Sisyphus: photo series created by Kata Geibl relates to the story from Greek mythology and one of its most interesting and archetypical character. It also tells another story: about time and humans’ relations with science.
Art of Prague: Your exhibition is inspired by science, the connection between human and science and how it becomes a religion. What triggered you to start to think about this topic? What was the first observation?
Kata Geibl: Actually this topic was a school exercise. We needed to take images of time like for example fast motion. I didn’t want to just take random picture but build up the whole universe. I started to think what is the main thing that actually captures and measures time. I came out with an idea that science is such a thing. It’s the only human thing that can be shown as numbers, the same as time. First I went to Physics Institute in Budapest and started to take photos that are related to time, for example there is one picture from the planetarium at university and it shows 1 year on earth. I asked the stuff of the planetarium to show me in fast motion a year on earth so I could capture this whole time in just a 3 minutes exposure. So actually what you can see is 1 year on earth. Then I started to think that what we think is nowadays science it’s not always like that because we are living in the age of fake news. The problem comes up again and again. That’s why I started to take pictures which look like science-related but are actually totally fake. I started to mix these 2 types of pictures together and that’s how Sisyphus series was created.
My mother always taught be Greek mythology. I was little so these stories are deep in my mind. When I started to shoot the series I immediately started to think about myth of Sisyphus. First of all, he tricked Death what is important in relation to science. I think humans are so interested in science because in some kind way we want to live forever and we use science as a tool for that. And also Sisyphus was punished so he had to roll the rock up the hill for eternity. And I think science is very similar to that – when we reach the knowledge, we instantly have new questions. So science is similar to rolling the rock up the hill – new knowledge raises new questions and there are no answers.
How do you think it affects us? How it may affect art?
I think art nowadays is very found about science. Science is supposed to answer our big questions but it doesn’t. I also think that we treat art in similar way. Art and science are correlated. Photography is a good example of this correlation – when it was first invented it was used as science. For instance, we could see the moon with telephoto lenses. So photography and science walked hand by hand from the very beginning. In that time you also had to have very scientific knowledge to develop the photos.
Is that why you use analog technique which is science based in more organic way than digital?
It wasn’t a technique that I specifically chose for Sisyphus series because I always use medium formats. I just don’t like the roughness of the digital. I don’t think it reaches the quality of the material as for instance the medium format. I really like to take my time when I take pictures. With medium format you carry very heavy camera and you need to put it on very heavy tripod so you need at least 15 minutes to take just one shot – you have to measure the light, you have calibrate the camera, etc. So it helps to take time during taking the photo. I really like to think about every little movement. And also every time before takin a photo, I also draw it. I make a little drawing in my notebook so I already have an image in my mind of how I want the photo to look like.
In Sisyphus, I present very digital-looking images for example the one whom the planetarium. With medium format it gives the whole new layer to it.
So you created sort of symbiosis what is similar to relation between human and science. Also the installation which is a ‘wall’ to your photos creates sort of symbiosis: organic materials for frames combined with metal. How this idea has started?
When I found out about the exhibition, firstly I was thinking 1 month because that place is so unique that you actually don’t have a lot of space on the walls. Together with a friend (photographer Benedek Regős) we decided to build a big structure into the space to hang the pictures on. I just couldn’t imagine putting fake white walls – it wouldn’t make any sense. So we thought that maybe we could build an architectural thing that would fit to the whole space: a steel frame from very industrial, very rough material. So I asked an architect friend of mine to plan the installation according to my instructions.
It was very hard to build it. We had 3 days to put together the whole installation. It was constantly falling apart and we had no idea how to fix it. It was actually heavy psychical work to put it together. Back in Hungary, I have a friend who’s an architect. He helped us with an installation plan according to my plans but in real life it wasn’t that easy. The floor wasn’t that even so we had to adjust the whole thing so actually it doesn’t look like in the 3D model.
It sounds a bit like the thing you mentioned about science: you build one thing but there are more and more new questions.
Yeah, exactly! [laughing] We were actually loosing our minds because we couldn’t make it stable at the beginning. In the end I figured out that we need elements in 45 degrees to make it work.
I guess it wasn’t the only challenge for you – being a young artist must not be easy. I’ve heard that Hungarian institute helped you with Sisyphus exhibition.
Yes, they helped me a lot. I knew before that this institute exists but I didn’t know that they help artists. When I won an award of Paris photo I had a place to stay only for 2 days but Paris is very expensive. One of my friend recommended me to contact the Hungarian institute. They instantly replied and helped me with the accommodation. When I was planning an exhibition in Prague I thought about the same thing and without their help I wouldn’t be able to transport the exhibits.
What are other challenges for a young artist?
Well, the thing is that you you need to take jobs which you actually don’t want to take like pack shots or fashion photos but that’s where the salary comes from. When you create art you just hope that maybe somebody will buy it or you will get a prize for it. That helps but it’s still a struggle.
Actually, this year there is big famous Hungarian scholarship which lasts 1 year and you can develop your own series during that process. It’s called Pécsi József Photography Scholarship. I got it 2 months ago so now I’m really happy because I have 1 year to work on my art, work on new series and I don’t have to worry how can I buy films for my camera.
You can see Sisyphus by Kata Geibl in H2 UMPRUM till 18th of April 2019.