BEYOND THE PHOTOGRAPH: Zenit Hotel
“It seems to me, for example, that peas have relations of similitude, both visible (their colour, their shape, their size) and invisible (their nature, their taste, their weight).” (from a letter by René Magritte addressed to Michel Foucault, 23 May 1966)
In his paintingThis Is Not a Pipe, the meaning of which has been discussed in an eponymous and no less famous article by Michel Foucault, René Magritte has used the disturbing combination of textual and visual information. On the contrary, a box with the inscription “peas” (in several languages just to make sure) seems to say: this really is what it is. However, if we focus solely on the photograph on the package, the whole construction, although it seems convincing, might collapse and we might arrive at the conclusion that these are not peas. On the basis of the provided visual information, we can only suppose that the colour, shape and size of the peas in the box will correspond to the colour, shape and size of the peas on the photograph. (Leaving aside the fact that we will learn nothing e.g. about the taste of the peas).
Zenit Hotel refers to a closed world functioning according to rules of its own. In front of the entrance, flags are flying in a symbolical way, reflecting the past in their colour scheme; without creating a concrete image, the sensitive colour emulsion of the photographic paper depicts the course of the process; in other words, it demonstrates the fact that it is getting old if exposed to light. Due to the stopping of the endless movement of the sea, what we expect from a depiction of the sea gets lost. The rhythm of sea waves can only be captured in the gap between two photographs; like something that is present although it escapes depiction.
If we are able to trace the interest in revealing the essence of the photographic image in the exhibited works, we can go further, beyond this interest, beyond the photograph, perceiving its deconstruction not as the meaning of the whole but only as one of its tools. Is a photograph what it shows? Or rather, is what the photograph shows a photograph? A mountain in a photograph is not a mountain; it is a beautiful image of a mountain. Another time, it is not a flower but an image of a flower. Nay, it is not even an image of a flower but rather a layered construction of an image which can only be realized in the mind of the spectator.
(The remaining leaves on the tree behind the window are much more yellow in the slanting afternoon sun than the same leaves in the noon sun elsewhere).