Various Artist
Photography as a Mask. Dissimulations of the Image
11th january 2014
to 14th february 2014

‘But although a mask is for us an essentially artificial face . . . it is surely remarkable that we cannot work out a psychology of dissimulation without making use of the concept of the mask. In some obscure way this notion remains operative in our psychism. Whenever we want to read a person’s face, we tacitly accept that face as a mask’ (Gaston Bachelard, The Right to Dream).


And if we substituted another word for ‘face’, namely ‘photography’?


We will notice that as an invention of the credible referencing of reality, that is, an identification of sights and things (simulation, mimesis) in total, i.e. liminal, artistic practices, photography has become its own contradiction. Questioning the phenomenon of truth in the sight, the artist records a photographic image that the observer considers as artificial – as a dissimulation of reality (the concealment of things).


In Polish photography, this liminal point was historically transgressed by Zbigniew Dłubak, who in 1948 created a series of macroscopic photographs, ‘stepping away from traditional photography that treats the medium not as a means of reproducing sights but as a creative tool’, as critic Janina Ładnowska put it. While this took place as a marginal part of Dłubak’s efforts to set a new agenda for Polish photography after the Second World War, in artistic photography dissimulation – as a calling into question – soon became one of the most characteristic traits of the medium.


‘This momentary mask may well reveal a past, but what it ought to do above all is suggest to us a theology of dissimulation, a perpetual temptation to dissimulate, an ambition to be someone else’ (Bachelard).


And so instead of a child’s face we may see a suffering that we associate with another image from the past. Photography becomes a mask in one of its functions of the image that is dissimulation.


When we become aware of this, as an observation of the very process of its calling into question – something that was so important for Jerzy Lewczyński – suddenly the mask becomes for us something positive, the seeing of things through photography, their archaeology.

07.01.2014 12:28:22

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"Swiss Village" in Otwock for Children with Tuberculosis
courtesy Paweł Polit