Emphemeral Substance. Absence and Presence in the Work of Dominik Lejman

The experience of art works by Dominik Lejman intimates a creative sense of aesthetic displacement, and not least his immediate use and challenging dismissal of out of date ideas of what constituted arguments and/or distinctions between the temporal and the spatial.  The artist Lejman operates within a unique time-space interstice that embraces film and painting, and the photographic image, while at the same time retaining a highly personal and pictorially synthetic disposition that grounds his wider use of film and painting in his artistic practice. For his uses of film and painting take on a dialectical presence through his visual use of paradoxical substantial and insubstantial images.  They are substantial in terms of a material surface as presence and insubstantial as regards the use of immaterial projection. On the one hand Lejman generates a performance-related and intentionally processed conceptual visual presentation; the artist calls it "staging rituals”, yet on the other hand, there is a displaced mental state of experiential aporia, a residual position of philosophical and self-reflexive rhetorical puzzlement. And we can call it rhetorical, if only, because it both simultaneously persuades and co-opts the viewer into the projected performance experience and presentation. As an image is projected on a material entity (a canvas, a wall) of one visual language, he integrates and opens up our epistemological understanding of perception; in this respect the signifier and the signified enter into a state of uncertain slippage. The outcome as a sign becomes obfuscated and a certain rhetorical aporia ensues. Are we looking at a time-based movement image, or are we in fact immersed within the self-reflection of a material presence? We experience the visual temporality of performance as an action, and simultaneously, as the legibility of matter.

As a consequence, and in terms of perception, the visual experience of Lejman’s projection paintings is less a question of the psychological, rather than the phenomenological. The phenomenon of the human body is co-opted into the material experience of his works, whereby the variable movements of the occasioned viewer are foregrounded as ephemeral, yet necessary presences. Nevertheless, in doing so the artist draws upon the effects of the sensory without (perceptions), enacted through bodily sensations of interior affection.   The two aspects are brought into coalescence, namely the indivisibility of movement, as the action of movement itself is always present, space traversed is past and "movement is distinct from the space covered.”  The act of moving is always present, yet the already passaged space in infinitely divisible.  This is what is indicated in relation to cinema space where movement and space become transitory, and in Lejman’s painting projections this constitutes a continuous sense of trace through the after-mage. Yet the artist’s use of various projected movements onto painted surfaces or other objects should not in any way be considered cinematic, for they investigate further what cinema takes for granted as narrative storytelling – fragmented or otherwise. Rather the artist investigates the nature of experiential perception, revealing the various avenues of its operative presence and inadequacies, and promotes the potential idea of perpetual creative perception. In this respect, there is a rejection by Lejman of sensory perception as mere mechanism; he sees it in relation to the interiority of self-forming development.

This said, a conventional use and material presence is evident in his paintings, filmed performances, and sometime the use of particular architectural settings, but it is a materiality in a state of continued elision and metaphorical disembarkation. For it is an elision that is in a process of joining together or merging things, phenomena abstracted into a newly fused reality of space and movement. We find that nothing is ever static in Lejman’s creative practices, as he floats the paradoxical idea of an art of "ephemeral substance.” What is revealed is his powerful awareness that the ephemeral is a temporal concept, since it means definitively nothing more than a short passage of time. This again reminds the current writer of the motivational sense of Bergson-like flux and flow that permeates many of this artist’s space-time video and film painting projections. What appear as recognisable contents are reconceptualised by the artist and are assimilated anew in mind-body experiences of the viewer. We might even speak, if somewhat fancifully, of the event time horizon, that relativised point, where the fixity of time and space no longer exist as distinct entities. This is not to suggest that Lejman has a particular interest in quantum theory, but he does concern himself with deconstructing arbitrary distinctions between the temporal and the spatial. A short synoptic account such as this reveals little as to the unique pictorial avenues, exposed by each individual painting projection, and the numerous performances created and enacted by the artist. In this somewhat circumspect account, I have wanted to focus of the bodily phenomena of received visual experience.

Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it's caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "The Eye and Mind,” The Primacy of Perception (1964)


  For a short discussion on what is called "cinema space” or the phenomenological aspects of time, space and objective contents (citing Sesonske), see Haig Kharchardourian, "Space and Time in Film” British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring, Oxford University Press, 1989 pp. 169-177

  Dominik Lejman, Painting With Timecode, Ostfilden, Hatje Cantz, 2014.

  In this he draws upon a certain traditional assumption (vindicated by recent cognitive science) that body’s experience of exterior perceptions are mediated through a secondary creative body sense of interior affection. See Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (1911), New York, Dover Books, 1998. Not surprisingly these ideas were brought back into discourse by Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, New York, Zone Books, 1998. (Fr. Le Bergsonisme, 1966)

  Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1—The Movement Image, London, The Athlone Press, 1986. The opening chapter of which is entitled "Theses on movement: First Commentary on Bergson,” (pp-1-11) p. 1

  The Bergson argument is reaffirmed in chapters entitled "The perception image” and "The affection image” ibid. pp. 71-86, and 87-101