Negative book # 5
- type of object: photography
- date: 2012
- material/technique: pigment ink on cotton paper
- dimensions: 38 x 50 cm, in frame 46 x 58 cm
- inventory No.: F-49
- image licensed under: CC BY-SA
Aneta Grzeszykowska’s series of black and white photographs, "Negative Book", prepared for the individual exhibition titled "Death and the Maiden" in the Zachęta Gallery (2013), is a project which deconstructs positive photography and as such forms a continuation of the artist’s reflections on the character of the photographic medium and its various transformations. The starting point here was traditional photography registering personal situations or scenes deliberately posed for the camera. In opposition to the earlier "Album" (2005) – composed of classic photographs from the family collection from which the artist had deleted her own image – in "Negative Book" the artist is visible on each photograph, while the whole series was created using two new photographic techniques. The first is the exposition of the body totally or partially painted black, which creates a reverse effect on the negative: the body takes on a bright colour. This effect is particularly striking when the artist’s body is located on the photographs in the vicinity of other figures, whose colour of skin remains in a negative black. The second technique is the transformation of pre-existing positive photographs into negative versions.
Such a manipulation (both of the medium and of the viewer) seems to undermine the trust we have in the images we receive through the means of positive photography as a convincing reflection of reality. But it is not the analysis of the medium that is the dominant question here. "Negative Book" connects with the artist’s previous works through a concentration on the exhibition of one’s own body and its perfomativity, meaning that what we end up with is a sort of intimate diary. It is just that the negative character of the photographs and the positive procedure used on the body make it less real, depriving us of the possibility of a visual identification and stripping it of its emotional layers, leading to a situation where individuality and identity become relative. The result is that personal situations are reborn in an ontologically cold and severe game of black and white. This creates a distance, perhaps it even inspires something close to fear. On some of the photographs the deep back contrasts with the bright, soulless face of the artist. Death and the maiden.