The title of this essay is a transformation of philosophical expression that can be found in numerous philosophical debates. Its version, for example, is repetition and difference. The title is therefore constructed in this way because the author wants to come close to the artistic content of which he would like to say something hereinafter.
Photos by Matej Peljhan, collected under the collective name Metamorphoses or Transformations, are in fact more than the title suggests. That's why they need the philosophical comment that follows.
Photos are showing well known scenes from history, which is not only the history of art, but the protagonists are replaced. The viewer immediately gets a tip on the ideas that are embedded in the scenes that he once saw, but at the same time it becomes clear to him that there is in each photo or on the particular scene something that he had never seen before.
We are talking about the beginning, which is not something trivial, but it is creative. That's why it is good to think again about how a human being can do anything new, why he makes something new and what are the effects of such creative action.
This is a serious endeavor, and it is not simply a routine exercise in the processing of images, a venture which is possible, because a human being has at his disposal three different options how to start something in life, how to change something, how to do something new. And we're not talking only about the artists, creative people who can create a new one, but we're talking about every single human being.
Photos made by Matej are also important because of this; on his photos we can see people that otherwise we see very rarely.
This recognition alone is already a good introduction to thinking, why has the photographer involved into the scenes protagonists who are representing handicap, although this does not mean that they are the only ones with a disability and that other people have nothing in common with the handicap. The essence is exactly in these tiny differences in ideas, which have made a series of photographs so extraordinary, as it comes from something universal, which is also so impressively depicted by the photographer.
So how do you start something, how do you start something new?
The issue is crucial for everyone and for every photographer as well. He always does something. It is not true that he merely passively flips and mimics reality in order to do nice photos that other people can admire. Photography is by nature a creation of something new and it is beyond the simple admiration or determination how good (or bad) photos are.
The first option. We give something a name. We give a name to something which is still without a name. And we can't start without language, without ideas, without words, which is probably uncontroversial.
The second option. It is associated with human thinking about God's desire. People were in all times asking themselves: Why would God as perfection create something that is obviously not perfect? The radical dimension of this question is that it also has a good answer. The fundamental experience of human being is an experience of something which is not himself. A man cannot exist and stand by himself, of his own accord; he necessarily needs another human being. Even God is not complete without the experience of negativity. We can thus start with zero and create new thinking, new opportunities for thinking.
The third option. If there is something available for us, we can transfer it into new multiplicity and thus create something new.
At the very beginning we therefore always make a difference. Creative action means creating a difference. The man, who does not create difference, is clearly not creative.
In today's digitally created world, this recognition plays a very important role. Namely, with a simple and pure difference we can create any digital image we want.
The images are certainly important. Matej's images of people with disabilities, people who find themselves in the old scenes, open up a new perspective in which we can think in a new way, not only on the nature of the handicap, but rather on the nature of ourselves, of our identities and existences.
We are not talking about classical determination of human identity or existence as final; quite the opposite.
We are talking about new visions, about new ideas of infinity and about human desire to infinity as well.
Matej so proceeds with thinking, with photographic thinking about the nature of human ontology. The pure difference, with which he deals, is namely one of the names for the handicap. Individuals with disabilities are not disabled, injured people, sick or otherwise affected people who lack something that other people possess. Far from it.
Handicap marks, on the body and soul of the people, the difference that is creative, but also directly intertwined with the human experience of emptiness, pure nothingness. Everyone recognized in the Matej's series of photos is marked with a handicap, but because of that fact he or she is nothing less than other human beings. She is immersed in the world by exploring it, as if she wants to say to us that the essence of existence is a power to exist and not the possible image of perfection by which today's consumers are obsessed.
Precisely this recognition is the focus of Matej's series Metamorphoses. The power of existence can be minimal or maximal as Alain Badiou would put it. It does not depend on the alleged human identity, because the opposite is true (identity is dependent on it), so there are no people with strong character, and there are people with a great power of existence.
Its basic condition is awareness of the world and that is the reason why on the Matej's photos each of the protagonists either explores or directly shows what it means to have the power of existence, what it means to wear it on the shoulders, what it means to be aware of it.
The repetition of this operation is not an easy job. It is a very hard job. The photographer is trying to do the job that was previously done by the painter. And he is not doing this, because one morning he had nothing better to do, but it is undertaken after careful consideration, after having processed the idea.
Matej succeeded in his repetition. He did it because he was creative; each repetition is not creative. In particular, it is important what is perhaps the key problem of the modern capitalist world: what is new has no price. The same can be said for the man's relationship to God, which cannot have a price and it cannot be something final.
Matej's photo series is derived from the human yearning for the infinite, for the creativity within the infinite, which knows no divisions on disabled and non-disabled people, rich and poor, the important and the unimportant. His venture is worthy of repetition because in the world of capitalism everything has a price, everything is determinable and finite. Such is the impression that is constantly growing while the protagonists of Matej's series stand out from such finite world and open themselves up to an infinite desire, to infinity itself, to desire for infinity which can have no price, as Badiou would say.
Maybe at the end of this short record we also need to say this. Openness to the infinite is not negotiable and Matej's heroes are inscribed in the tradition of those people who simply won't let you buy them and as such they represent the highest values of all human beings.
Anyone who is incorruptible is looking for something that has no price, and that is the attitude that is already itself outside of the capitalist world in which people are living under the impression that everything has a price and that it is possible to buy everything, including people.
Matej is not making photos to eternalize himself; he is making photos, which by their nature open perspectives, such as solidarity, equality, and mutual respect. His photos are finite, of course, but in them it is possible to identify the search for infinity. After all, only such a tendency can vary the finite world in which capitalistic logic that everything has a price and that everything is finite, prevails.