Issue #15-16, 2003
Gallery 1

Interview with Dénes Miklósi
Attila Tordai-S.

Attila Tordai-S. – Is “Please stay like this!” the title of a work?

Dénes Miklósi – No, it is not, although I must say the sentence was once displayed on a lithograph as a quotation.

– Could you say a few words about your vision of the period these photos look back upon?

– Oh, it is the period in between 1992 and 1998. I was very much interested in the momentary reality of things then, as the photos show it, well, photos generally are concerned with the reality of the moment anyway. Next comes interpretation, which is a more staggering matter. One was looking for some kind of reality back then and what’s more, the photo­graphic act focused upon this moment was part of the everyday event. There was a certain search for reality, I cannot put it in a clearer wording than that.

– What part did photography play in this quest for reality? Photos render a “true” image of the scene, we know it quite well, but you must be thinking of something else when saying reality?

– These photos were taken in the period after eighty-nine, meaning at a time when we were all looking for the domain we could best root ourselves in. Going somewhere and ordering a photo to be taken of us is nothing special in itself, the thing has been going on ever since photography was invented. In that specific moment this was sheer reality: you enter a photo studio and have a photo taken of your figure, that is you accommodate to a given environment. It is not about looking for a special location. Going somewhere and having a photo taken of us is a plain and simple matter, I guess. One is a simple client using services on the offer.

– Let us switch back to you saying the subject accommodates to or finds itself in a certain given environment. As you refer to the period immediately after eighty-nine by this, you leave me no choice but ask: is there any political implication in the background here, I mean in the fact that a person finds its place in a given set of circumstances – and this leads to some kind of a resignation, even if I am not quite in the right, it still seems to be an aban­don­ment, as you are involved in an action and yet the one performing the action is not really you, as you are only applying for a service on the offer?

– ... operating a service.

– Operating. Do these two describe those nineties, or is the whole thing a projection of mine?

– Well, if we stick to the previous terms, just to stay within the reach of this gesture, I would say this is an illusion to the extent anything could turn out to be an illusion, meaning one leaves illusion behind on entering the stable world of a photographer’s workshop. If you look at it from the inside out, you must say one finds the authenticity of things in places where we shouldn’t even be looking for it.

– Yes but what will one find in a photographer’s workshop?

– Whatever one will never find outside the photographer’s workshop.

– Meaning?

– ... meaning, a lifetime might have passed until ninety-eight, let us say of great contents, but still with no product whatsoever.

– All right. As opposed to this, what happens in the workshop?

– I mean man was somehow turning to his surroundings for a sense of authenticity. To be able to influence reality might appear as an unreal claim and it is very likely for us to bump into basic existential problems here. The photographic mechanism that gets activated in the workshop, on the other hand, compensates for the inoperational character of our environment. A photo is created, there exists a certain procedure.

– On some of these photos you are standing by a panel, which is, if I am getting it right, the exposure of an artificial environment. Could we interpret these photos as means of unveiling the environment as mere illusion, while the only authentic work done is the outcome of the operating photographic mechanism, the image itself, which prevails?

– It is very much possible, because the whole process, the two-dimensional image, the plane and the method to realize it is in fact a carefully planned action and not a haphazard, random event. And all this despite figu­ration, as the background is really incidental, nothing valuable, a hand­made Kitsch, but I wasn’t really into figuration (I mean whether figuration may be misleading or not). The thing that mattered was technical definition, the laws of optics, image generation, and all this in a form that solves in a two-dimensional space man’s need to find himself in this or that environment.

– You are the only figure on the first photos, but then there are these groups on the later ones.

– Well, simultaneously with the publishing of these first photos it became clear these backgrounds were to be repeated, in different environments, in different contexts. After the first photo came out I have created these imitations, reproductions of the original.

– Are these paintings?

– Yes, they are the imitations of the original.

– You have exhibited them and taken photos in front of them at the same time?

– Yes, I have once exhibited them at Tîrgu-Mures along with these gray monochrome lithographs. I intended to expose the gray tonicity, the aver­age value, the message being that no matter what an exhibit dis­plays, be it a landscape or no figuration whatsoever, it has got no actual importance, and I tried to base my work upon this duplicity.

– You do not see yourself as a photographer, do you?

– No, not at all.

– Actually how do you relate to photography? Despite not being a photographer, you are pretty much preoccupied with photography, at least to all I know about it.

– I might be. Originally I had no intention like that, to show how people perform certain photographic roles, sitting in front of this or that back­ground and acting as they do... but is it possible to act any other way when being photographed?

– Do you mean the posing part of it?

– Yes.

– This is in the end really the exposure of the photographic act just as you have exposed illusion on the first photos, as you are posing just as well, only in a little less obvious manner, aren’t you?

– Well, I have my own part in the action, I only try to “behave myself”, so that the photographer will not realize I am after something rather different from what “he usually does”.

– Could you reflect a bit longer upon there grays?

– When I have created these various tints of monochrome grays my only aim was to use standard paper sizes as accurately as possible. I was perhaps merely controlling the extent to which something remains or vanishes in that almost nothing kind of sphere. The sole intent of these grays was to reach and keep a sort of balance.

– This group photo was also taken in front of a panel?

– Yes, this was taken before ninety.

– I spot some lurking optimism in these ones.

– Well, we spent quite a lot of time together back then...

– And these two color photos?

– Around 1988 or so. I found them a while ago, the protagonists are long gone... it is a sentimental bond, especially as all I have of these persons is their image.

– Why do you expose these pictures that actually belong to your own private sphere?

– Because of their being images.

– But we may also say that it existed beside all that used to be your work. You have had these impersonal photos taken on one hand, by the panel, and then, at the same time, these photos were taken as well.

– Exactly so.

– You have dealt with the next pictures around 2002 and as opposed to the previous ones, these are totally impersonal, it is not like you know anything about the person in the photo, you even know of its existence by finding this photo. What is the story behind?

– Well, these are photos I have found by chance and their content is quite surprising. Sometimes one finds photos one did not at all expect to find or examines something he would have never examined under the usual circumstances. But once under examination, how could you get rid of them?

– Where have you found them?

– In the flat of a Vienna photographer, among the waste.

– Later you have even exhibited them, haven’t you?

– Yes, I have, as the distance, the strangeness of this photo made me try and do all kinds of experiments with it. Actually I have no idea of who the person in the photo is (probably a Wiener boy dressed as a football player). There was a feeling of strangeness it provoked, I couldn’t just leave it at that and pass it by. I have magnified the negative and done the posi­tive as well, and finally have projected the negative and the positive versions on the same spot. One expects a homogenous surface as the out­­come of superimposing a negative and its positive (that the work is closed and done with in a final unity).

– Is this photo so to say the closure of your activity in the field of photography? Could we speak of the completion of a period in your creative life?

– Well, it is not only a closure of the picture, it is the closure of the period in between 1992 and 1998. The exhibition entitled ’92–’98 has also implied this. One should devise certain landmarks for oneself, and decide the time consecrated to dealing with a certain topic, not to mention the time allowed for repeating the topic again and again. Are there any reactions, is there any feedback at all? Or is it... Well, I have to say nothing has reacted ever since.

– If I recall the title once more “Please stay like this?” what does it really refer to?

– Now, there is an ironic approach to that as well, I must say...

– As if by means of this “Please stay like this” you told the reader: wait a sec’.

– Well, first of all it is a moment of reflection, even a moral one, for what one does and what one is able to follow is a matter of morals and ethics to me.

Translated by Noémi László