from 03.05.2001 to 02.06.2001

Michael Janiszewski, subREAL (Cãlin Dan/Josif Király)

Michael Janiszewski

Helmut Vakily: The Production

For Michael Janiszewski

What a corpse is the past in comparison
when your memory lies under the rubble?
What suffering befalls the dead

when they come back to life in front of you in pictures?

And what meaning does the future have for you?


„hinterrücks / from behind“
Photographic work 1990–2000

“Since the early 1990s Michael Janiszewski has been dealing with the theme of staged sexuality in his photographic work, within which two clearly defined phases can be differentiated. Phase 1 begins with the photographs taken in the year 1990 and ends in August 1994. After the photo session of 3.9.1994, Janiszewski almost entirely stopped creative work. For him, abandoning further photographic productions meant the adequate commemoration of the suicide of a close friend. Only after an almost two-year long interruption did he continue his work in 1997. Whereas in Phase 1 he worked together with a model, who acted under his direction, he completely replaced the human actor with a simulacra in Phase 2. Phase 2 can be viewed as a continuation and radicalisation of Phase 1.”

Phase 1 of the work already indicates what is radicalised in Phase 2: The gender-specifically-coded attributes begin to grow independent. The drawing material grows exuberant and lifts itself above its bearer…

The exuberance of the costume and the disguise, already notable earlier, is radically forced in Phase 2. Whereas in Phase 1 the actor is still present and represents a however natured rudimentary reality under the covers of the costume, the actor as costume-bearer disappears in Phase 2. What remains is just the costume, the cover without the content and if the actor reappears, then as stuffed doll. Phase 2 consists exclusively of costume and exuberance, of excerpts and fragmentation. What is real is absorbed by the Simulacrum ....

The forcedness of the simulation does not just take place as an unchaining of the material, but also as an excerpt from the scenes and props from Phase 1. Pictures of the disguised actor from behind in Phase 1 return as photographs of the stuffed costume. The props that are used earlier are rearranged and fragmented anew. In “Figure with black contour mask (lamentation)” the mitre is put together in a phallic manner on a packaging roll together with the high heeled-vase from earlier pictures. Fragments of the wig hang on a clothes hanger like a cut-up costume. In the foreground, the actor is on his knees as a doll. His face is covered with a black cloth. The cloth reaches to the floor and appears as if it were an outflow of the face…

Phase 2 resembles a ruin of Phase 1. The keynote of the staging is now more violent and more painful: the actor returns as stuffed doll. On one picture he lies as if dead on the floor, next to him the glasses, and on another picture two paving stones lie next to him. In ironic inversion of the parody on German unity, “now grows together what belongs together,” Janiszewski titles a younger photograph: “now breaks down what belongs together.” The title can be understood as a leading motif of his photographic productions of the last recent years.

Heinz Schütz, in: Michael Janiszewski, Photographic work: 1990–1999, Camera Austria Publishing Company, Graz, 2000 (Text excerpt)


“Looking Back 2 Move Forward”

Death opened a window of opportunity and through it we jumped into Photography. There we met Chaos, Memory, Lies, Art and the People. The purpose of the following is to present in short this journey.

When the old Romanian political system died brutally in December 1999, we were working for an art magazine that capitalized for almost 50 years on its uniqueness in the local culture. We managed shortly to divert "Arta" from its conservative program, until another death occurred - of the magazine itself. So, in 1993 we were sitting on some 600 kg of material accumulated in those decades of publishing. It was pre-packaged Chaos: an undetermined number of b/w photographs and negatives reflecting upon the Romanian and international art histories, from antiquity to post-modernism; and no inventory, no system of retrieval, no criteria for collecting or dumping. In order to approach this stuff we applied the old tools of our trade: installation, performance, sculpture, writing, composing. The "Art History Archive" came to life as a discontinuous theater play delivered in Berlin (mainly) but also elsewhere, for almost 3 years. Chaos became friendly, and then Memory stepped in: what those photo reproductions were speaking about was not art history - but its disappearance into a maze of cross references. Remembering art through amounts of pictures was like mourning for something that never existed; monochrome paintings, flat sculptures, shallow architecture made fame impossible and quality unrecognizable. A strong sense of delusion was developing through our journey, but it was still unclear who was the main Liar: Art, its system of promotion, the political class supervising the process - or Photography itself.

Then we encountered the People. They came out of the about two thousand 6 x 6 cm negatives, floating in an aura of recognizable events and places. They were the servants of art, and through their presence, photography could be saved as a powerful instrument of re-presentation. It was all possible because the negatives, meant to provide reproductive material for printing, were produced relaying on the final cropping in order to adjust the frame and concentrate on the art element. What saved the images from being just technical reproductions was the fact that - due to camera format limitations - art became a central detail, dominated by an aura of history. Before we started to look at them as autonomous images, those photographs didn't exist, not even for the photographer or his accomplice the artist, let alone the public. "Objet trouvés" born from the magic convergence between the innocent camera and the unaware subjects, they were like documentary film footage shot at random - ready for endless editing solutions, and able to tell various stories. "Serving Art" was born under the sign of clarity, and suddenly the Chaos could be controlled and classified through re-contextualization.

"Interviewing the Cities" came as a logical step further: if photography is a survival tool and if analog data still has witnessing relevance - this happens only due to the aural quality of photography. Aura is a spontaneous feature but also a designed one. We exported the knowledge acquired while deconstructing the Archive into a process meant to build awareness about the enduring qualities of photography and also about the possibilities this medium still offers for capturing the richness of life. "Interviewing..." is an archive under construction. It uses older strategies of representation, but aims differently. It is a "bildungs(photo)roman", documenting an intricate web of human relations circumvoluting the art world. A broader type of contextualization operates here as an ideological coagulant: everything in the fixed scheme of the photos calls the metaphor of the city - that container of cultural institutions, natural filters and artificial landscapes. Cities are the ultimate expression of whatever defines self-consciousness in this historical moment. But this time around, the design of the source projects is turned inside out: Art was displaced by the People; Chaos was avoided by planning; and Lies became an assumed rhetoric. In the end Memory is the winner; and Photography, of course - this very friendly enemy of Death.

subREAL, 25.02.01, Amsterdam/Bucuresti