Interested in investigating the boundaries and relationships between fiction and reality, between the work of art and the public, and between “high ” and “low ” culture,, Christian Jankowski poses questions about the nature of the image and its creative processes. Educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg, he attempts in his art to go to the root of the mechanisms that govern contemporary visual communication.
The ability of film to create illusion and of television to manipulate reality constitute the theme around which many of his works revolve, whether in the form of video, performance, or installations. Beginning with a penetrating analysis of society and the mechanisms that lie at the origins of the art system, Jankowski aims for their reintegration into the contingent reality, involving the viewer through the use of everyday visual forms that are deposited in the collective imagination. The personalities that participate in his projects,
whether television psychics, aspiring actors or professional astrologers, casual passersby or moviegoers, always come from real life, from the urban cultural reality. And if art, as Jankowski states, is always transformation or manipulation, in its illusion and magic we can easily recognize two complementary aspects of his speculative investigation and content, which he has also developed in more recent works.
In the film work 16mm Mystery, 2004, the title alludes to the power of cinema as a dream factory capable of creating images with a strong evocative and destabilizing impact.
A man, the artist, walks silently along the streets of Los Angeles, holding a 16-millimeter projector and a screen.
Arriving at a parking lot at the top of a skyscraper, he positions the equipment so that the projection is turned toward the city skyline and not toward the viewer, and then he exits the scene. As soon as the film begins, we helplessly witness the mysterious explosion of a building on the horizon.
The source of inspiration for the structure of this scene in the film is a Baroque painting by Lucas Valdés (1661 –1725) entitled Retrato milagroso de San Francisco de Paula, in which the miracle that occurs at the passing of a painting during a religious procession can be perceived only in terms of its effects, since the image represented in the painting always remains hidden. For the technical production of this work, Jankowski relied on a team of Hollywood special effects experts, Greg and Colin Strause. Known for movies
such as Titanic and The Day After Tomorrow ,the Strause brothers —to whom the artist also entrusted the direction of the film, working from a concise screenplay —chose to create a scene with strong emotional content and full of mysterious suggestions. Using digital techniques, which have changed the nature of representation, the work generates a profound instability between what we perceive as natural and what
we view as artificial. The artist has granted complete free rein to the Strause brothers, at the same time reflecting on the passive role that these professionals play for large film productions. They offer their “version ” of the film and become the sole creators of the narration. Jankowski, who has always
been interested in an esthetic practice based on process related work ,watched the film only a few days before its official presentation, on the occasion of his solo exhibition in Berlin. He thus confirms that the most intimate sense of his art resides in the activation of a system of relationships that can arouse in the viewer a sense of amazement and a renewed interest in the way in which we perceive reality.