Decentrism - Aleksander van Lavnik
  Man as the hidden dominant - Piotr Komorowski
                    In 1987 Adam Wi¶niewski Snerg, a writer, a theoretical physicist, a thinker formulates a text titled MY CONCEPT OF DECENTRISM – a Manifesto of significance for art. He does it independently, not tied to any artistic group, out of the need to enrich the message that an artistic piece carries along the line between an artist and the audience. Decentrism Manifesto does not appear as a programme declaration of an artistic group concentrated around the promoted idea but as a proclamation of one author expressing views and calling for the application of a concept considered as indispensable and characteristic for the more beautiful and deeper forms of a source/message.

Together with the creation of the term of Decentrism another term of Centrism, not operating before, appeared as a trend characteristic for artistic activity and based on complete presentation of a subject within an artistic piece. Decentrism is not a negation of Centrism in the complementary sense but by hiding the centre of meaning it focuses on the creation of multidimensional intuitive, philosophical and imaginary space and makes it the place of the principal meaning of an artistic creation.


                 While reading thoroughly the short text of the Manifesto it is not difficult to make interpretational mistakes not knowing the author’s keynote expressed frequently in the verbal form or revealed in his literary works. The proper interpretation of ambiguous terms used in the Manifesto is the key to discovering the essence of the simplest form of the intuitive message hidden/contained in a decentristic work. Thus, for example, the ambiguous term „postulate” should not be understood in its colloquial meaning (demand, wish) but in its logical meaning (axiom), because only such interpretation is consistent with the thought space of the author’ “A picture expresses the postulate (axiom) of Decentrism when the centre of the object presented is located somewhere close outside the framework of the artistic piece from which the object dominates over the shown environment”. Therefore such composition of the piece is a sufficient condition (using the language of the author) to consider the work as decentristic.  The “centre of the object” should be of course considered the focal point of the meaning of the object and not its geometrical centre. If the centre of an object is removed outside of the framework of the object leaving within the framework a clue to the object’s existence is sufficient to consider such work a decentristic one – because such an uncomplicated trick we surely introduce a “mystery”. The clue may be the created, compositional set of dynamic or symbolic nature. It should be noted that this does not limit the creator to utilise the possibility of hiding the “mystery” in the space within the framework. However, in this case the decentristic nature of the work of art is determined by the audience. This does not take away the possibility of creation of non-figurative images and it provides the possibility of existence of decentristic works of art in various spheres of art.


                   Why should the focal point of the meaning be considered „the centre of the object”? There are two possible interpretations of the word “centre” with reference to the object – one dependent on the language in which the author-physicist expressed himself/herself in a natural way or on the language used in the description of geometrical shapes and solids. In the first case the term of “centre” is most frequently used by people of science in the context of an object as the centre of mass/weight. The centre of mass is the point that replaces the whole object by ascribing to this central point the mass of the whole object. Such techniques are frequently applied conducting theoretical speculations about impact of matter. This subject was extremely close to the author of the Manifesto. The term of “the centre of the object” as the point that carries in itself basic information about the object adopts the nature of the focal point of the meaning of the object. The analysis of the second interpretation of the word “centre” existing in the term “the centre of the object” will lead us to absurdity. It is impossible to determine the centre of an irregular solid reflected on flat surface. The endeavour to determine a proximal centre of an object and speculation whether its slight displacement outside of the edge of the piece of art will suddenly reveal a hidden meaning is also pointless.


             It is not difficult to notice that making an apparently small mistake and colloquially understanding the term “postulate” (demand) used in the Manifesto would make the „displacement” of the focal point of the meaning of the object outside its framework not a sufficient but a necessary condition to consider a work of art decentristic one.  “A picture expresses the postulate (demand) of Decentrism when the centre of the object presented is located somewhere close outside the framework of the artistic piece”. Therefore it would be necessary to „displace” the focal point of the meaning of the object outside the framework enforcing compositional limitations and other formal techniques to consider the work of art as decentristic.  These operations would narrow down the intuitive freedom and its meaning and that would contradict the essence of Decentrism. This would also make it impossible the existence of decentristic works in many other spheres of art. This false path resulting from an erroneous understanding of the terms would surely lead to appearance of questions – How about the „mystery” hidden within the framework, e.g. in the depth of the image? What is framework? What is „the centre of the object”? What does it mean „to be close outside the framework”? etc. – would surely provoke many discussions and efforts to get outside of those limitations. Perhaps in the course of the speculations a new concept might come about referring to the thought of A. Wi¶niewski Snerg but by the very reference it would have to introduce descriptive principles of creation. Therefore it would never be so perfect as the brilliantly simple thought of the author of the Manifesto.


              The principal thought of Adam Wi¶niewski Snerg is the broadening of the dimension of the work of art by the mystery that can be comprehended in the path of intuitive perception and discovery in a philosophical sense. The introduction of a recognisable element that can be recognised only intuitively and that is metaphysically dominating makes the work of art more clear and understandable. With its revealed space that does not lose anything as regards its intellectual merits the work of art offers the discovery of its mystery while the multitude of interpretations does not boil down merely to internal experiencing of a hidden “mystery” but also to perceive the relationships between the revealed and the hidden sphere also in the semantic stratum. Provoked to be involved in an internal dialogue, the audience may “talk to” the piece of work using their own well known language. It is possible because the main content of the work – “the mystery” is being created and opens up directly in the minds of the audience and the audience themselves decide on the level of participation of the revealed content of the work in its complete interpretation.


             While it is possible to determine whether or not the work is perceived on the intuitive and metaphysical level it is impossible to outline the detailed formal border between the decentristic work of art and non-decentristic one when the work of art does not meet the previously mentioned sufficient condition. There are many pieces created in various spheres that exhaust the marks of decentrism. Were they created with decentristic idea in mind? It does not matter. Because the process of classification takes place exclusively while perceiving the work of art and with the relation to the work, in the sphere where the author does not interfere any more. Regardless of the directions/trends of the creation of works of art there has always been a division of works of art into good ones and bad ones. There is no reason why the determination whether a work of art is good or bad should take place in a manner that is different from before the creation of the term of Decentrism. One may speculate, however, that with reference to works of art considered as decentristic an additional criterion will be their ability to generate an interpretational space with metaphysical content.


               The effort to determine Decentrism and encapsulate it within the framework of structural forms and semantic requirements is doomed. Decentrism is not a trend in art that requires strictly determine framework for its existence but it requires unlimited space new to art where the tribute to the beauty and conscious act of creation are determined by hiding the semantic centre and the need of the existence of multidimensional intuitive, philosophical and imaginary space. The connection between a work of art and each process of interpretation based on intuition may finish directly after the initiation of the process. Decentrism is a term in art that is much wider that a trend and it may be considered highly probable that artistic endeavours on the foundations of Decentrism will bring about new directions using the essence of hidden “mystery” as its keynote. It aspires to an expected breakthrough within art and is a totally novel phenomenon leading to the rebirth of traditional values of art and the bringing back of the axiomatic objectivism. Therefore it is even more positive that the phenomenon that germinated in Poland has been dynamically expanding all over the world, at present gathering the crowd of artists from eighteen countries.


             The concept of A. Wi¶niewski Snerg was written down on a single sheet of paper. He was also the first one to use the term Decentrism giving it its meaning. Therefore the Manifesto is the first decentristic work of art.  Perhaps, in accordance with the simplest suggestion, its mystery is hidden outside of the edges of the sheet of paper. Perhaps with its content it suggests the place where to look for the mystery. One would like to say – those who reveal the secret of the Manifesto will find it in their works of art. However, no work of art, as well as the Manifesto, should be distorted to grasp its fuller content.


(I am expressing my thanks to the forerunner of the movement, Marek Ruff for the participation in many hours of discussions on Decentrism and for the series of remarks throwing light on the person of its author – Adam Wi¶niewski Snerg).


Aleksander van Lavnik



  Decentrism is an artistic phenomenon gathering creators, their works and the whole nonmaterial space of thought, intentions and perceptions resulting from them. 


  Decentrism is characterised by a conscious act of creation determined by the need to exist with the participation of the work of art, multidimensional intuitive, philosophical and imaginary space.


  Decentrists in their artistic activity are guided by the sense of beauty and aesthetics. 


  A decentristic work of art is a material object that is a result of completed artistic creation inspiring with its visually revealed content to intuitive search of ambiguous interpretation.


  Decentrism covers various field of art in an equal manner. 


  The only criterion to consider a piece of work as decentristic one is whet it possesses a hidden semantic centre and whet it is able to generate an interpretational space with metaphysical content


  Each picture in which its creator through the composition managed to “displace” the semantic centre outside of the framework of the picture is unconditionally Decentrism. In such way the creator managed to hide explicitly the essence of the work of art fostering its intuitive discovery. 


  Works that are characterised by unanimity of interpretation are not Decentrism. 


  A decentristic piece, through its ambiguity, inspires to and interpretational act, to learn in the way of intuitive perception and to discovery in its philosophical sense. 


  Decentrism does not introduce any formal orders and prohibitions. It is an artistic phenomenon subject to constant process of development. 


  Decentrism aspires to an expected breakthrough within art and is a totally novel phenomenon leading to the rebirth of traditional values of art and the bringing back of the axiomatic objectivism. 
  Man as the hidden dominant
  A widespread opinion has developed that artistic concepts pursuing specific, precisely defined ideologies, associated in most cases with the principle of group activity, are a thing of the past. This has created room for actions that are atomized, free, unconstrained, at times important and valuable, at other times rather impish, offering a message focused on… no message, intentional lack of values, or grandly manifesting diverse critical and columnist views of the shape of the social reality around us. It is hard to valuate the attitudes which are, after all, determined by the course of history. Nonetheless, it has often happened that on the outskirts of fashionable currents and predominant ideologies, movements were born which, by their nature, were focused on a search for references to their own subjectivity, even at the risk of rejection by the audience, dominated by the prevailing esthetic paradigm.

The idea of decentrism has inspired a discussion of a group of artists affiliated around the MCK Gallery of Photography in Ostrowiec ¦więtokrzyski, during which it turned out that this notion can be successfully treated as a starting point for describing peripheral reality, devoid of straightforward definition, but very principled in its existential tenor. This formula seemed promising and attractive enough for the artists grouped together around it to take broader action which has brought about an exhibition and an accompanying album. In the case of such a difficult task as creation of a coherent body of photographic work composed of a number of individual attitudes, it was recommendable, however, to find common ground which would not only describe the sense of the activity but also structure its reception.

The idea of a search for the human presence in the form of the hidden dominant seemed an attractive formula, unifying the collective effort of a number of artists. On the other hand, man is, after all, the overriding theme of world photography and a lot of photographic works are oblique, mysterious and hence, by their nature, refer to the way of seeing postulated by decentrism. Even the manifesto-based “photography of man without man” has already been pursued by many photographers. What does, then, distinguish this proposition? I think that the a priori intentional nature of the activity, involving a combination of the method (decentrist assumptions) with a very personal, intuitive reflection and very conscious reference to the predecessors’ attitudes. Maybe the time has come indeed, in the face of the turmoil of noisily manifested artistic “egos” to turn to what cannot be seen, to what is hidden and does not impose its presence on us. Such essentially personalistic approach to mundane, trivial, often peripheral dimensions of existence may resound in deep humanism, touching upon the mystery of the individual being. In this case, the hidden dominant will be the intermediation of cultural premises built upon the apparent banality of daily life.

The adopted area of activity has turned out in practice to be attractive and most potent. It offered the possibility of diversified statements – from exhaustive, realistic, documentary or para-documentary ones to staged photography. It should be emphasized that the principle driving the authors of the works presented in the album was not interpretation of the concept of decentrism in terms of formal instruction associated with the only right composition of the picture, but a dynamic formula, accentuating the context, understatement and mystery. Aleksander van Lavnik writes:

Obviously, cropping as the only technique of obtaining a decentrist work is too limited, for it primarily makes it possible to work on the notional layer, neglecting deeper messages. Similar actions, involving only composition cuts, taken in painting disappear because of too slim effects in comparison with the growing feeling of the essence of the deep messages that can be communicated. Such condition has also followed from a too literal understanding of Adam Wi¶niewski Snerg’s “Manifesto”.

Remaining in the decentrist spirit, one can successfully realize significant photographic projects. Perhaps this project will become a hotbed of a meaningful group action.


Piotr Komorowski
November 2009