We’ve never been to these places and even if we have, we are not going to remember them. Actually, these places don’t even exist. They were brought into being by Maciek Stepinski as two-dimensional photograph spaces ; they have just come into existence as pictures of places. The works coming from a number of different photo series form a new combination the artist called "Backstage": city and industrial landscapes, scenography behind the wings where no spectacle is staged.
Closed garages guard an empty wall at both sides. A tin warehouse at the side of a highway, a block of unmarked containers, a shed with encouraging open doors where only darkness creeps. Equally dark is the side of the highway pictured in the nocturne made in outstandingly warm colours. The bays of an unfamiliar bridge, stairs leading nowhere – their expressive form is a far cry of Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. Concrete, asphalt, corrugated iron, surfaces covered with industrial paint, stairs, bridges and passages, some of which are open and lead nowhere whilst others are closed for good. Places pictured by Maciek Stepinski are real and desperately banal, yet at the same time incredible. They don’t look like real places, they look like scenography. Stepinski’s spaces are perfectly desolate. There is no one there and nothing happens.
The stagnation says that the spectacle, if takes place at all, is staged somewhere else. Scenographies we are staring at are at the backstage. This is the backstage of the modernity, where no illusion is needed any more: concrete modernism introduces the reign of geometry. Industrial objects, warehouses, garages and highways demonstrate rationalism deprived of sentiments. Beauty appears incidentally as a by-product of the activity of the reason bringing order. Trying to classify Maciek Stepinski’s photographs one could speak of a landscape but the truth is that his landscape has nothing to do with nature. It is an organized landscape, so it is intentional. The paradox about Stepinski’s project is that we don’t know this intention. There is just a thin line between rational order and mysterious chaos. We don’t know where we are. Places pictured by the artist are so ideally anonymous that we may doubt their existence. The following trace makes one think that places one looks at are not real but staged. What are the photographs then? Re-staging?
Stepinski in his N-113 series invoked images that could have been shots from a road film. The following photo series prove that the photographer reaches the end of his journey – it is the city landscape all ways today lead to. Classical, almost mathematically structured compositions of Stepinski are photographic paradoxes, pictures showing things that cannot be seen there. These photos can be defined by the lack of action, information and motion. Time doesn’t pass. Stepinski’s video works combined with photographs also deal with this lack of time. Videos are looped into short sequences – they aren’t film narratives but moving rhythmic images. Anonymity of Stepinski’s landscapes is so powerful that it turns to identity. Staged boredom provokes to intensify concentration, makes one search a punctum in an illusory emptiness and becomes anxiety. Everything seems meaningful, every detail becomes a potential sign, an omen. If we’re at the backstage, so what is this spectacle, taking place at the invisible, un-pictured stage? Is it modernity? A city? A thriller?
Stach Szablowski / curator /
Center for Contemporary art , CSW Ujazdowski Castle / 2008