Langhans Gallery Prague presents a curatorial collage of the photographic portrait with an emphasis on its most contemporary trends in this country. From the apparently chaotic crowd emerge unique fac

EGO / Portrait X Photography

26 May ? 29 August 2010

Works by Michal Adamovský, Jan Bigas + Štěpán Pech, Patrik Borecký, Vladimír Boudník, Radeq Brousil, Adam Holý, Václav Jirásek, Šymon Kliman, Richard Loskot + Karel Prát, Český člověk (Ivan Lutterer + Jan Malý + Jiří Poláček), Willi Najvar + Zbyněk Baladrán, Jano Pavlík, Michal Pěchouček, Ivan Pinkava, Robert Portel, Johana Pošová, Rudo Prekop, Lukáš Prokůpek, Petra Steinerová, Václav Stratil, Adéla Svobodová, Jiří Thýn, Dušan Tománek, Aleksandra Vajd + Hynek Alt, Zein, and Václav Zykmund

Curated by Robert V. Novák & Pavel Turek

The human face is like a translucent filter between the inner and outer worlds. Its surface bears the traces of both. It is unable to defend itself against the outer world and at the same time suggests that something is happening inside, struggling to get out. The face fascinates because it can be read. And nothing is better suited to capture its surface than the most superficial of media: photography.

Langhans Gallery Prague presents a curatorial collage of photographic portraits of the past fifty years, with an emphasis on the most contemporary trends in the country. The installation seeks to cast light on how the viewer seeks out unique faces in the chaos of the crowd. Those faces demand our attention for a wide variety of reasons, sometimes as a simple memento, sometimes posing and showing off, sometimes wanting to reveal oneself and to take a risk.

Since its ?invention? the photograph has sought to be an instrument of individualization, asserting the right to self-definition. When photography first began, it discovered a whole new social class, which could never afford to be portrayed by a painter, but could save up enough money for the considerably cheaper daguerreotype portrait ? if only once in a lifetime.In the early years the neutral and yet highly variable milieu of the photographic studio gave those people who could afford it the right to an image, that is to say, a chance to create their image and henceforth to control it. That was a powerful instrument in the late nineteenth century, when society was becoming freer and more democratic. Photography has always stood on the side of the individual, always shows a unique phenomenon, unrepeatable in time and space. That is why it is the medium that best captures the process in Euro-Atlantic culture during the last 170 years, in which the class and estate one belonged to has become less and less important.

Photography in a certain sense makes visible the process sociologists call ?personalization?, in other words the disappearance of all things to which human beings have been subordinated, so that ultimately only the Self remains, longing to express itself and show itself. That is why the most forceful advertising slogans tell us: Be Yourself! Express Yourself! Set Yourself Free! And the way to express oneself is magically simple: one need only ?appear? and have oneself captured in photographs. Photographers today have to search for individuality in a great tide of individuals.

Never in history have the portrayed been so well informed and so experienced in the art of self-presentation and the awareness of their inalienable right to an image. Uniqueness has taken control even of a genre as codified as photographs for official documents (see Robert Portel?s series Men and Women).

The current generation of artists must bear that in mind and must accept the trend as a principle. They can either consciously accentuate the sitters? own narcissistic stylization (as in Radeq Brousil?s various series) or negotiate with them and seek to understand the identities they have chosen (as in Petra Steinerová?s highly personal documentary). They can create a dignified appearance for those who seemed to have lost the right to one (as in Adam Holý?s portraits of children with Down syndrome). The photographer can remove the mask that has been offered, and search for intimacy instead (as in the works of Ivan Pinkava and Johana Pošová). Or the photographer can simply try to ensure that these faces do not fall into oblivion (as in Šymon Kliman?s portraits of surviving partisans of the Second World War).

The challenge in portraiture today is that we all know only too well how we are supposed to look.

Accompany Events, June 2010
10 June at 7 p.m. ? The Life of Photography in Hyperspace, a talk by Filip Láb and Pavel Turek.
(In Czech.)
How has the Web changed the perception and uses of photography, and not only in connection with the creation of personal profiles and galleries. Do Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter mean a new comprehensive approach to the self-portrait?

12 June at 10 p.m. ? A guided tour with the curators and artists, as part of Prague Museum Night, 2010. (In Czech.)

17 June at 7 p.m. ? The Photographic Self-portrait in the Search for Identity, a talk by Sandra Baborovská. (In Czech.)
Since the late nineteenth century the sense of ?multiplicity? has become emblematic of the modern construction of identity. Photography managed to push through the idea of the splitting up of personality ? one sees oneself while looking at someone else. The problem of the relationship with our own inner picture determines not only the possibilities of making a portrait, including a self-portait, but also the way of identifying with the picture that is obtained. The mirror of the self-portrait thus becomes a reflection or metaphor of the mind.

24 June at 7 p.m. ? The Face, the Mirror, and the Mug Shot, a talk by Tomáš Winter. (In Czech.)
In the nineteenth century the portrait appeared in the criminologist?s repertoire ? and in Austria-Hungary too. With the aid of a mirror, this portrait consisted in a front-view and a side-view captured together in a single exposure. This kind of depiction had echoes in twentieth-century Art Nouveau Symbolism and, later, also in Cubism. In this talk Tomáš Winter will consider select examples that have used this principle, and will interpret their encoded content.