May 4 – Jul 7, 2007
Galerie Deschler, Berlin DE
In his series Tai Chi Motion Studies, the American artist Jay Mark Johnson (born 1955) presents photographs of movement. In a process developed by the artist himself, he employs a specially modified camera. While the images retain a spatial dimension in their vertical axis, the horizontal axis is dedicated to a depiction of the passage of time. The camera thus produces an image flowing evenly from left to right. Although the picture is created digitally, it is not digitally manipulated. Rather it is a true indexical recording of a concrete movement.
Johnson does not direct the depicted actors, dancers, martial arts performers et al., but allows them to chose movements from within their own disciplines. In the case of the Tai Chi Motion Studies, the form of the depiction is particularly suited to its content, for the practitioners of this graceful physical training maintain that their movements are not caused by isolated muscle impulses, but by the life energy (Qi) flowing through every human body. Physical body, spirit and breath form a profound natural unity. Johnson’s photographs become a series of “action paintings” revealing the progressive patterns of the gestures themselves. The hybrid combination of spatial and temporal dimensions creates images that seem both strange and familiar. They not only pique our curiosity but also question our normal mechanisms of perception. Although Johnson’s images allude to art historical precursors – above all the chronophotographic studies of movement of the late 19th century (Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne Jules Marey, Albert Londe et al.), as well as the works of Italian Futurism – he goes beyond these in methodology.