The One on One project
’The One on One’ project is conceptualized as an artistic dialogue between two creators – the confrontation of poetics and the search for common namers and differences through comparison of creative expression.
Hamlet on Instagram # To bе or not to be…seen
At the end of 1980s, Wim Wenders’ film ‘Until the End of the World’ prophesied a potential path humanity could go down if technology took control over human life. Towards the end of the film an unusual technological invention is revealed – an individual dream recorder, this fascinates the protagonists and transforms their behavior completely. In a state of dumb lethargy there are no activities other than sleeping and then watching the recorded dreams. Wenders probably wouldn’t have guessed at the time to what extent his fiction would become reality only a couple of decades later, with the surge of smart phones which have similar effects on the human psyche. It is yet another ’appendage’, Jean Baudrillard would say, through which Homo sapiens has extended their modest capability: of communication, social connections, and integration within the wider and the smaller community.
In fact, homo sapiens-ludens not only talks on the phone, but also captures photographs of itself and its environment, making visual ephemerides, memoirs, diaries. Moreover it shares its impressions and comments on those of others publicly. Every individual is everywhere and nowhere, he or she exists, through social networks, without physical presence, possessing the Aleph from Borges’ novel, the point from which all other points in the world can be seen. If we’d had this conversation with Wenders’ protagonists from 1990, we’d have agreed that this realization of human dream is like a pursuit for faster, more efficient and more reliable means of communication. After all, man is a social being and this technological advance should have already made him happy.
Paradoxically, too much of anything causes its opposite as an inevitable reaction. This applies to everything which surrounds us, and to communication which although intensive, remains on a superficial level and does not bring happiness to people – rather, it brings isolation.
Johann Wahlström and Bogdan Pavlović, two artists whose starting point is in photography, speak about the social phenomenon of observing others (and oneself) through their works. Another common thread for these two artists is the choice of motifs that can largely be labeled as everyday themes, genre scenes, oriented towards the social world, but in different ways. Wahlström is critical of the way media shape us these days. His works, with ascetic black and white relations, are about celebrities, or those aspiring to become famous. They are inevitably followed by a smart phone in various situations, this new ’appendage’ thanks to which anyone can get their ’fifteen minutes of fame’, made possible by the social networks and the photographs which have become a universal means of communication. If one cannot ’be’ it is important to ’appear’, be seen, be captured next to someone more famous, to stand out and appear more convincing than reality, concealing the truth. In his essay ’The Language of New Media’ Lev Manovich speaks about how conditioned we are by film these days, because its language has infiltrated every segment of reality today, from video games to social behavior. It shapes our awareness and our perception. Reality becomes a fiction we are free to direct and act out, whether through photography or moving image, and via social networks our audience is the entire world.
Although Bogdan Pavlović’s works contain elements of social iconography, the photographic ’stolen moment’, the frame and visual execution are quite different – predominantly quiet and simple scenes. He depicts ordinary, inconspicuous people we normally don’t notice: passers-by, a museum or gallery guard, people waiting, getting dressed or revealing their body in the process to an intimate view. There is no room for posing and parading in order to make everything look more photogenic, as the person most frequently does not know they are being observed. Bogdan Pavlović pays little attention to empty vanity and our infantile obsession with the ’technological toys’ of modern man. Quite the opposite, the isolation of the depicted characters reveals an atmosphere of loneliness. It is about a frozen moment, similar to Degas’ process, an ephemeral equation of the observer and the observed, and the moving body is the motive for the painter’s realization on the surface. The image, deprived of grand narratives serves the purpose of art completely, whereas Wahlström’s art is a medium for passing judgment.
Both artists record the motive observation through the camera lens. And here lies another cliché, so typical of the spirit of the times. Hamlet’s dilemma in modern man is born of the technology available to man, photography as the universal medium, social networks as hyperspace which builds on our voyeuristic and equally exhibitionistic urges. If it hasn’t been posted to social networks, it never happened, if one is not seen one does not exist. On this level, regardless of their differences, the two artists address the same issue. Their work asks the questions: Are we natural only when alone and unaware of being viewed by others? Do we feel alive only through the views of others, full of love and admiration, or hate and envy? How do we view the world? What do we feel? How do we communicate? And finally, are we aware of the moments of happiness life gives us, or do we need a certificate called a photograph or a picture in order to prove this (to everyone)? What is it like to be surrounded and feel lonely?
Belgrade, September 2018