Razstava / Exhibition
Odprtje: sreda, 27. 3. 2019 ob 19h Opening: Wednesday, 27. 3. 2019 at 7 pm Lokacija / Location: Galerija Jakopič, Ljubljana
The term Scotoma comes from Greek σκότος/skótos, darkness.
It comprises seven series that navigate between personal enigma and the universal predicament that we face.
My practice is focused on researching the relationship between the real and the fictional, between authentic and fake. Through photographs, I explore the horizon of perception, a blind spot and the difference between observing and seeing. Photographs refer to a gap, not only in visual function, but in the mind’s perception, cognition and world view. In other words, Scotoma explores the reasons behind our incapability of reaching an agreement on any given topic.
From the initial series, the images gradually progress towards the disintegrating role of watching and turning the view inwards so that, in it’s concluding series, images visualize what are primarily a mental objects.
I chose this line of non-representational images when it became obvious that in a post-factual society, reasoning is incapable of offering any solutions. That visualizing mere manifestations of our contemporary moment – different crisis and routine atrocities – only enhance our insensitivity as a form of self-defense.
Made weary of those I had to rethink whether documentary photography still possesses any relevance and how can photographs visualize the abstract notion that makes hostages of us all.
Photography functions as direct conceptual action in philosophical sense while the art object acts merely as encrypted reference to tangible reality. Such an approach enables me to touch the viewer in a different, more indirect way, at a more subconscious and hopefully more lasting level.
To See Obscurity: DK on Truth and Photography
“All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. The contemporary is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who is able to write by dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present.”
— Giorgio Agamben (2009)
Part 1: “I’m not travelling to photograph. I’m photographing to travel”.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asks in her writings, and especially in her third novel Americanah, what is fake, what is reality and the real, and how the narratives of the way history is constructed impact identity, from racial to national.1 Are all these categories simply produced through discourse and made clean and orderly—or are they messy, uncertain, complicated and contingent? Similar dilemmas mark the photographic research and the last ample work consisting of several photographic series by DK. He appears in public with his initials DK marking powerfully the space of photography and its research in recent decades. The newest series he offers carry the telling titles Memories of Tomorrow, Planets, The Premonition, Behind Eyelids, Gloom, Almost Hope, and Darkening. Or, as DK spells out, all the series are made between 2014-2018, growing in parallels.
Let’s start from the origins of what we now see before us: it began publicly in 2016, when DK exhibited his work in Artikel-VII-Kulturverein – Pavelhaus in Laafeld and Rathaus Galerie Graz in Austria. The exhibitions opened with works from the DK series The Face, a series of portraits that were displayed for a long time on the surrounding walls of the military barracks compound in the centre of Ljubljana known as Metelkova City, which was squatted in the 1990s. Photographs are referred to as iconic signs—those signs that closely resemble the thing they represent. It was a punk, graffiti, positioning of photography as a means of direct political intervention. DK made visible those living, squatting, and producing in Metelkova to an audience of passers-by strolling day and night along those walls. Furthermore, these photographs were there for the strollers, for their graffiti interventions on them.
As a part of the exhibitions displayed in 2016 by DK was a series of works entitled The Premonition. Instead of a punk revolt in a classical photographic and iconic manner, as with the portraits, we were confronted with a series of grey photographic images that differed only by a subtle gradient line between transparency and opacity. As opposed to the portraits, we were confronted with occlusions and opacities. Though the portraits were also about enmity in seeing, a dictatorship of the gaze on everything, and also on the hegemonic blindness of the political elites of the city of Ljubljana; nevertheless, the portraits were DK’s most directly socially oriented series.
DK’s obsession with topics covering the themes of immanence and transcendence, which surfaced almost unexpectedly in 2016 with The Premonition (being in the meantime renamed into Darkening), is central to his photographic inquiries in 2019. We see photographic series that are all about the darkening of the modern moment; it is a world eclipsed by the hyper-visually ordered capitalist neoliberal world that comes closer and closer in DK’s work to questions of blindness, myopia, and scotoma. He questions the blind spots in our perception, but from a new perspective: the dictatorship of the gaze on everything is now confronted with our faculties to see and be seen. All is connected with the question of truth—with the truth that what we see is an undifferentiated, or even indifferent field of perception in present times.2
Mika Elo synthesises the questions of photography, truth, and representation in the time of a post-digital photographic image precisely: “The truthfulness of the photograph has long been one of the most debated issues in photography. In current media society, it is still a question which raises heated debates in the field of photojournalism, for example”.3 To come to certain conclusions, within a freshly established research project in Finland, Elo examines the epistemologies of the photographic image from three closely related perspectives. It is captured by the psychological processes by which people make judgements regarding the truthfulness of photographs; it focuses on “fake news” visuals and their reception; and finally, it re-addresses the question of the veracity of the photographic image in the view of photographic aesthetics.4
Similarly, and very early on, Walter Benjamin exposed in his “Little History of Photography”5 that in referring to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, he argued that those who will not be capable of reading photographs will be the illiterate of the future; Benjamin maintained that photography, through its devices of the distortion of reality, presented to us the optical unconscious. He was referring to those processes of the mind that occur outside of conscious awareness, but which nevertheless have an impact on human behaviour. The term was developed by Sigmund Freud, but coined originally by the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling. Walter Benjamin explored how the technological processes of photography could reveal aspects of existence that escape our conscious understanding: “It is through photography”, he insisted, “that we first discover the existence of this optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis”.6 Therefore, contemporary photographs comprise a mixture of visible and subjective performances that paradoxically fully obfuscate visibility; today, digital photographs tie us to a realm of hyper-virtuality, while the real world is increasingly transformed in a quasi-desert of destroyed environments.
In the new series of DK photographs, we see palpably evolving before our naked eyes two cultural constructs about photography: a photograph is a piece of reality (captured by light), and at the same time, a photograph is a motor for the imagination—it has the ability to transport us: we can travel with a photograph; it gives us a lift into our intimacy. This is as well a DK obsession, perfectly summarised in his phrase: “I’m not travelling to take pictures. I’m photographing to travel”.7 As he says, memories and planets are recorded (let us be precise: the entire exhibition) in the radius of 100m around the DK studio. He completes the rest with his perception, and the images are a mixture of this real and his (mental and bodily) performance. Throughout the series, the titles have a strong influence on the travel with and through our perception. The photographs speak to perception, the gaze; to see and accept or reject. To visualise what is not visible is DK’s intention, with the photographic process appearing as reality in its own right, and with images that are constructed primarily as mental objects.
Even more to the point, DK’s photographs are not here to just tell the story, but to capture the material sensory language of photographs. DK’s highly abstract photographs are dense conceptual approaches to photography. But just what is it that makes a photograph abstract? It might seem difficult to pin down an exact definition, but there are many characteristics that make up abstract photography.8 First, abstraction takes place when a photographer focuses in on a fragment of a natural scene, isolating it from its context. Second, we see very soon that in the DK work, the outer world, the space of the universe, is just a nearby location, opening thus a whole set of questions on the status of photography and its potential to capture in the 21st century space and time.
In these series of photographs, an important intervention is produced by language; language intervenes where doubts follow and imagination flourishes. As language is also conceptually embedded in the photographs, here text and image are enmeshed. The Planet series becomes a vehicle to emphasise the seemingly anecdotal in the background, as the images float between “reality” and fiction. DK turns recognisable locales into abstractions, insisting on ambiguity and mutability. I have emphasised that the titles of the planets render them almost an extraordinary scientific endeavour, but this is not the case. DK photographed them in the very near locality, thus blurring the line between two memories: the factual and the fictional one, challenging the spectators’ capacity to engage with simulations of that which we take for the real thing.ronments, especially mountains, or the universe. Since the world’s first photograph in the 19th century, artistic photographers have been experimenting with how a camera—ostensibly used to capture reality—can be manipulated to offer a different view of the world around us.9
DK creates a tangible link between the light-sensitive surface and the physical world.
Following DK’s reasoning, the spectator is perplexed, and incapable of recognising a difference, as all acts as a mise-en-scène of something that might resemble something else.
Where sight stops, language speaks on. The titles help, dragging the spectator literally, becoming a key element in order to ground the processes, from premonition to almost alone, to the names of planets. As DK clarifies in his correspondence, for the series Memories of Tomorrow, he will name the real places that resemble the things in the pictures, though they were taken in his own vicinity; thus, the medium of photography in the hand of the avid researcher that DK is, is capable of producing distant worlds, though we soon discover that this is not actually the case. We travel with our imagination, with the images in the brain formed by piles of data and information. Lacan’s well-known theory of the mirror stage on an infant’s recognition of itself in the mirror and a self-consciousness seeing, perceiving oneself as an object, seen from the “outside”, is a very useful way to reflect on the role of photography, with respect to perception, point of view, seeing and the gaze. Recognisability of the object has little to do with abstract photography. The series by DK call into question our familiarity with our own natural habitat, pointing out the gulf between what we believe we know, and that of the photographs: “a gap between the mechanical, attentive and un-assumptive vision of the camera, and the presumptive and subjective vision of the human eye”.10
It seems that we get with DK a desire to see the medium of photography as a spectacle in itself, and of course, to recognise all this, we require a fundamentally discursive formation. The intention is to combine different times, places and sources in order to establish the relationship of fiction and estrangement between them. This is an attempt to manipulate the expansion and contraction of space in time. The shift between recognisability and non-recognisability, and when they match a pure de-contextualisation is at work.
Part 2: Shadings of Grey
I have presented a certain map of the pillars of DK’s work, in order to clarify primarily the conceptual intervention in the medium of photography, or the intervention with photography in the world, or the DK modus operandi. I would like to now continue with a set of almost philosophical questions that switches the centre of the analysis of the medium from questions of representation toward truth, immateriality, abstraction and perception.
In his essay on the history of photography, Walter Benjamin articulates photography’s inherent ability to detach and abstract the visible from the real. Benjamin writes: “It is another nature which speaks to the camera rather than to the eye”.11 Barbara Kasten opens her essay, “Second Nature: Abstract Photography Then and Now”, referring to this quotation from Benjamin, as she questions our view that photography in the popular imagery is an objective, accurate image of reality.12 She addresses the present “snapshot” culture of photography that makes one tired. Kasten calls this digital image fatigue, too many snapshots engulfing social media. We are stuffed with images, almost vomiting, because we are on the verge of being drowned in the images. In response to this, she states that abstract photography challenges our popular view of photography as an objective image of reality by reasserting its constructed nature.13 And so, we arrived at photographs that rejected the photo-identity which dictates absolute realism; photographs that focus on the process, rather than the object; photographs that lack a clear pointing of the finger as to what it is that they depict. This opens a new potentiality. DK takes this path.
As stated by Angie Kordic, “The truth is that abstract photographers can turn anything into a concept, an idea, and a metaphysical interpretation of an element of reality”.14 Non-representational photography lives in this contested middle ground between material reality and photographic illusion—fact and fiction—first and second natures.15
The new photographic works of DK are all gradients of black, grey, brown, etc. The photographs display a high degree of reductive abstraction, literally shunning light, marking the hues of black and brown. Shading of black and grey enhance the spatial depth inside the photographs and in the place of their display. The abstract photographs seem quiet at first glance, but slowly they unravel something unusual from underneath the surface of the image, an interiorised space of the photography that seems to postpone any spectacular effect, and which is, not least of all, most surprisingly questioning the spectators’ own perception.16
Part 3: “To see obscurity?”
But what does the title I gave to this essay, which ruminates on the new series of DK photographs, “To see obscurity?”, mean? I will try to answer via a detour. First, I would like to expose that DK expands photography by revisiting the themes of, and the materiality of time through light.17 One might also think of the temporal dimension in these visions of abstracted materiality. Therefore, I would like to answer precisely connecting time and light.
James Riley asks what the contemporary is for Giorgio Agamben.18 As Agamben argues, “Contemporariness is [then] a singular relationship with one’s own time, which adheres to it and, at the same time, keeps a distance from it. More precisely, it is that relationship with time that adheres to it, through a disjunction and an anachronism”.19 Furthermore, he states that, “the contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light, but rather its darkness”.20 This darkness is not simply the absence of light; rather, it designates what might be called an “untimely light”. By perceiving this darkness, the contemporary becomes that which can bring the present into transformative relations with other times, particularly the past. Thus, Riley concludes that Agamben, in order to describe the contemporary, uses the darkness that resides in the light of the present. This is what Riley sees as a nexus between luminosity and temporality, which gives a strong potentiality. We might think in parallel regarding DK’s photographs. To take the idea of Agamben as captured by Riley, and to focus on the darkness that is well captured through one of DK’s titles as a vector of potentiality. Or more poignantly, as formulated by Agamben: “All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. The contemporary is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who is able to write by dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present”.21
Part 4: Colour
What we have hereafter is the experience of photography, not through either right or wrong representation, but the representation of reality through difference, multiplicity, or eventuality, where “Color is [this] materiality”.22 Sergei Eisenstein notes that colour had been there all along: the black, grey, and white hues in the films of our best cameramen were never regarded as colourless, but as possessing a colour scale.23
Yvette Granata writes on this question in her beautifully deep research on colour, as she says, “color has posed on-going metaphysical questions on the nature of ‘physical reality’, of experience, of the mind, limitations of the factual, and transgressions of the empirical. I therefore turn to look again at the notion of color and realness, within cinema and media imaging technology, from surveillance to photographic art, and the manner in which they do not remain positioned on separate planes of Truth versus Fiction”.24 Why should we talk about colour, when all seems to be infinite shades of grey? She answers, “Color from the point of view of the cinematographer or filmmaker inhabits a more radical position, as it is not a quality of a photographed object, nor the rendition of the mind of the observer, but instead, as Eisenstein claims, ‘the power of color [is] the basis of representation’. Eisenstein gives us a further radical position that sees color as both a symptom and as an act of practice, containing the possibility for real interventions”.25
We can emphasise another aspect that is characteristic of DK’s work. Today, this is captured as exposed by Granata in the notion of what “François Laruelle wishes to incite a ‘new experience of visual representation’, with the photographic process understood through its immanent ‘cause’ in the idea of posture […] posture means ‘to be rooted in oneself, to be held within one’s own immanence. […]For Laruelle, “white is a simple discoloration, the prismatic or indifferent unity of colors. Phenomenal blackness is indifferent to color because it represents their ultimate degree of reality, that which prevents their final dissolution into the mixtures of light”.26
DK enters the cruellest parts of contemporary society to provoke the spectators’ perceptions, desires, and thinking. Affects and effects of photography in contemporary society are at the core of the path taken by DK. There is a difference between sensation and perception. Sensation refers to how outside stimuli activate the nerve cells of the sensory organs. Perception refers to the process the brain goes through to make sense of those stimuli. Although perception originates in the sensory organs, knowledge of the world in the form of memories, cues and prompts are also factors in perception. The (photo) camera and the apparatus are here understood in a wider sense, as they display a complex system of representation and non-identity. The relation between the subject and the object turns to abjection, contrary to the whole idea of a binary relation, of a subject and object division.27
This is why the title of the show is Scotoma, deriving from the word skotos, that in Greek means darkness. Scotoma is an area of partial alteration in the field of vision, consisting of a partially diminished or entirely degenerated visual acuity that is surrounded by a field of normal—or relatively well-preserved—vision. The term scotoma describes a gap – not in visual function, but in the mind’s perception, cognition, or world-view; absolute scotoma is the perception of light that is lost completely, and scotophobia denotes a morbid fear of darkness.
What appeared a dramatic finale in 2016, as a direct impediment for the gaze, returns in 2019 as a central topic of DK’s exhibition, displaying a set of interesting dilemmas for the medium of photography, and for the relation between the subject and the object and the abject for the question of the horizon of perception, not to forget the always repeated inquiry between truth and the image, the real and the virtual, the plausible and the fake. Are not these dilemmas precisely the dilemmas of millions of us in the vertigo of digital technologies, augmented reality, and technologically enchanted virtuality?
In an age of uncertainty, the truth of an issue—understood for the moment as a consensual, verifiable account of the facts pertaining to that issue—available as a starting-point for responsible, deliberative action, often remains elusive. The question posed by DK is how one is to act in such a situation. How is one supposed to know what to do, when one does not even know the circumstances upon which one acts? In the preoccupations that are put forward by the visual and the arts and the philosophy and cinema and photography, we see that DK is not a lonely author who took the wrong side of the medium; on the contrary, with his work, he is central to very pertinent questions that are all essential to contemporary photography.
In viewing DK’s photographs, we almost get lost in the sense that there is too much to look at—without much being there at all.
- See Isabella Villanova, “Deconstructing the ‘single story’: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah”, in: From the European South 3(2018), pp.85-98; http://europeansouth.postcolonialitalia.it
- “Post-digital Epistemologies of the Photographic Image (PEPI)”, funded by the Academy of Finland (2019-2022), https://www.uniarts.fi/en/mika-elo PEPI consortium (Academy of Fine Arts, Mika Elo; Univ. of Tampere, Janne Seppänen; Univ. of Helsinki, Jukka Häkkinen)
- Walter Benjamin, “Little History of Photography” (1931), in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 2, Part 2, 1931–1934, trans. Rodney Livingstone, et al., Eds. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1999).
- Ibid., p. 510.
- Quoting DK from e-mail correspondence with the author of this text while preparing the exhibition.
- Walter Benjamin, “Little History of Photography”, Op.cit.
- https://www.widewalls.ch/abstract-photographers/, Op.cit.
- http://barbarakasten.net/second-nature-abstract-photography-then-and-now/, Op.cit.
- Giorgio Agamben, “What Is the Contemporary?”, in: Agamben, What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford University Press, 2009).
- Ibid. p. 41.
- Ibid. p. 44.
- Yvette Granata, “False color/real life: Chromo-politics and François Laruelle’s photo-fiction,” May 29, 2017/in Spring 2017, https://necsus-ejms.org/false-colorreal-life-chromo-politics-and-francois-laruelles-photo-fiction/
- Sergei Eisenstein, Notes of a Film Director. London: Lawrence & Wish art, 1959.
- Yvette Granata, Op.cit.
“When you realize that whether something exists or not is nothing but the perception of your own mind, its external existence is seen as non-existent and non-arising.”1
— Lankavatara Sutra, between 100 BCE and 100 CE2
“The brain is small. The universe is large. In what way, if any, is it, the observed, affected by man, the observer? Is the universe deprived of all meaningful existence in the absence of mind? Is it governed in its structure by the requirement that it gives birth to life and consciousness? Or is man merely an unimportant speck of dust in a remote corner of space? In brief, are life and mind irrelevant to the structure of the universe – or are they central to it?”
— John A. Wheeler, 19753
One of the most controversial premises of quantum theory is an idea that has long occupied the thoughts of both physicists and philosophers alike, and has always been deeply rooted in human understanding, from ancient texts to postmodern metaphysics – namely, that the observer, by the very act of observing, co-creates observed reality. This premise was expressed most explicitly by the American physicist and cosmologist John A. Wheeler, one of Einstein’s last disciples, who called it the “participatory principle”: “We could not even imagine a universe that did not somewhere and for some stretch of time contain observers because the very building materials of the universe are these acts of observer-participancy. […] No elementary phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed (or registered) phenomenon.”4
DK uses this premise as the focus of Scotoma, an exhibition designed from the first to be held in the Jakopič Gallery. “I believe that photography is participatory – that I am responsible for whatever I place in a photograph, since the information in it is stored for further transfers and future observers.”5 DK links this presumption of the necessity of observer participation – the creative potential of human consciousness through the process of observing both external form and truth itself – with a scotoma, a physiological phenomenon that can significantly impair our ability to see. A scotoma is a spot in the field of vision where vision is either impaired or absent. It can be dark, very bright, blurred or flickering. DK mainly uses it in a figurative sense, to represent a gap in our perception, recognition and understanding of what has been seen – a mental process, in other words.
A scotoma is a point that irresistibly draws our mind to fixate on it, thereby unavoidably causing us to lose sight of the big picture. This big picture can still be understood, however, even though there is a blind spot in the field of vision. This is a clear metaphor for a society in which our attention is constantly being drawn to tiny scotomata, artificially produced and externally programmed, in order to prevent us from seeing the big picture: “Nobody is interested in what I am thinking or what anybody else is thinking; we are only interested in appearances, self-promotion even. It is one long continuum, with no past and no future, just a constant contemporariness where no one cares about facts any more. In this post-fact society, where there is nothing but meaningless processes, the Premonition series and its various subseries emerged quite spontaneously. Originally this title was just used for the photographs forming the series now called Darkening, but it now covers all the photographs included in this exhibition. And the work must be spontaneous.”6 When DK originally spoke these words, the series forming the current exhibition was just starting to emerge. Today, they return him to his starting point, revealing him to have been pursuing the same aim for the last four years: to show his own experience of reality from within, with no hint of the desire to criticise the state of the world that is so widespread nowadays.
DK immersed himself in a process of profound conceptualisation, taking both scientific discoveries and ancient traditions as reference points, during which time he also photographed extensively. The result is an amazing body of photographs taken in the immediate vicinity of his studio. Although invariably abstract and containing no reference whatsoever to the actual motif photographed, the images are pregnant with visual elements that not only intensify the aesthetic impression but also serve as powerful vehicles for the content the artist is trying to convey. The photographs were created through the specific act of taking the pictures, an act that can be seen as an experiment in how to use the camera so as to completely subordinate it to the photographer’s idea – meaning that ultimately the camera is no longer capturing reality but is instead lying in accordance with the photographer’s paradigm. This paradigm, together with a photograph’s ability to transport us to other places, allows the artist to depart inwardly without needing to leave his current micro-location. However, just as the Latin expression iter facio is often used in the sense of going on a journey, for DK travelling via photography does not only imply visiting remote landscapes in the imagination; rather, he uses photographs as a means of making his way through the process of rethinking his own existence in a given social context.
This is the first time the artist has used this particular creative approach. And although the first thing that comes to mind, whether in Slovenia or abroad, when hearing the name DK is still the iconic set of portraits created and displayed in Metelkova, an independent social and cultural centre in Ljubljana, the photographer himself has been active in both the theory and practice of various spheres of photography throughout his career: from documentary photography, even reportage (including a series dealing with aspects of social reality in a recognisable and critical way), to pure abstraction. Abstraction has only rarely figured in DK’s work to date, but it has been constantly evolving and has now reached the point where it – and, crucially, the viewer – is ripe for ideas like these.
The artist is testing both this ripeness and the viewer’s ability to observe (which is closely connected with it) in the introductory series of this exhibition, which he has called Memories of Tomorrow: “We can never be (merely) observers, for when we observe, we create and transform that which has been created. The discoveries of the 20th century show that the act of observing the world is an act of creation in itself. It is consciousness that creates. When nature forms clouds, mountains and trees, it does not use perfect lines and curves … instead, it makes use of fragments which only become clouds, mountains and trees when we view them as a whole … In a fractal, each part has the same character as the whole. The natural world is made up of tiny fragments that look like other tiny fragments. When we put them together into patterns, what we get is nature. They are self-similar.”7
The self-similarity of fragments that can be seen in abstract photographs helps the photographer to create landscapes that enable both him and – through his mediation – the viewer to recognise in them motifs and locations previously stored in their memory. And so, in his first series, the photographer leads us from the pyramids of Egypt to a lake in Japan and even takes us on an expedition to the coldest and most remote continent of all, Antarctica. The route is well-known to him: he has travelled it in his mind a thousand times. The photographs “show” landscapes often immersed in a murky atmosphere. Sometimes the landscapes are locked in a stillness that seems to have been undisturbed for aeons; sometimes they are being battered by wild storms. They function almost as archetypal images of particular geographic regions. They carry within them an enigmatic lack of human presence. They are no more than memories of what we once saw as real images of real landscapes; seen from the perspective of today, they are no more than prophecies of the world of tomorrow. The world as we know it today cannot exist tomorrow because it has reached the outer limits of its existence. Destruction in whatever unknowable form is inevitable, and will erase everything that we consider self-evident in our image of the world. The seemingly recognisable motifs suggest the symbolic representation of what remains anchored in our memory, regardless of whether we have or have not visited particular places, or will or will not visit them someday.
Yet these landscapes cannot exist if there is no act of observation: the viewer must create them himself and, in so doing, can begin to sense the artist’s intention: “I use a method that employs two cultural constructs. The first is our concept of nature and how nature appears in our experience. The second is that a photograph is, by definition, a piece of reality captured with the aid of light. As truth (even the truth conveyed by a photograph) is conditional on our cultural conventions, this series invites the viewer to consider the images critically. In this way, photography as a form of observing “with” turns into a contemplation of vanishing natural environments, the diversity of their life forms, our ubiquitous influence and the borrowed time we are living on.”8
If Memories of Tomorrow are still memories of something that lives on in our acquired consciousness, the Premonition series goes a level deeper, into the realm somewhere between what is seen and our mental image of what is seen, the realm that often helps us to fill in the gaps in what was seen. We start to ask ourselves: What is real? What do we really perceive? What do we merely think we see and think is real? The collision between the real views and the subjective ones enables us to make our first attempts at blind seeing, a process that is strengthened by the way this series and the Behind Eyelids series are put together. The photographer himself considers the Behind Eyelids series a “control process”. The photographs in it strike the viewer as afterimages: the images that linger briefly in the viewer’s vision even after he has moved away.
From this point on, we are preparing ourselves for a type of observing in which we try to see less and less; this helps us progress towards blind seeing. Our way there takes us through Dusk, which is the realm of apparitions.
Almost Hope is a series representing the ideational and ideal core of the entire concept. It is the point where the act of observing is ultimately replaced by blind seeing: “The nature of reality as defined in quantum theory and confirmed in scientific experiments suggests that our influence on what we observe increases in proportion to the length of time we observe it. The Real is therefore always beyond, requiring a shift from observing to the practice of blind seeing. The images are shown undifferentiated, indifferent even, making it possible to apply the participatory principle.”9 There is no expectation in this way of presenting them, no thought, no vision, no sound, no judgement. The photograph, too, becomes utterly immaterial, its referent ultimately vanishing; since its motif does not exist, the photograph is merely a record of emptiness.
Having acquired this new skill of blind seeing, we can now cross the border and enter the final space: the Darkening series. The passage is hermetically sealed. There are no cracks in the view of contemporary (though eternally recurring) social reality. What remains is a bipolar black and white world, sinking into greyness and dissolving into complete darkness. It is here that reality finally emerges: a reality that, in the world as it is currently, is more real even than Truth itself.
To some, the exhibition might seem gloomy, the hopeless situation it presents just too depressing. However, DK differs in one crucial respect from those who use art or photography to raise awareness, warn, criticise or protest, in that he tests our ability to see and proves that the images he shows are actually fake, thereby inviting us to consider the nature of fundamental Truth. After all, the only tangible reality in today’s world is the lie. And the only way we can threaten the reality of the lie is to stop feeding it with our engagement. For if we are able to become fully aware of the existence of the lie – to the point where we stop engaging with by either agreeing or disagreeing with it – its reality will no longer be possible.
- Red Pine, The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary, p. 139.
- Dating after Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary, p. 453.
- Wheeler, J. A., “The Universe as Home for Man” in The Nature of Scientific Discovery, ed. O. Gingerich, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975, pp. 261-96.
- John Wheeler, from an interview with Mirjana R. Gearhart of Cosmic Search, Vol 1, No. 4 (1979). Accessible at http://www.bigear.org/vol1no4/wheeler.htm
- A conversation with DK, January 2019.
- A conversation with DK, January 2019.
- A conversation with DK, January 2019.
- A conversation with DK, January 2019.
- A conversation with DK, January 2019.