The expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” is one of the most used expressions when it comes to photography and advertising, although its overuse has led to it becoming a cliche, losing all its original meaning.
Although strongly American through the idea that it promotes, the phrase doesn’t have a clear author being found in diverse contexts and in forms more or less similar to the original one, from Napoleon, who said that “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours” (A good sketch is better than a long speech), to Turgheniev, in whose book, “Fathers and Sons” it appears in the form of “The drawing shows me at a glance what could be said in ten pages of a book”. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the phrase appeared in the context of advertising, trying and insisting on using images in adverts for a better impact on the public. Towards the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century, the image became more and more synonymous with photography, if not always at least in most of the cases. If we look at photojournalism and the strong images it produced we can also notice the presence of the same expression.
This work analyses the state in which the expression finds itself nowadays. If we take into account that in some respects the phrase implies a simplification, a reduction, we can comment on the fact that it can encourage a lack of articulation of ideas and could lead to valueless results which would be however supported by the simple enunciation of “the photograph that’s worth a thousand words”. The critique in this case is not addressed only to the expression itself, but also to the way in which it has been exploited and distorted to the point in which now it almost verges on the absurd.
In a millennium saturated by information, renouncing the use of text in favour of the image, although it might be seductive, can only have negative effects, stimulating the idea of eliminating language out of the equation of human existence. In some cases, a photograph might be worth a thousand words, but for sure a photograph and a thousand words together are always going to mean much more than each of them taken separately.
>the moving of something from its place or position
>the removal of someone or something by someone or something else that takes their place
>the enforced departure of people from their homes, typically because of war, persecution or natural disaster
In the context of a 21st Century Romania, displacement is one of the elements of the past that is still visible in the way people act and interact – with each-other, with the environment, with themselves.
During the Communist period, the craving for industrial development has led the leaders of the country to remove thousands of people from their homes in the countryside, in order to bring them into the cities, to work in industrial factories. Twenty-two years after the fall of the Communist Regime, most of those factories have been either left empty and in the ruthless hands of time or have been replaced by supermarkets and malls. However, the people that were once brought to the cities to work for the well being of an industrial and industrious society have been left to their own devices, clustered in matchbox apartments.
Structured in three sections, this work shows a glimpse of how people have felt the need to ornate and decorate the entrances of their buildings and the windows of their blocks of flats, using lace curtains, the symbol present in most Romanian homes, a must-have for every decent family, a trademark for the Romanian conservative mentality, and at the same time, the hanging of laundry to dry, on the outside of the blocks of flats, an exhibitionist trait that apparently comes natural to everyone despite their overall almost medieval beliefs.
If we talk about invisible worlds we also talk about spaces and talking about spaces we inevitably get to the slippery notion of time. Time, defined as dimension of the Universe after which the irreversible succession of phenomena is ordered, is probably one of the absolute abstractions.
At a very simple analysis, we could say that it only exists in its effects, in the consequences of its passing and in the way in which it influences matter, be it alive or not. Time seems however to be above all the other abstract notions, of which none dictates so dictatorial the way things go as time does. But this dictatorship of time is noticed especially in the space that was artificially created by man, in which the clock appeared, who orders the passing of time and assures the good going of things, while in the natural environment, with animals, with plants, the notion of time has kept its abstract character, manifesting itself only through the consequences of its passing. Man tried to materialize time, to put it in a concrete form, to give it shape, colour, taste, smell, everything with the sole purpose of mastering it, enslaving it, without realizing even for a second that he only becomes its slave. Atemporality has become an exotic notion, heard of only in theater plays in which characters sell or buy time, only to finally wake up outside it.
The work “What does an hour look like?” raises a question to which an infinity of answers could exist, probably as many as the individuals questioned. But the hour itself never looks like anything, it is only a measurement unit for the time mentioned above, another abstract notion, dependent and determined by it. Talking about the composition of time, about its divisions, we observe a sum of units that compose it, each unit being divided in sub-units and so on…until the end of time.
One of the aspects that this work wishes to underline is the relativity of the representation of time, the ambiguity of such a representation, having at the same time the intention to put into a concrete form the measurement unit named hour. Accepting the idea that an hour can “look” different for each individual, but not wanting a representation that would be too close to the concrete sphere, the work looks at the hour as a sum of photographic exposures of thirty seconds. Because of the present technology, an hour can be recorded, memorized, retransmited, with the help of the video camera that can assimilate the information and then replay it with fidelity. What this work tries to do is to transpose the representation of an hour in the photographic medium, to create an image, a shape for the abstraction called hour, image that would be completely different in video.
The work consists of 120 frames done with a 30 second exposure time.
Clarity, concreteness, are not relevant, the whole ensemble of images being itself the look of an hour, not as sum of consecutive minutes, but as annexation of frames, which underline yet again the level of relativity reached by any attempt to represent an abstract notion.
As far as the theme goes, it is clear that the work lines up with works talking about time, one of the most offering themes in contemporary art but also one of the most exploited because of its infinite abstract potential. The concept of time varies, sometimes greatly, from one culture to the other, therefore to speak about time in general is mostly wrong, time being totally relative to the being or thing which perceives it.
An essential aspect to be considered when speaking about this work is the one stressed by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel in the work „Themes of Contemporary Art. Visual Art after 1980” namely the fact that “artists that want to represent time are faced with an inherent contradiction: while many visual works are static, time is measured and it manifests itself through change”. One of the reasons why time has been such a prolific theme throughout art’s history is the fact that artists always wanted to immortalize it in one way or the other which brings us to the work “What does an hour look like?” in which time is represented through an attempt to photograph it, to give it visual materiality, time being something which through the excellence of abstraction, cannot be photographed.
The translation of this work into video form has been determined by a desire to over-impose these two mediums in this attempt to illustrate time. Aspects related to the clarity of the image are irrelevant here as well, the stake being to see, through different mediums, with different technical capacities, the same idea. Because the video medium is much more offering as far as illustrating time goes, having the capacity to record it and replay it even in real time, I have decided that for the work itself, the parallel with photography is more important, the frames shot in video starting from the same principles as those shot in photo stills – 30 seconds, which in this case are not allowed to unravel themselves but instead are limited as far as the playback goes, to only 2 seconds, which I considered enough to visualize an image of the series of 120. This option to speed up time does not in any way decrease the symbolism, meaning or authenticity of the work, on the contrary, being an observation of the different ways in which time can be manipulated in the video medium, lengthened or shortened and played around with according with the wishes and preferences of the artist.
What is weight? What value would a human’s life have if it would repeat itself infinitely, in the same circumstances?
If we deny the conventional idea of time and we accept the concept of the eternal return of the same, life becomes a useless dance of trials, a continuous pseudo-fight for the breaking of a vicious circle of repetitivity.
The infinite rerun of the same mistakes, the repetition of the same moments burden the being, tie it to a immutable existence, restricting every creative impulse, limiting any inclination towards novelty. Conformity dictates complete series of dichotomies, giving them already thought meanings, without leaving any space for interpretation or analysis. Weight is evil – lightness is good. But if we empty them of the pre-established meanings, the weight or lightness of life cannot be quantitatively measured as both of them create new interpretation possibilities. If living once is like not living at all, than the freeing of the being from every type of physical constraint determines two possible directions: either the awareness of the uselessness of a meaningless existence, or an infinite search for the element that would have the necessary force to creatively destroy the obstacles imposed right by this awareness of uselessness. Swinging between tangible and intangible, between material and immaterial is constant. What is the lightness of being? Could it be compared with the flight of birds or better yet with the violence of evolution?
A decisive question for the meaning of the human existence occurs: will a fight for the establishment of the human being in time and the overcoming of the idea of uselessness be chosen or the whole existence will orientate towards a blind and destructive evolution without any creative essence, exactly because of the lack of meaning? More and more today, the general direction points towards the second possibility, despite the supposed concern regarding future generations. The so-called superiority of the human being over nature is an illusion, nature being of a complexity that is untouchable for the human species as it has degenerated in the recent period.
Human “creation” from today’s society, this so-called evolution, is oriented only towards destruction and not even towards a creative destruction but one that eliminates any hope of recovery or creation of something else. The more it steps further away from nature, the more it embraces the artificial, man strives for destruction, towards the self-smothering of the species, towards the embracing of an existence subject to the dictatorship of ignorance and to the empire of the insignificant. If our existence doesn’t mean anything anyway then we are free to destroy at will. And if it does indeed mean something, we apparently destroy anyway without taking into account any consequences of our actions.
Weight and lightness are the same thing. Existence can be unique, or not. Regardless of these suppositions, humanity will self-destruct out of too much “need” for “evolution”, out of too much “superiority”, out of too much selfishness.
You might say that this work suggests a hint of optimism, of hope, of desire to start off from the beginning. Jumping towards the sky, towards an area which Klein pretended to master, can only have positive connotations, especially when we also take into account the fall illustrated by the Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan in his work.
However, the intention of this work is not to renew, to refresh something that already exists. My leap does not represent an accedence to higher layers of knowledge, nor the expression of some brave ideals.
We could say that Klein’s void actually resides in the terrestrial space, if we look at the three works together, the final leap – from the void – being just another element of this triptych, of this cycle that could be considered to be significant from a symbolic point of view for the whole of art’s history.
Leaping from the void is neither a proof of courage, nor a sign of overcoming the issues that led to the initial fall, but a natural continuation of a cycle. At the same time, we can’t say that we’re talking about the end of that respective cycle as we are dealing with a sort of vicious circle, a sort of chess game in which no matter the strategy used, the moves are in the end more or less the same.
Accepting the fact that Klein’s void resides in the terrestrial space, my leap is actually oriented towards the place from which the artist initially jumped, determining a replay of the route, a new leap into the void, a new fall and a new rise. If the only certainty is change, then we understand that each new leap and each new fall are actually going to be different.