Regardless of the high level of our integration inside communication flows, which could perhaps unfasten some of the typical ways of local settings, and the countless hours we spend wondering on the information superhighway, which continues to tempt us again and again to gaze at the complex texture of personal stories and global front-page events, we are still marked by, and tightly involved with the dynamics of our local environment and the scenes that (co)create it.
Especially urban centres, which seem to be more about leaving than about arriving, appear to be lacking the occasional shake-up, or any kind of long-term input of fresh energy and ideas. It seems that contemporary photography is indeed one of the areas where younger generation authors are visibly defining new criteria in terms of how we perceive this medium, which is becoming increasingly intertwined with other means of expression. At the same time, a re-defining of presentational methods is taking place, as they take on markedly different dramaturgical strategies compared to the traditional exhibition format. In the light of all this, it seems particularly interesting to consider the work of Tadej Vindiš and his photographs of Untitled Figures, or better yet, the photographic objects that make up the series.
These monumental photographs are marked by qualities typically associated with the genre of painting, which are not expressed through a pictorial manipulation of the image, but by mastering the métier and a thoughtful play of light. Objects made from wire, nylon and wax are submerged under water, carefully illuminated, and thus moved to a sombre, almost monochromatic spacelessness. The traditional visual strategy of placing a dramatically illuminated object against a neutral background is perverted by the submersion. In individual places the object is obscured and softened by the water and becomes fused with the non-matter of the background. At first sight, the impression of objectness is preserved very persuasively, but the figure is in fact loosened.
However, this stunted objectness does not by any means dispossess the presence of the figure. The photographs become charged with a powerful evocative potential, which constitutes the subject-matter of the entire series. The crucial aspect is the author’s use of anthropomorphism – the psychological process in which human characteristics are attributed to non-human beings. In Untitled Figures, it is about the reflex of searching for familiar, mostly human or human-like forms in unknown and ambiguous objects. Through the attribution of human characteristics we try to establish a relation, an empathetic association to the inanimate body. The suggestive, grotesquely gnarled figures remain indiscernible and decidedly ambivalent. They remind us of the homunculi in the works of Zdenko Huzjan, or at other times of Giger's Alien, swinging between extreme compassion and reluctance, yet preserving their distinct aesthetic appeal. The sophisticated shading of restrained colours in harmony with the subtle texture of the background pushes the objects into the space, leaving a gaping pit behind them. The observer is gradually consumed by the cocoon-like figures inside massive frames. They pull him inside their fabricated reality, to engage in a dialog with dead matter, and bestow upon it a quality of the living. It is this very phenomenon – the human reflex to project oneself to any situation that allows it, is the main source of fascination for the author, even in his research into images of Mars, which are taken by a NASA exploration rover. By challenging the viewer, who "enters" the unearthly landscape so instinctively, it re-examines the insatiable human tendency to expand and conquer new territories, regardless of how unapproachable they are. It is precisely this impetus that captures the duality which so often characterizes the work of Tadej Vindiš – optimism on one side, and the promise of rebooting the cycle of mistakes on the other.
Text by Žiga Dobnikar