Anita Witek, Unforeseeable Occurrences
Solo exhibition, Lentos Art Museum Linz, Austria
curated by Hemma Schmutz
27 January to 16 April 2023
Unforeseeable Occurrences is a photograhic series that Anita Witek started in 2020. Beginning from a zeitgeist of isolation and confused truths, each work conveys an idiosyncratic and abstract version of this moment, while shifting between personal and collective associations.
The artist’s starting point was archival copies of PM Magazine from the 1980s, a German popular publication that centres on questions and debates around science and technology. The retro editions contain speculations about tomorrow’s world, a series of future visions that oscillate between fictional pseudoscience and at times accurate depictions of what is to come. The blurring of fact and fiction embedded within the pages that Witek was holding decades later, engendered for the artist a mode of speculation that is not that far away from the ways in which information is generated in our contemporary moment.
In 2022 Witek began to expand the series’s framework, introducing colour, as well as analogue photography captured outdoors in the garden of her studio, plus fragments from a wider selection of newspapers that span a multiplicity of genres and time periods. The series has become an ongoing exercise, practice or meditation on the inevitability of randomness and chance within how we perceive our everyday surroundings.
Grounding each of the works are the titles themselves, which are taken from a cumulative list that Witek has built over time. Rather than operating as visual descriptors, the titles are potential prompts or inroads into the image, allowing for new tensions and meanings to arise. In this sense, each work becomes a speculative exercise, blending the ‘truth’ of the original image with the fictive narratives that can be deciphered within its abstract rendition.
And yet in spite of the sensorial quality that Witek’s photographs conjure, there is also something mechanistic about her approach. This is perhaps related to her interest in algorithms and artificial intelligence, such as when a machine might summon a set of images in response to a particular piece of text. These associative movements are, of course, frequently used for commercial interests through the ads that pop up on our Instagram feed, or suggestions for further purchases that we are offered relentlessly online. Each of us is therefore defined by a network of algorithmic relationships that is personalised and coercive, and several titles in Unforeseeable Occurrences seem to nod to this rampant capitalisation of our thoughts, memories and desires (Vegan Recipe Developer, The Vibrational Match, The drug of choice etc.)
(Fragments from an essay by Joseph Constable, Anita Witek: Unforeseeable Occurrences)