PHOTOGRAPHER PETROVIC














by MANIK

A democratic vision which “defines language and its users by means of an activity” (and not through substance) assumes that there are INSTITUTIONS OF POWER that represent the weapons of established speech. Language becomes AN ACTIVITY. It is active, since once established, the ability to speak absorbs every sense thus making language one of the elements in enchaining the INSTITUTIONALISED SPEECH.
Accompanying bureaucracy of a multitude o peripheries establishes the newspeak of transitional society. The new language is embraced by the intellectual élite along with the cynicism of their political victory. It is the language of a privileged minority class. What happens to the bodies of the periphery, on the outskirts of the revolving system of government, when they are not seen from a cosmic, however never so safe distance? What happens inside these limited, yet widespread mechanisms of the groups which also have their own technology, their own memory, collective recollection, their own foundation, but are as groups exposed to, or occupied, colonised, abused, normatively or even violently, by ever growing mechanisms and types of global domination? What happens when historical hegemony of a legal entity or several of them in competition, as an authorised version which is written and developed according to the needs, and in function of sovereignty, finds itself opposed to a multitude of comparatively independent and infinitely small counter-histories? The apologetics of the Sovereign, identities formed within current political arrangements and thus totalised, make the authority revolve, usurp and erase, thus also affecting even the peripheral, capillary authority, in its most local forms and institutions, shaped in haste, stripped off all grammatical processes which could have been built up by spontaneous subjectivity of a local man. Accelerated modernism defines this strategy as a chaos of sequences of occurrence of novelty by discharging dramatised “ethics” from this utopia. Drama is always based on feigned catharsis where the unbearably banished becomes the bearably perverted. Is this the origin of the concern of minority groups that they might end up in the same situation but that in the economic sense, all other types of tolerance apart, they cannot change their current position? Constantly in reforms, the language itself becomes a reform in itself. In the light of it all, these Serbs are no longer only Serbs, they do not witness their “golden age”, they do not lament or mourn; but place themselves in the inevitability of global allocation of percentage of capital share (“nominal capital”) in the reflection on one product, one statement/thing. Are you 30 % Serb and the remaining 70% Nokia? And in these 70% how many shares will tomorrow belong to F.C.Chelsea...? Often succeeds what is least expected to succeed. Thus seen, the surface of things should not take us in with its apparency. Gaping beneath it there is an abyss ...in the paradox of separation pre-conditions for progress are met. All successful theories are based on an error. It is not necessity that obliges, it is the outcome.We do not know of societies which, starting from the unity of “theoretical, practical and aesthetic” (J. Habermas) remained only on the aesthetic (cultural practices were denoted as the systems of signifying, as practices of representing, not as sources which produced beautiful things). But, neither we know of societies which managed to build up theory or subjectivity without art as an excess of imagination even if realities/successive paradigms keep denying it, produce and split apart the multiplying multitudes and empty meanings down to human material without attributes, abandoned and stripped down, to mere posing and helpless looking-on. A specific type of practical, as a process of disintegration of the theoretical and the aesthetic, wreaks havoc as a function of capital. A work/practice of art, indeed, communicates with disintegrations – alienations of all sorts – when it polemicizes, when it surpasses them, even when it is in error. Therefore, due to the intensity of this MONOLOGUE, the remains of elitist actions through modernist protocols tell that the most wretched creative and intellectual product, which precedes or results from it, is indeed in the ideal subject of the ideology – a new colonial comfort which is notoriously corrupted and therefore lazy and unreflexive – due to all the gifts of God in the Garden of Eden. Art as surplus and a sort of a break-up causes these repressions of unbearableness to at least disclose themselves. Thus it provokes censorship and aversion, curses and stupidity, so that it could be, at least silently, worthy of being regarded as an act of self-reflection, as the only remaining condition of freedom. Even if it is aware of the inflation of reflections on all the Others, little and big. Even if it is dealing with the subjects of its realm, overshadowed by extinct great stories whose death is still kept secret from us, like the death of distant stars. On the surface, great narratives are still valid only for the growing “grey areas”. Someone has to be the artist, the third person, to witness all this. Some have forgotten, others have forgiven, vanished, got tired...
Art is meta-production - TECHNE. Technology in its original sense is the skill which produces occurrence (of objects, of a system of signs, of concepts – symbolic articulation...), but also causes the takeover of responsibility to take place (aitia) as this occurrence also establishes a new order of things. All the components of a social group are PRACTICES. In its manifestation (of a practice) it is insignificant whether we are dealing with technology in a mechanical sense or with TECHNE as in art. This epiphany is fate which links the historical with the historic. By showing in his photographs the faces of “people without traits” (“Was not cognition first and foremost the cognition of personality, before it became the cognition of objects...?”) and belonging to these people by an affinity, Petrovic documents both their historical existence (diachronically) and their historic appearance (synchronically). A class of invisible (for whom?), but present, becomes the condition for all other manifestations of visibility. And these POTATO EATERS constitute the CENTRAL SUBJECT (U.S.A as a synonym for nominal capitalism, according to J. Habermas), outlining its outer borders. They are a living potential which, through its murmur and mutter of coming into existence sets into motion the dreams and activities of the Central Subject/a higher race about expansion.Foucault’s interpretation is that the question of race in its original form was not based on the difference in the colour of the skin. French bourgeoisie of the late 18th century considered itself a RASE. Such structural difference is a solid ground for establishing identity and for pragmatic action towards its development as a “Central Subject”. The next invention of the Western mind is the concept of CLASS, in its Marxist interpretation.
Photographer Petrovic says: “I photograph my people, the Serbs.” He archives an outward appearance and difference. By repeating one and the same picture, the selfsame view, he also establishes a floating articulation of one and the same group of people which is, naturally, divided into the neighbourhoods and small differences.Would it be different if he said “I photograph my people, invalids... gays ...feminists... artists... free people... hungry people.... detested people....”?
Yes, it would be different. The provocation is in the name and it refers exclusively to the “ultimate embodiment of political enjoyment”, which is the Nation. It is always the keyword, the password - when it is the matter of concern or when concern is wrapped into good intentions of dioxin, or indeed when there is no trace left of words and deeds. All the other places of speech are already co-opted, legalised, tamed to the good taste of the Citizen and classified for him to deal with these matters elaborately inside Offices. In this case, when Petrovic photographs his people, the Serbs, and persistently draws a borderline (and the place is almost unbearably recognizable) and installs a virus into the language by declaring, in the face of the progress of human civilization, that there is an outside, we want to believe although we are far away from it, separated, having lost the direction of our discourse; we want to believe that it suggests a feeling of open space, a rift, a yellow spot, a blind angle free from recognition... as a sign of vigilance and hope. According to Parveen Adams, it is vitally important in political and subjective sense to preserve this feeling which ought to be the guideline for a reasonable, responsible policy of concern.On his web site Petrovic wants this identity to be asserted through an interactive agreement. Wish becomes a sign. Unless you want to watch the Serbs – it is over. What exactly is this ultimatum released into the cyberspace? It is crucial to find out the standpoint for this question. Can this privilege of watching Serbs be seen in an ultranationalist-chauvinist light? Very often so, nowadays only in that sense because the ruling race, once again in the making –PRESENTS IT IN THIS VIEW ONLY. It is no longer a local process which takes place in the interaction Artist – Society - Ideology; it is a universal fact (only diminished to the level of provincial, offensive and unkempt, next-door-neighbour kind of thing), emanated in the interaction Individual – Central Subject/Higher Race, if for a moment we adopt a detached view and simplify things to a binary relation. This relation, however, does not include mythomaniac processes of art as part of the mind and typical narratives on a gifted Individual/Author as a modernistic project. When Petrovic’s Serbs are granted this position, there is no provocation any longer, since these are people who do not follow an artificial political project and do not really identify themselves with it; there is no aggressive ideological infrastructure or projection with a political aim to assert itself, to be mythologized and to draw state boundaries in war, following the ideology of blood and soil. However, this does not mean that the neighbours are of no use. It is rather an inwardly directed look into the picture which is based on the similarity of grim routines of everyday lives of the group members, which concentrates selected collective memory on life in its insignificantly different forms, without essential change, interruption or disorder. This versatile yet carefully chosen assembly, this panorama where mutual inward similarities triumph over differences, is isolated through an external historical view to a place where nothing happens; they are inserted into an interval, an illusion that they are exempt from regulation. Samples, protagonists of such a large number, who live chiefly and exclusively for themselves, guard the hierarchy of the existing structures, this anonymous and nameless power. For carefree people from a utopian future they could very well be those disfigured, monstrous phantoms of the night from a novel by H.G. Wells, who, as descendants and remnants of working class, drive them mad by running into them at night if they accidentally find themselves in the street.Hans Windisch, a socially oriented media theorist, realised at the beginning of the 20th century the political subversiveness of photography. He spoke of camera as a political weapon, of photography as “other nature”, pleading for “other conscience” and the power of photography to re-actualize conscience. A desire to see things from a different perspective is not a preparation of the intellect for its future “objectivity”, interpreted as disinterested observation; it is man’s power over his freedom of choice. By bringing out his “private” affinities (avoiding the issues of identity) especially when they describe obsession, the presence of one of a myriad possible daily routines, the artist is indeed exposed, not merely because of the danger of scandal (as scandal takes place elsewhere, in the corridors and labyrinths of institutions, not in public), but because he presents his imaginary self in its utmost consistence.
Denying us what we expect to see, or presenting the unexpected, photograph sets in motion the ACTUALITY OF GAZE (in its contours, in its phantasmagorical actualization it is a derivative of naturalism). The consequences of the occurrence of this actuality hit the senses even before their causes have presented themselves to our consciousness. It is not only our ratio that is intellectual, but our senses as well. This actuality, according to Sloterdijk, is in fact “the discovering of crises of civilization, the endeavouring of individuals to preserve themselves, as thoroughly intellectual beings, in the struggle with deviations and imperfections of their societies. This cannot be done by religion and ideology, fantasies of power and violence, the knights of utopia and the phantoms of perfection. Correct expression of this resistance, however we understand the term, is definitely PLEBEIAN INDIVIDUALISM, not some half-witted populism, pantomimic as ever, “cunning” and always at guard; it is life filled with wonder, without the monarch of the spirit, without authority or submission.”
Images: I S T I N I T I S T I