According to the Duden, an anagram is the “repositioning of letters of a word for form other words with different meanings”. That is not exactly right, since today an anagram is also the change of several words or entire phrases by repositioning letters. Either way it is about taking individual parts out of a given context and constructing something new. This can create a number of different solutions with very different meanings, and if only these new versions would be known, but not the original word or phrase, these newly formed phrases and words would seem rather obscure. Therefore anagrams come with the original version at the end that forms the basis of everything that has been created out of it.
Michael Sardelic uses images instead of words – and he denies us the look on the original situation. He also starts from the reality he finds only to rearrange it in the process. The essence of the arrangement is not to stop at the first impression, but to form a juxtaposition of things that would usually be on top of each other, or he combines things that were originally not related. The individual parts are photographed and isolated from their natural environments – by way of digital editing. For example: a seriously ill woman laid low is transformed into individual images of an empty bed, the clothing items used as well as the half-naked woman prior to and after her death. Persons and objects are torn out of the context of their existence. The sick room where the old patient lies is invisible. All we see is her half-exposed body, night shirts, slippers, an empty bed.
The photo artist also confronts the observer with a new constellation without disclosing the previous one. That puts us sort of amidst an anagram. In front of us there are the individual scraps of words – i.e. the photos – that do not make sense at first in their individual appearances. We only understand they are related because they are placed next to each other and appear in one and the same work of art – as here in the exhibition. Their significance, however, is not accessible by knowing where the individual parts originate from and under what conditions they have been photographed, but what we do with them, what we allow them to inspire us to. Being moved by the ill woman is not enough. We have to move. Mentally. Then the individual images will relate to a common denominator. Words must be used to form a sentence, as images must be used to fathom reason. The productive interaction with images – very basically speaking – is not just about looking at them and to enjoy their appearance, but to re-invent them, to create your own out of what is presented to you.
The above-mentioned example gives us all possibilities of an anagram. You can put the old women in bed, dress her, we can imagine the bed as a sickbed or deathbed. We can imagine the clothes as something protecting nakedness from prying glances, or as something to hide physical states and stirrings of the soul; a façade to demonstrate one’s state to the outside world. And if you recall all these variants it becomes clear what these two groups of works presented here by Michael Sardelic are all about. The topic is the vulnerability of man and what makes it apparent. Both body and soul are susceptible the same way – which is expressed in the postures of the models and the things they have on them or in front of them: The people lie or crouch, they are naked or skimpily clothed; they are bleeding, they are ill and confined to bed. When you see the young woman in the bathtub fumbling with a crochet-hook, you think of abortion and the prevention of new life; if a razor blade appears, circumcision is implied, as it is still practised in many places today; the mobile phone dropped into the toilet indicates the loss of options of communication; the small balls are reminiscent of narcotics and speak about possible changes of the personality in the same place.
Michael Sardelic provides a number of new clues making us aware of hazards that might root in everyday life, in age, in human nature or in cultural paradigms. We always face the risk of losing our social bonds or social competence, but we also have the chance of idiosyncrasy and autonomous orientation. The artist, however, never points his finger. Instead he offers individual clues, indulges in innuendos, uncovers layers. It is the viewers challenge to create connections. Coming back to the language of the anagram: Letters are to form new words that formulate new sentences. Visitors of this exhibition accept the creative part, the role of an artist taking Michael Sardelic’s anagrams back to the actual meanings of being, by asking new questions: to him or herself, to society, to art.
Timm Starl (Cultural Scientist, Curator of the exhibition, photo publisher, Vienna)
The works of this project consist of life-size photographes of people and objects printed on Decolit or PVC tarpaulin with inkjet print, mounted on wooden or Alu-Dibond boards and standing in the room, or hanging on the wall. We distinguish between fixed elements where the tarpaulins are glued tight with the boards, and detachable elements where the printed tarpaulins stick to the base boards with hook-and-loop fasteners. The boards are cut according to the outlines of the figures and objects.
The figures and elements on the situations shown are photographed layer by layer from the same camera position and cut out of their backgrounds with the computer. The figures and elements have been partly fitted with a black (cutting) edge.
This project is structured in 2 partial series: