Modern Photography keeps turning to the problem concerning fixation of the absolute inherent in any photo-form. This absolute could be either surmounted or hypertrophied; it could be eliminated or not taken into consideration, because of obsession with other interests; in any case, the attitude to the absolute becomes, obviously, the basic problem in photo-form-building. Moreover, it is the reduction to this theme that nowadays becomes a kind of camera culture showing; and just imagine, that there were times when the photographer, unlike the masters of fine arts known as being refined in self-reflection, could be called Candide, that is candid.
Petersburger Alexander Philipchenko is, obviously, an artist who is used to reflect, and having chosen photo-form as a mean of self-expression, he necessarily ought to feel the dialectics of relations between the reproduced object and the reproduction itself. This dialectics denies finiteness and comprehensivness of photo- reproduction; it is visualized, "objectized" as M. Bakhtin would say, by the artist; and in its turn it actualizes the perception involving viewers into endless visual dialogue. The latter, I would like to point out, is visual; it is not reduced to the processes of recognition, guessing or "cultural deciphering"; in it there is always something concealed, glimmering, twinkling, "pregnant" with senses, that potentially could most likely be revealed by enriched quality of vision than by intellectual analysis. These are in general the strategic principles that Philipchenko seriously and consistently follows.
All the artist's works represent some integrated cycles. They are created in the technique which I would call photo-collage psychology.
Philipchenko follows David Hockney, who since the 1970s has actively been developing snapshots collage technique, i.e. optical deconstruction and consequent reconstruction of the object with certain rhythm correction and space organization. At the beginning, just like Hockney, the artist was interested in the possibilities of space interpretation in photocollage, finding his inspirations in the practices existed in art history. Thus, Hockney, using new media possibilities - the simplest Polaroid shots - tested cubism spaceformation. Philipchenko works with classical academical compositions such as "Death of Inessa de Castro" by K.Bruilov. The photocollage version of the well-known painting turns to some extent to be of study character. The artist reveals main compositional rhythms in the picture, as if he clears the meanings of compositional and plot thinking interconnections for the viewer's sake. He achieves it by "thickening" of dubbed fragments, and often by numerous repetitions of details in the places which lcompositionally are of the utmost importance. It should be noted, that one academism's favorite tricks - depending on the thing's quality it could be either effective or just nominal, but it always is there - is an authoritarian, strict guidance of the perception, if not eye's movement. Thus, Philipchenko, whether he acts involuntary or reflectively I do not know, actualizes a wide spread postmodern device of ironical "school", artificially serious appeal to "culture". It is obvious, however, that he has not intended to show some "reducing" gesture: his aim, though it might be naive, at "analytical and scientific character" proves to be quite sincere; and some didactic and academical features in the presentation of the classical painting were of absolutely serious character.
Later, though some curiosity to an art work useful functioning and to its structure being present, it is realized in the context of tasks connected with self-expression problems. As mentioned above, Philipchenko, like many contemporary photo based artists, locates these problems in the sphere of relations with basic qualities of photo- depiction, the latter being actualized as reflection's object.
His interest to the object's structure is expressed in revealing architectonics (and we mean here not only a work of art, nowadays it being mainly sculpture, and also nature-landscape, although Philipchenko always "takes" it with the elements of regularity and compositionality), but lyrical self-expression is based on quite a different thing; I would define the artist's poetics basis as "keen-in- feeling" of complicated, richly shaded relations between real and photoreproduced spaces.
Already mentioned G.Bachelard truly said: "To give an object its poetical space means to give it more space than it is in reality". Artist's large ,ceremonial, panoramic landscapes, consisting of separate but united by the background photos, first fixing different looks then focusing into some whole visual image of a landscape, possess this quality of quasispaciousness. Compositional axises do exist, but in spite of that the supposed world picture lacks clear focus; picture's regulation order is disturbed by the process of endless, non-stop adding of space proclaimed by these individual 'photo-looks". Landscape's image architectonics is medievilly solemn and shows an adjusted ceremonial of time and space elapsation. Photo-looks have different rhythm and different time extent: these are individual private rambles into private space, private "sentimental trips".
Dialectics of these two bases gives the image its unique emotional saturation.
Sculptures' photoverions suggested by Philipchenko are touched by inner contradiction, in this case it being a guarantee of lyrical feeling development. Three dimensional sculpture (the artist seems to be interested in the time-space existence of the sculpture as an object rather than in a specific character of the aesthetic "text" implied in it) is interpreted on the plane, the artist works with strictly geometrical elements-fragments of the photos and colored insets. Having in possession such strictly formalized elements, he not only plays some space game and shows space and form regularities with the help of fragments' combinations and dubbings, but also achieves much more. Logical studies mixed with some didactic elements prove to have absolutely different dimension, i.e. existential. We see not only just the show of the pass from the volumetrical form to the plane and back to the three dimensional form - the process from professional point of view both amusing and educational - but also introduction of absolutely different processes, namely the pass from objectivism, strict fixation, absolute reproduction to subjectivity, anxiousness, sensuality (in photoversion of Dupre's sculpture - even some erotic mood); from object-space reality, factual presentness to mystified, artificial existence; and then - who knows - may be to entity....
When speaking about Alexander Philipchenko's works, I would rather introduce a term "Photore fleet ion", though it may sound rather clumsy, but could be quite useful because of our terminological poorness.
His experiments greatly enrich quite a thin layer of modern Russian camera culture.
Dr. Alexander D. Borovsky.
Head of the Department of Contemporary Art, The State Russian Museum.