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In moments of anxiety, hope, desire, great sadness or happiness, our thoughts and feelings are becoming subtitles of the movie in which the world around us is just a random scenery. At that point we are becoming aware of the innate loneliness of each human being.

Aleksandar Kujučev

Travelling sentences / Photographic ambientalization of textual fragments

(text from the catalogue)

At first glance, the content of these photographs seems as if presenting sequences of a game with letters, forming a series of typographic installations in various indoor and outdoor places. But these photos are not documents of a concrete poetry experiment. What they show are not compositional schemes which make the meaning of the words become secondary to their visual arrangement. They simply capture a relation between specific physical spaces and sets of ordinary sentences taken from a novel by Yukio Mishima, and layed down in those spaces in quite a conventional manner, using ready made letters from alphabet kids games, and other similar easy to find sources. Both the sentences and the sites of their display were selected intuitively and spontaneously, without a clearly predifined set of criteria, and without a conscious plan how to combine them to produce a specific effect on the viewer. Therefore, the sentences do not illustrate the plot of the novel they were extracted from, nor even have a direct refference to it - they were sampled out as repositories of condensed thoughts and feelings that could be activated by being recontextualized and put into a direct relation with a specific visual content. On the other hand, the sites into which they were introduced also do not represent something beyond what they actually show, but simply have a visual dramaturgy of their own that has the potential to give way to an unique visual event when combined with an additional signifying element.
The relation between the sites which these photographs show, and the texts encountered as displayed on these sites is for their author equivalent to the relation between the narrative of a movie in some uncomprehensible foreign language and the subtitles that help us follow it in a proper manner. The layer of meaning added by the use of the texts introduced within the frame of these images does not, therefore, add something completely foreign to the sites as they were viewed and captured by the author, but simply accentuate some of their features and activate their symbolic potential. The subequential symbolization of these sites implies that an experienced meaning related to them is translated into the text that got introduced into their representation, and that they were this way made into 'cultural objects'. As Charles Senders Peirce noted, images are not symbolic by themselves, but they become symbolic in context.So he wrote that "an island is just a small piece of land surrounded by water, but when John Donne says 'no man is an island' then the island takes on additional meaning." In the case of these photographic works, the context relevant for their symbolization is introduced into them and is rendered decipherable not by adding a text to the image, but by introducing a text into the frame of the image, as an integral component of the recorded site. The textual level within the images simply makes explicit the intentionality by which the sites were selected on a pre-cognitive level.
Mieke Bal has introduced the notion of travelling concepts as concepts that we encounter as travelling between scientific disciplines, as well as between those disciplines and culture in general, changing constantly their semantic content. In the text titled "Travelling concepts in the humanities: A rough guide", from 2002, she wrote that concepts are not fixed, but that they travel “between disciplines, between individual scholars, between historical periods, and between geographically dispersed academic communities“, so that "their meaning, reach, and operational value differ”. In the case of this photo work, we do not encounter concepts as parts of some technical vocabularies, since the texts introduced into it were sampled out of a literary work exploiting ordinary language. So, one could not make a convincing argument by focusing onto concepts used in the texts, but, on the other side, perhaps one could introduce as a new category - the 'travelling sentences', as whole sentences travelling between the literary field and the field of visual art, in which they acquire new and different semantic contents. They appear as ambientalized textual fragments in the frame of the photo work, conveying the meaning of the scenes in which they are placed in quite an enigmatic manner, as if only providing with a code to decipher those visual events for which those scenes were chosen to be sites of encounter, and leaving then to the viewer to engage in the process of their articulation and interpretation.

Stevan Vuković


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I FELT HAPPY OH HOW I LIED in the Art Gallery of the Cultural Center of Belgrade