Blow Up # 1, 2007 (video still), video projection, 11:16 minutes, sound, courtesy the artist
Grzegorz Klaman is one of the pioneering members of the contemporary Polish art world, and a prominent figure on the Gdansk art scene. Klaman's socially engaged and subversive works - mostly large-scale, site-specific sculptural installations - respond to contemporary politics in Poland. Klaman's political stance was shaped in the context of the social upheaval caused by Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement. His sensationalist examination of questions related to power, technology, medicine and invasive medical procedures have triggered severe criticism of his works, which at times took the form of actual censorship.
The monotonous movement of the three figures in the installation Fear and Trembling, together with their hermetic withdrawal, call to mind states of trance, possession or hysteria. Below their cloaks, they are wearing Western clothing indicative of their identity and class. Their cloaks and bodily posture clearly allude to religion, while also hinting at a dimension of vulnerability or sacrifice. The expression "fear and trembling" originally appears in the Book of Psalms, and recurs in the Yom Kippur prayer "Unetanah Tokef" - which describes man's inconsequential status of man vis-à-vis God, and his fear of the Day of Judgment: "The great shofar is sounded / A still small voice is heard / The angels are dismayed / They are seized by fear and trembling / As they proclaim: Behold the Day of Judgment!" Klaman's choice of this title, however, alludes to the writings of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard - which are concerned with the paradoxes of religious belief, with expressions of religious zealousness and with the limits of personal sacrifice. Kierkegaard's well-known book Fear and Trembling, which was first published in 1843 under the pseudonym "John the Silent," sought to reach the root of the conflict between morality and faith, and to examine the paradox that brings together obedience and deep understanding. The intersection between these different fields of meaning expresses a critical stance towards the familiar paradigm that calls for self-inflicted or collective injury in the name of faith. This work thus touches upon the growing surge of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world; upon a state in which faith, no matter what faith, does not only envelop but also obscures; does not only protect, but also detaches and separates. There is no doubt that its presentation in a local context, in a mixed city like Haifa, which is charged with intercultural tensions, amplifies its resonance.
The video work Blow Up # 1 was filmed in constant motion, from a low point of view, in a site resembling a silent, empty university campus. Every so often, a figure - perhaps a corpse - is seen lying on the ground in a state of unconsciousness, death or sleep. Although it is obvious that something has occurred, one cannot pinpoint the nature of the crime. The strong resemblance between the work's visual appearance and the plethora of images we have become habituated to viewing on international news reports - poisonous gas attacks, mass murder or random shooting - produces a familiar sense of horror. Although the background of the work is pervaded by a strong intimation of a sexual crime, the indifferent and hurried gaze makes it difficult to decipher. The work's title has a double meaning refers both to photographic enlargement and to an explosion, and which is related both to the general sense of disintegration communicated by the work and to its cinematic context. In Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blowup, a well-known fashion photographer discovers signs pertaining to a crime scene while blowing up photographs.
Since it is impossible to decipher the connection between the wandering, searching and lingering gaze and the gaze responsible for the depicted calamity, the viewer may conclude that the evidence is actually hiding behind the camera, while observing the subtle connection woven between the movement of the camera and the invisible movement of the guitar strings on the soundtrack. This soundtrack calls to mind an additional cinematic association, since it was originally written for Wim Wenders' film Paris, Texas (1984) - a film that constitutes a total expression of searching and longing.
Born in Nowy Targ, Poland, 1959; lives and works in Gdansk