NOT TO BE YOU (Extract)
Krzysztof Ciezkowski
Not to be you is distance and space, surface and feature. Not to be you is silence and inertness, stillness and balance. Not to be you is planes and shadows, tones and textures. Not to be you is otherness and difference, separation and isolation. Not to be you is measurable and tangible, objective and rational. Not to be you is realistic and logical, mature and sensible. Not to be you is fragmented and unconnected, alienated and tractable. Not to be you is little and slight, frail and fragile. Not to be you is slow and dull, lifeless and remote. Not to be you is sure and secure, safe and steady. Not to be you is one and alone, single and lonely. Not to be you is weak and vulnerable, afraid and suspicious. Not to be you is to be unrelated to anything or anybody other than myself. But is this really your concern?

To be you is contact and touch, closeness and identity. To be you is warmth and vitality, movement and motion. To be you is flesh and skin, eyes and mouth. To be you is variety and diversity, unity and empathy. To be you is limitless and mutable, subjective and emotional. To be you is hopeful and aspiring, youthful and imaginative. To be you is flowing and interacting, connected and assured. To be you is great and substantial, strong and firm. To be you is quick and bright, alive and near. To be you is open and striving, feeling and searching. To be you is many and together, plural and supporting. To be you is powerful and ready, confident and interested. To be you is to be in connection and communion with the surrounding world. But does this bring me any closer to you?

Not to be you suggests alternative identities. Not to be you is to imply something more than is given. Not to be you is to subvert the image that is there before me, to suggest that it may be rather more and rather less than I imagined. Not to be you is to place the words and the image in an uneasy antithesis. Not to be you is a sequence of words which, seen again and again, and often faintly begin to lose all trace of meaning. Not to be you is a phrase whose words begin to run into one another and mutate into one word, a neologism with suggestions of both Italy and the Deep South. Not to be you is a phrase incomplete in itself, words which presuppose a conclusion, a resolution of some sort, which is up to the viewer to provide. Not to be you is addressed directly to the viewer, or perhaps not. Not to be you is perhaps a comment on the image it accompanies, or perhaps the phrase which generates the image, or perhaps a phrase which brings a unity to a sequence of images already in existence. But does my attempt to understand this really amount to anything?

To be you would be different. To be you would be more complete, more coherent, more of a statement identifying image with text. To be you would be invested with less ambiguity, less diversity of meaning, and at the same time would be less rich in the range of its suggestions. To be you would constitute a more direct statement to the viewer, and a more assured account of the image. To be you is altogether simpler, less demanding, less of a challenge to the perceptions. To be you would probably invite a straightforward response of assent or denial, and nothing more, no uncertainty or ambiguity. To be you would probably be an overstatement, and would make unjustified and unjustifiable assumptions. To be you is to assume an altogether different approach on the part of the viewer. To be you wouldn’t really say all that much about anything. But would you still want to say it?

Not to be you is just letters on a canvas. Not to be you is repeated again and again and must therefore be of some significance. Not to be you is physically separated from the image of the face, and is therefore distanced from it in some conceptual manner. Not to be you is sometimes so faint that you have to peer closely at the canvas to see that it is there at all, and this brings you into more immediate contact with the image, it annexes the viewer’s memories and expectations and associations, and establishes an uneasy relationship between these and the image itself. Not to be you is surely meant to nag at one’s imagination, to raise questions while denying anything in the way of an answer or a resolution. Not to be you is repetitive and resonant, ambiguous and incomplete. Not to be you is perhaps unnecessary and redundant, obscure and inadequate. Not to be you is where the meaning finally rests and resides. But is that how you intended it?

To be me is the final point of departure. To be me is to bring to the gallery a carapace of preconceptions and expectations, and to anticipate the fact of the confrontations with the works on the wall. To be me is to see and experience these things in the only way that I know, and the only way that I can imagine. To be me is to bring my integrity in contact and juxtaposition with the works in the gallery. To be me is to attempt some kind of relationship between two sensibilities. To be me is to meditate for a while on the images in the gallery and to assume a passivity towards them. To be me is to allow that the images may say nothing to me at all, or that they may come against a resistance on my part, which deprives them of any eloquence or effect. To be me is to maintain a silence and a stillness into which the images on the wall may perhaps begin to intrude. To be me is to accept the diversity, contingency and congruence of all these strategies and all these ways of interpreting my position in relation to the images. To be me is to admit that I may be disappointed, or may be puzzled, or may be in some way enriched by virtue of my looking at these images. To be me is to be the only self that I know, the only self that I have. To be me is to be nobody other than myself. To be me is not to be you.

Copyright © Krzysztof Z. Cieszkowski 1989 All Rights Reserved