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Exploring the Void. Leaving out of information as a communicative potential in photography

This project is looking into the relationship between images and their beholders concerning a void in the image; void being defined as the missing of information on various levels. The assumption is that a lack of information can cause an activation in an observer and catch his attention in multiple ways. The leading questions for this examination include the nature of the void, its creation, its impact on an observer and, with that, the potential of a void in images. In this exploration, the void never captures the entire picture. It is always just a part of it, therefore the coexistence of the different states and the interplay of absence and presence are highly relevant.
Against the background of reception aesthetics, the theoretical discussion focuses on the relation between an image and its observer. The consulted representatives of this approach are Roman Ingarden, Wolfgang Iser, and Wolfgang Kemp. One important function of the void in reception aesthetics is to trigger the imagination of a beholder. Sylwia M Chomentowska, talking about the Seeing of Nothing in paintings by William Turner, uses another approach. She is pointing out the potential of pure and sensitive seeing that has nothing to do with imagination. Another important text for this study is Umberto Ecos The Open Work. Eco describes the need of ambiguity in a work of art to involve a beholder or reader. An open work needs to have a minimum of clarity together with a maximum of obscurity. If this balance is reached, the respective statement and message can be much more valuable.
The medium of practical research is photography. Photography does not provide a void by itself, such as a painting or drawing may do, starting its process with an empty canvas or a white paper. In photography, the void has to be considered and included differently. The aim of this examination is to gain knowledge about the visual and communicational potential of a void through the process of making photographical images and reflecting them.
The different motives of the exploration are familiar to us. This is important to realize the missing part as such. One main focus is on portraits of people. As François Jullien says in The Great Image Has No Form, the liberation of a mimetic representation can evolve into a similarity that is much more precise. To depict a human being in its living essence, playing with the void can harbour a meaningful potential. Showing these images in black and white requires to consciously leave out one level of information to focus on the structural information beyond colour.
Through the entire process, it becomes clear that a void can be created in many different ways. Likewise the impact of a void is highly diverse. One of the most important realizations is that leaving out information creates another kind of information. Through a void, images gain a different quality that cannot be reached by a conventional display of information. A void plays with our expectations, with our conventions, with our perception. It raises questions, provokes dialogues and opens spaces. It goes beyond the so-called normal and draws the attention of an observer elsewhere.
Basel, 2019