Peter R├│nai – autoReverse, 1997
The long-term agenda of artist Peter R├│nai (1953) is the thematisation of the world of art through a strong subjectve lens ÔÇô aimed at the art’s condition and its perception at the time of maturing postmodern age ÔÇô especially the revision of ideas of the avant-garde resonating in the present times. The thematisation of the world of art offered by P. R├│nai is defined by an example of two interconnected aspects. One of them is his permanent self-ontextualisation ÔÇô defining his own position in art (as an art creator, author), but also making of an antithesis to art ÔÇô forms of communication/dialogue with art throughout its history (not only 20th century, but also earlier periods). The second aspect is his personal/existential ÔÇťself-presentationÔÇŁ through portrayal of his own face, mainly via the application of self-portrait photography. In the artist’s understanding, the function of this photography is naturally ambivalent: it underlines the cult of the artist, but also challenges it (through manipulation of the face), and therefore it is also iconoclastic.
The works KUNSinvHALLE (1972 ÔÇô 2014) and autoReverse (1997) can be perceived as an illustration of the mentioned interconnected aspects: KUNSTinHALLE actually demonstrates a system of the artist’s self-contextualisation, therefore it works as his entrance to the history of art. He uses tools of citation, interpretation, but also formulation of antitheses, but ÔÇô in the spirit of the avant-garde ÔÇô representing a portrayal of the fusion of life (private and artistic existence) and art. autoReverse is a portrait ÔÇô self-preservation and self-presentation, but also an example of self-reevaluation, or even self-irony by using metamorphosis/manipulation of his portrait or commenting on his own position as an artist.
In relation to the subject of the display First Museum of Intermedia: Memory and Information, pieces are presented as specific variations of the mentioned themes. autoReverse reflects the activity that is own to all of us ÔÇô creating traces of memory capturing the flow of our existence, such as photographs documenting individual stages of our lives. This video is a time-lapse version of the portrait of the artist ÔÇô it captures the transformations of his portrait from childhood to his likeness at the time of the completion of this work (1997). It takes form of a condensed personal photo album. He used the technique of morphing, enabling him to create smooth fade-over of one image to another in order to transform the photographs. At the time of making this work, the tools for morphing (PC technology and software) were quite inaccessible, and whatever is possible to achieve with any graphic software today, had to be made via a more complicated system ÔÇô individually, photo by photo. The technique of morphing is an important attribute of Peter R├│nai’s work ÔÇô treatment and manipulation of photography is essentially synchronous with thinking about one’s own identity and identity generally in several artists’ works and especially those working with the new media during the 1990’s.┬á Morphing, one of the strategies of creating post-photography (hybrid medium using elements of analogue and digital image and practices of media art) can define photography as an attribute/representative of identity freed from the traditional understanding of the flow of time, intervening in formatting and mechanisms of our memory. The video composed of 44 portraits overlapping one another was originally part of an installation with same title shown by the artist at the Videoanthology exhibition at Museum of Art ┼Żilina. This video piece was part of a typical medium of the second half of the 1990’s ÔÇô video installation created using the principles of the readymade. This was a supermarket shopping trolley filled with goods connected to a field bottle via cable. R├│nai modified this bottle for watching his self-portrait video on a small screen. The flow of time (present in his morphing portraits) or what we experience and lose, created a content opposition to what we gain and (do not need) paraphrased by the shopping in the trolley.