Владимир Сорокин – Blue Lard – Cancel Russian Culture

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, април 2024, ISSN 2603-543X

visual arts
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Владимир Сабоурин – Пътят на подправката

 

 

Изпълва с благоговение и упование да видиш как идиосинкразен творец, тръгнал от камерни жанрово и бюджетно произведения, стига до тотален холивудски блокбъстър, без на йота да е отстъпил и изменил на вярата на младостта си. С благоговение, защото критическата маса едновременни възприематели създава неопровержимата съборност, иманентна на големите творби. С упование, защото демонстрира по геометричен начин, че не всичко се свежда до генното инженерство – академично, народопсихологическо, политикономическо – с парите и легендите на данъкоплатците.

Тук говоря конкретно за пътя на френско-канадския режисьор Дени Вилньов от Политехниката (2009) или Враг (2013), за да вземем два ранни примера, до Дюн (2021, 2024). Попаднах на Вилньов в един предишен живот, когато всяка вечер гледахме филм с жена ми и така случайно попаднахме на Враг. По-късно вече сам се върнах след първия Дюн още по-назад към Политехниката и Изпепелени (2010). Те не ме грабнаха за разлика от Враг, който си остана моя филм и като разведен, и като вдовец. В същата категория – в подкатегорията й „само мой филм“ – попадна и Блейд Рънър 2049 (2017), жените, които познавам, не обичат научна фантастика.

С други думи, при Вилньов определено не се кълна във всеки негов филм, което обичам иначе да правя при любимите си режисьори. Всичко е лично и поотделно за всеки отделно взет филм. Нещо повече: не харесвам Първи контакт (2016), първия му опит в научнофантастическия жанр. Т.е. не мога да изведа чувството си за удоволствие и неудоволствие до чисто естетически и киномански критерии, тъкмо това обаче ме изпълва при филмите му, които харесвам, с благодарността на усещането, че определена творба е направена лично за мен. Флобер е написал за мен Възпитание на чувствата, Вилньов е направил за мен Враг и Блейд Рънър 2049. Ако трябва все пак да идентифицирам личното и поотделното естетически и жанрово, както Враг, така и Блейд Рънър 2049 са вариации на неоноара. Но това са неоноари от Вилньов за Сабоурин.

Това не би трябвало да може да се каже за Дюн, защото е епос. И като казвам епос, имам предвид не толкова жанра, колкото преди всичко визуалното предаване на една галактическа крито-микенска Гърция в първа част – и на митологичния цикъл за Атридите във втората с характерното обикновено за прокълнатите родове фатално преплитане на кръвни линии и типичната за старогръцките прокълнати родове изобретателност в престъпването на мярата и отговарящата му изобретателност в наказанията. Нищо лично, казва истинският епос, just destiny. Същевременно мога да свидетелствам, че веднъж чух Гласа в цялата му потресаваща и изкупителна изкрещяност и тътен от недрата, и той беше гласът на Майките, както е във вселената на Дюн.

Визуално и пластично грандиозната епичност на Дюн е съставена от дълбинно идиосинкразни метафори, водещи началото си от ранното творчество на Вилньов. Пустинята и местните жители на Аракис са от ливанската гражданска война в Изпепелени, зазвучаваща във втората част като войната между Хамас и Израел. Пустинните бури в южното полукълбо на планетата произхождат, от друга страна, антитетично-оксиморонно от натрапчивия снеговалеж и орнаментите на снежната пустош в зимните канадски екстериори и интериори на Политехниката. От този непретенциозен черно-бял филм, квазидокументалистки разказващ историята на т.нар. Монреалска касапница от 1989, е племенникът психопат на барон Владимир Харконен, удивително напомнящ по лице на актьора, изпълнявал петнайсет години по-рано ролята на историческия масов убиец от Политехниката, избелен в Дюн до степен да се слее с ландшафта на снежната пустош, от която е дошъл като метафорична реминисценция. Кланицата на момичетата в Дом Харконен е както от Политехниката, в който Марк Лепин застрелва 14 млади жени, така и от Блейд Рънър 2049, където току-що произведен биоробот е намушкан със скалпел от създателя си, недоволен (намушкването като зачертаване), че прототипът не може да се възпроизвежда чрез забременяване. Че майката на Пол Атреидски се оказва дъщеря на барон Владимир Харконен, е двойнически мотив от Враг.

Това са само откъслечни отсечки от дългия път на психотропното вещество, уместно наречено „подправка“ – великите географски открития, възведени във вселенски мащаб – от пустинната планета на творчеството, където се добива, до крайния потребител на Дюн. Маркионско-гностическата месианска фигура Lisan al-Gaib, Глас-от-Външния-Свят е идещият по този път, да се свети името му.

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, март 2024, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Стиф Лазаров – Shadow Archive

Росен Тошев, Иди на…

 

The invention(s) of photography is arguably one of the most significant events of the 19th century – not only because of its creativeness and uniqueness, but also because of the variety of its applications. Although originally invented with an artistic intend, the public relatively quickly recognized photography’s potential in aiding them in various activities. For example, in History of Photography we read about photography’s potential of creating pictorial records of discoveries such as the ones made during the Egypt expedition in 1798.[1] Other applications are also discussed in History of Photography, such as painters using photographs for after-study for their artworks[2] and physicists using them to study light.[3] It seems, however, that the public was obsessed with photography mainly because one particular application of it – portraiture. People were “[rushing] to contemplate [their] trivial image on the metallic plate.”[4] In 1841 photography was not recognized as a profession; ten years later 51 photographers were recorded; in 1861 there were 2 879. And in the same year the people who made their living from photography and related trades were at least 33 000 in Paris alone. During that time the professional portrait studios in London were over 200.[5] As we can see, photography was gaining a significant reputation. It was almost inevitable for the public (and the state) to not utilize portrait photography in a practical way, i.e. for the betterment of society. Eventually, portrait photography found practice in law – specifically in recognizing, persecuting, and recording criminals. The potential for a juridical photographic realism was recognized as early as the 1840s, but it became common in the 1860s.[6] Coincidentally, during the time of photography’s technical development, the functions and the impact of the state were rigorously expanding.[7] Within the context of the state photography was recognized as a key to a developing technology of knowledge needed by the state. The governmental utilization of photography proved its lack of identity – photography’s nature depends on the institutions and agents which put it in practice.[8] We see the practice of portrait photography divided in two domains: the artistic domain of the bourgeois portrait, and the scientifico-technical domain of law, science, medicine, and pseudo-science (physiognomy, for example.) In short, the system of representation known as portrait photography has two functions that exist in an opposition to one another – honorific and repressive function.[9] This essay will look at the contrast between these two functions, the contexts which create and define them, their impact on the photographed individual, and their use in society. Since this is a broad topic, I will narrow it down by analysing, comparing, and contrasting two portrait photographs, one honorific and one repressive. One of the photographs is Nadar’s Alexandre Dumas père (c. 1885) (Figure 1), and the other is a picture of the criminal Charles Williamson (Figure 2), taken in England by an unknown photographer c. March 1878 and printed in Thomas Byrnes’ book Professional Criminals of America published in 1886. I believe these two photographs will successfully create the contrast between the bourgeois artistic portrait photograph and the practical, technical photograph that can be found in police records.

Portraiture is far from being a relatively new practice. With the inventions of photography, however, its popularity was significantly increased. Before photography, only a few were able to afford an image of their likeness. During the early days of photography, the ideology of the charismatic individual was popular. This, combined with the weight of oil-portraiture and journalistic caricature, helped the photographic portrait’s adoption by society. First and foremost, the photographic portrait validates identity.[10] Just like oil-portraiture, the earliest photographic portraits insisted on realism. Coincidentally (or not), during that time oil painters were seeking to escape realism and to explore different modes of representation, which embraced the artwork’s painterly qualities. Photography took the representational qualities from painting and declared itself as an “authentic” representation of the individual.

When 19th century photographic portraiture is discussed, one can hardly overlook Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, mostly known by his pseudonym Nadar. Taking up photography in 1853[11], Nadar quickly rose to fame and was known as a photographer of celebrities and intellectuals. He was even called the “king of photographers”[12] by the journalist Léon Daudet. By 1860, his atelier was the meeting place of intellectuals. Nadar took pictures of some of the most notable French (and other) figures of the second half of the 19th century: Wagner, Gounod, Delacroix, Manet, Daumier, Dumas, Baudelaire and others.[13] Nadar’s popularity is at least partly due to his career as a caricaturist and a journalist. In fact, him being a caricaturist is the reason he became a photographer, as he “resorted to the camera only because he was finding it hard to catch the likeness of difficult subjects […]”[14] As Nadar was frequently photographing prominent members of the society, the portraits he produced are bright examples of honorific portraiture, which praised the depicted individuals and asserted their higher positions in the social hierarchy. In 1859 Nadar was charging 40 francs a dozen for carte-de-visites[15] – double the usual charge. The status of the people depicted in Nadar’s photographs is defined by their own reputation, Nadar’s popularity, and the high-class characteristics encoded in the portraits. The portrait is a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity.[16] When a photographic portrait is discussed, in consideration must be taken both the visual characteristics of the picture (attire, pose, emotion, setting), and the context surrounding it (the identity of the photographed person, his/her place in the social hierarchy, the photographer’s identity, etc.)

There is one particular photographic portrait taken by Nadar – a portrait of Alexandre Dumas pére – that has my interest. The medium of the picture is a salted paper print from a wet glass collodion negative. The reasons I chose this photograph are several. First, Dumas was a prominent and famous figure at the time of the photograph (1855.) This alone calls for the picture to be considered as a traditional bourgeois photographic portrait. Second, Nadar had done a caricature[17] (Figure 3) of Dumas, too. It would be relevant to compare the caricature, which could be considered as a degrading, or at least a mocking, picture, with the photographic portrait which honours the author. This leads me to my third point – it was common knowledge that Dumas’ grandmother was a black woman.[18] In the caricature we see his black characteristics being emphasized in a “humorous” way, while in the portrait we see him as “European” as possible. Here we touch upon the problem of race and representation during the 19th century. With the portrait, Nadar moves from caricature to character. Given different circumstances, we could see Dumas, being a “non-white”, as part of the “shadow archive”[19] of which Allan Sekula talks. But his photographic portrait aims at the opposite direction – to see him as an important, worthy figure of 19th century’s intelligentsia. As I said, photography can work both in an honorific and a repressive way. Here we see the first instance. The portrait’s meaning exists within wider codes of meaning:[20] garments, posture and setting in this case. A punctum of significance[21] in this photograph is Dumas’ hands. We see that his hands are clean, no scars are visible, and no tattoos. His hands are not hidden, and it is obvious that he earns his livings with his brain, not with his hands. This is a signifier for a higher society – the society of intellectuals. Another reason to choose this photograph for this essay is the model’s cheerfulness. Dumas looks comfortable, he seems to be enjoying the process. He is aware that his likeness – physical and intellectual – is being taken.[22] His position is central, his gaze is aimed almost directly at the camera – he is not at all afraid of the lens. Dumas seems confident and comfortable with himself. He is being himself. Nadar was an admirer of Dumas before they became friends. Dumas trusts Nadar and is confident in his skills as a photographer. He knows that Nadar will make him appear in his best light. I find Dumas appearing in a photographic portrait interesting, since he has been quoted saying that photography “has no other results than that of vulgarising art without extending it.”[23]

With this picture we see photographic portraiture has one main aim, and that is to assert status. It is not simply the visual elements of the photograph that are defining. The photograph also (and mostly) achieves meaning through the context in which it is seen.[24] In this portrait by Nadar we see the successful author Dumas, embracing his social status as an intellectual through a picture taken by a prominent photographer in a studio that was frequently attended by celebrities. Dumas is being codified in relation to other frames of reference. By looking at the picture we do not only see Alexandre Dumas – we see the whole “caste” of intellectuals. The photographic portrait depicts both the person and the environment in which he exists – in this case, the environment of rich and successful Frenchmen.

As I have now discussed the honorific photographic portraiture, I turn to the repressive one. To understand the concept of judicial photography, the two main approaches to crime from the 19th century must be analysed. Since the photographic portrait has two aspects – the representation of the individual and of the social identity, two approaches to recording and analysing criminals emerged. The first approach is aiming to define a basic, universal archetype of the criminal – a biotype. The emergence of this method is largely attributed to Francis Galton, who was studying physiognomics. He believed that the physiognomy of a person can help in defining him/her either as a criminal or as innocent. For him, the criminal is organically distinct from the bourgeois and creating a recognizable universal image of the criminal can help preventing crime. Galton used photography to synthesise this universal image. His method hunted the criminal body and started what is now known as “criminology.” The second approach is less rooted in “biology” and more in recognition and description of the individual. According to this method, the criminal is indistinguishable from the bourgeois. The method hunts “this” and “that” individual, not the whole body. I believe the use of photography in these two methods is fundamentally different. The first uses photography to create a whole image that could be used as a template in future investigation, while the second uses photography to distinguish individuals from one another and to keep records of every recognized criminal. Alphonse Bertillon is believed to be the originator of the second method which is known as “criminalistics.”[25] Bertillon was interested not in the similarities between individuals, but in the differences between them. Their unique characteristics, he believed, were a key point in recognizing and persecuting criminals. His method is considered more successful than Galton’s, and he is recognized as the “inventor of first effective modern system of criminal identification.”[26] A quote by Bertillon explains the technical differences between artistic and judicial portraiture:

“In commercial and artistic portraits, questions of fashion and taste are all important. Judicial photography […] allows us to look at the problem from a more simple point of view: which pose is theoretically the best for such and such a case?”[27]

Refinement and retouching are also common practices for artistic photographic portraiture[28] that do not appear in judicial photography.

Allan Sekula compares Bertillon’s approach to criminal portraiture to the American Thomas Byrnes’ methodology.[29] Byrnes, like Bertillon, believed that physiognomy was of no use when it comes to hunting criminals. They “carried no suggestion of their calling about them.”[30] The difference between Bertillon and Byrnes’ practices is that in Byrnes’ book Professional Criminals of America we do not see profile photographs, only frontal. I will now discuss such a frontal photograph from Byrnes’ book – the photograph of Charlie Williamson. The medium of the picture is a photomechanical print of a collotype/heliotype photograph. In Byrnes’ book we find a brief history of Williamson’s criminal activity, as well as a physical description of him: height, weight, complexion, colour of hair and eyes, age (43 in 1886), birthplace (New York). Byrnes describes Williamson as “one of the most extraordinary criminals [the USA] has ever produced.”[31] Williamson is considered one of the smartest people in his line in the world. Williamson has used numerous aliases. His crimes include passing forged drafts of NYC to aid him in a robbery in 1884, a plunder scheme in 1873, forging of bonds in 1875, escape from prison in 1877, and forgeries in London in 1878. His final sentence (up until 1886) was on February 11, 1885 for a forged letter. Willamson was using a different alias for every crime he committed.[32] This summarizes the criminal life of Williamson. Nothing is mentioned about his personal life outside of crime. Now let us look at the photograph. We see a bearded man holding a board with his handwriting on it. He is not looking at the lens, he is looking at somewhere behind the camera with a cold, calm gaze. His eyes are a bit narrowed, as if he is contemplating something. He does not look interested in the camera; he seems to be thinking of something else. He looks alien to the picture, almost unbothered by it. I would say he looks confident and fearless. By the time this photograph was taken, he was already familiar with the judicial processes. Byrnes claims that the picture, taken by the English, is an excellent one because it shows his handwriting.[33] Handwriting is particularly important in the case of Williamson since he is a well-known forger of documents, and his handwriting is the instrument of his crimes. The photograph is not a typical Bertillon mug shot, since it is only a frontal one. Bertillon believes that frontal photographs “will be unanimously recognized by friends and acquaintances of the prisoner as well as by the prisoner himself.”[34] We can assume, then, that Williamson’s portrait would be used for recognition by his possible acquaintances in the event of future persecutions. The representation of Williamson is not a mark of celebration but a burden of subjection.[35] The conditions for creating his portrait are but forms of subjection – he was illuminated, focused, measured, numbered and named. The space in which the photograph was taken was also a place of subjection – a sterile and secure place, open to supervision. The photograph also represents the power of the state – the power to capture, identify, isolate and judge.

When compared, the two photographs that were discussed in this essay show the differences and similarities between photographs, which were the fruit of bourgeois leisure activities and glorified the depicted individuals, and the photographs, which were part of the “shadow archive” and were used to utilize the power of the state. The similarity between honorific and repressive portraiture is that the “others”, i.e. the criminals and other “unworthy” people could not have possibly benefitted from either type of photography – they were not worthy of an honorific photo and were being repressed by the repressive photo. Both types of photography aimed to keep the boundaries between classes, enabled the division of labour, aimed to preserve hierarchy, and kept the private properties safe. They also celebrated the concept of individualism on which bourgeois society relies. The dissimilarity between the honorific and the repressive photographs is their relation to the subject. The bourgeois portrait is internal – it is a concept crafted within the bourgeois society and it is used to cement the status of individuals from that society. Such photographs are not forced upon the individual; they are wanted by the individual, since he/she is aware of the positive outcomes of such a picture. Therefore, the subject’s relation to bourgeois portraiture is natural, familiar and understood. Photographs from the “shadow archive”, however, have external nature. They are alien to the photographed subject, as he/she is forced to participate in the process. The concept of this type of photography was invented by a society which deliberately aimed to distance itself from the subjects of it. Therefore, the very essence of “shadow archive” photographs is alienating – its purpose is to isolate the subjects and to assure the line between “high” and “low” society is visible by means of pictorial representation. Photography validates identity – it validates the identity of both the opposed to one another groups – the “intellectuals” and the “others.” The problem is the very concept of validation is invented, used, and applied by the former, leaving the latter repressed, subjected and alienated.

 

Bibliography:

Arago, Dominique F. “Report.” In History of Photography, ed. Josef Maria Eder, 232-241. New York: Dover, 1978.

Barthes, Roland. “Extracts from Camera Lucida.” In The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells, 19-30. London: Routledge, 2003.

Baudelaire, Charles. “The Modern Public and Photography.” [Salon of 1859]. In Selected Writings on Art and Artists, trans. P. E. Charvet. 291-298. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972.

Byrnes, Thomas F. Professional Criminals of America. New York: Cassell & company, limited, 1886.

Cardinal, Roger. “Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Nineteenth-Century.” In The Portrait in Photography, 6–24. London: Reaktion Books, 1992.

Clark, Graham. “Introduction.” In The Portrait in Photography, 1–5. London: Reaktion Books, 1992.

Clark, Graham. “Public Faces, Private Lives: August Sander and the Social Typology of the Portrait Photograph.” In The Portrait in Photography, 71–93. London: Reaktion Books, 1992.

Clarke, Graham. The Portrait in Photography. London: Reaktion Books, 1992.

Ellenbogen, Josh. Reasoned and Unreasoned Images: the Photography of Bertillon, Galton, and Marey. University Park: Penn State Univ Press, 2012.

Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988.

MacLaine, Brent. “Literature and Photography” In History of Photography, 26:3, 247-248. 2002.

Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39 (1986): 3-64.

Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Hampshire: Macmillan Education, 1988.

 

[1] Arago, Dominique F. “Report.” In History of Photography, ed. Josef Maria Eder, 232-241. New York: Dover, 1978. p. 234

[2] Arago, Dominique F. “Report.” In History of Photography, ed. Josef Maria Eder, 232-241. New York: Dover, 1978. p. 235

[3] Arago, Dominique F. “Report.” In History of Photography, ed. Josef Maria Eder, 232-241. New York: Dover, 1978. p. 238-9

[4] Baudelaire, Charles. “The Modern Public and Photography.” [Salon of 1859]. In Selected Writings on Art and Artists, trans. P. E. Charvet. 291-298. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972. p. 295

[5] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 23

[6] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 5

[7] Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Hampshire: Macmillan Education, 1988. p. 61

[8] Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Hampshire: Macmillan Education, 1988. p. 64

[9] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 7

[10] Clark, Graham. “Introduction.” In The Portrait in Photography, 1–5. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 1

[11] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 210

[12] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 215

[13] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 215

[14] Cardinal, Roger. “Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Nineteenth-Century.” In The Portrait in Photography, 6–24. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 10

[15] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 215

[16] Clark, Graham. “Public Faces, Private Lives: August Sander and the Social Typology of the Portrait Photograph.” In The Portrait in Photography, 71–93. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 73

[17] Cardinal, Roger. “Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Nineteenth-Century.” In The Portrait in Photography, 6–24. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 11

[18] Cardinal, Roger. “Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Nineteenth-Century.” In The Portrait in Photography, 6–24. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 11

[19] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 10

[20] Clark, Graham. “Introduction.” In The Portrait in Photography, 1–5. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 3

[21] Barthes, Roland. “Extracts from Camera Lucida.” In The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells, 19-30. London: Routledge, 2003. p. 25

[22] Cardinal, Roger. “Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Nineteenth-Century.” In The Portrait in Photography, 6–24. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 11

[23] MacLaine, Brent. “Literature and Photography” In History of Photography, 26:3, 247-248. 2002. p. 247

[24] Clark, Graham. “Introduction.” In The Portrait in Photography, 1–5. London: Reaktion Books, 1992. p. 1

[25] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 17-8

[26] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 17

[27] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 29

[28] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, the Age of Collodion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. p. 23-5

[29] Sekula, Allan. „The Body and the Archive.“ October 39, 1986. 3-64. p. 37

[30] Byrnes, Thomas. „Why Thieves are Photographed.“ In Professional Criminals of America, New York, Cassell & company, limited, 1886. p. 53

[31] Byrnes, Thomas F. Professional Criminals of America. New York: Cassell & company, limited, 1886. p. 278

[32] Byrnes, Thomas F. Professional Criminals of America. New York: Cassell & company, limited, 1886. p. 279-280

[33] Byrnes, Thomas F. Professional Criminals of America. New York: Cassell & company, limited, 1886. p. 280

[34] Ellenbogen, Josh. Reasoned and Unreasoned Images: the Photography of Bertillon, Galton, and Marey. University Park: Penn State Univ Press, 2012. p. 37

[35] Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Hampshire: Macmillan Education, 1988. p. 64

 

 

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Figure 3:

 

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 34 (извънреден), април, 2022, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Християн Вачков – Social Harmony

The initial aim of the Social Harmony exhibition was to show how COVID-19 affected the lives of the Chinese people, how they stood together against it and managed to stop the disease. As the pandemic prevention measures in Suzhou changed over time, the show itself came to bear the marks of the pandemic and the evolving response to it – from the two-week delay of the opening to the quarantine the installed works went through with the rest of us as the spring semester began online due to a recent outbreak. The struggle against the virus continues and I feel evermore inspired by the will of the Chinese people to put social benefit above selfish desires and their willingness to face the common thread united. As a part of the international creative team of Shiheng Peking University New Century School I am proud to present to you the Social Harmony exhibition – a show consisting of three separate but interconnected parts – a series of paintings, a performance and an installation.

The common element uniting the three parts of the exhibition is a popular children’s toy – a suction ball. Besides the fact that it bears a stark visual resemblance to the virus it also reminds of COVID-19’s ability to stick to anyone and anything. The toy is both used as a pastime and as a tool in learning games, thus acutely representing two of the most important parts of a child’s life – studying and playing, which were greatly affected by the virus.

The six paintings depict six common activities – going to the movies, playing at the mall, eating out with friends, playing football, having fun at the waterpark, and studying in the classroom. All of these activities have been strongly affected by the spread of COVID-19 to the point where these normal scenes periodically are being erased from the children’s lives. In the exhibition this idea is represented by white paint, applied by a thrown sticky-ball, that erases in unpredictable and violent ways whole sections of the printed stock images.

The second part of the exhibition tells the story of the response of the Chinese people. Twelve children, dressed as different professionals (policeman, firefighter, nurse etc.) and wearing surgical face masks inscribed with the Core Socialist values, recite sentences that show the commitment and determination of the Chinese people to fight against COVID-19. Each student is holding a glass lantern containing a white suction ball. The symbolic charge of the white color that appeared as a force of erasure in the first part of the exhibition is now turned against the virus itself – stripping it from its power and transforming it into a marble-like museum piece to be displayed after the performance.

The final part of the exhibition consists of eight red nets suspended from the ceiling of the gallery space. The installation reinforces the message made explicit with the performance – the white suction balls represent COVID-19, while the red thread of the nets stands for the enduring social ties, strengthened by the common moral virtues shared by the Chinese people, which form an impenetrable net of solidarity and cooperation containing and disarming the virus.

The preparation of the show put the children at the center of every stage of the work. Students from grades one and two took part in the performance. Third and fourth graders threw the paint-covered balls to create the paintings, while students from grade six spray painted over three hundred balls needed for the installation.

 

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 34 (извънреден), април, 2022, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Христиан Вачков – Urban Enlightenment

Сн. Христиан Вачков

 

Christian Vatchkov is a Bulgarian artist, currently based in Suzhou, China. He holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and Anthropology from the Sofia University, and a MA from the Central European University, Budapest. He is the author of the book “Salvator Mundi Artis” and of articles on topics regarding contemporary art. He has been living in Nepal, Japan and China for the past four years, and draws his major artistic inspiration from East Asian cultures, contemporary and ancient alike.

His practice builds upon the traditions of abstract-expressionism and neo-dadaism, with characteristic use of elements from traditional and Mao era Chinese art. His latest series of paintings, titled “Urban Enlightenment” is the product of a year-long observation and creative work focused on the “Lightning Capital of the World” – the town of Guzhen, Zhongshan in the Guangdong province (Canton). The thirty pieces are currently being exhibited at the GAS gallery, Shenzhen (13.03-05.05 2021).

Christian Vatchkov, The Sea Shines Exposed to the Light

Christian Vatchkov, She Bangs The Drums

Christian Vatchkov, Half by Heaven Half by Men

Christian Vatchkov, Pleasures Au Revoir

The Cantonese town of Guzhen is best known for manufacturing all kinds of lighting. In recent years the town has grown into a place with thousands of small and big factories all related to lighting in one way or the other. Due to the rapid economic development of China, Guzhen’s lighting fittings industry has undergone unprecedented growth in the past two decades. The production of lighting fittings is its primary industry, accounting for nearly 90% of the town’s industrial output. The total annual exports exceed $1 billion.

Christian Vatchkov, Only Then the Smile is Not Tired

Guzhen is a town in the process of inventing and reinventing itself. It’s streets and buildings are in a constant flux, moulded by a stream of entrepreneurial advancement as much as by Guangdong’s scorching sun and ever present humidity. This “ancient town”, lives to its name in a peculiar way – by exemplifying a spiral of cutting edge tech innovation and abandoned ruin. For instance, this flashy lightning-only mall is but a street away from it’s abandoned and decaying twin, and the flowers, marking the daily openings of new stores and showrooms usually sprout straight from the rubble of the gutted-to-be-rebuilt venture of the past tenants.

Christian Vatchkov, Red Blooded in the Sky

Christian Vatchkov, Do a Little Dance

Christian Vatchkov, I Am Standing in the Wind

Christian Vatchkov, Une Bonne Fille

China is a land of festivals and fireworks. It comes as no surprise that even the opening of the smallest store deserves a proper ceremony – at least a red carpet and two long lines of flowers. As the days go by, the merciless sun of Guangdong withers the flowers, while the humidity makes sure they will rot by night. The fast paced economy of China is a game of trials and errors – usually the same store space will go through a full cycle of birth, death and rebirth within six months. In the town of Guzhen it means that a light storefront will spark in full glory, thrive for a few months and go to complete ruin… until the new owners come to start the fanfare-to-decay process all over again. The life cycles of flowers, businesses, people and their dreams and desires intertwine and mimic one another in the dance of reality.

As new shops appear and disappear, the ebb of ongoing competition leaves its marks on the walls of the buildings, where layers and layers of quickly written or stenciled phone numbers and their consequent erasures and over-paintings add up to create an ongoing artwork, where individual strivings and desires are gradually been reduced to unintelligible abstraction.

In China explicit erotic materials are far less prominent than in many other countries. You won’t see Playboy and Hustler magazines and definitely there is no dirty section in your local pharmacy (like in Japan). However, just like the flowers that push through the concrete skin of Guangdong, desire in its most primal form, literally sprouts from the streets of the city in the peculiar form of small printed cards advertising escort services. These pieces of cardboard, always sporting a phone number and a QR code, are scattered all over the town of Guzhen. The corridors leading to the still functioning toilets of the abandoned lighting mall display the history and evolution of the lightbulb, while the sanitary compartment goes back to the theme of sexual desires.

While the scattered cards draw one’s attention downwards, it is the expressionistic stains covering  the more industrial areas of town that capture the imagination. Rapid and simplistic in their evocative shapes, these spots vary from the size of a spilled coffee to gigantic Rorschach blots spanning over several meters.

Some of the streets’ walls still display images from the Mao era juxtaposed with new murals and posters, that keep alive the themes of filial piety and social cohesion. Indiscriminately all the murals are subjected to the ongoing “numbers game” – a haphazard interplay of stencils, erasures and frantic rewritings of phone numbers advertising everything from plumbing services to traditional treatments for STDs.

Walking around the streets of Guangdong is never dull. As China opens itself more and more to Western influence and its capabilities for machine translation grow evermore accurate there is hardly any everyday object that does not bear an English title.  Buildings, consumer goods, cars, food – everything has some auto-translated text attached to it. And if in most cases the crude translations serve a purely marketing purpose, there is one particular type of translation that has evolved into a pure enigma – the t-shirt prints. Every title of the paintings from this series has been borrowed word-for-word from such t-shirts. These mind boggling and sometimes curiously poetic mistranslation give a surreal twist to a foreigner’s experience in China. You can read more of the artist’s thoughts on that matter here.

All these various elements – lamps, lighting diagrams, numbers, flowers, murals, escort services cards and obscure phrases, find their way to the canvas in the same way they do on the streets of Guzhen – appearing and disappearing through veils of paint, simultaneously commanding the viewer’s attention and sliding away back into the uniform wall-like ground. Much like the vaguely related pictorial elements that construct them, the works don’t impose a narrative or convey some “message” to the viewer, but rather invite them to build and explore their own semantic networks and to search for possible relations or the lack of such altogether.

The artist perceives his work to be equally representational and abstract in its nature, both in terms of its plastic qualities and its subject matter. The paintings are intimately engaged with the very real phenomenon of the thriving industrial town of Guzhen. At the same time they relate to an utopian “City of Light”, a mind construct and object of meditation which strives to reconcile the classic buddhist dichotomy of enlightenment and desire, as it has been challenged by Taoits and Ch’an thinkers through the centuries. This is but one of the pairs of opposing forces that inspired the artist to create the series and which continuously engage his thinking. The unceasing cycle of creation and destruction, of meaning and obscurity, of ruthless and impersonal market forces and enduring social bonds are all embedded in the work, but not as statements or solutions, but rather as questions and starting points for further inquiries.

The materials and techniques used to produce the paintings are as eclectic as their semantic composition – pencils, markers, spray-paint, stencils and drip-pens evoke the scribbled walls and stained streets of Guzhen, while the photo-transfered collage elements range from personal photographs and found materials to classic paintings and posters. Layers and layers of liquid white acrylic paint both reveal and conceal the overlapping visual elements. The color scheme dominated by black and red and the strong use of negative space evoke references both to Chinese ink painting, as well as to American and European post-war abstraction.

Christian Vatchkov, There is no Planet (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, marker, drip pen and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, The Craze Swept the Country (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Just Cloud me (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, marker, drip pen and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Life was Like a Box of Chocolates – October – (2020), 40×50 cm. acrylics, marker, drip pen and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Paradise the Evolution Vibe (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Success the Easy Way (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, King Power (God Bless Jesus) (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Skills of the Player (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Unexpected – Lovely Little Mess (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker, drip pen and photo transfer on canvas

Christian Vatchkov, Keep in Mind Spring/Summer 1990 Never (2021), 40×50 cm. acrylics, spray paint, marker, drip pen and photo transfer on canvas

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 28, май, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Стиф Лазаров – Can art be considered a form of political resistance or activism?

 

Art reflects reality through the artist’s point of view and perspective. Art, however, does not imitate nature and real life, but instead, it depicts the artist’s feelings, imagination and attitude towards nature and real life. Throughout the ages, though, art had different roles, such as a religious role. In Ancient Greece, for example, art was admired for its aesthetic qualities, but at the same time artworks majorly depicted mythological scenes, making them religious objects as well. The case during the Medieval Ages in Europe was similar. Since a major part of the people during that age were illiterate, they could not possibly learn about Christianity through books. Art was serving an educational role, making religion accessible for the mass. However, famous artworks were mainly in the possession of the wealthy, or in the people of control. This phenomenon continued after the Medieval Ages, making fine art a bourgeoise pleasure. Art was taken away from the common people since they were thought to not be educated enough and thus not able to appreciate art as such. The working-class had not had art targeting them. Even if the artwork depicted working-class or agricultural scenes, it was again bourgeoise art. The Church during Medieval Ages treated art as something available for the masses, but this availability aimed to maintain control over people using religion. If people do not have constant access to religion through various media, this would jeopardize the Church’s position in society. After abolishing Christianity’s control over society „for the sake of the people“, ironically, art become unavailable. I believe art is important to the cultural health of a society, just like food and water are important for the physical health, and a society without available art suffers from cultural sickness. The workers, and overall, the people who do not belong in the ruling or the bourgeoisie class are being underestimated and derogated by being thought they are not capable of simply enjoying art. Moreover, during the Dutch Golden Age, for example, art was mainly depicting the wealth of the Netherlands and its conquering achievements. Even still-life paintings showed the viewer only the most expensive commodities. This was, in a way, bourgeoise propaganda that showed the Netherlands in its brightest side, almost completely forgetting about the lower class of people. However, various artists from the 19th and 20th century used art’s impacting and engaging qualities to spread their ideologies. This essay will discuss the question of whether art can be used as a weapon of political activism or resistance. I will discuss the matter in relation to Mexican Muralism, specifically Diego Rivera’s art.

In the 19th century, there were artists that started to stress on the working-class’ struggle and issues. Such artists are Honoré Daumier, Gustave Courbet, and later Van Gogh, for example. Daumier, despite himself being a bourgeois, had focused on paintings which showed the workers, or paintings which parody the bourgeoisie. One of his major and famous caricatures with a political message against the rulers and the wealthy is Gargantua (Figure 1) painted in 1831. In the artwork, we see King Louis-Philippe, who was the ruler of France at the time Daumier was an active artist. The ruler’s head was drawn in the form of a pear, which was a common form of depiction of the king in Daumier’s art. There is a stepping board which leads to the king’s mouth, and on that board, we can see the king’s servants carrying sacks of money which end up in the ruler’s mouth. The money is gathered from the taxpayers which are depicted on the left, emptying their pockets and giving their money to the servants. This is a straightforward depiction of the monarch’s ruling methods, meaning that he makes wealth off the common folk’s labour. Daumier perfectly shows how cruel was the exploitation of the working-class, and how the ruler was the only one benefiting from this situation. The way the people who give their money to the king are depicted in the picture – the woman with a child in the bottom right, for example – show us how unfair is the king’s ruling is to the people. Gargantua has a message that could make the viewer actually think about the unjust situation in France, and not only admire the artwork for its aesthetic values. Daumier emphasizes on the message and social awareness in some of his paintings, rather than on the aesthetic quality of his art. Namely this fact, I suppose, made Diego Rivera look into Daumier’s art and discuss it briefly in his The Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art. Rivera says that Daumier definitely produced revolutionary art, without actually painting in a revolutionary character. Daumier’s art was not actual leftist propaganda, but, as Rivera notes, the viewer can see that he depicted the world through his „class-conscious“ eye. Diego Rivera says that there is no need for one to be from the working-class in order to realize its problems, and give voice to them. Daumier used art to reach the people.His class-conscious artworks were not suitable for installing in a palace, or in a bourgeois mansion, but were meant for the mass. His art was not „pure art“ of which critics like Greenberg talk and praise. Daumier’s art was meant not only to be enjoyed but also to be understood and to be used as a tool for the awakening of the working-class. That type of art can be considered as peaceful activism, since it does not promote violence against the rulers, but makes the viewers realise their situation.

As we can tell by Rivera’s The Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art, artists like Daumier played a major role in influencing Rivera’s own art. Rivera said „Every strong artist has been a propagandist. I want to be a propagandist and I want to be nothing else. I want to be a propagandist of Communism… I want to use art as my weapon.“ He simply says that bourgeois „art for art’s sake“ or „pure art“ is not as valuable as activist and propaganda art since it cannot be used as a weapon. Rivera wants to use art to reach the people and spread his leftist political views. Such art is also a form of resistance against conservatism and right-wing ideas as a whole. Rivera sees art as the easiest and most accessible way to promote ideas. Art is probably the most impacting form of message since it can be both entertaining and educational and it can be straightforward as well. All these characteristics are combined in the muralist movement in Mexico, occurring in 1920-1940. Diego Rivera is one of the leaders of this movement, along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Muralists wanted their art to be as reachable as possible, that is why they installed it in public places. They did not want their art to be sophisticated and private and perhaps did not want to make a profit out of it. On one hand, muralists wanted people to have bigger access to art, since until then art was meant only for a small group of people and it was not fair to the mass of people who were not wealthy enough to afford artworks, and/or were not born in high-class families, whose members are thought to possess an inborn ability to appreciate art. On the other hand, muralists wanted to spread their political views as wider as possible and wanted everyone to be educated about Communism. Let us imagine that the muralists, instead of painting frescoes publicly, gave away copies of the Communist Manifesto. Part of the people may actually take the book, read it and become affected by it, but the chance is that most of the people would not engage with the Manifesto in a proper way, since it is not as reachable as art. Although activist and propaganda art may not be as detailed, concrete and exhaustive as a theoretical work like the Manifesto, it has a wider reach and bigger impact on the masses as a whole and may even make people more interested in further education on the matter. Muralists knew this and chose to use their talent as the weapon of their propaganda. Public art is a fast, easy and a rather successful way of spreading an idea. The muralists also wanted to show people that they are on their side as part of their propaganda. With muralism, those artists wanted to show to the people an image of modernized Mexico. In their art they mixed European aesthetics with local culture and traditions, making their art both admirable and comfortable. Diego Rivera held the believe that art is as important to one’s health as it is food and water. The latter keeps the body in a healthy condition, while the former is important for one’s psyche and soul. Without access to art, the mass is spiritually crippled and their lust for life is fading.

In his artworks, Rivera wanted to show the rise of the proletariat and the workers’ triumph. One of the most important murals regarding this topic is the vast mural cycle he painted in the national Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City between 1923 and 1929. In the mural cycle, Rivera wanted to show the evolution that indigenous people of Mexico would go under after education, industrialisation, and most importantly, revolution. The paintings show the transformation of labour and lifestyle after certain political changes in Mexico. With this mural cycle, Diego Rivera spreads the message of the positive outcome from a leftist revolution. The paintings show how the people will no longer be oppressed and that Rivera and other Mexican communists’ ideas are in favour of the people. The mural’s main message is shown in two parts, named by the artist as the Courtyard of Labour and the Courtyard of Fiestas. Metaphorically, the former is executed in the first floor of the building, while the latter is painted in the second floor. Here, Rivera uses architecture as a metaphor for the people’s rise. On the first level, we see traditional practices of production like weaving, depicted next to other forms of labour like mining. In this panel, there’s a painting called Tehuanas (Figure 2), in which we see a woman bearing a basket of fruit on her head, another woman by her side which also carries fruit on her head, and a kneeling woman in front of them. This painting shows the indigenous people’s everyday life and traditions. In the Courtyard of Labour, we see various scenes of indigenous Mexican traditions – festivals, dances etc. Ascending to the third level of the Courtyard of Fiestas, we see a painting called Our Bread (Figure 3) that represents the triumph of the proletariat. In Our Bread we see the woman from Tehuanas who was carrying a basket of fruit on her head standing in front of a table. Behind her, we can see clear skies, which is a utopian metaphor of triumph and prosperity. Next to her, we see what might be a military general or a soldier, who, now that the proletariat have prevailed, is free to join the celebration. Behind the woman, we see men with traditional Mexican hats, who are probably workers. In front of her, we see a table, and in the central seat there is a man who is breaking a loaf of bread. On the chairs around the table, there are various people, men and women, from different age groups. They are waiting for the man to give away the bread. The painting shows that after the proletariat’s victory there will be no restrictions regarding age, gender or ethnicity. Everybody is welcomed in the Communist classless society, and namely this is what Rivera wants to show in this painting. The proletariat’s triumph will lead to harmony. Our Bread also shows the Tehuana’s rise. In Tehuanas she seems isolated, while in Our Bread she has joined the celebration and the careless, utopian life. Thus, the mural’s name – Courtyard of Fiestas. On the same floor as the Courtyard of Fiestas, we see the painting Wall Street Banquet (Figure 4), painted in 1928. It uses a similar model to Our Bread, and just like it, it can be considered as both political resistance and activism. But, while Our Bread shows us the positive outcomes of a Communist revolution, Wall Street Banquet criticises the enemies of this ideology. Again, the painting depicts people sitting around a table. In the centre of the painting, though, it was not depicted a person, but a vault. This shows us that the people in the painting value wealth more than humans, and the centre of their lives is money. We do not see any food on the table. Eating with someone is a sign of warmth and propinquity. Usually families and close friends eat together, and in Our Bread, the idea is that everyone in the classless society will be part of one big family. The case of Wall Street Banquet is different. There is champagne on the table, which is a sign of wealth rather than of closeness and warmth. The people in the painting are gathered by business interests rather than sympathy. Everyone’s facial expression is rather cold and evil, unlike the people in Our Bread which look calm and happy. The capitalists in Wall Street Banquet are too serious and too busy to be happy and one can assume that they do not enjoy each other’s company. They read a golden ticket tape, but we can see that only the men in the painting have access to it. This also tells us about the patriarchy and sexism of the Western capitalist world. The woman on the nearest left seems more like holding the tape, rather than reading it. Another juxtaposition between Our Bread and Wall Street Banquet is that there are no children in the latter. In the cold capitalist world, there is no place for children and their joy and carelessness. Among the people depicted in Wall Street Banquet are John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and J.P. Morgan. Ironically, Rivera was invited by Rockefeller to execute a mural piece in his tower. In 1934 the artist executed Man at the Crossroads (Figure 5) for Rockefeller, which was destroyed afterward because of the Communist message in it. The murals from the Courtyard of Labour and the Courtyard of Fiestas are included in the ballet H.P., composed by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez in 1926-32. 

By the time muralism was prospering and Diego Rivera was already a significant artist in Mexico, in Europe Modernism and Formalism were the established artistic movements. Modernism was very critical of paintings with political messages and Formalism focused on the paintings’ forms, lines, and flatness, rather than the story and message behind them. Thinkers like Clement Greenberg and Roger Fry had noted in their works that message in paintings was irrelevant and useless. In a 1969 interview, Greenberg said that art „solved nothing, either for the artist himself or for those who receive his art“. For Greenberg, political art was „poor art for poor people“. In his work Modernist Painting, he stated that message and story belonged to literature, and in Modernist paintings all the elements taken from other types of art should be excluded, since they concealed art’s quality and purpose. Greenberg also said that the artist’s role was to make good art, and social awareness had not helped in the making of good art. The Modernist movement thought that the artists did not have the right to raise social awareness and that art had to be apolitical. Roger Fry also admitted that art’s main qualities come from „pure form“. Pure form produces a unique aesthetic feeling in the viewer, and other feelings that come from the artist’s background, or from the artwork’s theme and concept were secondary or irrelevant. Rivera completely disagreed with those statements and thought that a powerful artist necessarily needs to be part of the contemporary social struggle of his time and needs to raise awareness with his art. Ironically, Rivera adopted European Modernist art in his artworks, which was moved namely by Formalism and Modernism.

Rivera managed to use art as a weapon and a tool for the spreading and amplification of the Communist ideology. He thought that the most viable way to be heard is through art since it is straightforward, reachable and amusing at the same time. Moreover, he painted his artworks in public spaces, making his art and his message even more available to the people. His art was influenced by the leftist movement and spread propaganda about the people’s prosperity and well-being after an eventual Communist revolution. Art, as he proved, can be considered as both forms of political activism and political resistance. However, the times during which Rivera was active were critical of such art, and Rivera was not critically acclaimed by the European standards of Modernist art. Rivera was not concerned about this fact and kept filling his art with messages about social awareness and class struggle. His art was a manifestation of the working-class’ issues and at the same time possessed certain, unique aesthetic qualities, which was the result of combining European Modernist style with traditional Mexican culture.

 

Bibliography:

Belnap, Jeffrey. „Diego Rivera’s Greater America Pan-American Patronage, Indigenism, and H.P.“ Cultural Critique, no. 63 (2006): 61-98.

Ferrari, Marry A.. The Use of Path Dependence to Explain the Representations of United States Industrialism in Mexico in Diego Rivera’s Murals. The Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College, 2015

Greenberg, Clement. “Modernist Painting”, 1965, in Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison (eds.), Modern Art and Modernism. A Critical Anthology, London, 1982

Rivera, Diego. “The Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art.” The Modern Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 3. Baltimore: Autumn 1932: 51-57. Reproduced in Anreus et al, Mexican Muralism. 322-330

Wolf, Virginia. Roger Fry, A Biography. London, 1940

 

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списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 28, май, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Публиката и нейните емоции са нещо второстепенно. Разговор с Росен Тошев

Росен Тошев, Me and Campbel’s, 2012 г., 130х180 см, маслени бои, платно

 

В картините ви експериментът присъства и като предмет на самото изображение, и като принцип на работа и композиране. Какво ви провокира да експериментирате? 

Вероятно в голяма степен това се дължи на любопитството, на желанието да опиташ…и на любовта към експеримента, разбира се!

Има ли момент, в който вие като автор научавате нещо от самата творба, от крайния резултат на експеримента? Има ли момент на удивление?

Безспорно такива моменти съществуват и те съпътстват почти целия процес на работа по дадено произведение… А що се отнася до удивлението  –  по-скоро не! Но пък има не по-малко важното и значимо удовлетворение.

Има ли рискове в търсенето на новото като визия или концепция?

Вероятно има, но аз не ги определям като рискове. То си е забавление. И или се получава, или не. Ако не стане започвам отначало. А понякога изобщо изоставям дадена идея. 

Доколко създаването на една творба е процес на обмисляне и планиране и доколко е игра? Различните медии като живопис и фотография изискват ли различен подход и различно виждане? 

Специално за мен обмислянето и предварителната подготовка са много важни и имат значимо място в създаването на дадено произведение. Те разбира се, не изключват играта, не изключват импровизацията и случайността. Що се отнася до различните подходи във фотографията и живописта те неминуема съществуват, но при мен са по-скоро по отношение на чисто техническите им разлики. В идеен план подходът ми няма разлики. Все пак и в двата случая се стремя да създавам картини, макар и с различни визуални средства.

Смятате ли че съвременото изобразително изкуство има своя език и начини, за да заяви социална позиция, без да изпада в шаблони? Или по-скоро това е въпрос на възприятие и интерпретация от страна на публиката?

Смятам, че всяко изкуство, през всеки период от съществуването си е имало своя език и своя начин за изява на определени позиции в това число и на социални такива. Съвременното изкуство не е по-различно, но вероятно съдържа в себе си повече на брой позиции и по-голяма категоричност в заявяването им. Но това естествено крие и по-голям риск от шаблонност. Нормално е за това да има заслуга и публиката с нейните възприятия и интерпретации, а също и с нейната разнородност. Но все пак трябва да сме наясно, че публиката и нейните емоции са нещо второстепенно. Второстепенно в смисъл, че първо трябва да имаме автор и произведение, които да породят определени вълнения и размисли в публиката. А пък изобразителното изкуство има и способността да бъде самодостатъчно… може да съществува и без публика, поне за дълъг период от време или пък с много ограничен брой зрители и изследователи.

 

С Росен Тошев разговаря Йоанна Златева

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 28, май, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X

 

 

visual arts
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Хората, които се возят с метрото, имат собствена миризма: класовата война в „Паразит“

Ния Пушкарова, me and irina, red print, 50×70 cm, silk screen print

 

От Ким Ки Дук сме свикнали да очакваме южнокорейските филми да режат глави. И когато това наистина се случва в Паразит (2019) на режисьора Бонг Джун-хо, сме не толкова изненадани, колкото удовлетворени в очакванията си, въпреки че в първите две трети на филма доста сме се смели, което определено не може да се каже за филмите на Ким. Който е очаквал комедия, както жанрово е класифициран филмът, не остава излъган, отекващият в празния киносалон самотен смях е гарантиран. Бавното приплъзване на сюжета към черното и същинския хорър отговаря добре на свиването на гърлото при един смях по време на чума, евентуално с несвалена маска.

Както при Ким, така и в Паразит зрителят е респектиран от солидността, с която се разработва социалният контекст на фикцията, визуално и пространствено буквализиран с придвижването на героите от сутеренен апартамент в квартал, напомнящ на мястото на действие в Пиета на Ким Ки Дук, до квартала на богатите някъде в полите на планина и дома архитектурен шедьовър, в който ще се разиграе хорърът. Семейството от сутерена е съставено от четирима безработни члена, семейството от шедьовъра на архитект-звезда – от индустриалец и неговата челяд, също четирима. Придвижването в пространството е придвижване в социалната стратификация, както в Елена на Звягинцев с неговата Москва на хай-класата и панелните жк комплекси.

 

Изненадващият обрат, вкарващ действието в релсите на хорора, също разчита на семиотиката на социалното пространство, при която в дома на богатите се разкрива и удвоява в един зловещ mise en abyme сутеренът на бедните, където тайно живее съпругът на бившата икономка, криещ се от лихвари, познати ни от Пиета. При сблъсъка на новите социални „паразити“, окупирали постепенно един по един дома на богатите, със старите бедняци „паразити“ от мазето тип ядрено бомбоубежище, предвидено сякаш за севернокорейска ракетна атака, избухва безмилостна война на бедните за пространството на богатия гостоприемник – класовата война на бедните от Виридиана на Бунюел помежду им.

Освен въпрос на пространствена стратификация, социалното неравенство в Паразит е и въпрос на миризма. Опитвайки се да идентифицира характера на миризмата на шофьора си, дължаща се на сутерена на бедните, индустриалецът го свързва с миризмата на хората, които се возят с метрото (съпругата му трудно може да си спомни кога за последен път го е правила).

Тази миризма, която на няколко пъти се тематизира от богатите, включително и по време на сексуален акт, на който шофьорът е принудително неволен свидетел, довежда в крайна сметка до пренасочването на руслото на класовата война, текла до този момент между бедните. Шофьорът забива кухненски нож в сърцето на собственика на мерцедеса пред очите на малолетния му син, на чийто рожден ден е поканен като мил жест от страна на работодателите му (което не им пречи да го третират на партито отново като обслужващ персонал).

Човекът, който се вози с метрото и пробва да бъде паразит на богат гостоприемник, в крайна сметка убива гостоприемника си. Той има собствена миризма, отприщваща класовата война между бедните и богатите. След убийството на гостоприемника той ще се скрие на единственото място, където няма да го търсят – в мазето – като „паразит“ второ поколение. Синът му ще трябва да забогатее – предполага се с легален „непаразитен“ труд – за да (от)купи дома, в чието мазе баща му се е скрил. Но каква е разликата между „трудовото“ основаване на една банка и нейното „паразитно“ ограбване?

 

Владимир Сабоурин

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 27, март, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Йоанна Златева – Когнитивният екшън на Кристофър Нолан

Кристофър Нолан Тенет (2020)

 

1. Темпоралност

 Както предишните фантастични светове на Кристофър Нолан, и този, конструиран в трилъра „Тенет“(2020), е свръх обвързан с правила и механична детерминация, която тук функционира и в двете посоки на времето – тази на обичайната ентропия на падащите предмети и инерцията, и обратната посока на фантастично инвертиране, при която изстреляните патроните се връщат обратно в барабана на оръжието, предметите сами отскачат в ръцете ти, отломките от взрива се прибират обратно в цялостен, непокътнат обект. Към нормалната, позната обусловеност, наследена от миналото, се добавя елемент на допълнителната трудност с обърната посока, която пристига от бъдещето. Привидно страничните детайли, предмети и хора, които се явяват уж случайни и второстепенни в течението на екшъна, от гледна точка на бъдещето се оказват не само необходими, но и предварително заложени там от него. Какво се случва със свободната воля в такъв случай, се пита Протагонистът, безименният герой на филма, както се питаме и ние. Това, което от нашата страна – на героя и на фабулата – се усеща като свободна воля, като приближаване на една ръка към един патрон, например, бива потвърдено като детерминираност от обратната страна на бъдещето, в което ръката вече държи патрона, независимо от самото намерение. Ефектът предхожда причината. Там, където времето е запаметено като информация, запазено като звук и картина (и в тази връзка, заснето като филм) волевият акт не отсъства, но се оказва нерелевантен. Единствената възможност за свободната воля, неизненадващо, се оказва предварителното незнание. Незнанието и вярата освобождават действието – странна корелация, част от многото странни корелации, през които маневрират героите, която има единствено смисъл, ако приемем, че живеем не просто в обществото на спектакъла, а вече в общество на информацията и на темпоралност на случване отвъд визуалното възприятие на човешкото око.

Протагонистът, изпратен – като в онази руска приказка – да отиде не знам къде и да намери не знам какво, се сблъсква с непозната технология, способна да преобърне назад ентропията и инертното разпадане на всяка организираност в пространството. Тази анти-ентропична технология се оказва и източник на голямата заплаха за моментално изтриване на всичко направено, извършено и построено до момента на настоящето. Обръщането на ентропията не е невъзможно на теория – просто би изисквало едновременното връщане в обратна посока на всеки атом и електрон от разпиляна енергия. Оттук може би идва и усещането, че в този свръхдетерминиран и свръхобвързан свят на настоящето, малката промяна не е възможна. Единствената мислима промяна на реалността е катастрофичната промяна, която трябва да бъде избегната на всяка цена. Не че тази технология в един утопичен вариант не би могла да върне обратно и всички поражения върху природата – непознатите хора от бъдещето всъщност се надяват, че може, но това се явява и най-лошият сценарий за сегашното човечеството. Там където всичко е обвързано, няма място за частична промяна, за корекции, за угризения. Онова вечно завръщане по Ницше, възжелаването на настоящето независимо от неговата форма, но вече в непрекъснатото удържане на всяка промяна, която единствено може да бъде тотална и смъртоносна за настоящето. Звучи достатъчно абстрактно, но този режим на непрекъснато отлагане на бъдещето напомня на ситуацията, в която се намираме самите ние, както в наблюдението на Славой Жижек по повод протеста на жълтите жилетки във Франция – че хората отдавна вече се борят не за различно бъдещето, а за да запазят едни обикновени, уж установени, но все по-несигурни и изплъзващи се придобивки в настоящето. Свиването на темпоралния хоризонт до настояще под обсада, в което битката – дори тук, дори преди пандемията, но особено видимо след нея – се води не за надделяване във времето, а за пространството, за логистичните и инфраструктурните възли, онези блокирани кръстовища от лятото и обсади на летни резиденции, провизирането с храни и лекарства, невъзможния подстъп до болничните заведения. Това буквално свиване на времевия хоризонт на действието до конкретния момент на оцеляване не е нещо толкова ново и необичайно, но извежда на преден план като фон чисто физическите граници, достъпа до инфраструктурата и сложността на всяко разместване, което застрашава скачените съдове на настоящето.

Особена е и тази двойна, почти огледално конструирана обсада в началото и в края на филма, спускането в амфитеатралното пространство на операта и после в урановата мина, където винаги работят два екипа – единият, който разиграва официалната версия и замита следите, и другият, който върши работата. Случващото се оказва част от две или повече различни линии на действие, между две или повече темпорални версии на един и същ герой, който прескача зигзагообразно (по-точно в бустрофедон) от линия в линия, до степен, в която фабулата става необозрима за зрителя. Всяко отделно действие може да бъде разграничено, но не и неговата финалност, която остава зад пределите на екрана (с изключение единствено на физическата смърт), а гласът зад кадър във финала на филма ни убеждава, че бомбите, който не са избухнали, са по-страшни от избухналите. Всяко действие е опакото на друго, нестанало действие. Доколкото нашите герои са принудени да действат от двата края на една ситуация, те самите представляват и живеят в Алгоритъма, тайнствената технология, която всеки се стреми да управлява. Неизненадващо, темпоралната логиката на филма не се различава от особено от ролята на алгоритмите в реалността на „умните“ технологии – запазване на даденото състояние в режим на безкрайно потребление, чрез рейтинговане, лайкове и медийни лица. Изведен на сюжетно ниво, Алгоритмът представлява не само чистото действие – откриването и вземането на някакъв магичен предмет, но изграждането на съответната история, която намества и пришива това действие в общата схема, без да я нарушава. С други думи, вторият дублиращ екип в крайна сметка създава фиктивна ситуация, нещо като пиеса в пиесата – това е нападението на терористите в операта, който са или не са терористи, взломът с горящия самолет, десантчиците на урановата мина – в общи линии зрелищни спец операции, направени като на кино и най-вече за да бъдат видени от някакво абстрактно и неперсонализирано трето лице, докато зрителят на филма получава усещането за ексклузивно наблюдение на реалното действие, скрито зад опаковката на представлението. Нечетливостта на възприятието става знак за неговия ексклузивитет.

 

2. Несбъднатият ноар във филма

В рамките на една специализирана филмова критика, филмите на Нолън са се превърнали в синоним на една постмодерна инструментална мисъл и по-точно на субекта на тази мисъл, за когото имагинерността на света е втора природа, свои води за един вечно пътуващ Одисей, който се движи по повърхността на видимото, но задължително без да се идентифицира с него. Това е например Коб, които маневрира между въображаемите нива на сънуване в „Генезис“ (2010), но устоява на изкушението да остане техен заложник. Коб, който сънува същия онзи строителен спектакъл от невиждани небостъргачи, мостове, урбанистични проекти изникнали като гъби направо от земята, без история и памет, владеещи масовото въображение само допреди години, направени сякаш, за да бъдат гледани, но не и обитавани. В „Интерстелар“ (2014) притегателната сила на нереалното и световъртежите са космически. В „Мементо“ (2000), Ленърд е загубил изцяло краткосрочна си памет и за ориентир във всеки един следващ момент разчита на записаното от предходния момент. Вертигото е ефектът от непрекъснатото наслагване на поредни сцени без памет един за други, смисълът на които се разтегля и деформира, за да остане след тях единствено центърът – субект, който се самоконструира отново и отново чрез свързването на отделни, разпокъсани парченца записана информация. Основният страх за субекта в тази игра на повърхностите е, че образите започват и могат да генерират своя собствена логика, да създават своя дълбочина, и в това се корени и опасността, която мафиотският бос Сатор представлява в „Тенет“. Ако нишката на времето може да бъде обръщана отново и отново назад, като вид изчистване на бъговете, ако брънките и връзките между запаметената информация могат да се преплитат отново и отново, тогава естествено възниква и фантазията за тотално изтриване на диска, като прищявка и нерационално наслаждение без цел на Сатор, защото така му харесва. Ако историята като записан документ може да бъде изтрита от раз, оставяйки след себе си единствено моретата и природата, защо пък да не бъде изтрита? Дори сърдечният ритъм на героя е буквално свързан с Алгоритъма, така че в смъртта си Сатор да се превърне в часовников механизъм, който стартира тази технология. Той не може да просто да бъде унищожен, а трябва да бъде един вид приласкан и ухажван от самия Протагонист. (Никой друг не може да качи пулса ми както ти – казва Сатор на Протагониста, което си е чиста свалка, но не и при Нолан, не и в този филм).

Кат и Протагониста в „Тенет“

Сцена на рисково шофиране от „Да хванеш крадец”(1955) на Хичкок, който не е филм ноар, но на Кари Грант му треперят коленете

Сатор е част от класическия триъгълник типичен за филм ноар, които се образува между злия олигарх, неговата нереално изящна съпруга против волята й, заложница на манията му за превъзходство и разменна монета в надиграването за непозната технология, на която Протагонистът иска да помогне. Фонът на филм ноар е може би най-интересният, глождещ елемент от „Тенет“. В сърцевината на филма Нолан е пресъздал бездушният свят на самотните барове и дребната престъпност, познат от класическите ноар филми, в един постиндустриален, пустинен ландшафт от контейнерен морски транспорт, офшорни вятърни паркове и северни акватории. Самият филм ноар, който формира тъканта на толкова различни филми като „Вертиго“ (1958, преведен и като „Световъртеж“) на Хичкок и „Блейд Рънър“ (1982) на Ридли Скот, е особена конструкция, произлизаща от детективския жанр, при която шантажът, покварата и интригата се явяват екзистенциален елемент от реалността на героите, но и тяхната единствена надежда, разплитането на интригата е неразличим елемент от заплитането в нея, а спасяването на фаталната жена е едновременно суицидна самозаблуда и единствен изход за детектива. В ноар схемата, която се завърта в „Тенет“ между тримата герои Сатор, Кат и Протагониста, на пръв поглед Кат съвпада с фаталната героиня на ноара, като въплъщение на стихийното ирационално действие, в случая непредвидимостта на уязвената жена и майка, като чист елемент на ентропията, чиито действия излизат отвъд пресметнатите ходове на разграфеното настояще и извън логиката на Алгоритъма. Действайки инстинктивно, на няколко пъти Кат заплашва да провали висшата мисията на Протагониста, като тя изглежда неподвластна на предопределеността на бъдещето. Това, обаче, е само на пръв поглед. Доколкото един дребен и пренебрежим детайл, едно хапче за самоубийство в края на филма, съвсем вероятно би могло и да е фалшиво, цялата неконтролируемост и непредвидимост на Кат, всъщност се оказва жизнено необходима за запазването на тази свръхобусловеност на действието и за самата мисия. В света на „Тенет“ дори случайността и ирационалното са впрегнати до краен предел да работят за запазване на хомеостазата на настоящето. Там където чистата случайност и чиста ентропия не съществуват и всичко води до своя логичен, предварително заложен завършек, всъщност повече няма нужда от усилие за вникване във света, за активно съмнение или активно познаване на силите, които го предопределят. Вместо познанието, Нолан ни предлага когнитивен екшън, нещо като фитнес за сетивата.

Митът за Одисей при него отново оцелява и Протагонистът следва неотклонно своята мисия, изначално чужд на изкушенията на познанието и техновластта (исторически и изначално „бели“ изкушения), но митът за капризния демиург, за удоволствието да взривяваш и да активираш някакви светове по свой образ и подобие, бива отписан, като част от един остарял свят на силовата архитектура на брутализма, урановите мини и маниите за величие на епоха, която всъщност е престанала да бъде актуална много преди филма. Изборът между тези два мита, който Нолан представя на своите зрители, обаче, е неискрен към самото кино като изкуство, което в един общ план черпи сили и ефекти от демиургията на технологичната модерност – от светостроенето, от невъзможното насилствено съешаване на човешкото тялото с машината и екшъновия жанр, който превръща това насилие в спектакъл. Традиционният екшън, като кино на атракциите и удивлението, често се явява безмозъчен и евтин трик, но поне прави това насилие видимо. Когнитивният смарт екшън на Нолан ни убеждава, че насилието на постиндустриалната модерност е оптимално премерено и балансирано за целите и по усмотрението на статуквото.

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 26, януари, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X

 

visual arts
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Златомир Златанов за „Жокера“

Вероника Цекова, „reGIERung” (de) (бг. правителство/АЛЧНОСТ), светлинна инсталация, 2015-2016

 

 

Гледах Жокера най-после, съвсем случайно.

Ако фабулата се бе задържала до неуравновесената майка и осиновеното дете (но всъщност това е цялата история), щяхме да имаме нещо, което изобилства в тукашното кино и литература.

Тоест киноразказ на равнището на желанието, което винаги е желанието на Другия.

Но оттук нататък филмът изцяло се измества, слиза на равнището на влечението, безфабулно, нелогично, деструктивно.

Всички влечения са влечение към смъртта. Todestrieb не се нуждае както българския от предлог. Един руски лаканианец предлага смъртовлечение.

Защо не скоросмъртница в българския вариант, това е схванато точно във фолк-психологията въпреки натурализма. Алкохолизмът е една от формите на влечение.

Теорията за различните нива на желание и влечение е добре известна, но не и на тукашните идиоти, един от които заявил, че може да играе по-добре от Хоакин Финикс. Няма българин, който да играе нищото на влечението.

Това говори какво е равнището тук във всички сфери, един културен фашизъм, но и това определение тук не е популярно, макар че усилено се практикува наистина във всичко псевдо-българско. Фашизъм  не като фашио, а като фелацио, и това трябва да се тълкува буквално – българското кино и литература са зализани като за пред Погледа, и самозализани като селски ерген, който е научил английски.

Но и за западния зрител облекчението настъпва, когато все пак вижда героя там, където му е мястото, в лудницата. Облекчение, но не и сублимация, нито катарзис.

И разбира се смехът без субект, акузматичният глас на влечението. Идиотът казва – и аз мога да се смея така. Но смехът не е негов, нито на Финикс. Смехът е на Жокера, който не съществува.

Човекът на изкуството измря, остана само шоуто.

 

списание „Нова социална поезия“, бр. 26, януари, 2021, ISSN 2603-543X