The Medium is the Message 2008

Now, 28 years after the declaration of end of the grand narratives (Jean-François Lyotard, 1979), 23 years after the declaration of the end of art (Arthur C. Danto, 1984) and 18 years after the declaration of the end of history (Francis Fukuyama, 1989) the burning question is: where to find the subject of change which will again start the course of history?

In its time precisely art was the paradigmatic field which served as proof that progress to greater freedom is possible. The fast progression of artistic revolutions in the time of the first avant-gardes unquestionably represented an upward movement to continuously greater freedom in forms. The idea of progress, however, was comprised during the twentieth century by the outbreak of totalitarian ideologies on one side and the instrumental rationally of technical science on the other. The artistic avant-garde was betrayed and liquidated (whether through repression or change in goods) by the societies which were witness to its birth. The internal development of art meanwhile stagnated to a certain point, where it seemed that the invention of new forms was no longer possible. For these reasons the idea of progress, in which universal humanity develops to its truth, was scrutinized and was pushed out by the idea of a plurality of relative truths, which are no more than interpretations reflecting various particular interests. Art was freed from the dictatorship of novelty. Artists could finally take a break from the necessity of continuously outdoing their predecessors. Rid of the yoke of the duty of acting as the builders of a new world, they started to dedicate themselves to risk-free deconstruction of their cultural heritage. They abandoned themselves to the free game of imagination. They let themselves be carried away by games with the glass pearls of intertextual references in the scope of high and low art.

Together with rejecting the idea of progress, as totalitarian in its essence, however, they also excluded the possibility of any structural changes. Anything can be said, however, at the price that words have no meaning. The freedom of unbound games thus turns into radical lack of freedom – the impossibility of the creative act. Artists can combine existing forms and processes add infinitum and in this way to achieve ephemeral intellectual gratification, but they are not allowed to touch the rules of the game themselves. Behind the apparently proliferation of the most diverse forms of creativity homogeneity and stagnation hide, as all these forms silently accept the world as it is. It turns out that art removed from history’s task is not completely free – its task is to preserve the status quo.

This is the historical situation of art, into which the generation of artists including Ivars Gravlejs, was thrust. Incidentally, he was born in the same year as the one in which Lyotard published his Postmodern Situation, in which he described the end of grand narratives. It seems that the question formulated at the beginning of this text, that is, the question on the possibility of an act, which could bring about true change, becomes the central theme for this generation. Ivars Gravlejs is also looking for an answer to it. In the spirit of the tradition, which sees the historical development of art in gradual self-definition, in other words, in defining the borders of that particular medium in the medium itself (Clement Greenberg), Ivars Gravlejs realises that searching in the medium which he has professionally mastered – the medium of photography. He attentively keeps track of the latest happenings in this field in an attempt to find new possibilities for photography, possibilities, which would bear witness to the fact the progress is not an ideological fiction, but a real fact, and which would thereby legitimise the return of the free subject, which will take responsibility for forming the human world into its hands. Ivars actually finds these new possibilities, and even determines, that there are a whole lot of them. He pauses at a given finding and presents these diverse possibilities to the viewer, together with the question: which of them is true proof of progress? Which solution is the most progressive? Which proposal represents the most radical change? Which path offers us the most breathtaking perspective of tomorrow? These possibilities are:

-) Horseman SW-D II Pro, large-format digital camera Thanks to its unique digital back system it is the only wide-angle camera compatible with Hasselblad “V” and “H” and with Mamiya 645.

-) Leica M10, professional camera with 15.1 megapixel definition. It uses a 18 x 27 mm dimensioned CCD sensor with extremely low noise level, which achieves more detailed definition than conventional film. It needs to be added that almost all Leica M lenses made since 1954, thanks to their unique optical performance, can be used with the new digital system. The Leica M10 differs from most digital reflex cameras by its viewfinder system, which (with its minimal shutter delay) enables authentic capturing of the moment, as if we were part of the scene.

-) Panasonic Lumix DMC – L1, a reflex camera whose sparse design is reminiscent of Leica M line range finders. On its body, it has a number of analogue controls, such as a dial with exposure times and a shutter ring on the lens, making easy and intuitive control possible. The Lumix L1 was created in cooperation with Olympus and it has many common features with the DSLR Olympus E-330, such as its internal skeleton, which includes a bayonet lens attachment, a shaft with digital Live-MOS sensor, a mirror folding mechanism, and an auto focus system.

-) Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10, the world’s first digital reflex camera with live 2.5 LCD display viewing. It is also the first digital reflex camera with a fold out panel, turnable in a range of 270 degrees, and one of the first that uses the hybrid AF system. The Lumix DMC-L10 can boast of its LIVE MOS sensor chip, with real definition of 10.1 megapixels, and it is equipped with ultrasound Supersonic Wave Filter, which automatically removes dust from the sensor surface with 30 000 oscillations per second.

-) Nikon D3, the fastest “full format” SLR in the world. This camera has a unique exclusive FX (36.0 x 23.9 mm) format image sensor with 12.1 megapixel resolution, twelve channel data output, 9 exposures per second exposure frequency (with the use of DX pal format even faster – 11 exposures per second), sensitivity range of ISO 200-6400, an all new 51-point AF system designed for more exact capturing of movable objects, 3” LCD monitor with VGA and live display mode. Other advantages of the Nikon D3 camera are the EXPEED image processing system equipped with a 14-bit A/D converter and 16-bit data processor, scene detector based on a 1005-pixel RGB position measuring sensor.

-) Mamiya ZD, digital back, whose mid-format CCD chip offers resolution of almost 22 megapixels. The Mamiya ZD back can be attached to the Mamiya 645 AFD/AFDII camera and, with an HX701 adapter, also to the Mamiya RZ67 PRO-II D. The ZD back uses a full-frame CCD Dalsa type ECA – Expanded Capture Area image sensor with an area roughly twice the size of a 35 mm film frame (36 × 48 mm), with effective 21.3 Mpx (4,056 × 5,356 px) resolution. It can capture 1.2 images per second, either RAW non processed data, as well as data transferred into JPEG format or simultaneously RAW and JPEG.

-) Rolleiflex HY6, mid-format camera, which is native to the worlds of conventional and digital photography. It can take 4.5 x 6 cm images and at the same time it is compatible with Sinarback eMotion 22 / 54 / 75, Sinarback eVolution 75 H and Sinarback 54 MC / M digital backs.

-) Rolleiflex MiniDigi, the smallest (49 x 73 x 45 mm) fully functional Rolleiflex in the world. It has a metal body and classic styling but weighs only 100 grams.

-) Olympus E3, an efficient, rugged and handy camera that can take even the most high-risk conditions. It has a large eyepiece that reliably eliminates parasite light and a prismatic viewfinder. The advantage of on-the-chip stabilisation are compact size and the weight of the optics. The new MOS class chip should have better noise reduction then the current Olyho sensors.

-) Canon EOS-1 Mark III, a new Canon camera in the EOS-1D series, the fastest camera in the world can take continuously take ten images per second, up to 110 images in a row (30 in RAW format) with a maximum resolution of 10.1 megapixels. It is already ready for use 0.2 seconds after being switched on and it is primarily designed for sports reporting and nature photography. It has 14-bit colour depth, which means that one pixel has 16,384 colour tones (as opposed to 4,096 tones in the 12-bit system). The 3.0" LCD display with 2.3-megapixel resolution makes taking pictures in more complicated positions easier.

-) Hasselblad H3D, the first 48 millimetre DSLR system with first class mid-format lens designed exclusively for a digital system. Similarly to the previous version Hasselblad H2D (which in the Czech Republic the photographer Roman Dietrich owns), the H3D is also equipped with APO Correction technology which reduces chromatic aberration and lens distortion. A new feature compared to its predecessors is the option of using film cassettes and “Ultra-Focus,” a new auto-focus system which takes in consideration the lens used, specific conditions of exposure and specific sensors. The Hasselblad H3D is available in two versions, with 22 megapixel resolution (4,080 x 5,440 points) and 39 megapixels (5,412 x 7,212 points). In the Czech Republic this camera is used by Goran Tačevski. The Hasselblad H3D is available for CZK 1,000,000.

Václav Magid - artist, theoretician
(from "The Medium is the Message 2008" exhibition catalogue)