More Than Photography

2017. február 15. (szerda)

More Than Photography

Belonging(s) exhibition brings together Polish artist Anna Orłowska and Hungarian artist Peter Puklus. Even though project is an integral part of Budapest Photo Festival, presented works use photography just as a starting point for non-linear narration based on mixed media objects. It creates a space for experiment and wide research, crucial in case of the main theme of this exhibition – exploration of certain contemporary East-Central European identities.

Patrycja Rup: In your works you create kind of ‘missing representations’. You tend to deconstruct famous historical narrations and question the old order by remixing its popular elements with your fresh findings and newly created artifacts. What was the impulse for your works devoted to identity matters?

Peter Puklus: Family and related personal values are important both in my private and professional thinking. I was raised by a loving mother and father who trusted me and let me arrange my life in my own way (even though we had difficult times too). In my practice I always try to discuss and question very abstract theories (such as ‘time’ or ‘space’) these complexities are rooted in a very simple and personal base, including identity – which is broad and complex term, again. The title and the topic of my first book One and a half meter (published in 2012 by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany) tends to describe the size of the circle around you, the length of an arm, the size of the personal space and the faces of the people you let into this circle. In my most recent book The Epic Love Story of a Warrior (published in 2016 by SPBH Editions, London, UK) I look at the story of an imaginary family from Central Europe during twentieth century – basically the combination of my wife’s family and mine.

Anna Orłowska: I like to focus on little stories, some overseen details, silenced narratives, which are related to analyzed history, but at the same time remain unimportant. It helps me to avoid generalizations. While I untangle these stories and I’m in this process, they make me wonder and rethink these issues – then I know I want to pass it on to the viewer. I didn’t plan to deal with the complex past of Silesia region (Silesia was mostly German before WWII), but ones I was invited to do so for 2 different exhibition last year I realized that I actually have something to say in that matter, because I grew up in this region and I know the case very well from my own experience.

PR: Do you plan to continue your identity-related projects in the future?

AO: I would certainly like to do more works related to Silesia region and complicated relation between Silesians and their German past. I titled one of the works I am showing – Erotic to address this ambiguous attitude. German past appears both traumatic and sexy. Sexy like Nazi SS uniforms, perfectly designed and tailored by Hugo Boss or hyper fast train, which in 1939 covered a distance Berlin-Katowice in less time than today. Where I grew up older people shared with youngsters the kind of nostalgia, which carries an image of well organized, more comfortable reality. Nowadays this nostalgia manifests itself in the common dream to start a new (better) life in Germany, supported by excellent social benefits and quite high minimum wage.

PP: I am currently working on a new and yet unpublished series entitled The Hero Mother – How to build a house, which questions the usually misrepresented roles of men and women in today’s societies. Stay tuned…

PR: Which series of your works you find most significant in your artistic career, is there a specific work which you would name crucial?

AO: Last year I started to experiment with combining photographs with paraffin wax. For my work called Effortless exercise (also at the show) I created an object where photographic image is placed under constantly reshaping layer of wax. Paraffin changes its transparency and structure which results in pretty amazing, very sensual effect. This work has shown me a direction I think I would like to follow. It let me overcome flatness of photography, but in a very subtle, analogue way.

PP: I would probably point at Handbook to the Stars and the book with the same title (published in 2011 by Stokovec, Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia). And especially the book-installation of this project which was exhibited in numerous galleries, festivals and museums, including FOAM, Amsterdam; C/O Berlin, Berlin and Raster Gallery, Warsaw.

PR: Photography seems to be just a starting point for more complex projects, how do you perceive the role of photography at this stage of your career, can you refer how your approach to this medium changed over years?

PP: I studied photography / visual communication design at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, Hungary, where I graduated in 2005. My final degree work was the basis of One and a half meter. Soon later, I continued my studies in Paris at Ecole National Supérieur de Création Industrielle, where I was studying at Masters of New Media – this is where all the idea of looking beyond the photographic image started. I experimented with video, drawings, interaction, etc. Then I realized that I’m not interested in the term ‘photographer’ anymore, since it didn’t describe me and things I used to do at that time. Recently photography certainly has an important role in my practice, but it constantly shifts into a multi-layered manifestation.

AO: I used to appreciate photography for its minimalism, which I understood like this: no matter how much work, resources and preparations you put in building the scene you plan to capture - the final result is simply always sheet of paper. I found it fascinating because sometimes the amount of work put in preparation could be enormous, but you don't burden viewers, you just show them the simplest object I can imagine – piece of paper. But the very same thing started to irritate me later about it and I started to see it from the different angle: no matter how much work I put in making this image I end up with the same rectangle on the wall and people don't care much, because as an object it is exactly like all the other photographs, and since most people can`t read images they only see this unified objects. I felt both bored and curious what else I could possible do, keeping photography as a base, but pushing it somewhere else.

PR: What kind of media would you like to use in your future works? Which are most alluring and worth discovering for you?

PP: Returning to the moving image is a great purpose for the near future.

AO: How to make non-photographic exhibition of photographs.

PR: Can you name artists or art pieces which significantly influenced your works?

AO: Most recently it would be... I know it is a bit old fashioned and he is not exactly an artist, but Walter Benjamin and it is because I am working on new project which is very much anchored in XIX century and he could be helpful with that.

PP: There are many artists who gave me a lot during the year, if I have to name one it probably would be Wolfgang Tillmans in general as both a person and an artist. He has a certain image which still influences me: it is a desaturated green couch with a bunch of over-washed, rolled men’s socks… For me it’s a very banal and everyday situation modified into something what we call art.


Artists: Anna Orłowska and Peter Puklus

author Patrycja Rup

Exhibition is a part of Budapest Photo Festival program.

On view till  23rd March 2017

PLATAN Gallery,  Andrássy Street 32. Budapest