Tadej Vaukman

          The question posed in the new programme of the culture channel artePhotos, Selfies and I”, which also featured the artistic practice of Tadej Vaukman, is a straightforward one: why do we take photos of ourselves? It is too simplistic and too naive to simply associate portraiture and self-portraiture with narcissistic impulses – portraiture, regardless of the person portrayed, is a genre (of art) that is several millennia old. It has had different reasons for its existence over time, but in any case, it is a practice as old as human creativity itself. Documenting the traces of the presence of one's own and other bodies, leaving irrefutable proof that one was here and thus an inherently thinking, walking human being with one's own agency, story and memories, is just one of the motivations that drive Vaukman to explore this specific form of self-expression.

          The GrandHeroes project is a continuation of Vaukman's organically evolving concept of documenting his most immediate, liveliest surroundings – people – over several years. It began with a contemporary coming-of-age story in the artist's book Dick Skinners 2015, in which, as the child of a shattered nuclear family, he photographed his newfound "family", his friends, amidst their most mundane, banal, undisguised existence. In his second photo book, GrandHeroes 2018, he captured moments with his second family, his grandmother and grandfather with whom he grew up and who take on an extremely important role in the unfolding narrative. The book documents the house in which the artist spent his formative years, while somehow also revealing the particularities of this specific family and the universality of the human experience.

          The latest in the series is the project that connects the narrative as a whole, both on the conceptual and the visual level. Who are the "grandheroes" of today? Him and the family he has created himself. Whether it is a revealing self-portrait of the artist in bed or, perhaps even more revealing, a soft and tender portrait of his son, it is precisely this anchoring of the image in time, capturing an absolutely fleeting moment, that helps Vaukman process things in a therapeutic way. It is a celebration of life and all its inevitability, even if unpleasant, pairings such as life and death, joy and sorrow, success and loss, and thus an attempt to get as close as possible to the real, the authentic, the normal. In the case of Vaukman's selfies, it is not about beautification, about a boost of the ego or self-aggrandisement, but about raw exposure. He is naked, so to speak, barefaced and shameless. Like in all art, the image is a means of achieving identity, of finding out who you are.

          These projects are also interconnected on a formal and visual level; the present display includes not only the artist's photography practice but also a series of drawings and collages made from pre-existing images, photographs, texts, catalogue pages, novels, manuals or other sources of previously used paper, which the artist intervenes in and reorganises in new artistic arrangements. The use of other media besides his primary one, i.e. photography, in his artistic process and consequently in his artworks does not entail major changes, as the essence of his expression always remains unchanged. Crucial and common to all is the quick, instinctive, spontaneous and often crude gesture with which he captures the unique, fleeting moment, whether through the lens or on paper. Certain visual cues run like a common thread through his work, such as the clover, the exposed bodies (Pyramid, for instance, showcased at Focus: NSK State in Time curated by Tevž Logar, but also stylistic choices such as saturated colours and flash photography.