Creatures Emergent

Harald Mairböck – „Creatures Emergent“

When William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1830’s experimented with photosensitive materials he allegedly wanted to invent a technology for fast, easy and accurate drawing. He wasn’t satisfied with the help of neither of two draftsman’s devices; camera lucida and camera obscura and besides was charmed by the beauty of the images that nature draws itself through the prism or lens. This brought him to eventually produce a number of what he called photogenic drawings of botanical specimens on paper. The technique was later named “rayograph” by Man Ray and “schadograph” by Christian Schad but for a long time is mostly known as “photogram”. Its procedure of direct placing objects on a light-sensitive surface that in the first century after the invention of photography produced images consisting of black, white and subtle greyscale of shades can be compared to photocopying and computer scanning. Improvements in detail, colour and as well reproducibility with all the benefits of devices based on digital technology are obvious but the basic relationship between the world of objects and image remains mainly the same. One major difference that should not be neglected here is the source of light. While at photogram techniques all the light comes from the space to which the objects belong, newer technologies apply the source of light from beneath the surface on which the objects are placed.
Most of Harald Mairböck’s artworks are based on experimenting with the original and direct relationship between light and surface. Sometimes it is not merely a surface but a body built in layers which reveals the relationship between material and light. He works with basic technological means; light, photographic paper and processing chemicals. Even when he builds a pinhole camera, he does it with the photographic paper as building material and its hole is not open to capture the image of objects outside but only pure light. The image after processing is highly dependent on chance and takes an abstract shape, some kind of a dark stain on a white background. Experimenting with basic material: building simple paper cameras, piling up photographic paper sheets and then cutting holes and incisions in it, exposing them to bare light, playing with fluids, all this acts as the artist’s contemplation on photography as medium and shows his interest in looking beyond conventional horizons.
Photography can be regarded as a process through which an image is automatically drawn. Photograph’s autonomy is limited only by the gesture of the photographer, no matter how far conceptually or physically from the execution this person is, and by the material object it represents. By making light in its most radical and pure form as an object, there is nothing that the photograph would represent. It becomes an autonomous thing of a new order that evolves from basic elements and carries its own properties just like in emergentist tradition. Higher state photographic entity at one point partly detaches itself from its creator  and starts existing, living on its own. It somehow resembles  the creature of Dr. Frankenstein who had his own mindset, emotions, and feelings, and yet  remained connected to his creator till the end like a shadow or the subconscious. The artist as a creator has a certain control over creation itself but not over the consequences. These non-representational photographs, stains of light, evolve into creatures that have been unknown until now. The holes and permeable surfaces are like gaps of consciousness through which un-consciousness breaks and slowly takes a stable form that can be recognized and categorized. Because of the photographer’s gesture and his bond with the image this creature is some kind of a photogram of photographer’s subconscious but on the other hand provokes reactions similar to images from a Rorschach test in viewers too.
The autonomy of creatures gives them the right to exist, to live in our world although they sometimes look like coming from another universe. At the exhibition they are exposed like various specimens with a hint of scientific approach and classification. Their bodies are isolated in empty space, sometimes floating before the viewer in person, sometimes showing up as a section reminiscent of magnetic resonance imaging, and sometimes appearing and disappearing like breathing or heart-beats in a time lapse.

Vasja Nagy