Hidden Landscapes

It is openly suggested in today's society that globalization is nothing else but a way to a system which surpasses limits defined by geopolitical boundaries. However, the beauty of such myth betrays even the most banal insignificant effect such as visuality. The unified form of utilitarian architectural design dominating the urban periphery – a mixture of metal, glass and concrete – practically symbolizes the creeping progression of transnational totalitarianism. Sobek lived a considerable amount of life in the communist Czechoslovakia. He knows well what a totalitarian regime and turning utopia into reality represent. That can also be a reason why a significant segment of his work is dedicated to the post-revolutionary situation while the gray life of a small Soviet satellite is vigorously shifting towards democracy.

Sobek's recent works reflect a social situation, which intensely searches for a new identity under the pressure of a market economy. Hidden Landscapes nearly appear to be a meditative series when seen in their context filled with unwordliness, criticism and slight irony. A landscape is controlled by formal abstraction and focus on strong dominants, which enhance the esthetic aspect of what is being portrayed. This is the reason why Sobek's photographs are filled with alien supertechnical objects and yet carry the atmosphere and melancholy of the 19th century Romantic paintings. Some of them even seem to refer to the dark poetics of surrealistic objects. It can be therefore surprising that their purpose is actually pragmatic. Sobek says without any sentiment: we live here and now, this is our living space. It's not perfect. It's not easy to be identified with but look, it has its beauty.

Marxist oriented aesthetics, which is still surprisingly staying dominant in the contemporary photographic discourse, considers the seen a false mask covering the true substance of things. The hidden factor which Sobek talks about is, nevertheless, of a different kind. He is not appealing for finding the hidden essence of a landscape. Rather, he critically approaches a landscape as a traditional artistic genre which forms our understanding of a landscape as real. The message of Hidden Landscapes is actually quite simple: Landscape is no longer a landscape, neither in reality nor in photography.

Jiří Pátek