Fotograf Magazine

12,045 Working Days

Looking at the impressive Czech-English publication of 512 pages, one cannot but wonder who the author dealt with on so much space is. Undoubtedly, Jiří Šigut (1960) is known only to well-informed people, which is a shame, having contributed to the contemporary art scene with a few small exhibitions and catalogues. Šigut came from the conceptual environment of authors from the regions of Opava and Třinec who were close to the Brno circle of artists around Jiří Valoch. Since the mid-1980s, he has brought a different understanding of the medium of photography in Czech art and photography that used to be long and demonstratively ignored. He radically disregarded the illusiveness of photography, but at the same time, he avoided the popular intermedia interventions in photographic images, emphasizing the process of taking photographs itself. Between 1985 and 1991, influenced by John Cage’s lyrics, Šigut used a camera and long exposure to layer photographs and to explore chance and processuality. These performative activities often had a form of documenting his walks near his former residence in Opava or simple activities such as listening to the radio or reading a book. At that time, Jiří Šigut’s work was characteristic of keen interest in the perception of time, banality and the randomness of the captured moment and indifference to technical and aesthetic criteria of the resulting image.

In the early 1990s, Šigut stopped taking these photographs. He abandoned the negative, the camera and sometimes even the developer and started using immediate contact with the sensitive layer of photographic paper to record tracks of natural processes and phenomena. Depending on the length of exposure, he sometimes used the principle of latency and subsequent development, but for longer exposures, he used heliography and fixed the outcome just with a fixing agent. Šigut recorded the processes and elements, creating time-lapse herbaria from light imprints of fallen leaves and flowers or “reprinting” Celtic settlements on paper. In one installation, he even created photograms from the ashes of his deceased loved ones. Photography is thematised in its basic form of revealed physical and chemical processes. Although Šigut’s work is a comment to the illusiveness of photography, thematising photographic processes and analysing the medium of photography, his work has been primarily conceptual. As if it has always been pervaded with elements of research, experiment, distance and documentation Jiří Šigut craftily blurs using the element of coincidence.

The book was prepared with care and organizational commitment of the author. He took care of the graphic design, wrote one text and approached authors of similar opinions, who have written about him in previous decades or recently, and he even selected his works. His selection is generous. When browsing the monograph of the artist associated with the industrial Ostrava region, one needs a lot of patience since it is a gesture thematising processuality – the principle which is so common in Šigut’s work.

The author’s work outside the photographic art scene can be seen in the included texts that have been written in the past four decades. Significantly, the first text reflecting Šigut’s work was Jiří Valoch’s expert opinion on photographs represented at the exhibition in the Na schodech gallery in Opava in 1986 that was cancelled shortly after the installation. Valoch’s text of 1993, published in the book, was the first lengthy text about the author. Another Šigut contemporary, Martin Klimeš, reflected the early period of Šigut’s work. Petr Nous’s text was originally written to mark the opening of the exhibition; later, it was reprinted in Fotograf magazine. The latest reflection was written by Jakub Guziur. In case of an author whose work has not yet been reflected critically, it certainly does not hurt to have texts by four authors in the monograph – their contents do blend, but they emphasize different elements of Šigut’s work.

 

Guziur, Jakub, Martin Klimeš, Jiří Šigut, Jiří Valoch and Petr Vaňous. Jiří Šigut: Práce/Works 1985–2018. Prague and Ostrava: Kant, The Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava, 2018. ISBN 978-80-7437-253-7.

Tomáš Pospěch

#33 investigation

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