce a representation of the reality simultaneously seen both through the eye of the camera and the eye of the one taking the shot, but also the eyes of the observer.

Dađo, DEVELOP/ing - ment, 1994/95.

One of the main characteristics of photography is its scenic quality, whether we like it or not. It becomes even more obvious when photography is related to the visual arts. Photographic pictures of Aleksandar Kujucev and Djordje Odanovic show a mature awareness of their authors regarding the inevitable influences of visual elements in a photographic work. Their tendency to experiment, the aesthetics of their compositions and fictionalized notions indicate that these authors have overcome the instituted levels of copying and representation. The expressiveness of their works is emphasized by the method that emphasizes the experimental character of creation. The photographs of Aleksandar Kujucev are works of powerful imagination, with elements of representational reality indicated by his choice of topics. He insists on visual modifications of the established norms and this is the most intriguing quality of his work. In that way, Kujucev's photographs can only be seen as new forms of hallucinatory phenomena squeezed between the borderlines of reality. Even the colorific reduction to black and white relations intensifies their aggressiveness and conditional attraction. The author's play with symbols, even myths, of the contemporary pop-culture is an expression of his conscious preference for stimulative processes that disturb the viewers' world. In the medium of photography he wants to make purposeful analysis and accidental synthesis of its known and new meanings.

The works of Djordje Odanovic bear obvious elements of experiment and serious playfulness, achieved through light, i.e. within the sphere of the medium itself. His photographs are actual, pure examples of light imprints and recordings. He boldly plays with technical elements in order to achieve compositions of precise visual characteristics. Multiple exposition and manipulation of negatives results in multilayered structures of photographs. The world of reality becomes entangled in the network of fiction through concrete technical procedures. In respecting the possibilities and the limits of the medium and exploiting its properties, Odanovic can fulfill all of his personal creative incentives.

Dađo, DEVELOP/ing - ment, 1994/95.

When one tries to determine the importance of photography in art, the mosaic structure made by different visual media indicates an obvious change in the nucleus of a photographic picture and in the relationship towards that picture. A camera is no longer an instrument of objective truth but also a means of producing beautiful and unusual pictures. The notorious desire to fix a moment for eternity, by means of various processes, optical, chemical or mechanical has already been exhausted. However, if we accept the standpoint that photographs are not intended to appeal to us on a deeper or higher level in our comprehension of the world we inhabit, then we should ask ourselves – what do we expect of photography. However, both the attitude and the question indicate the vitality of the medium that sill provokes such passionate debates. The struggle for photography may be futile, but overcoming the noticed obstacles may give new incentive to further investigations. Although a photographer can indicate a better or a different world only by a better or different perception of the existing one, we should be prepared to accept with no alternative discussion Robert Adams's observation that the "discovery of photography is so painful that it becomes perverse in many instances".


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