Stefan Szczygiel: Center for Contemporary Art-Ujazdowski Castle

By Bartelik, Marek | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Stefan Szczygiel: Center for Contemporary Art-Ujazdowski Castle


Bartelik, Marek, Artforum International


Using high-resolution digital technology, Polish photographer and multimedia artist Stefan Szczygiel produces highly magnified images of single objects such as clocks, books, lighters, buttons, coins, and brooches in sharp definition. He ventures into the underworld of these old, disappearing items, revealing their lasting beauty.

Curated by Marek Grygiel, this well-designed show at the Centrum Sztuki Wspolczesnej--Zamek Ujazdowski (Center for Contemporary Art--Ujazdowski Castle), "Powiekszenia" (Blow Ups), presented twenty-four of Szczygiel's large-scale photographs from the ongoing series "Przedmioty o wysokiej rozdzielczosci" (High Resolution Objects), 2004-. In some instances magnified two hundred times without losing any clarity, the objects become hyperreal. Shot against gray backgrounds, they seem to float on the surface of the matte paper, right in the center, as if suspended in a void rather than belonging to a concrete environment. Szczygiel's enlargements retain an extraordinary density of detail (about 250 to 350 million pixels), enhancing and intensifying the objects' presence, so that what otherwise might seem trivial and even imperceptible becomes loomingly consequential, both specific and abstract. The artist takes pleasure in showing the patterns and design of these objects as well as their chromatic richness. This is particularly evident in his close-ups of old books, the most seductive works in the show; we lose all sense of their functionality and concreteness, despite (or because of) their being so pristinely photographed and displayed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The photographs' large format causes all sense of the images' scale to be lost. A silver cigarette lighter in Feuerzeug 054, 11/2006 (Lighter 054, 11/2006) becomes a giant, shiny specimen from the machine age, whereas the clock without hands in Uhrwerk G 081, 11/2005 (Clock G 081, 11/2005) looks like a mysterious trouvaille, nonfunctional but endowed with the visual power of a relic. …

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