CALLART3 The virtual window
Od 19.10.2023 do 27.05.2024
Kuratorka Sylwia Kościelniak
The virtual window
The exhibition is the third instalment in the Callart series, which features selected works from the collections of Wrocław Contemporary Museum and the Zachęta Lower Silesian Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. It addresses the phenomenon of the image and imaging. Over the centuries, various media have been used to display images: walls, panels, canvases, sheets of paper, ready-mades, urban and natural spaces, screens and digital time-space. Most recently, a completely new chapter of astonishing creations has begun thanks to artificial intelligence. Inspiration for the exhibition was provided by the rapid development of AI as well as Anna Friedberg’s book The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. In her in-depth analysis of the image, Friedberg notes that the term “virtual” is nowadays applied mostly to digital creations, despite the fact that the concept itself was coined in the pre-digital age. Derived from the Latin word virtus [power, force], it means something that has the power to act without any need for matter, or is associated with such power, in a real and functional rather than a formal sense. In the 17th and 18th centuries, in treatises on optics, the term was used to describe images seen through a lens or on the surface of a mirror.
A brief history of the window and mirror
The image has fascinated many thinkers and theorists. In antiquity, Plato compared the image created by artists to a mirror that reflects only the ideas of real objects. In the theory of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, it is through the reflection in the mirror that a young child becomes aware of their subjectivity and separateness from mother. The mirror thus has two connotations: on the one hand, it is associated with the imitation of nature (mimesis) and creation of illusion; on the other hand, it leads to the emergence of individual identity and self-awareness. In the 15th century, Leone Battista Alberti in his work De Pictura used the metaphor of an open window (finestra aperta) as an image – a two-dimensional plane limited by a frame that is used to represent history as narration. By analysing such transformations over the ages, we can see how the single window has evolved into different and multiplied windows in the new media – in photography, film and, later, the graphical interface of the Windows operating system. As windows on computer screens multiplied, more and more people have been working with their attention increasingly divided.
Classical reflections on the essence of the image have inspired artists for centuries. Contemporary artists are also keen to use age-old motifs, either to develop them or to contest the thoughts of their great predecessors.
The omnipresent image
In the process of evolution, sight has become the most privileged sense, as it enabled our ancestors to notice danger much more quickly than through hearing, smell, taste and touch. This probably explains the enormous pressure to develop a language of visual forms, regardless of latitude and cultural background. Saying that we live in a world dominated by images sounds like a cliché. They surround us in advertisements, computer interfaces, instant messaging in the form of emojis and gifs, the press, television and the Internet. Images can change the course of history, as evidenced by the exploitation of their potential by the machinery of propaganda and politics. In the age of AI and deepfakes, this phenomenon can be somewhat worrying.
The exhibition Callart III focuses on the theme of image and imaging. It is a starting point for individual reflection and more general debates on the future of the image and humanity as such. The selection of works was dictated by a desire to expand awareness of the limits of the image, both literally and metaphorically defined by its frame. The presentation is divided into three thematic axes:
- Entangled in tradition – looking at the history of the image in order to find deeper meanings and contexts may lead to the conclusion that the most appropriate starting point is tradition. Paintings, archetypes, allegories, heroes and tormentors – and museum goers themselves – are largely determined by the customs and beliefs of the specific cultural circles they represent.
- From the real image to AI – this is the most extensive part of the exhibition. It traces the aforementioned journey of the image through various media. The works provoke reflection on the nature of the image as a painterly gesture, an illusion of the surrounding reality and the space of digital and artificial intelligence.
- What's next? – the last room presents a critical installation that addresses the problem of the overproduction of images and the mechanisation of the creative process.
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