September 2008 - June 2009
The Photonic, Luminatic exhibition is the result of international co-operation by the Photon Gallery. This overview exhibition introduces but a small selection of Slovenian artists who use medium of photography and video for research and creative endeavour in the broader context of the visual arts. Rather than providing a uniform aesthetic and semantic key, the selection draws attention to the particular artistic positions developed by the fourteen young and middle-aged photographers, who have been nominated by Dejan Sluga. Vesna Bukovec and Metka Zupanič selected the video artists, presented in the next text.
The prevalent presence of older Slovenian photographers, dedicated to black-and-white and the so-called »pure photography« has been in decline since the early 1990s. During this period, modernism has been replaced by another paradigm characterised by formal novelties, and in terms of concept a shift to »new documentary photography« can be perceived. Within contemporary artistic practise, photography continues to become increasingly relevant as a completely independent artistic medium, and it is evermore used as a tool for the presentation of various multi- and inter-media projects.
Art photography, distinguished by its documentary dimension since WWII, underwent some changes during the 1990s, which manifested themselves in the advent of more conceptualistic projects. The artists overcame the paradigm of »decisive moment« by way of various aesthetic, formal and iconographic novelties. Even when they wanted to preserve the level of communicative engagement, they embarked on a project-wise consideration of formal presence within their work. Such is also characteristic of Bojan Salaj, who has created a succession of large prints – bearing the meaningful title Snapshots – based on images drawn from TV news. The first series (1994) represents the artist's prompt response to news of the bombardment of Sarajevo, whilst the second (2003) was a more reflective documentary that preserves the TV screen format. Borut Peterlin is probably most faithful to the documentary tradition, though he is constantly combining and upgrading his professional career as a reporter with subtle and engaged projects charged with a distinctive subjective perspective. Dejan Habicht (and his partner Tanja Lazetić) works at the border between documentary photography and the autobiographicality of dairy entries. His projects are usually conceptually based actions, and that which remains are photographic and visual notes of places and situations in which he participated.
Intimism, illustrated by diary entries, represents an explicit facet of documentary photography. Such intimate tendencies are, in particular, perceived in works by some younger artists who have studied at FAMU in Prague. Nataša Košmerl presents photo-inserts of her private life, thus documenting fragments of place and time. Bojana Tomše has a similar approach: a lens which captures, at first sight, random moments of everyday life, which are – to an uninformed visitor – nevertheless summarised in an unknown private story. The artist’s private world is also the main subject of Jernej Humar, who in the Jumps series strives to create an album of images that are of special significance in particular to the artist himself. The most intimate and subjective narrative is revealed by Boštjan Pucelj in his series Grandma, dedicated to the memory of his deceased grandmother through a focus on objects in her apartment. The approach, which imparts a metaphorical dimension to the documented objects, is, however, characteristic of a majority of series produced over the last decade.
In many instances, when it comes to the spatial thematisation of objects, the boundary between the studio and everyday life in the 'outside' world is blurred. A more conceptualistic approach to spatial still life is perceptible in the work by Uroš Acman, yet another graduate of the Prague school. The body of endeavour of Peter Koštrun is akin to the tradition of landscape photography, though the artist applies more rational and conceptual premises rather than a mere interest in the dimension of documentary or photo-reportage. The relationship between object and space is also the centre of attention of Damjan Švarc, who, in his series entitled Walls, uses highways both symbolically as well as an element in the formal composition of the image surface. Formal composition with near surrealistic imagery – both with regard to figures or objects established in a specific mise-en-scène – leads the work of Vanja Bučan into the realm of »staged-photography«, despite the obvious preservation of spontaneity.
In addition to symbolic, sublime or formal meanings, real objects may become elements in the construction of new reality. Such may be said of the work by Špela Volčič, who, in her series Walled, experiments through manipulations of perspectives of typical Venetian canals. Andrej Osterman's series Grow Up is even more radical in terms of manipulation, and is preoccupied by the digital nature of the photographic medium. In his previous cycles, Osterman »directed« a tableaux of space, objects and figures, which placed him among the few exponents of so-called stage-photography in Slovenia. Although he has somewhat shifted away from this area over recent years, probably the most unequivocal representative of the movement that focuses on narrative and directed dimensions of photography is Tomo Brejc and his series entitled Reconstructions. The current phase of exploration of the different approaches by Brejc – who is currently considered one of the most outstanding creative professional and artistic photographers in Slovenia – may also be considered symptomatically characteristic of the general view of the state of art photography in Slovenia.
2008: K2 - Centre for Contemporary Art, Izmir, Turkey
2009: Wiener Festwochen, Korotan Centre, Vienna, Austria
2009: Photoport Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia