Janez Strehovec:
Photography on Screen
photography without the image complex

Although political and, in part, capital interests still keep the world stage crammed with old backdrops, a new and changed play has been unravelling there for quite some time. The spheres of art and culture in particular have been testing grounds for the introduction and registering of early traces of the new. The late 20th century has been highly symptomatic of this trend, for the changes and bold promises of things to come - closely connected with the development of (new) media technologies - have been piling up exponentially.

In his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which in the second half of the 20th century has become one of the most frequently quoted humanistic works, Walter Benjamin distinguishes between two fundamentally different forms of art - the traditional, which is based on ritual, and the modern, which is based on politics. These two forms are served by two different types of value. The first of the two is marked by the value of ritual, while the second is associated with the value of display. What was important for those works which belonged to the first art paradigm, was the fact that they existed (although hidden behind an altar, for they represented a link between the worldly and sacred). For those works belonging to the second paradigm, or the sphere of modern art, and tending to appropriate for themselves the value of display, it was essential for them to be publicly shown and displayed at exhibitions. Today it would appear that these two categories must be joined by a third category which brings its own type of art, such as contemporary works of art and would-be works of art (situations, programmes and settings), whose growing presence can be felt in cybernetic space and whose form of articulation is the (computer) screen. These works can be termed cybernetic art and are no longer affected by the ritual or display value. Theirs is the communication value, for they are turning into the means increasingly of dialogue, of two-way and therefore cybernetic communication.

The answer to the question where we might place a (new-media) artwork, is therefore relatively simple: its distinguishing place is the screen as an intermediary for contemporary forms of communication, which by means of its technical and physical laws urges artists to redefine the very foundations of their creative poetics and aesthetics. The very nature of the screen as an electronic space consisting of swarming dots (or pixels) and leading to cybernetic depths, opens the door to environments fundamentally different from the medium of the printed book, painting, graphic print or (photographic) film and its special chemical and physical characteristics and sensibility. The medium of the screen stimulates the transition from the analogous to the digital, from traditionally formulated issues to what is considered real and unreal, from a natural base to the algorithmic 'background', and from mimesis to the construction of models.

It is therefore natural that Bojan Štokelj, whose recent and latest art projects are daringly based on new-media technologies, presents an overview of his photographic works, which are still based chiefly on traditional photographic procedures (he does not exhibit digital photography), in the new medium of liquid-crystal screens. Displayed in the Gallery of Cankarjev Dom are photographs devoid of a complex base, such as photographic paper, and liberated from the 'image' complex. Equally, they no longer need to be framed in order to make them rise from the background. In a certain manner, they have been turned liquid, pointing out their function which, in the age of new media, has become obligatory for present-day photography in general. That is, they have turned into places of communication. These places are not static, rather, they are cybernetic point-sequential knots and links within the information paradigm. Needless to say, this presentation of the artist's photographic ventures, which are fairly radical also in terms of their contents, hints that in his future wok, he will continue his subversion of the traditional institutions of the gaze, the viewer and the seen.