Jaka Babnik: Exercises in Style


13 September – 8 October 2021



Photo: Jaka Babnik


In his recent series Exercises in Style Jaka Babnik focuses on some of the most fundamental questions about the creation of photographic and/or art works. In a manner of stylistic exercises, he explores transformative tools and unwritten criteria that enable, and constitute, a so-called quality photograph or work of art, both from the point of view of its technical and formal execution, and in terms of choice of subject matter and its intended purpose. He is interested in images that are, given one’s trained cultural and aesthetic codes, visually attractive and formally faultless; however, on their own, these images may not convey anything in particular.

In a way, the series of photographs is a result of exercises in knowledge of art theory that is an indispensable tool for creative work in the wider field of visual culture. At the same time, art theory is the foundation to determine rules, patterns and formulas that artists and creators, whether they like it or not, have to follow because they have been proven effective. Therefore, Babnik undertakes an artistic research project in which he primarily turns to himself and his own visual perception. Thereby he establishes the discourse about the ontology of photography and visual culture, as well as contemplating knowledge, experience, cultivated aesthetic, symbols and (pre)memory that determine each individual and his or her way of consuming images. He also turns to (self)irony and humour, as he is well aware that he cannot, however much he tries, be exempt from his cultivated cultural codes that deeply affect his work, be it artistic creation or commercial projects.

With a great deal of self-reflection, Babnik’s series poses some of the fundamental questions about photography and visual culture, such as: What constitutes a good and effective photograph? What are the norms, conventions and formulas in visual culture? How can one trace the phenomena of so-called “learned predictability” in the everyday experience? Are most of the social norms completely predictable, to the point that one can expect the outcome based on previous intimate or collective historical experience and knowledge? The artist takes this assumption beyond photography and the photographic medium and he, just as with the newspaper Photographs for Illustration Purposes Only (2020), again turns to publishing a printed media, using its form and structure to check the thesis about “learned predictability” with the help of contributors from different fields. The next issue is going to be published in December of 2021.

The curator of the exhibition is Miha Colner.

This post is also available in: Croatian