Serbian photographer Luka Klikovac’s series Demersal, named after the freaky deep ocean zone, has been making a splash on the internet. Phallic associations aside, the images are mysteriously beautiful, distinctly otherworldly, unnervingly sinister and thoroughly unique. In the run up to the release of his second series, we chat to Luka about the nature of experimentation, why the word abstract carries inverted commas and the limitless possibility of his new aesthetic.
Your use of digital photography is highly experimental. Did you have formal training or is it something you have taught yourself?
I have always liked experimenting. Although I will graduate from the Faculty of Applied Arts in a few months, I didn’t have any sort of formal training or guidance for this kind of photography. I believe that the experimental process should be personal, in order to be as original as it can possibly be. In my opinion the best and most useful processes are ones that we conduct from inception to completion, alone, without the influence or obstruction of other peoples’ experience which can easily limit and reduce our abilities.
I am the kind of person that likes to solve problems, get things perfected and upgraded. The moment I finish it, it is in the past, and I work on new ideas. Demersal didn’t quite fit that routine – I soon realized that this experiment provided me with unlimited possibilities, and would be impossible to finish.
Many other photographers have used coloured fluid to create unusual aesthetics - such as long exposure drip photos. Demersal, however looks pretty unique. What are you doing differently?
I got the idea for Demersal by chance, while mixing paint solution for covering my studio backdrop. I knew if I approached the phenomena seriously I would acquire good results. Light and shadows were constantly on my mind – distance, hardness, intensity, direction and the entire effect of these completely new forms. Everything that occurred in front of my camera was tiny, quite sensitive and of a short existence, so a series of necessary measurements were required immediately before shooting.
I dedicated much attention and time to this shooting and tried to make all the factors perfect, which is very hard in experiments like these, but also extremely important. Observational studies of fluid dynamics had a great role in carrying out this series.
Sometimes I would spend several days experimenting with different fluids and mixtures trying different temperatures and speed of movement without taking a single shot, only observing and noticing certain laws of physics. After this I was able to create more complex and interesting scenes.
The images end up looking very organic and alive as well as outlandish and alien. Did you have an aesthetic in mind with the series and each individual work and how much control do you have over the end product's aesthetic?
Different associations may appear. I imagined Demersal as something organic and alive, and yet something that receives only a small amount of light. One of the deepest sea levels inspired the title of the exhibition. Although fluid dynamics are unpredictable, over timeI could control the final outcome much more closely.
Some situations were of course completely coincidental and unrepeatable and therefore even more unique and precious. This experiment was an interesting symbiosis – I was trying to get to know fluids and the effects that they produce, and in return, they constantly surprised and amazed me with their unexpected motion.
We read that you hoped the images would be compared to the Rorschach ink test. Intriguing - tell us more about this connection.
Although the Rorschach test is done under different conditions with different goals, I couldn’t help but notice connections. When I showed some of my early experimental works to my family and friends I was fascinated with the number and variety of associations they had. Observing what individuals saw in my photos, I got deeper insight into a person’s condition, tendencies, and fears. I was interested in human perception and my ability for interpretation. The fact that my photos can evoke different emotions or inspire someone is priceless to me.
There is one commonly used phrase among photographers: "I use photography to express my feelings". I did something quite different with this experiment. I presented my photos to the viewer, unconditionally and without any denotations, giving him the ability to express his feelings and visions freely, without boundaries. I believe that ‘abstract’ photography is ideal for this manner of communication.
Finally, you will be releasing another series on May 4th which you claim will have even better results (see two teaser images below). How have you managed to build on Demersal and what does the new series look like?
Yes, the new series is called AlterActio and it will be released on May 4th on the opening day of my exhibition in Belgrade City Library. The name AlterActio is a compound of two Latin words, and it depicts alternative reality in some broad sense. It actually represents a part of our, real world, but it crosses the limits of reality and - with the imagination of the viewer - it takes on completely new form and potential.
The photos from the new series are more complex and therefore more interesting to me. Although they represent further development of the same experiment, aesthetically they are different. I tried to create a calm and obscure atmosphere of astral vastness, this time inspired by the universe and its phenomenon.
Luka Klikovac's AlterActio series will be on display at Belgrade City Library but you can check it out here.