Fotograf Magazine

An Encounter On Uneven Ground

Am I strong enough to abandon the tracks I know? To terminate dysfunctional relationshi- ps? These are some of the questions Kateřina Konvalinová asks in her text – hummed to the rhythm of a pop song fading out – which serves as a goodbye letter. Whether we are changing our relationships with people or the planet, our hesitation is a symptom of fear. Fear of stepping outside our usual terrain. But the other; the unknown is found outside our usual experiences and everyday paths. The focus of this issue and this year’s Fotograf Festival is the need to overcome fear; to take the first step and search out encounters on uneven ground.

To look at the Other  and  see  more than just a reflection of oneself takes a certain amount of empathy. In the case of photographers and artists, it also takes  experiences and knowledge of the ambiguous tangle of hierarchical relationships. The artists featured in this issue of the magazine each have their own approach to the Other, the power of the gaze and interlinking relationships. In the early 2000s, Pavlína Fichta Čierna created a series of video and film portraits focusing on the otherness of minority groups in Slovakia. Her interest gradually moved from those ostracized financially and socially to other groups, including women experiencing domestic violence and individuals of various sexualities. In her profile on artist Alžběta Bačíková, whose ‘portraits’ closely intertwine real and fictional narratives, Maria Walsh also explores the nature of the recording media and their influence on the creation and establishment of the characters.

The relationship between the individual body and contemporary society is also explored in a text about the work of Danish artist Sidsel Meineche Hansen, in which Jen Kratochvíl focuses on the resis- tance of the body against its commodification. Even virtual reality offers no escape, as it is based on the same set of consumerist rules. Hansen also repeatedly reflects on virtual sex and erotic avatars, through which she reflects not only the alienation in our relationships but also a particular view of the female body. Working with the same theme from an entirely different perspective is the German-Korean artist Heji Shin, who, as Karel Císař explains, brings impulses from the fashion and advertising industry into the art world, along with a critique of the neoliberal practices of ‘subjectivization’. An icon of this issue: a series of photographs of babies during childbirth between their mothers’ thighs. As Tereza Stejskalová writes in her text “Birth in Reverse”, images of childbirth are like a great chapter of the visual unknown, still escaping the viewfinder of popular (and therefore mainstream) culture.

Giving space to the Other in visual culture was also the motivation of this year’s festival (a festi-  val supplement is included in this issue), for which this edition of our magazine serves as a foundation in text and theory. Not losing the Other from sight is also the central topic of our interview with the Polish artist Karol Radziszewski, to whom Hana Buddeus spoke about his recent exhibition, possibilities for collaboration, and the creation of a queer archive. The sense of urgency that this archive currently has     is explained through the prism of the present situation in Poland in our profile on artist Piotr Policht. Returning to the idea of the reversed love letter, i.e. a letter which can end a relationship, it must be said that the artistic approaches we present in this issue try to create new and different relationships, not only to unveil how dysfunctional they are. This might already be a cliché, but this issue was born in much greater seclusion and uncertainty as to what relationships and encounters will be possible in the future. But in the context of this deepened alienation and given the impossibility of personal encounters, this magazine itself began making sense for us.

Tereza Rudolf