"Self-portrait" Cartesian Meditation

  • 10/9 – 25/10/2015
  • Curated by Petr Vaňous
  • Galerie mesta Bratislavy
  • Bratislava SK
Martin is sitting in his study, reading. When he is done, he opens his laptop and goes through all his email. When he is finished reading them as well, he answers some, ignores others, and erases a few. He opens Facebook and likes a few things here and there. Around noon, when the sun is already shining against the glass wall of the studio and it becomes necessary to draw the shades, he finishes reading the international news, draws the shades, pours himself a cold drink, and puts on some music. Around one o’clock, he goes back to the computer and opens Skype. The hard guitar riffs have reminded him of his cousin, who lives in Seattle. "Hallo guy! How are you? I’m well, thanks and you? I am not."  I’m busy. Imagine: I got a bizarre job from an anonymous client who wants me to create my own self-portrait. Somebody wants it. Can you believe it? I’ve been working on it for a month now. The worst thing is that I don’t have any other commissions. Only this SELF-PORTRAIT. I’ve spent hours going over my photographs. They’re just dead reproductions. Nothing usable. But I’m sure about the color. Black. I’ve rented a small factory hall and begun to fill it with material. Self-portraits are a hellish subject. You’re always with yourself. Sometimes he calls me and asks how I’m doing, how the work is coming along. Sometimes he changes his voice. Male, female, child. I can’t tell him that I’ve rented a warehouse and all that in it is a pile of raw materials. I’m going through everything that says something to me: movies, books, music. I see myself everywhere, but I’m nowhere. I can feel it filling my head and hear, like when you fill a hole with silicon under pressure. I’ve got to go; the telephone is ringing. That’ll be him again. What should I tell him? Stick around on Skype…
Pepa returned from a walk in the park. The studio was is full of half-finished things. On the table is a half-drunk raspberry soda with a dead wasp. Plus a list of work-related numbers he has to call. He checks his diary and discovers that the deadline for the job he mistakenly accepted half a year ago – a SELF-PORTRAIT for an unknown client, what nonsense – is nearing. He grow nervous. He paces the length of the studio several times and then disappears behind a curtain where there is a small room full of drawings, photographs, papers, clippings, and other material. It is dark and cold like in a darkroom. The papers are variously layered, and in the half-dark they create strange shapes that distantly resemble tall chimneystacks. He remembers the view from the window of his childhood room at the housing estate. Every morning, he could see the tall chimney of the waste incinerator. Sometimes it would smoke, and sometimes not. In the evening, it grew two red eyes and looked like a dragon lurking on the horizon. He turns on a lamp and the room is filled with red light. Pepa is transported elsewhere. Suddenly, he is at the pediatrician and they are X-raying his lungs. He feels the cold machine on his chest and the officious voice of the elderly doctor: Don’t breathe! That is me. All of it. And much more. But where to put it, how to combine it all. That’s the problem, that’s the… In the room beyond the curtain, the telephone rings. Pepa gulps. Nobody ever calls this place. He has forgotten that the old telephone is even here. He walks over to the receiver and picks it up. Hello? From somewhere on the other end of the line, he hears a male voice: Do you have it for me? I’m sending someone for it tomorrow… And he hangs up. In that one unrepeatable moment that has suddenly passed, Pepa sees in the mirror above the telephone something that he has never seen before, something that looks like a convincing self-portrait. He locks the door, draws the curtains, and immerses himself in his work. There is no time to lose. 
Petr Vaňous
Author of short stories
Josef Bolf
Martin Gerboc
Heavy Planet