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Běla Kolářová’s early work was in the photographic medium. She began working with photographs in 1957, but her documents of everyday life and imaginative city fragments were soon replaced by photographic experiments. She expanded her experimental work by the artificial negative in 1961, thereby internalizing the collapse of a traditional medium in recognition of the limits of classic photography. Kolářová’s husband, Jiří Kolář, was simultaneously facing a similar situation—and in the early 1960’s, this was in fact the leitmotif of Western culture, where a mistrust in visual value was tending towards the full negation of material works. Kolářová’s experiment with printing banalities is linked to the early dada discovery of rubbish and the commonplace. But while the Dadaists tried to eliminate aesthetic aspects and the intentional nature of choice from their work entirely, Běla Kolářová made deliberate selections. She put together what amounted more or less to an atlas of prints, focused on her closest, most intimately known surroundings and bursting with allegories and metaphors. The artificial negative is a transparent print of her attentive perception, while the positive converts the subtle print into an expressive graphic feature. The author forgoes the story or the big theme; her reality is sufficiently real to rank her among the initial Neo-Dadaists – the new French realists. Though she did not actually state an intent to fight against the compromised reality of the official ideological doctrine in this way, her detailed manipulation of objects and the experience of touch actually did stand in direct opposition to untruth. It is a declaration of genuine reality in which, however, the experience of proximity also takes on a spiritual dimension.

  • Artist: Běla Kolářová
  • Original Title: K121
  • English Title: Artificial Negative
  • Year: 1961
  • Material: exposure on cellophane
  • Dimensions: Original Size: 7,3 x 9,9 cm (2 7/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
  • Inventory no.: K121
  • Category: photography
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