Maria Anna Potocka - text to the exhibition catalog
In the beginning, when long exposure times necessitated immobility, movement was the enemy of good photography, and was tamed in various ways. The fear of movement changed, at a certain moment, into a challenge: it was decided to force the photographic medium, which was no longer having any difficulty with static images, to record movement, as well. The initial experiments, intended to better understand human locomotion, were scientific. Muybridge and Marey built a special apparatus to "catch" movement—one camera after another was triggered, resulting in a series of photographs depicting the separate phases of motion. Despite the scientific intentions, these experiments attained full artistic status in the history of photography.
Another idea of motion appears in Eliot Elisofon's stroboscopic photograph, Marcel Duchamp Descending a Staircase, in which the phases of motion overlap, conveying the energy of movement through intensified motionlessness.
The rise of motion pictures compelled photography to set traps for motion in new places. Resort was made to lack of focus that might have been due to movement, and deformation suggestive of motion, as in Andre Kertesz's series of distortions, appeared.
Experiments with and analyses of motion and of the relationship between motion and the capturing apparatus appeared on a wider scale in the 1970s, when art was openly engaged in analyzing and keeping pace with new media. Wojciech Bruszewski photographed sound through images of vibration changing over time. He also worked with the Horyzont apparatus, with its moveable lens and, as a result, a variable capture "personality" that reacted to motion in different ways.
Many more such experiments can be found in the history of photography. The important thing here is not to describe all of them, but rather to say where all these efforts led.
Since motion clashes with the essence of photography, whose "mission" is to fix the unmoving "point of the event," the presence of motion in photography requires the construction or adaptation of special equipment. It requires a "trap"—a capture apparatus--that can change motion into motionlessness, that conveys the idea of motion and makes it possible to grasp the essence of motion. Predictably, each new image-capturing apparatus leads to experiments of an artistic nature aimed at expanding the borders of the possible. These experiments may seem perverse, aiming at paradoxical effects.
Compelling photography to "convey" movement is a perverse experiment. In the cycle of photographs titled 2.15, Marian Curzydło carries out such an experiment with the use of a slit scanner that basically captures an unmoving object. The scanner "reads" such an object in "bands" or strips over a set time. The longest possible time, for the scanner used in this operation, is over four minutes. This guarantees an image of the highest possible resolution. As the title indicates, the scanner was set for two minutes and fifteen seconds in Curzydło's work. The essence of the experiment was the use of a moving object. A nude woman facing the capture device performs a sequence of movements painstakingly directed by the experimenter. Over two minutes pass between the first and last of these movements. The capture device never "sees" the entire movement, as it captures only one "band" at a time. The resulting image is a medley of "discrete pasts": the "oldest" is the upper picture, while the subsequent, lower ones grow "younger." The image consists of fragments of images not captured in their entirety. We never learn what the figure responsible for the separate strata of the work looks like, for this figure was denied the right to be captured.
The figure appearing in the finished photograph looks radically different from the way we imagine a nude woman: it is chopped up, deformed, diagonally displaced, and vibrates abstractly. Only occasionally, by accident, does a realistic fragment penetrate this "bodily catastrophe." This is not a mark of failure, since the object of this photography is not a realistic image. Here, the image becomes a victim for the sake of a different goal. This goal is the sort of refraction of the body that carries the suggestion of movement and depicts the course of that movement. To achieve such a sense and such a perception, the photographer must understand the essence of the operation and scrupulously control it. Yet, no matter how closely he controls it, he will always be taken by surprise, and this surprise can be highly creative for him and broaden the scope of his reflections. This is where the artistic potential of every experiment resides.
Marian Curzydło's photographic series contains images of a solo figure and of two figures. The former make it possible to follow autonomous movement, while the latter admit of comparison. The presentation of these photographs requires a minimum of ten pictures, since various operations and positions must be compared in order to activate a simple "decoder" that can account for what is happening with the figures and how they are moving. This is the more "scientific" part of the perception. The "experiential" element has a scope of its own. The striking thing is the impossibility of connecting time and image: if we decide to try to grasp a moment, then we lose the figure; if we try to grasp the figure, we lose the movement. This is something obvious, and familiar to a degree to everyone who has ever taken a picture. Nevertheless, it is something new to experience it on a scale where we see the shattering consequence of admitting time to the field of photography—which, in its essence, is a point in time.
The presentation and stylistics of 2.15 differ from the "look" of earlier photographic experiments. Once, these were cold black-and-white photographs that denied their potential ordering principle and held the process that created them in secret. Marian Curzydło's work looks different. His "violated" bodies retain their realistic biological color, and enter reluctantly into the domain of biologism, since the abstract or improbable configurations are dominated by some sort of biological signal, thanks to the strength of which they are perceived as some sort of bodily existences, indeed unlike anything we have ever seen, yet somehow real. The realistic parameters of the experiment are further intensified by the video that accompanies the presentation and depicts the laboratory situation and the stages in which the model was taught the movements.
Cracow, October 2002
Exhibition was held in the following locations:
- Galeria Sukiennice, Cracow, Poland (2002),
- Galeria RA, Kiev, Ukraine (2003),
- Galeria Plast-Art, Chernihiv, Ukraine (2003),
- Muzeum Sztuki, Kharkiv, Ukraine (2003),
- Galeria Sztuki, Myślenice, Poland (2004).