Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Miroslav Tichy: maverick artist or creepy weirdo?

A response to Miroslav Tichy: Untitled (women watching Tichy)

Paris_Pompidou-Tichy, originally uploaded by david_stirling.

The Centre Pompidou is holding an exhibition by the Czech Miroslav Tichy. It consists entirely of photos of women taken over the course of about 30 years. What makes these art, apparently, is that he took the photos primarily without the subjects' knowledge, often hiding the camera under his trenchcoat. Furthermore, his cameras consisted of a variety of junked parts, household refuse, and jerry-rigged elements, held together with tape and wire. To gather the exhibit, the curator and staff sifted through thousands of prints scattered throughout his run-down house. The fact that the photos were haphazardly mounted on construction paper or newsprint, stained with coffee or cigarette ash, or doodled upon with pen and pencil, serves to heighten their artistic merit, it would seem.

So where exactly is the line between artistic genius and obsessive sociopathy? Is his photography art simply because he did it relentlessly for thirty some-odd years, despite being locked up in an assylum on more than one occasion? Or has he produced something that transcends what a camera lens can transfer onto paper?

Part of the exhibition features a short documentary about Tichy, and in it he is disarmingly matter-of-fact about his pursuit. It has nothing to do with women per se, he claims; it's all about shape and line. "I am an atomist," he says. That makes the underlying sensualism in the photos the more unsettling.

At one point he wryly sums up his feelings on his "discovery" as an artist in a way that supports my suspicions about a lot of post-modern art: "The way to become famous," he says, "is to do something worse than anyone else in the world."

And yet, three days later, I'm still thinking about his photos. They have kind of gotten under my skin, and that I suppose is the measure of what we each as individuals can consider art.

1 comment:

Monika said...

Glad you squeezed some Czech share in there:)