You are cordially invited to attend the opening of the exhibition at the Likovni salon Gallery, on Thursday, February 8 at 7 p.m.
“Certainty may be instantaneous; doubt requires duration; meaning is born of the two.”
(John Berger, Understanding a Photograph, 2013)
In his new series, Jaka Babnik continues his concept of actively observing and documenting public spaces – this time using photography and video to record scenes of advertising on city and goods transport, as well as the quiet outskirts of cities occupied by these very same images. In a blend of serious commentary and humorous observations, the series explores the visual pollution that plagues our everyday lives, caused by the overwhelming presence of advertising and fast-moving communication models of consumer society.
In contrast to the title of the series and the function of the photographed objects, his photographic images are static and therefore all the more eloquent as they point to advertising trends, whether intentional or not. In the flood of visual messages in our physical environment and on the Internet, there seems to be no filter that determines their quality and quantity. Images are ubiquitous and are often devalued for this very reason. Babnik’s series does not only address the idea of the hyper-production of visual messages – the photographs of photographs and brand slogans also speak of the unrestricted and unscrupulous use of photography at any cost and anywhere, regardless of semantic anomaly and inappropriate commercial use. So, both, well-known brands and adverts for lesser-known companies make use of satisfied, attractive and seemingly happy models, regardless of the ambiguity of their role or the explicitness of the objects photographed. A woman, shown through the most common stereotypes, a celebrity or a piece of meat, all become a means to the same end: to attract the gaze and create a communication code that caters to desire that ultimately provokes even the most informed consumer.
As a sharp observer, the photographer captures the coincidences and paradoxes that confirm the emptiness or even loneliness of the presented images in a particular environment. Their placement in inconspicuous areas of the city elicits ironic glances at the connotations of what is seen, so the photographer fills his photographed shots with new layers of meaning. Luka Dončič peeks out of a rubbish bin, Poli ham drives along the road, blondes peek out from behind trees, the Fast Food sign might have turned into Fast Foo(l) … Confronted with a multitude of such scenes, at first glance completely banal, the photographer creates a sense of unease in the exhibition in a new context, despite the humorous note that is reinforced by printing the photographs on material for mass consumption. On the one hand, this kind of set-up in the space attempts to avoid the glorification of images in a museum setting; on the other, it highlights the problem of visual violence.
Footage from city centres and motorways in the collected videos turn around the dynamics of the exhibition. Here, the camera is mostly static, whereas the images (literally) travel. The fleeting character of the messages points to another feature of today’s society, in which sensation is not even necessarily noticed – it comes and goes in a flash. The photographer documents the vibrancy of the city, which brims with more or less obvious visual messages that we fail to really note in the active rhythm of daily life.
Moving Pictures attempts to create a tension between the aesthetic and formalistic experience of the medium of photography and the critical messages that give rise to new cultural meanings. When John Berger speaks of the ambiguity and detachment of photography from a continuity, he describes the photographer’s selection of an event as a new cultural construct. This construct is created through his reading of the event as it unfolds before his eyes. “Likewise, the photographed image of the event, when shown as a photograph, is also part of a cultural construction. It belongs to a specific social situation, the life of the photographer, an argument, an experiment, a way of explaining the world, a book, a newspaper, an exhibition.” By shifting the meaning of what is seen, Babnik’s photographic image belongs to the idea of the hyperproduction and devaluation of images that flood our field of vision and disrupt the sharpness of our flow of thought in contemporary society, which is becoming resistant to a multitude of fleeting visual stimuli with no actual content.
Jaka Babnik (1979) graduated in Sociology and History from the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Since 1996, he has been working as a freelance artist, photographer, editor, cameraman and filmmaker, creating an enviable number of photo series and films about the first generations of skaters on the Slovenian scene. As a cameraman and a director, he shot the music documentary Listen to Srečna mladina in 2006, for which he received an award at the 10th Slovenian Independent Film Festival. Between 1998 and 2006, he was the photo editor of the Slovenian-Croatian magazine Pendrek and he is also the co-founder and co-owner of the Rostfrei Publishing House, which has been active since 2012. He has made a name for himself with projects such as Art of Asphalt (together with Sergej Vutuč), the photo series We Are Dogs, Jebodrom, Holy Land, Why so Serious, Pygmalion, Time Leveling and Exercises in Style, which he has presented in solo exhibitions in prominent Slovenian and international galleries, and has also participated in many group exhibitions of contemporary art. He lives and works in Ljubljana.
Zavod Celeia Celje – Center For Contemporary Arts
Curator: Maja Antončič
Text: Maja Antončič
Support: Mestna občina Celje
 John Berger, Razumeti fotografijo (Understanding a photograph, 2013), Društvo za širjenje filmske kulture KINO! and Membrana, 2018, p. 73