Décollage came to mind as I photographed a torn, weathered poster on Vasvári Pál street in central Budapest. Wasn‘t there a group of French artists in the early ’60’s doing something with tearing street posters? Looked them up – Jacques Villeglé , Raymond Hains and François Dufrêne – those three, part of the Nouveau Réalisme group, linked to artists like Yves Klein, et al.
Hains photographed surfaces and collaborated with Villeglé in appropriating torn posters for exhibition. It was a kind of found art, or ready-mades of the sixties, yet the two carefully removed and mounted them one by one, naming each piece with the address of its original location. They also did some tearing themselves, not entirely satisfied with leaving it all to chance and weather.
OK, so without knowing it, I was channeling Villeglé, Haines and Dufrêne as I walked around Budapest photographing found surfaces and torn posters. They were the Paris avant-garde in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Here and now in 2016 I wasn’t doing anything so radical. A mere documentation of the workings of my eye on the streets of the 6th, 7th and 8th districts of Budapest.
I had my own game to play – all editing to be done in the moment on location, as dictated by the eye alone. Cropping only by moving closer, moving back and forth to formulate the composition. Sometimes it was a torn poster – scrawls and printed word fragments being of significance or not; sometimes it was the raw, decaying surface itself of wall, street, curb. Sometimes it was graffiti – a bit of appropriation did occur as I re-worked the street work of anonymous others.
Could easily have digitally manipulated the images further, but somehow that seemed too easy, maybe a tiny betrayal to the grain of concept behind the act, or maybe just unnecessary. Perhaps another time.
So was it just a visual thing? No. As I walked, I mused over why I was shooting close-ups of all this 21st century detritus and disintegrating street refuse. The young, urban, alternative culture was building something creative and raw, layered on top of this dead residue. This was the way to find future in the otherwise unacceptable present. This was the way to tolerate the decline, find something compelling, make something out of the shit. So I shot, with mobile phone, nearly every day as I walked the city streets. Sometimes the decay was downright depressing, but I shot anyway. Getting close, could even smell it. Closer still, and the narrative changes – from this feverish 21st century to some sort of single chord of abstract texture, color, shape, to a small but audacious collaging of this disintegrating, unravelling world – A World in Fragments.
The Nouveau Réalisme group in Paris were aiming for audacity, but there was something empowering, nihilistic, in their mid-twentieth century appropriations and street work. These Writings on the Wall photos are part of a twenty-first century version – grabbing and collecting a found, decaying reality, documenting and playing with the sometimes hideous, sometimes exhilarating fragments of contrast of energies; maybe announcing, in some way, another new realism.
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