Issue #14, 2003

Argus and Kaiors or photo spectralism with Iosif Király
Dan Dediu

“This sentence has been written by me a minute and a half ago and you finished reading it forty seconds ago. That is to say that my writing and your reading belong to different moments. But on paper this moment and this moment are obviously the same moment... Consequently, the sentence is real on one hand but not valid on the other... Or maybe we are leaving out the concept of time?”

This short fragment taken from the novel The Flemish painting by Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte seems to have been written to de­scribe the photography of Iosif Király. The series “Reconstructions” brings to the foreground several ontological levels and can be read and interpreted as palimpsest. There are three principle elements: firstly, the incorporation of time into the photograph; secondly, the use of the spatial coherence “reconstruction” method and thirdly, the presence of the dimension of memory.

Any artistic phenomenon can be imagined as having a double origin. On the one hand it is the fruit of the artist’s pure intuition, uncon­trol­lable because of the creative options’ unpredictability. On the other hand, the same phenomenon can appear as a result of mature and systematic reflection. This means that the trajectory of the phe­nom­enon’s penetration into the field of reality can be understood, schema­tized and offered as an explanation to those who legitimately ask: “what does this stand for, where does it come from?” Here I will attempt to sketch a brief reconstruction of the concepts within Iosif Király’s creative approach. A theoretical reconstruction of his photographic “Reconstructions”, so to speak.


The beginning of “Reconstructions” is characterized by the obsession to surpass the spatial frame of photography and include temporality. However, this can be achieved only at the level of content because form is bound to remain spatial. If we go into further detail and observe the content of the photographs we will end up with the question: where is the time here? For time makes no “appearance” in the photograph, time always “appears” through signifiers: objects, forms, colours, the standard inscription of the time and date by the camera. But then where is time? Is it more than a metaphor? Surely. It is a paradox? Time is present in the content, in the meaning of the photograph and more than that in the meaning of the reconstruction.

Time is the subject, the central theme that irradiates from the recom­posed snapshots. However, let us go deeper and deeper into the method of reconstructions.

Ingeniously, Király ’s reconstructions are based on a mirroring effect reminding us of the worlds of Lewis Carroll. Briefly I will attempt to ex­plain this mechanism.

Firstly, there is an initial photograph that we will call the fundamental snapshot which has no temporal meaning. This snapshot is then seg­mented into areas, like a table or a puzzle and each area is pho­to­graphed from several points and at different times – varying from very close moments in time to distant moments (different seasons) or extreme­ly distant moments (years, decades). Consequently obtained are partial harmonic snapshots. I call them harmonic because they harmonize at the level of content, image and frame.

The reconstruction of the fundamental snapshot begins with the combination of the partial ones taken at different moments in time. The spatial coherence of the ensemble is kept and the temporal dimension becomes variable. The artist’s talent and intuition becomes transparent in the way that the partial snapshots are re-mixed. Sometimes the artist deliberately introduces some “oversights”, deviations from the spatial coherence of the fundamental snapshot, intentional accidents, ruptures that act as temporal “windows” opening to other horizons. We can call them partial inharmonic snapshots. The rhythm of partial harmonic snap-shots with inharmonic ones pertains to the personal option and the expressive intention of the artist.

Within the procedure explained above an analogon in acoustics can be found. The acoustic analysis proved that the sound is nothing other than a compound made of several other sounds combining in a specific way and which together give the result we hear. The combining sounds are called spectrum. The spectrum of the sound is formed of the fundamental sound and a series of double partials: harmonics and inharmonics. It is clear that this phenomenon can be compared to what Iosif Király accomplishes within his photography. I especially use these terms in both cases in order to make clearer the likeness of the two procedures, essence at a visual and acoustic level. The entire “Reconstruction” series can be characterized, from a technic-esthetic viewpoint, as photographic spectralism, in close connection to musical spectralism – often called “the music on the harmonics of sound” – contemporary orientation with huge success in France and Romania. However, let us go back to the time-space complex in Király ’s work.

There are four possibilities to link time and space: a) identical time and identical space (different photos taken in the same time and the same place by different people); b) identical space and different time (photos of the same space taken at different moments; the idea of Király ’s “reconstructions” can be inserted here); c) different space and identical time (photos taken in different places but at the same time in order to catch the fragrance of a time that never comes back); d) different space and different time (photos with no connection whatsoever). If we introduce into the equation the element of content, even more interesting combinations can be obtained, such as: identical space, different time and different content, different space, identical time and identical content or, as Iosif Király prefers, identical space, different time and identical content, “interfered” now and then with sudden temporal and spatial fascicles, similar to sudden dizziness, that send off to meta­physics. The artist ’s option is the only combination out of the above-mentioned that can give consistency to the time in the image. The ques­tions arise: is not the presence of time in a photograph just a theory? How does time make its presence felt?

The temporality impression is not only theoretically induced but it is perfectly visible in the image as the author conceives it. Király equally creates photography with feeling and photography with concept. He is not satisfied with catching the global phenomenon but – relent­lessly working on details – asserts its poly-temporality. In fact, the detail is prevailing. A sleeping girl precedes or succeeds her own image reflect­ed in the window of the train compartment while she is reading. This shadow is the same person but when? Before or after the sleep? A dog crosses the deserted yard, today, yesterday, the day before yesterday? A locomotive approaches closer and closer, a church gets thinner and thinner and dislocates its towers that are clumsily added as a sign of our broken aspiration for the Divine. There are only a few images captured in motion but they imply a lot more: anamnesis and along with it an entire interior space of the rise and fall in time.

Some topos characterize his vision and bring time to the forefront: 1) multiplication of the same character in order to make some kind of temporal “perspective” on him/her (dog, old lady, white car, loco­mo­tive), 2) catching of a landscape at full speed, leading to the effacement of forms and the mix of entities, that is to say a continuum of spatial dis-continuities, 3) ontological ruptures, creating the impression of bizarre palimpsest between different worlds, leading in the end to dream and memory.

Photographic vocabulary is dense and significant, similar to recurrent motives and obsessions. A few themes appear frequently: the dog, the train (with all the details, from the interior of a coach to the network of rails and to the locomotive), the ruin, the broken engine (dirty white car, the door, the palling). The human, when he/she appears, is uncomfortable, a sad passenger in a landscape on the run, always turned to the past and remembrance. As if the human is afraid of this world of arti­facts that he created himself. The human, the dog, the being in general is the connection with time in Iosif Király ’s vision, it is the answer to the question he asks constantly in his art. Stuck in the world, the being is all alone in front of time. It is a permanent coming and going, it lives a per­manent transition. The railways netting in Király ’s photographs are like the ways of our destiny, and us as spectators watch the time do and undo us.


Each reconstruction by Király is an open wound. His photographs seem to be attached with patches in order to hide the blood of time that flows from one frame to the other. The “tone” of the whole composition is extremely nostalgic. Out of the small distortions that recompose a continuity one can sense a discontent, a pain that the ideal time of the fun­da­mental snapshot cannot be recomposed entirely. Something has been lost irremediably along with time and that is passed on to the viewer.

The breath of each reconstruction hides away the regret of time forever lost. That is why he tries each time to catch the essential time, the adequate time, the truly revealing moment for the strength of time, that which ancient Greeks called kairos. Király realizes that looking through a thousand eyes a certain fragment of space-time. Just like Argus, the artist transforms his entire body into eyes. He spies the minute when time embodies, then he catches it as a precious insect and ties it up with adhesive tape. Lumps of time are put together: some heavier, others lighter. Suspended between being and not being, pulled out of temporary state and embedded in another, the time lumps slowly reunite, learn to live together, get used to the neighborhood. Thus, time starts to flow again, this time inside the frame of each fundamental snapshot. There is life inside. On the other hand, everything is space in there. How is that possible? This is the secret of “Reconstructions“.

Translated by Izabella Badiu, proof reading by Kate Smith