Staged photography is born out of boredom or dissatisfaction
with the world between '70s and '80s. The photographer
wants to see the world as a place where anything is possible-a
place full of more beauty, more meaning, more play, more
symbolism. In the face of Communism, these Czech and Slovak
artists were escapists and surrealists-dreaming themselves
into other realities and making photographic documents
of them. Some of them say they are making pataphysical
theatre--theatre of the absurd performed for the camera.
Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions, and
will describe a universe, which can be --and perhaps should
be-- envisaged in the place of the traditional one.
Staged photography is one of the most creative uses of
the medium. Everything comes from the mind of the artist
and has to be constructed to be photographed-especially
for those working in the studio who begin with a blank
slate (there are no references to time or place).
Because of the way the artists work, this kind of photography
has ties to theatre and dance, sculpture, "happenings",
and literature. Photography is particularly well suited
to producing narrative fictions because on some level
we believe in them, and because they are always out of
context-the viewer is invited to weave the "before"
and "after" sections of the story themselves.
In this way the artists are full of trust and openness-they
ask you to engage with them, to follow them into their
secret worlds. Even though each of these artists has a
distinctive voice, they have many common goals-for instance
they are interested in the human condition and our relationship
to the landscape. Even at their most absurd or whimsical,
they are searching for something honest, something that
touches us all. They are truly alchemists standing in
the dark, swirling chemicals, searching for the philosopher's
stone-not to turn one metal into another, but to make
the soul a more perfect vehicle for divine wisdom.
In all cases we are being shown glimpses and visions
of worlds that are hardly consonant with what most people
think to be their everyday perceptions. Yet the medium
through which they are proffered records visually persuasive
evidence that, if only for an instant and only by contrivance,
those worlds did, and do, and can, exist. It would be
well to remember that the subversion of expectations is
one of the key tactics in all of contemporary art.