16.05.2014 – 01.06.2014, Triumph gallery
Maxim Ksuta is perhaps the only Russian artist who, from project to project, consistently studies the technical and technological capabilities of photography: the focus for his interest lies not in the sphere of the photographic image as such (Ksuta, it seems, is not about the image and its suggestive characteristics), but in manipulations of the image received, the decomposition of the photographic process into separate stages and incredibly varied mechanical deconstructions of the image in order, from the artifacts resulting from that deconstruction, to recreate a whole, to reorder the pieces that have broken up and to establish new links. Ksuta plays with reality, using his construction set on it, as it were, as if it can be put through a basic reconstruction as the player wills it; at the same time, he is motivated by another significant circumstance which, in one way or another, could be seen in his very earliest works. Ksuta is categorically at odds with visible reality: at odds with it in the sense that he unavoidably seeks symmetry and order within it, a visual logic which even in its faults helps us to discover beauty. He is always searching for a certain structure, he often invents it, he “imposes” it on landscapes, people, objects; he embeds a skeletal framework into the mass of chance visual impressions.
In a similar way, in his project for Triumph Gallery, Ksuta purges reality, demonstrating in space the basic photographic principle of positive/negative. At the same time, he distinguishes one state from another with a barely visible, almost transparent border. For Ksuta, the image of the border, of division, is in fact very important – it is a special space, around and within which we can find everything that exists, and reality (as if confronted by a certain danger) acquires a very concentrated form; the border is a manifestation of the essence, passing through it is always a symbolic act of changing one's state, and Ksuta skillfully plays with this within the space of the gallery.
The Topsy-Turvy project (the ironic title does nothing to diminish the seriousness of the undertaking) returns the spectator to another consideration that is key to the history of photography: Where does its objectivity and “truthfulness” begin and end, how far apart are visible and photographic reality? Frequently repeated doubts regarding photography's ability to reflect what is happening or what exists (this can be seen most distinctly in the works of the artists of the Düsseldorf School) find their latest expression in Maxim Ksuta's project. He does not try to get to the essence of reality, nor to capture the transience of movement or the equilibrium of color; instead, he concentrates on the essence of photography itself, the photographic process, breaking the shot down into the positive and the negative, mercilessly laying bear the structure. Ksuta is not drawn to the visionary, he is drawn to the laboratory type of approach, employing serious scientific apparatus and the required devices. And, intriguingly, it is in this that the artist's real ethic is revealed, the honesty of the gesture, the coherence of the program that makes possible not just the creation of new photographic series but also the ability to think with space, with physical volumes where marvelous transitions and transformations take place.
My project is entirely devoted to a comprehension of a stunning technology discovered about 150 years ago that has become very commonplace and everyday in recent times thanks to its mass distribution as a very convenient tool for the conveying of information. I tried to lay out and note the striking semantic and spatial emphases that form both the process itself and the discussion around modern photography.
The series of works follows a principle whereby the experience of modern art is founded on contradiction, on non-conformism, and a thesis which maintains that every subsequent step rejects the preceding step. As a result of that, I'm continuing my experiment in the changing of “photography's state of equilibrium,” taking it out of the sphere of a documentary reflection of events and into the space of the atmospheric and the purely sensual.
Exhibiting the project as site-specific art, I'm striving to get the spectator involved in the scene of the installation, further activating his sensitivity. “The border of the division” – that's the main conceptual highway around which the body of the composition of the project is constructed. The constructive element is the direct negative and the large photo accumulation. Why specifically the “border”?
The “border” implies a broad range of opening horizons and vectors in notional tendencies. The border and marginality are fields that haven't been studied in great depth In the photographic process. Photography is so objective that this super-reality firmly links us with stereotypes of interpretation, shackling the imagination. Nevertheless, it is the border of the “negative”-“positive” division that fundamentally links the concepts of before and after.
A key role in the installation is played by the unfolding story of a journey between realities that are both objective, as they have been through the obyektiv — the Russian for “lens” – and been captured, but there are qualitative differences in content, as they are elements in the world and anti-world – who or what lies on which side is for you to decide.