Pillars of Home – photobook by Csilla Klenyánszki
19 • 05 • 29Bea Istvánkó
Objects, furniture, things, stuff, keepsakes, junk… To what extent are we defined by the objects surrounding us? Are they part of our identity, and is that why we need them, or is it simply out of habit, perhaps by social convention that we keep gathering things throughout our life? One of the most recent and widespread theories of design approaches the question from an entirely different aspect; the most important premise of object-oriented ontology (OOO) is that it treats the system of objects and living organisms in a holistic system that is heterarchical instead of hierarchical. The theory fundamentally queries the privileged role of humans and other living organisms in our object-filled world and stresses the autonomy and partial accessibility of objects. Object-oriented ontology goes so far as to consider humans equivalent to objects in a non-hierarchical system comprised by humans and all other objects. The other key premise of OOO is relativity, in other words, that objects are unknowable in their whole entity and thus always only interpretable in relation to one another. Although objects can come into contact with each other in various ways, they always display only certain characteristics during interactions, never revealing their full nature.
Published a few weeks ago, Csilla Klenyánszki’s book Pillars of Home is about these very interactions as well as the role of people in the system of objects. The photobook presents 98 pieces from the eponymous series, part of which was exhibited at Trapéz Gallery, augmented with a brief introduction by the artist. Comprising the freshly published photobook, the photo series Pillars of Home (2016-2017) contains still lifes that were set up in the artist’s own home and lasted no longer than thirty minutes each, which is the time it took for the photos to be completed. These, however, are more than common still lifes, for the photos display balancing sculptures made from diverse objects and pieces of furniture set up in various nooks and crannies of the artist’s apartment, in most cases wedged between the floor and the ceiling, forming an ephemeral bridge between above and below. The introduction of the book also reveals that the aforementioned time limit of half an hour was not merely a conceptual decision, but rather a constriction related to motherly duties.
Living in the Netherlands, after the birth of her son, the artist could devote only the brief 30-minute periods of nap-time to creative art. She used these fleeting thirty minutes to build sculptures from the available surrounding objects in one of the rooms of her home, with the purpose of creating perfect balance. The special challenge lay in the fact that this had to be done in complete silence, as if an installation collapsed, the photo opportunity, as well as the child’s sleep, would be over. In this sense, the completed photos can be considered as documentations of solo performances.
Conceived in the frame of three months, the first few pieces of the series display assemblages, then personified groups of objects resembling strange creatures, and leafing further through the book, the artist herself begins to appear on the images more often. Then again, these are far from self-portraits. Fully realising the proposition of object-oriented ontology, Klenyánszki blends into the balancing sculptures, becoming one of their components. In many cases all we see is a limb, or her carpet-covered back, rendering the objectified human figure barely noticeable, only to receive central role sporadically towards the end of the book. Designed by Virág Bogyó, also a visual artist, the photobook contains altogether eight chapters, the division of which is not thematic, but rather temporal. The chapters have no titles, sections are marked with colour-coded pages. The design echoes the clean colours also preferentially used by Klenyánszki in her photos, and the centre of the book repeats the orange colour of the cover. The self-published photobook is very handy in terms of both size and volume. Turning the pages beyond midway through the book we find 16 pages printed on considerably thicker paper than the rest of the book, throwing us off balance in our perusal of balances, while also illustrating the fragility of the sculptures.
Although the photo series Pillars of Home has been installed on several occasions and in different forms at various Hungarian and international shows, it can be declared that it found its appropriate medium in the form of the photobook. The volume of 148 pages allows for a not in the least overcrowded presentation of every piece of the series, leaving room for the detailed and immersive analysis of the often truly confounding installations and performative situations, as well as the solution of puzzling balance scenarios. The book format, especially with the consecutiveness of the photos and the sectioning of the volume imparts such an extra narrative on the publication that fuses the otherwise absolutely autonomous pieces of the series into an almost round story. (Translation: Dániel Sipos)
Csilla Klenyánszki: Pillars of Home, self-published, Amsterdam / Budapest, 2019, 148 p., 145 mm x 210 mm x 18mm
Graphic design: Virág Bogyó
Number of copies: 500
More information: http://www.pillarsofhome.com/
Awards: Unseen Dummy Award 2018, shortlist