The Aesthetics of Seduction (Petr Vaňous)

We live in the age that is not only hostile to contemplation, reflection, rumination, meditation, but that, in its quickening pace, weakens and dissolves the very functions of critical tools necessary for even the basic knowledge of the world. Behind all this lies technical reproducibility, the speed of its realization and – as a result – the absence of identity in the tangle of multidirectional relationships. In the age of information acceleration (in the words of Paul Virilio) the present ways of perception are in jeopardy as we have no time nor the room for reflection in order to take measure of the constantly swelling information smog. This situation blocks self-reflection on both ends – the artist, as well as the audience (if not the society as a whole). Ways of their mutual communication are changing, growing more problematic. How to accept, or refuse, something, how to decide and to “have an opinion on somethingˮ in the age replete with temptations and unconfirmed, constantly superimposing information and diverting strategies? The status of attention and, along with it, the critical angle, are essentially in danger, being too static. They are transformed into another, impure – for being operational – quality. They are contaminated by unaccepted, unknown heterogeneity which endangers existence of any working, let alone creative, concentration. Human work, just like the creative act, is becoming estranged from man at such speed that one must wonder about their purpose. Everything either gets taken up, or falls into an oblivion, all too fast. The world of cultural production and visual culture, like society, moves in sharpened polarities and they in turn influence its shape and forms of existence. This, so it seems, are also the main matters thematized by Petr Dub in his work.

In order to get around painting in its staticity, Petr Dub enters the realm of visual culture treating it as a space of variable media subsets. Characteristic here is the mutual perviousness in conjunction with proto-formative principles of liquidity – analogically flowing data channels which solidify into hybrid forms (unlike the idealized Euclydian geometry which rationalizes space and binds it through this rationalization). In these forms the “perviousnessˮ solidifies. Each moment of such a “formative situationˮ refers above all to the very process of establishment of the world of forms and it is thus realized as one of infinite number of examples-situations. In order for this “infinityˮ to be adapted, appropriated, yet not by the spectacle but by the author so that it will not become either entropic nor purposeless, the author puts into the process as his authorial code various principles of pre-determined rationalization – the principle of selection on the basis of shape similarity, constructional homogeneity, colour enhancement, principle of orientation, relationship constelation, etc. The result are sets of works which are self-similar based on pre-defined properties. They form “groupsˮ (term used by Jean Piaget). These groups are then carriers of properties which they generate, reveal, multiply and expand in chains and variable constellations. Constructive principles entered into the bases of these works-elements are subjected to another phase of research by being demonstratively manipulated (the exhibition) and, based on these formal manipulations, further levels of spatial relationships are revealed and examined (photo documentation as a pure outcome without words; distribution of relationship ties in space). The entire creation process is strictly guarded against contamination by ideologic elements of a period spectacle. The author critically goes after its form – after “constructionˮ, and “construction-makingˮ, which he attempts to make more present. Parallel with this practical side of activity there also takes place its retroactive reflection leading to theoretical questions asking about ways of methodic description of the work and the purpose and the capacity of interpretation of the work as such participating in functional communication with the audience. Is is even possible to reach a consensus in this communication? And if so, to what degree does it possess the false nature of a spectacle? The author thinks about his work in concepts. He thus consciously keeps his distance from work which he creates in a manner of experimentation with a pre-determined concept. He methodically instrumentalizes the work process itself. In this way he gets “insideˮ the spectacle and also reveals its other constitutional causes. He touches upon the current problem of general discourse, validity of the terms themselves, and the interpretational language, which are, in the age of the so-called post-media situation, characterized by permanent data entries and visual interventions into human consciousness, and subjected to either incomprehensibility as a result of accelerated and permanent distribution, semantic vagueness (overstratification of meaning), or the process of contamination by various ideologies which follow their own interests and agendas. The interpretational (critical) language turns into operational (teleological) language. The work of art in general today seems to have from the beginning integrated into itself this actuality and through its structure has been open to various forms of external manipulation for the simple reason that it wants to remain capable of being competitive.

The further the artefact moves away from the author, the closer it gets to becoming a product. It takes over its mimicry. The level of depersonalization of artwork corresponds to the level of following as many general principles as possible in the area of interhuman culture, part of which are different kinds of relationships, production, and communication. What remains apparent is the fact that Dub‘s initial artistic experience stems from the format of painting. From there comes the dialogic relationship to the painting framework that is the outlet to his “pre-manipulatedˮ shifts and deformations, and the relationship to the wall, against which especially are the manipulations pursued. The current interest of the author leads toward questions of media capacity, ie. ability to absorb, contents, terms of a particular medium, yet in a processual, rather than static, sense. Dub is thus fascinated by dynamic processes and possibilities of absorption, encompassment, containment, assimilation, by that which, so to speak, fits in within a given medium, and how, what it is composed of, constructed by – from both the inside and the outside – in its validity/comprehensibility, what defines it as its contents, but what also destroys it, transforms, alters and estranges in its own essence. What is being thematized here are both the media overlap, and – negatively – also the media demnarcation line, a moment, most often demonstarted by the author through the transformation of a painting into an object. The negative imprint of Dub‘s original painter‘s experiences can be perceived In processuality and its methodic accentuation, since painting and its way of realization is nothing other than succession of operational phases that correct former images – records which disappear as a result. The consequent painting is a large number of superimposed impressions out of which arises a newly formed order with variously set connotations. It depends on the level of depersonalization and distance from the medium in order to expose its fundamental base – the constructive principle. Dub is asking about the meaning of this “constructive principleˮ, as well as the meaning of “constructed termsˮ which “socially establishˮ this principle. The author‘s works and their constellations correspond to objets-quizes which, in a different form, more relevant to the present, refer to traditional questions asked by the mythical Sphinx. What is a work of art today, how is it formed (format, frame), what is its capacity and how and with what is it contaminated? One of the answers is proposed by Mario Periola when he writes about the “sex appeal of the unorganicˮ: “The unorganic is not merely a mineral but also that which is cadaverous, mummified, technological, chemical, tradeable, and also a fetish. Thus it becomes insubstantial, turns into something abstract and incorporeal, without turning into something imaginary or unreal; on the contrary, behind all these facets of the unorganic there is at work a paradigm of that which is utmost real and effective, namely moneyˮ. Periola too returns to the famous study by Walter Benjamin The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction when he points out the transformation of traditional work of art with its unique identity into modern forms of artistic expression: “Benjamin describes this phenomenon as a loss of aura and cultic value; their place has been taken by the exhibitory value, ie. emphasis on the spectacular aspect of the artwork which consequently upstages its aesthetic specificity.

It is precisely because Petr Dub supports the process itself in a work of art, that is, the time principle, speed, which models, and the constelational principle, in which resonates the “exhibitory valueˮ of the expositionary whole, that he unfurls and decodes the very principles of a spectacle beyond its concrete ideologic fixation. The author operates in the realm of the primal, fundamental conception and construction of a spectacle. He thus unveils for us in his evocative model situations the hidden background of that which in today‘s visuality manifests itself as manipulative and by which we are seduced in our perceptions away from the course of our real time into the all-absorbing virtual time.