Martina Pachmanová about Causes of Causality exhibition

UMPRUM Gallery, 3. 11. 2011

Introductory speech by Martina Pachmanová, at the Znaky příčinnosti — proces daguerrotypie [Causes of Causality — the Daguerreotype Process] exhibition, UMPRUM Gallery, November 03.11.2011

While it may seem at first sight that Ondřej Přibyl’s project, concerned with resuscitating the photographic daguerrotypy method, is a symptom of the author’s being old-fashioned, it is not. The set of "mirrors with memory", as daguerrotypes are sometimes nicknamed, shows the long-forgotten technology as the most up-to-date medium on the borders between photography, painting and the object. Daguerrotypy, which Ondřej Přibyl uses as a means of telling the very personal stories of people, things and places, calls into question many "truths" about photography. It is positive and negative, it is both flat and spatial, it is a display and a mirror image, its "reading" requires the interaction of sight and touch (it is not an accident that the original daguerrotypes often display people holding other daguerrotypes), and in its complexity, it is non-reproducible. Causality, according to the author, is fundamentally wedded to the medium of the photograph, yet its attributes can only be guessed at in the exhibit. Whether family portraits, self portraits, floral still life, photographs of the Šumava landscape around Zhůří, industrial pictures of the Malešice incinerator or staged photographs playing with the closeness of sexuality and death, we are not dealing with a clearly constructed picture story. Rather, we have an indication of a cause and effect relationship which evokes tension and emotional tremors. As the author himself wrote: ‘My goal is definitely not to bring excess pathos into the resultant set of photographs; the part consisting of composed portraits should observe the possibilities of daguerrotypy as bearing witness to the physically present, specific event, the origins and endings of which it is not our role as spectators to decode. This is again a subject that essentially touches the media of photography, that does not say anything about itself other than, "this was," which is just an uncoded message, delivered ex post its placement in context’. The context in Ondřej Přibyl’s case is on the one hand the history of photography, and on the other presence in the here and now, with all its contradictions and speed of occurrence. Daguerrotypy today, as the author has entitled one of his texts, and which now forms part of his dissertation, in Přibyl’s method of dealing with it, is not a melancholic or nostalgic gesture. In its essence, it is by far more of a critical gesture, undermining many stereotypes about photographic media as we understand it today in relation to analogue and digital photography in particular. The daguerrotype is, as this exhibition shows, a photographic entity (rather than a snapshot), which is inseparable from its image. So the binary model–reproduction is not present here. Symbols of causality in Přibyl’s model, typical of the daguerrotype, are not the result of mechanics, but of subversive magic.