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PORTRETY - fotoinstalacje wybrane

Krzysztof Cichosz's 'involving humanography'

The essential source of reflection, and at the same time the important image component in Krzysztof Cichosz'fs works is undoubtedly man. The artist keeps working out a human portrait, yet not the portrait in the traditional meaning of this word. Even when an individual figurefs face emerges from the photographic picture, we have the right to say that it is a collective portrait. The portrait of human experiences, ambitions and passion, the testimony to the truth and false pretences about all of us. The expression concerning human nature and culture that the human race created.

If in the works we recognize the artist himself, people and interiors of his own surrounding, then we realize that we face not only the representation of his private experiences but also . at least . the vision of a given generation which we can identify with. Going further on in our reflections we have to admit that in every generation memories are usually similar: a house full of familiar objects, the family with real and esayf relatives, nosy neighbours, the school with the trauma of everyday duties, friends from the childhood and partners in growing up, politiciansf platitudes when confronted with the prose of everyday life. Joy and despair. Awareness and unawareness, knowledge and ignorance, integrity and meanness . remembrance of everything that shaped us and of everything we are made of. And eventually this special atmosphere, sometimes coming back, appearing at the most unexpected moment . recalled by the echo from the past: a familiar scent, words not heard for a long time, an old photo. Deja vu. And soon enough some kind of chill in our heart - sorrow caused by time passing so quickly. The cycle of such images is always bound to be the artistfs Metryka .wiadomo.ci (Certificate of Awareness). However, in a sense, it is also our certificate of awareness, ours, as it originates from a similar experience.

Only that cycle, and the one following it (Poreporta.e/ After-Photo Reportages/), of Krzysztof Cichoszfs photography consist of etraditionalf, though subjected to some extra treatment, photos. Later, more spectacular works called Fotoinstalacje (Photoinstallations) consisting of several spaciously compatible layers of transparent photographic material and filled with well thought-out compositions of signs . screens, put our senses, sensitivity and intellect to the test. Creating the collective portrait of us all in this way, the artist recalls the echo of a variety of experience - events of present and past traces of human activity.

Were we different once? Worse? Or perhaps better? Wiser people? Beside the compositions which build the images of recent icons of cinema and pop culture, there are quotations from the canon of romantic art, or the motives of the primaeval rock drawings and paintings. We will recognize both the European cultural landscape and the cultural scenery of India, Australia or Afghanistan. We will perceive the testimony of man’s existence on the Earth as well as the reflection of man’s traces on the Moon, as human presence has already been marked there. A variety of such motives occurs not only in the presented world of images reconstructed by us in the sensory and intellectual process but also in the screens adequate to the message, where we will notice the elements of different languages that build the semiotic space. However, there is a common perspective which in a coherent way brings these seemingly distant motives together. It is the wide horizon of human culture and civilization. The artist explores the field of philosophy, religion, myths, the areas of social and political life. On the one hand he presents the multidimensional achievements of mankind, and on the other hand he shows some evidence of barbarism that at a moment could destroy the cultural legacy of ages and millennia.

In philosophers’ ‘hybrid’ portraits there is a reflection of the conviction that our knowledge and awareness are only partial, no matter how strong the belief in our omniscience and infallibility is. The portraits of philosophers, the ones who aspired to obtain the whole knowledge about the essence of reality, comprising the elements of many figures, comment our efforts in an ironical way. Our wisdom and competence appear to be insufficient when exposed to the multitude of impulses, experiences and messages, considerably easier – yet actually surpassing the potential of our perception – access to more and more detailed and specialized information. We wanted to talk about things ‘thoroughly’ and ‘reliably’, however we feel confused and helpless.

Krzysztof Cichosz’s creation is ‘human’ in two ways; it appeals to man’s image and their work, but it is also ‘human’ because it is concerned with the issues which all of us have in common. The artist makes a discourse. However, it does not refer to some specific images but to some problems. Krzysztof Cichosz does not come up with any solutions, he does not give any lessons and does not convince about his infallibility. He tries to go beyond the well-known space and to annex new territories, raising questions. Pointing to paradoxes which rule a given fragment of the world he shows that he is aware of the relation between many human attitudes and acts and the context specific for a given time.

It is worth looking briefly at the strategy Krzysztof Cichosz uses in his artistic doings. We would like to say that it is already visible at the level of structure of Krzysztof Cichosz’s installations. The least complicated elements of the screen twist in them like neurons. Furthermore tissues of subsequent layers of the composition, overlapping one another like very thin microscopic samples or tomographic images of brain sections result in a picture which is only an external perceptible form of the whole intellectual process and the thought that is left in the background.

Krzysztof Cichosz tries to influence the way of our perception of the world. For example, building up the image of almighty power, its political business, hypocrisy and evil which it evokes, he does not convey a message that would be directly involved, he does not create an indoctrinating propagandist poster. Contrary to this, using the set of signs close to this subject, he forms a message as neutral as posssible. What is surprising here is the fact that the image of eexecutedf Budha in Afghanistan, reminding us of a man in a tomb makes such a strong impression as the view of wounded and dead soldiers in the battlefield. Juxtaposing pictures of tanks with the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the artist is as effective as a media critic accusing the hypocritical imperial and regime policy of great powers. He reveals to what extent the potential expectations formulated on paper are reflected in practice.

The artist does not negate the facts in a simple way. A direct expresion eforf or eagainstf would be too obvious, caught by a viewer at first glimpse. The viewer is the one here who has to combine together the elements of the structure, coping not only with surprises resulting from the applied technique, but also following the next layers of associations. Everything depends on our cultural competence, our open mind and sensitivity. Arranging the whole situation, the artist realises that the perception of the same fact by subsequent viewers might be different and dependent on the subjective vision of each person. The way we perceive the world, or the sensory, aesthetical aspect is strictly connected with the way we function in the world, that is with the political aspect. As the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere emphasises all art is political.

Is Krzysztof Cichoszfs creation political? And if so, in what sense and to what extent? The creation, being epostpoliticalf, resigning from the attributes of einvolvedf art in an obvious way, is undoubtedly political, yet not in the traditional meaning of this word. At the very beginning of his artistic activity Krzysztof Cichosz gave up everything that could build his reputation only as a socially involved and intervening documentalist. At the same time he did not change his opinion that it is the artistfs duty eto take a stancef. That is the reason why we can treat his works as examples of einvolvingf art, which means that kind of art which - defined after Pawe. Mo.cicki and his Polityka teatru (Policy of Theatre) . is devoted to spectacular artistic search, but at the same time it tends to have an effective influence on the whole symbolic space, the one which is politically or socially effective, yet also artistically sophisticated. It includes the ideas of einvolvedf art, but but it is not the same.

The work done by Krzysztof Cichosz influences the change of the existing limits of what can be perceived, expressed and heard, as well as what stays beyond the horizon of our experience marking the borders of cognition and acting in a specific social area. Ranciere calls it the edistribution of the sensiblef. The political aspect of art lies in the fact that, having impact on the sphere of senses, it accessible to our eyes, what we have not been aware of, what has been concealed from us. As a result the problem enters the grounds of social discussion. Therefore such art does not need to take up social and political matters in a traditional understanding of this word, which is the case of Krzysztof Cichosz’s creation. The new ‘political aspect’ of his art is often based on compositions going far beyond the sphere of politics, it emerges from themes and images that are seemingly totally distant.

The artist from £ód¼ creates the multiplane message involving the viewer who forces through the layers of various associations connecting e.g. the character and the expression of an applied screen with the random iconic effect and the reflection evoked by the event.

Using the original, complicated technique Krzysztof Cichosz deconstructs the image. However, his intention is not just to deny but to go further than simply ‘declare your attitude’, in order not to stay in any relationship with the starting point, but rather move forward to some kind of activity which enables him to work out a new language of expression and – simultaneously – a new type of relations between art and social space. In the area of aesthetics the artist tries to question and alter the language used to describe our life, developing successive issues, questions and new solutions in the social-political field.

Breaking the image into several layers of screens, Krzysztof Cichosz enters a new area: he not only leaves the two-dimensional surface of the image going towards the three-dimensional space of installations but first of all he heads for new areas of cultural space, giving us directions how to get there. He overcomes the limit of photography that is treated in a ‘reproductive’ way to enter the space of reflection characteristic of a culturally significant discourse.

Dariusz Le¶nikowski

Transl. El¿bieta Rodzeñ-Le¶nikowska


Photoinstallations are an open cycle of independent objects made by means of the method I have been working on since the late 1980s. Each object consists of many elements made of transparent photographic material, assemblied in space in a few layers (three to five, most frequently four). The projects are based on 'images-archetypes' originating from the iconosphere that surrounds us: from manuals, encyclopaedias, newspapers, etc... The images are subjected to a complicated process of constructive destruction in which I decompose them by specially designed 'screens' (graphic structures) into many elements made from transparent material. After assembling in space the elements form large - 'almost' abstract - objects. The original images could be decoded only if we found a suitably distant point of view - thanks to the synthetising ability of the brain of someone who is looking at them... Confronting the symbolic value of selected 'images-archetypes' with the symbolic trait of the 'screens' that destruct them I try to encourage the audience to follow my reflection concerning the world which surrounds us...

Krzysztof Cichosz

fotoreporta¿ ze spotkania