Chiara Valci Mazzara

.Author of The state of flux of the movable content: Henrik Strömberg in reference to Man Ray, text for DOC! Photo Magazine, section contra DOC!, March 2018

Henrik Strömberg’s work starts with the quest for a new signifier: interlacing sources, re-assembling and re-evaluating objects (trouvé)he acts on the form while changing the content.

The medium of photography and the system of connections between the represented subject and the final result is only the beginning of a journey.

By performing his usual ritual, opening and closing, the shutter reveals a new artifact in which new semantic cross-references appear to the eye. Strömberg initiates a thought, an idea, as a possible dialogue: by adding new allusions he questions the medium and challenges the content.

Within the process, the subject – outcome of a re-assemblage of elements or cut-outs – as a pivotal body, reflects different nuances of various signifiers, therefore contorting the habitual coordinates. The meanings are, then, acquiring new values through a drift and, as a result, the object is dislocated from within.

This leads to the perception of the viewer to be altered, prompting the pursuit of many graspable interpretations, each one equally possible.

It is impossible to calculate the result of the content’s reconstruction, sinceit presents itself as the heritage of the objects’ past life, joined with their new manifestation – all given by the process to which Strömberg commits consistently.

Ultimately, his photographic works, as well as with his collages, are picturing, at the same time, the evolution and the outcome of an action, while other signifiers are now challenging the viewer to a new dialogue. The strength of the result appears in each piece, where receding to the new forms, the works are delivering a poetic yet sharp innuendo.

In Strömberg’s pieces, the pictured subjects are not the only foreground protagonists, but also the different levels of space and depth, which are suggesting a wider interpretation and create a surreal landscape.

The evidence of the “re-assembled” object/s (trouvé/s) materializes as vibrant and forceful, subordinating to no obvious reference, placing the ‘trigger’ of an idea.

The evidence of Man Ray’s objets trouvésleans to the use and re-evaluation of everyday objectsas the subjectsof his photographic works. Natural or man-reassembled pieces, they are kept, bought or found thanks to their intrinsic value – with none or minimal alteration – therefore seen and celebrated by the artist.

The signifier being steady, the intervention consists in the action of choosing the object and relocating it as the protagonist of the photograph. Frequently the title of the work itself, as for Tête trouvée sous le lit,allows to recognise a move, a discovery, a choice taken by the artist. The process is, therefore, the act of choosing, to which the outcome of the depiction commits. While the original content persists, the vibration of the meaning is enhanced by the medium.

Furthermore, the final rendering acquires an additional system of references through the gelatin silver print, the chromogenic materials and the process, out of which the black and white photograph earns its strength.

Enigma II – which refers to The enigma of Isidore Ducasse assembled in New York in 1920 – is the evolution of a choice, the outcome of an action. Its roots can be found in Man Ray’s Dada objects related to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades. Duchamp had, for instance, wrapped a sewing machine in an army blanket and tied it up with a string. As most of the pieces produced by Man Ray in the late 40’s, the process was meant to produce an unusual artifact, subject to an open interpretation.

This photograph of what appears as a mysterious entity, relates to the surrealist vision of what lays beyond the curtain of a rational system of references.

The action is vivid in this work and the content is questioned. Hiding the object, the protagonist becomes the artifact produced by the addition of fabric and string.

Early works by Man Ray (e.g. the collage series Revolving Doors(1916-1917)) present themselves as the proof of the multifaceted oeuvreof the artist. He challenges an alternative perspective, given by the use of a two-dimensional rendering. Moreover, Man Ray explores the mechanical means of the creative process by assembling other figurative collages as, for instance, Dance(1915) which “showed what seem to be two mechanical-looking figures, evoking tailors’ dummies, performing stiff-legged dance movements.” *

Man Ray states: “The concern of a period of time often leads to the disappearance of material space. That is what the images in two dimensions shown here tend to prove; by a mutual action, they give birth to a series of events escaping from the control of all diversion. ‘

New York, 1916–17

The two artists connect on the level of creating by mutual action, enhancing the two-dimensionality by -as Strömberg- using the relicts of cut-out negatives and intuitively assembling them within the creative process in his collages and his Compost(ed) landscapes.

With the project The Compost, Strömberg refers to a wider angle, where the symbolic meaning is not graspable anymore by the acceptance of the role of the objects themselves.

The quest for an unexpected outcome, realized by overlapping layers of cut photographs, polaroids, negatives, photocopies and objects is vivid and encouraged by placing them together as a surreal watermark. Together with Jens Soneryd, the artist broadens the edges of the works. Working on written words, Soneryd pictures a beginning and and end, the inner content and a poetic response.

As for Lacan – quoted in The Compost Manifesto- the real concerns the need whereas the imaginary concerns the demand.

The symbolic, then, is all about desire. The question remains open.Interpretation awakens the dialogue between the two artists.

Grace Glueck, “ART REVIEW; Emmanuel Radnitzky, Before He Was Man Ray”, New York Times, March 7th, 2003.

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