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Robert Clark

Following Apollo: Heinz Cibulka


on: Kompost-Aktion, Long Beach, CA, 2007

i first saw cibulka in a photo published in art international in the early 1970’s. never before that time had I seen such a powerful image in print: cibulka on the the cross. the lighting, shadows and angle literally changed my life. it was an image to illustrate an article on nitsch’s theater, yet for me it was the image that stuck in my mind concretely. it was his body, the facial expression, that attracted me so much.

the perfection of the body, the almost grecian proportions to the torso, the proportion in relation to the cross, tore my heart. and it changed my life as here I am at 50, still linked to the work as the only thing in my life I care about absolutely.

since that original induction into cibulka’s work as a model, I had also discovered the schwartzkogler modeling, which to me is the most important, as it’s sheer horror and links to electricity acted as a precursor to what in our period is an icon for fashion, never predicted in the 60’s. yet totally current now. the copper wire and bandages are an archetype beyond the legal problems in vienna at the time they were done; the wire is a link from the war years to the war years of our time; the bombings of 1944 are linked to the laser attacks of 2006 and the gauze wrapping is the consequence of the fallen in a war that has no purpose.

I don’t wish to stress cibulka’s work as a model, only because his true work emerged in photography, and to my mind, the work he has produced since the 70’s has proven itself to be the most important and cutting work realized in Europe to date.

cibulka’s revolution of quading his images, in a sort of tribute to grunwald, changed the concept of foto presentation worldwide. the mundane selection of subjects, the local subject matter shot in a manner which highlighted that which in a normal sense would be ignored. it created a new gateway to factical life where, as with van gogh, the simple becomes glorified.

only cibulka could shoot a couple on a tractor enjoying a glass of wine and turn it into art. making life an artform, the aesthetic of simple acts lit by the sun in only a way cibulka can achieve, has revolutionized the very act of taking a picture. certainly, it destroyed my concept of photography, my way of taking a picture. and I have never recovered, even after 14 years of trying.

a photo is an extension of a fingertip. much as Heidegger authenticated tools as being-in-the-world, the photo establishes a mirror of a moment reflected back at the viewer. but it is not a moment frozen in time, simply because its chemicals fade over time and discolor, aging much as humans do. photos are razors that cut a moment then fade away, mainly for chemical reasons, that force us back to a moment, but a distorted moment at that. brilliant in its inception yet weakened by its own failures, photos ultimately deceive the viewer as a representation of reality, yet reality is never static. in cibulka, there is always the suggestion of something we are about to lose; never is there an attempt to hold on to a moment or a period that has past.

what happens when one looks at a photo? the colors are wrong, the lighting is false, and it is flat, flat to the point of being nothing but paper and chemicals. clement Greenburg argued that modern art was paint and surface; I argue the same about the photo. chemicals and paper.

cibulka destroys all these rules by creating images you want to cuddle, caress. this is not to say that his work is provincial; on the contrary, his provincial subject matter is more like Vermeer. you want to hug it because it touches the soul so deeply. many times I’ve asked myself why cibulka avoids portraits as he does. the answer is that the world, for him, is a portrait; he attempts to include everything in the frame of his leica. because he knows precisely that his medium is chemicals and paper. he must include everything. look at his nitsch action photos if my point isn’t clear.

as his career has progressed, cibulka has moved beyond his geographical roots to a look at the world itself. new countries, new subject matter. he has also embraced the breakthroughs in digital photography in order to move even closer to his original roots: make the foreign local. his korea series is an example. the images are clearly of the area and culture, yet they retain the cibulka touch of a familiarity and, simply said, something we know personally. cibulka is the only photographer I am familiar with that is always able to make his images personal and individually relevant to the viewer.

cibulka is a true apollonian. there is a blueness to his work, a cold steel hue to the images he creates. nitsch alluded to this years ago and I agree. and, there is a definite heroic quality to the work; it makes the work more than a mere photograph. I truly believe cibulka could have chosen any area of the arts and succeeded, simply because his spirit is so geared to presenting. he wields the hammer in a certain way, his gift for banging away at a subject. but he doesn’t force it down your throat; he entices the viewer with his totally unique viewpoint. what he sees in the viewfinder is truly unique. he is a blessing to his art, much as diane arbus was. he is an art hero to his family, his community and his country.

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