Photography: From Melancholy to Trauma, From Document to Monument

Artist: Iosif Király

Curator: Horea Avram
14 March – 20 April 2013


Outlining that architecture and landscape are crucial components in shaping collective memory and in creating and reflecting identities, Király’s “Reconstructions” speak of the need to resist the erasure of history, through a process that emotionally conserve the artist’s most intense remembrances on people and places. Composed by images taken from the same location and approximately from the same vantage point at different moments (minutes, days, even months or years later), these “reconstructions” articulate a multilayered visual field whereby each snapshot acts as a byte of information and memory. The result is a spatially coherent meta-picture in which, at a closer look, all the historical discontinuities, and ideological breaks are visible.

A metaphor of the “longue durée” concept launched by the French historian Fernand Braudel and The Annales School, the spatial coherence of the reconstructed image highlights the timeless continuity of all those mental and environmental structures of society that imperceptibly determine the course of the history and shape a specific cultural identity.

In various ways and to different extents, Király’s works—which subtly combine humor and melancholy—inform on these key aspects that subliminally work in the collective consciousness of a city, a region or a country, archiving the very process of creation of identity: from the past memory to the present existence and opening up future horizons.

Maria Rus Bojan

Open Sky

“Open Sky” is a project that speaks first and foremost about the (photographic) image as an instrument of surveillance and control—surveillance in its most technologically refined and politically charged manifestations. But this series is also about power and ideology, about public space and the role of the image as a depository for memory and a vehicle for collective traumas. Iosif Király addresses these issues by exploring two different visual formats that correspond to two different mediatic, referential and ideological perspectives: black and white photos found in the archives of the Romanian communist secret police and screenshots from the Google maps seen on the street view. The meeting between these two types of visual accounts—arranged by the artist in compelling wide-format photomontages—produce, perhaps surprisingly, not a conflicting interaction but rather a complementary relationship, one with highly symbolic significance and emotional effects.

The black and white photos are pictures taken by the secret police agents during the communist years that show common people walking and talking on the streets. Yet, banal as they seem, these pictures are not innocent at all. The apparent documentary aspect hardly conceals their dramatic purpose: they are images used as evidences against specific individuals chased by the secret police. Including such images in the collage, the artist makes not only a bitter political comment but he also questions photography’s objectivity and its truth value, especially if we see the definition of truth as a matter of ethics.

Google map screenshots represent, as well, places in urban environments with apparently no specific or remarkable interest. However, the street views are not chosen at random by the artist: they depict approximately the same places where the black and white pictures were shot years ago by the secret police. Although taken for different purposes, Google-map images are no less problematic, especially seen in this context. Under their apparent informative innocence they might be effectively read as an update version of the old archive pictures, therefore adding another dimension to the problem of surveillance. It is as much through the similarities as the fundamental differences between the two types of images that surveillance should be understood here: if the first images are secret and local, the second are public and global, if the first are the proof of the aestheticization of politics, the second are the evidence for the aestheticization of the everyday life, if one uses surveillance to control, the other is designed to control the surveillance. Whatever the case may be, it seems that “Big Brother” is not only watching, but he is also mapping us. Whenever and wherever we are.

Horea Avram