It would be only logical if the text written by Mark’s friends were to sing high praises of him as a phenomenon and draw attention to his exhibition. But it seems that this would be difficult and useless, almost impossible to do. One should rather try, as quietly as possible and not in any way intrudingly, to map and put into words the anguishing, even frightening image via which Mark presents himself. These pictures shout for themselves.
Level I (personal level)
Through pictures, a viewer gets a feeling of the border situation of existence. A fashion photographer, a poser, a model – Mark has realised his personality as an artist in a glamorously neurotic torment of perfectionism which almost reaches a painfully exact or quasi-religious level of devotion. His photographs appeared as a projection of an angelic artistic ego in the communication whirl where everything is transparent, where the public obscenity excites, but only moderately. The artist was a model who changed postures which offered satisfaction: “Did you like it?”
The creative crisis that Mark experienced last winter could be described as an acute perception of his difference and his unrelenting nature, his inability to fit in, in the current social structures. The tensions that broke the framework of the self, transformed into an act of aggression against himself. The result was the deliberate and systematic destruction of the most beautiful parts of the body – hands and face.
The later reviving of the crisis in his series of photos attempted to channel this neurotic state into art. Mark created a type to portray himself – by exhibiting the stigmas of self-destruction. In the ‘crisis theatre’ gestures shown in the photographs, we see auto-eroticism and hopelessness. This is a show of sexual splitting and a dislocated self-consciousness. For an artist these pictures were an attempt, while leaving the border situation, to reconstruct himself anew.
In order to get the self-image into focus again, Mark had to awaken the model in himself and distance himself from his image as a photographer. Simultaneously, the appropriate expressions and postures for a model were awakened as well, the exhibited nakedness excluded the dictate of the fashion photographs’ canons. An inner dialogue between the two extremes, the artist and the model, began. The model screamed into the camera lens, at the photographer who was carrying out the humble ritual of recording : “This is what you look like!”
The exhibitionism occurs here on several levels: it is a self-assurance for his artistic ego and a flirtation with his own tragic self – the gloved hand on the exhibition invitation conceals and exhibits it. Mark offers his gloves as trend fetishes. And we are back where we started; the author strikes a pose and asks: “Did you like it?”
Level II (social level)
Every nude photograph presented to the public is automatically projected into the environment of the representation policy of sexuality. At the inserting of a nude as an artistic image into media space, there is an immediate commencement of the round table disputes about the rights of portraying the body. It is not impossible that in connection with this exhibition, an antagonism between the artistic portrayal of the body and the public opinion which rejects the sexuality of the image, will be strongly in evidence. The exhibition starts a happening, and only then does the author become aware of the vulnerability of his posture and art. This will hopefully not be too painful a process for him, because exposing oneself is not meant as an act of masochist heroism or of showing off.
Ideologically men had and have a reluctance to self-portrayal, for this may reveal their imperfectness or some details which seem to diminish their power. For many, nakedness is humiliating and intimidating (–). For some this satisfies their need for exposure (E. Cooper). To remain clothed means to stay in safety, to keep the anonymous shields of social agreement around yourself. In the city culture, clothes are means of concealment which are in the service of position and the power of the self. Mark as a fashion photographer has no doubt already learned that, and he therefore places himself in such a vulnerable situation with full knowledge of the facts.
The presentation of male nudity in Estonian mannerist photographic art has so far been pronouncedly hedonistic, problem-free and operatic. The exhibition’s title in the Italian language, Io, refers to Mark’s connection with the mannerist trend; the sarcasm of the pictures opposes its naivety. Mark moves from aestheticism focused on a glamorous feast for the eyes towards body art which deals with problems of existence. The radical nature of these pictures may be characterised by a quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus”, 6.421: “Aesthetics and ethics are one.”