It has been over five years since Răzvan Anton’s first solo exhibition at Gaep. During this time, his work has been regularly shown in Romania and abroad, the presentations focusing on his recognizable and established series of sun prints. But categorization based on formal qualities is always problematic since it pushes the artist as a person – and particularly their exploration of content – into the background, where, as a rule, they remain. That is why this exhibition should be understood as Răzvan Anton’s attempt to redirect the focus from an actual object of art – print, moving image – to his approach to appropriating images, which directly results in a subtle undermining of the objectivity of the photographic medium and, through the assemblage of personal and intimate puzzles, addresses the act of looking.
Without a doubt this is the artist’s agency, and it has been present in Anton’s work from its very beginnings and now serves as a starting point for the conceptualization and preparation of the current exhibition. Formally, Studies of Gaze showcases Anton’s desire for his practice to be seen as based not on a given methodology but on a process that tries to negotiate between viewing and learning, and this process is not linked to the technique itself but to the concept of duration of time, its connections to new technologies, and the accompanying new possibilities in the context of reproducibility and manipulation. But surely we should go beyond the formal aspect of the work and define it rather as Anton’s personal comment on the question of archives and, consequently, on the cultural heritage of communist Romania and the importance of past memory in shaping a possible future.
The main premise of the exhibition is to establish a tension within the internal narratives of Anton’s practice, including through the exhibition format, which offers a new way of distributing images. The relation between the static image (the upper floor of the gallery) and the moving image (the basement) is evident, but the challenge lies in how Anton defines the tension between found archival imagery and its possibilities within contemporary modes of reproduction. This positions Anton in the frame of a “Debordian” questioning of the society of the spectacle, overwhelmed with saturated images. Thanks to its reproducible nature, photography as such has played an important role in the distribution of our “reality” ever since it was first invented. For the same reason, it has also been subject to manipulation, both wanted and unwanted. Today, with the rise of digital photography, the manipulation of photographic images seems to have become an integral part of the expressive medium, thereby defeating its original purpose: the imitation of reality. In this sense, Răzvan Anton’s sun prints and videos, which are grounded in the photographic image, can be seen as his tendency to withdraw for a moment from the artificial spectacle and to focus instead on the visual narration of the story by means of real social events, precisely anchored in a range of contexts.
For Anton, the photographic source provides an opportunity to work with the interpretation of the gaze through selected motifs symbolising political actions of individuals and society at large. From this perspective, the act of seeing goes beyond photography. In other words, the visual non-reciprocity between humans and “inanimate or natural objects”, which from the early days of photography has been experienced by facing the camera lens, also tells us more about the underlying visual asymmetry in human relationships. At the same time, we are confronted with the question of the role played by Anton in selecting a specific image in relation to the viewer. Whereas one viewer might simply appreciate its aesthetic value, another might associate it with various memories, experiences and emotions. It is the artist’s attempt to overcome, or at least understand, the distance between any given motif, its social context and its audience. As viewers, we are thus confronted with the question of how we perceive Anton’s formal transformation of a particular historical image and how this positions itself in our contemporary daily lives. With his references to the overuse, manipulation, distribution and valuation of images, Anton reveals in a sophisticated way the latent point of contact between images we consume, questions about the ontology of the photographic image and the attempt to define the basic concepts of politics, class, religion and cultural production.
Text by Tevž Logar, curator