‘It has become important for me to work against the phoney world around us’ – In conversation with András Vizi
23 • 09 • 06Benedek Szabó
András Vizi’s photographs show a special world. The unusual visual effects that create this irreproducible universe are often created using real, analogue installations. This conceptual creative process, then, involves visual art a sister art, but the focus is always on the photograph. This creative attitude informs the most diverse series, which, however, have this in common: the people shown are imaged in unique ways, and this also leads to a revised representation of the body. While they are marked by individual modes of expression and a modern photography that does not shun the artistic traditions, these works are not without an intuitive or instinctive creative passion. András Vizi’s works were on view in Mai Manó House until 19 August.
Berlin and Budapest are the two main locations of your life now. Why the double life?
I graduated from MOME in 2018, and it was in connection with my diploma piece, a series on techno music, that I first went to Berlin, to do research. I quickly fell in love with the city and then decided to move there. I was already interested in clubbing culture in Hungary, and it’s even more advanced in Berlin. I’ve stayed there a lot because of the Covid epidemic, but now the plan is to shuttle between the two cities. I now consider myself more of a Berliner, partly because it’s a freer city where I feel less uneasy.
Techno Ekstasis, a series that employs a wide range of technical and visual solutions, also originated in Berlin. What binds these images together into a series?
The subculture of techno was in part about the search for identity after the regime change, while it was also a completely new style of music that brought along a new form of entertainment. I wanted to give expression to the freedom I experienced in the techno scene, as well as to our search for ourselves, by rising above the dogmas taught at university, by breaking with the tradition and making it part of the concept to take images in different styles and with different photographic processes. I also thought of this work as a musical album, containing songs in different moods and highlighting several different details. So the images are mostly held together by such associations that have to do with techno music and clubbing. What I was interested in when taking the photos was what makes up the techno subculture and the feelings associated with it.
The Lie Ning – Utopia series takes us into an enigmatic aquatic world. How did you make it, and is it somehow also related to music?
The series is about a singer, Lie Ning, who commissioned me to make images for a song on his album, Utopia. All we agreed on beforehand was to do something together, but it ended up being so good that the performer said he wanted the images to be used in the visuals of the album. So the album cover and the pictures for the singles were all taken from this series.
This was the first time I had used a distorting mirror during a shoot. It was a technique I had really wanted to try because I was very interested to see what it was like to shoot people with distortion. It also added an aquatic quality to the images. Water can assume all kinds of shapes, is very plastic, and I wanted to make use of this kind of transition and connection between forms, which was a leitmotif in the album itself.
You have a whole series entitled Distortions. What made you opt for this solution, rather than achieve the same effect through digital means?
Earlier I came across a similar solution by André Kertész. I respect Kertész and feel connected to him because I was raised in Dunaharaszti, where he often took photos as a young man.
I really took to his photos because they feel fresh to the modern eye even though they were made almost a century ago. The solutions he used in his Distortions series seem almost like digital modifications, when of course they were completely analogue. I looked into how these pictures were taken and he turned out to have used some mirror film. Later I managed to get one of these mirrors. It is actually exposed in one of the pictures, where I used it in an installation of sorts. I also used this mirror at an exhibition in Berlin, so that people could experiment and take pictures with it, become part of this interaction.
You both take staged photos and shoot out in the field, as in the Techno series mentioned. Which working method lets you get closer to your subject?
I like to set the scene for a photo, while I also feel it may be more important to show reality as it is, so that the pictures have some documentary value. The ratio of real and staged elements depends on the subject. For instance, I think of the project I made for the Pécsi József Scholarship as documentarian, even though it consist of staged portraits. For it, I photographed people in their own surroundings, which was essentially an act of documentation. I tried to do away with studio conditions, because they often rob the images of their time. I often think about the future, what it will feel like to look at a picture in, say, fifty years’ time. I like images to be related to their age, to show something of the period when they were taken. All this notwithstanding, I myself design the setting for many of my photos, which practically makes every detail in the image staged, artificial.
What’s your take on the possible advent in photography of artificial intelligence? Would you use the technology?
I did use a version to improve image quality. For a pop-up exhibition to celebrate my grandfather’s ninetieth birthday, I chose a few pictures from the family album, which were not only tatty, but also small. I installed these in large sizes, and was surprised to see how much lost detail and texture this technique can restore. I definitely see myself somehow incorporating this in my own works.
Image generation by AI is a new field, a new genre, which I think moves completely independently of photography. What is specific to photo is that it captures a moment in reality, which artificial intelligence will never be able to do.
I like to create tangible things, often even when it would be easier to do the thing digitally. For example, for one of the images in the Lie Ning – Utopia series, I strung baby corn slices on a wire and then bent it to form the monster’s tentacle that coils around the subject. I photographed this under similar lighting conditions as I did Lie Ning, and then stitched the two shots together in Photoshop. This could have been solved with 3D graphics, but I like to be physically involved in the production of my images.
What is the most valuable feedback you have received on your work so far?
I feel that every little bit of kind feedback is very important. It means a lot to me that I could be included in the current exhibition of Mai Manó House, Like You and Me – Young Hungarian Photography. I can exhibit with artists I’ve looked up to from the start, and it’s an important recognition, as was receiving the Pécsi József Scholarship last year.
What directions do you see yourself following?
Berlin proved to be the perfect environment to find the motivation to create freely again. Part of the reason I lost it in the first place was that I was too concerned about what people thought of me, and so I couldn’t give a go to subjects I really wanted to explore. It was much harder to accept myself in the heteronormative environment that prevails in Hungary. That, of course, wasn’t something I knew before I moved, and then I came to realize I had serious inhibitions I needed to cope with. I’m essentially a shy, often anxious person, and in photography I am now most interested in subjects that have to do with what this stems from, such as sexuality, ‘otherness’ and body image. It has become important for me to work a little bit against the phoney world around us, and to show something that would challenge it.