was the cycle of photographs from the project ”In the back of My head” of Mariusz Sołtysik, FF Gallery, Łódź, Poland, 2015 / see more in ”projects”

Karolina Jabłońska wrote:
The title of the show ”Z tyłu głowy” (In the Back of My Head) suggests an attempt to address problems that are interesting, though hardly engaging in everyday life – things you have no time to deal with, that have no impact on your life, but nevertheless for some reasons persistently recur. Mariusz Sołtysik has selected the works that touch upon the less popular aspects of photography and undermine its basic functions based both on its formal potential and social role. The artist has embraced today’s easy access to the photographic medium and its popularity (selfies, family pictures, holiday souvenirs) by ushering into his deliberations photography in mass culture and in private spaces.
The use of sociological aspects of photography in the present day helps to distinguish – in addition to the potential to record reality – its many other functions, such as: „protection against the passage of time, communication with others and expression of feelings, self-realisation, social prestige, entertainment”. The artist undercuts most of these functions through slight manipulations: he masks the figures, clears the real surroundings, shows large close-ups of details, introduces sound and movement. In this way he asks a series of questions focused on the aspects of the medium and its formal potentials: what is left of a photograph devoid of its basic function? Is it still interesting? Does it carry any new contents? Have the old values been replaced by new ones that sanction photography? In order to find an answer to these questions he has introduced into the artistic area photographs which usually function in the private sphere. This new context has enabled searches for their new, unobvious and nonutilitarian values.
By manipulating the image Sołtysik deprives photography of the potential to objectively record reality. However, he does not interfere with the image, but clears it of personal contents, as is the case with Selfie and Wyabstrahowania (Abstractions), or of actual fragments, as in the series Space ship. Hence, by masking one element in the series Selfie and Space ship and nothing more than that he achieves the effect of an image of a reality other than the recorded one. In the Negatywy (Negatives), then, he achieves a similar impression by displaying close-ups of fragments of pictures from the beach. With these simple treatments the real world fixed in the pictures becomes an illustration of a disparate reality imagined in the brain of the viewer. Even though he puts the audience in front of his transformed photographs – purporting to be a family album – in the role of passive viewers with no option of entering their own commentary, nevertheless the images presented by the artist help them to create a new alternative world which at times approximates virtual reality.
Forgoing individual stories and masking the figures cause the photographs shown by Sołtysik to lose intimacy in favour of more universal contents. The Wyabstrahowania (Abstractions), which originally were family holiday keepsakes immortalising the artist’s family members, enriched with sound and moving picture become a memory of each and every one of us who has ever been at the seaside. The images we see are a stimulus that helps rediscover the images recorded in our brain.
The photographs at the Z tyłu głowy (In the Back of My Head) exhibition are transferred from the private sphere to the public sphere. With the slight treatments they have undergone the artist has worked out a compromise between the commonplace use of photography and photography as an artistic medium, and hence between vulgar and noble practices. He has demonstrated that the most popular type of photography, created en masse and brushed off by experts, may carry latent aspects of interest to researchers, especially those who in the contemporary world, saturated with images, deal with perception. The questions posed by Sołtysik turn out to investigate into the potential of our perception, nevertheless they pertain to the images created in the minds of the viewers, rather than those put before their eyes. Also, they reflect on the notion of reality and objective recording, as well as the functions of photography in the contemporary world, where manipulation of photography is as common as manipulation of photographs.

text: Karolina Jabłońska
translation: Maciej Kurzawiński

Aspects of photography indicated by Pierre Bourdieu, editor and co-author of Un art moyen. Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, Paris 1965, quoted from: A. Matuchniak-Krasuska, Zarys socjologii sztuki Pierre’a Bourdieu (An Outline of the Sociology of Art According to Pierre Bourdieu), Warszawa 2010, pp. 113–114.