»What I see is never what I wish to see«

2014-06-11 09:04

JURE KASTELIC is a Slovenian artist based in the United Kingdom.  He received his BA (Hons) in Photography from the University of Brighton in 2014.  In 2010, he was awarded the EMZIN Slovenian Photography of the Year, in 2011 the Slovenian House of Photography published his book, Honeymoon, and from 2012-14 he has received several grants from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture.  He has exhibited his work at the Austin Center for Photography (Austin), Signal Gallery (New York), Media Nox Gallery (Maribor, Slovenia), Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto), Self Publish Be Happy Slideshow (London), Brighton Photo Fringe (Brighton, UK), and elsewhere.  In 2014, he was invited to both speak and present his work at The National Portrait Gallery, as part of the studioSTRIKE symposium, ‘The Curated Ego’.

 

 

Jure Kastelic: »What I see is never what I wish to see« 

‘What I look at is never what I wish to see’- Lacan

 

 

The Title is about the well-known and meaningful saying by Lacan, which like an overture escorts the viewer into considering the exhibition. The perception of images is one of the central analytic themes of the exhibition. It plays with the problematic of concealed images and opens the self-reflection of the medium (photography), whilst the latter searches for common points with the ready-made-on. The concept is divided into several themes, which are intertwined in content, respectively build on one another. In the first section, the author utilizes bubbling[1] to dwell on the question of how the visible influences the content of the presented. Progressing from there, he presents the influence of illusion[2] on the viewer and the problem of the (in) direct view, in the final part leaning also on Plato’s cave allegory, imagining it through a literal visual translation and playing through the meaning variations of the seen.

The exhibition is author’s diploma project at the University of Brighton.  

 

The starting point of the existent is the meaning of the role of the artist who had always surpassed the narrow definition of an individual, engaging solely in the production of art.  Among the best-known, for example, are Leonardo, Alberti, Vignola ... The latter are also mentioned by Lacan in his texts as those who have meticulously explored the problem of perspective, which is connected to perception to a considerable extent, thus placing them in the area where clear borders between science and art cease to exist. Kastelic has upgraded this with a questioning about the extent to which the artist is also a philosopher or whether the contemporary artist must in the first place be a philosopher, in order to credibly present his artistic concepts.  To be taken seriously as an artist, the relevant arguments of the author’s conceptualism must also be presented with confidence. The painter Gustave Courbet apprehended the way of the artist as somewhere in-between: between the craftsman and the philosopher. The synergy in this case is clear and logical, and Kastelic applies his philosophical questions into the field of photography, searching for the material evidence for the confirmation or denial of the theoretical presumptions.

How important is the role of the visible for the comprehension of its content, is the leading idea being woven through all individual concepts of the project.  

Kastelic’s written resources originate from famous writers and psychoanalysts, such as Lacan, Freud, Sartre, Plato, etc.

The reminiscences from art history were joined by Francis Bacon, Marcel Duchamp, Rene Magritte and, above all, the photographic names: Thomas Demand, Erwin Wurm, Robert Heincken ... These authors were just like Kastelic engaged with the philosophy of looking, remaking and illusion. The works of the cited authors are the starting point for the author’s ensuing original production, i.e. his created works - the photographs.

Looking is a cognitive activity, a practice with its own characteristics and phases. Looking is mostly practised without a deeper awareness. If certain looking processes are not executed in the right manner, aberrations occur (e.g. illusions), but this does not necessarily lie within the psychological domain. In other words, it is not always psychology standing behind optical problems; disfigurations can also be caused by other factors, as is summarized by Kastelic from the book by Richard Gregory[3]. The author’s concept refers to a large extent to the psychology of looking, arguing the opinion that most mistakes happen in our brain. Errors in looking can be caused even by education, namely by teaching children to remember some details of things/stories etc. better than others, presumably less important ones. This leads to an incomplete and distorted picture which the brain becomes used to. But of course, when the eye sees an incomplete picture, the brain creates its own details. This is also the purpose of the bubbling-effect, causing our perception of a naked body, although the same body is fully dressed in the original picture.  Already Freud has pointed to the mystification of the body by dressing it up. He believed that dressing purposely hides body parts, thus generating a hidden lust and intensifying curiosity. Scopophylia[4] can be satisfied only by an imaginary uncovering, causing the satisfaction of the curiosity itself, which emerges in the form of a psychological lack. Bubbling is thus literally the realisation of this Freudian concept, playing with the curiosity of the viewer and at same time demanding a measure of imagination from them.   The culture of viewing was created to satisfy human appetites for observation, caused in the largest extent by the artists themselves. Through observation, the subject recognises what they are actually wanting, as stated by the author Hans Belting.[5]

 

Kastelic`s Wrestlers are a reminiscence of Francis Bacon, who usually deformed the image of the body,  so that it became in a sense an unrecognizable mass, where the eye had to try hard, if it wanted to recognise that this is a representation of bodies. Kastelic finished the photos of two wrestlers in the bubbling-technique, not working with Photoshop as usual for this technique, but using a golden marker and painting the photo manually.  Although the motif is completely different from those usually used as the basis for bubbling, the final effect is very similar. If our brain plays with associations, we are in doubts about what scene we are looking at: two lovers or two wrestlers? Which of these is more realistic? Bubbling does not only cause a deformation in the image of the body itself, but also deforms our conception and causes an illusory association.  As the object itself, due to the marker colour these photographs have also been characterised as a painting. But without any doubts, the aesthetics of these works is on a much higher level as that of bubbling collages found on the World Wide Web. In fact, bubbling is just another extremely quickly rising fads produced by the internet and forgotten just as quickly, as they rise. As Warhol would say, they experience their “fifteen minutes of glory”. Through the added golden colour, having always symbolised eternity, Kastelic`s bubbling motif becomes a work with added value, as such becoming original and authentic. And that certainly cannot be said for the quickly parting internet bubbling images.   

A similar thing happens also with the photographs called Legs, where Kastelic photographed sitting people.  The focus is pointed at the legs of girls, the visual image and intent of the photographer is for the viewer to again create an illusion and guess what they are seeing[6].

The Blinking eye is a series of photographs of the real eye in the moment of a blink. It reminds of Muybridge’s studies of movement, and becoming a potential illusion by being turned at 90 degrees. It is about the direct look, attracting the look of the viewer. In some way it is a reflection of the viewer’s look, enlarged and wittingly exposed.

Caves: The image of the underworld reflects Plato’s parable of the cave, but on the other hand we again experience the illusion by the play of associations (with a sexual undernote after Freud) or we can understand it as the topography of an environment.  It is a ready-made: postcard scans, used by Kastelic in his own, new context. The cave world demands a similar viewing function as the watching of statues, as noticed by Thomas Deman who himself deals with cave images; stalagmites/stalactites are also like three-dimensional monuments. If the photograph/painting takes their three-dimensionality away, their image functions as an illusion. The brain can be quickly confused already by the fact, that usually the lower part of a cave is very similar to the upper part and by turning the picture we will not necessarily notice this difference.

 

The human eye always searches for a little bit more, also in art; the great secret in the smile of Mona Lisa – the form by itself could not have such a meaning. The brain makes connections between different information, producing associations that emerge spontaneously and instantaneously. The lack, potentiated by a mysterious aura, only encourages the additional wish for “more”, for that, which is supposed to be “beyond”. It is not essential that the picture be an illusion/idea of an object after Plato, the problem lies in the trompe-l'oeil. This is what in fact pretends to be something more than it is – it is an illusion.  And as humans are always integrated in a world of lacks, such and others, the latter becomes a part of their perspective, thus creating a desire to find something, a particle of which we should believe to have once possessed.  Therefore, the effect of comprehension with bubbling is similar to the comprehension in Plato’s parable of the cave, where the shadows of things are more real the very things themselves, just because they are invisible to the humans in the cave. Because for these people in the cave the shadow is their personal experience and the real things are inaccessible to their look, the world of sensations is only an imitation of ideas. The latter is becoming more real than materiality itself.

In his creation, Jure Kastelic proceeds from very philosophic concepts, which places his works on a higher level of understanding. It is not just about looking at and observing the works; the understanding of the content behind the presented images is crucial. Also the synergy of different theoretical fields (art, philosophy, psychology) and media (photography, ready-made, picture) used and combined by Kastelic proves that philosophy is universal, with the possibility of its application into the field of art. This connecting represents a cognitive challenge as well. And although the exposed images might appear simplified, is this another illusion that viewer must overcome on their own.  

 

 

 



[1] Bubble collage; It is a technique of Photoshop, replacing cloths and making an illusion of naked body, although it is not.

[2] Illusion is an unreal perception, not in accordance with reality. For emerging of illusions certain stimulus are needed, usually being misinterpreted by the viewer.

 

[3] Eye and Brain

[4] After Freud: Enjoyment in looking/observing.

[5] Hans Belting, Antropologija podobe: osnutki znanosti o podobi, SH, Ljubljana 2004, str. 78.

[6] “An illusion occurs when at least two females sit tightly together, which confuses the ownership of the depicted legs. Or in other words, it appears as one of the women in the photograph accidently has her legs spread apart. I am interested in when the illusion becomes obvious to the viewer and the effect that it provides.” (Jure Kastelic)