related exhibition:
Full Asszimilation
10. May 2002. - 30. May

Krisztina Dékei

Complete assimilation
An exhibition by Gabriella Csoszó and Szilárd Podmaniczky in the Liget Gallery


On the invitation, or rather on the black and white photograph positioned first in the exhibition, you can see half of the figure of a small chubby boy: he has his hand in front of his face with fingers outstretched in refusal. He is not covering it out of shame or because he is shy, his movement is instead instinctively rejecting: I don't want you to photograph me! Stop, don't come any closer, don't spy on me, don't look! He says to the person studying the photo. This is strange and disturbingly offbeat at a photo exhibition: it is the viewer's voyeuristic, observing and external position that is put to question. And after this the viewer is not able to look at the photo as an autonomous aesthetic product, as a picture, getting lost in the light-shadow relationship and in the composition. It cannot be even seen a socio-photo snatching a naïve standpoint protesting against the gesture of immortalisation, as you can easily sense that this is a studio composition. Just like all the other pictures - a total of 17 - they were all made in the studio using and perverting the schemes used in portrait photography. The subjects are children who, opposed to the first picture, all look into the eyes of the visitor.

The pictures are split up into three distinct units: the first group consists of three, separate black and white pictures (these include the photograph described above), the other two are series of photographs but the similarity between them is that ”the same four” children appear in them as models. The first series (4×2 pictures) consists of black and white and colour picture pairs. After long observation it becomes obvious that on the individual picture pair it is the same child that you can see, it's just that that has been a few years in between the photographs: while the black and white shows the individual as a child (or young teenager), the colour documents them as older teenagers (or young adults). The two compositions as almost completely the same: it's just that the longhaired, flirty little girl has become a spiky-haired almost androgyne teenager, the thin, scruffy, lithe naughty little girl has turned into a fat, breathless teen. The models - two boys, two girls - visibly do not come from the well-to-do middle classes: although there is no concrete reference to this, but I would risk it and say that all of them were Roma, and it is very probable that they all come from a poor, unstable environment. This latter feeling - with this I have overstepped myself a little - was confirmed by the texts placed between, beside the pictures, as the subjects of the half length portraits hardly wear any clothes that would place them in their social position. The phonological phenomenon appearing as the title - complete assimilation - can be linked to this photo series the best. This effect in language takes place when a consonant assumes the value of the consonant preceding it, this does not happen in English but is very common in Hungarian, and in this case ”becoming a teenager” is ”kamasszá” made up of kamasz + vá or ”becoming adult” is felnőtté made up of felnőtt+vé. As this is not Ádám Nádasdy's linguistics column in the Magyar Narancs, and I do not want to state that Gabriella Csoszó's photographs illustrate this phonology phenomenon - this would be a folly, almost embarrassing - let's get back to the pictures. The ”before-new” type picture pairs emit pure tension - not only because of the passing of time and the changes in the body conditions - so that the eye is forced into a strange, subjective pendulum motion between the compositions: rejecting the sibling hypothesis she makes a short list of things that are the same (similarities) and things that change. And in the end who is it that is similar to whom, the younger to the old, the older one is there as a young person, or vice versa, and can you see on then the possible picture to come, the future, or if these two young people are the same, which one is the real one, what should we compare to what?

The second, colour series (3×2 pictures) seems clearer, where the models of the units - who continue to stare straight at us (or at the photographer) - in the similar compositions the poses are a little changed: the fat boy puffs himself up strangely, his chubby face is distorted, and the girl behaving as a woman (in make-up) with a mature woman's body turns her hands away in front of her chest. And it is in this context that it becomes very apparent that the beautiful-eyed sexless girl (we know now that she is a girl), whose thin, undeveloped, but cute body is twisted into a candidly erotic pose. Although ”you can't see anything”, still turning the genre and pictorial scheme of erotic nudes into such a candidly paedophile direction brings up numerous problems. The photographing of underage models - whatever neutral composition they may be in - in itself causes an exposed condition: they assimilate, start to become similar to the expectations (even pictorial) of adults. The strength of Gabriella Csoszó's pictures is not only in her models - who have evidently retained themselves in these quasi-roles - but she also makes the viewer aware of this exposure and the responsibility that goes with it. I could also say that (in my opinion) these works really do have some social-critical content which is expressed in a completely indirect way with the minimum of instruments.

The exhibition, however, does not only consist of these medium-large photos. There are eight texts on the walls to read. The mini stories or mini works of Szilárd Podmaniczky, , (I don't want to discuss this now), in other words his stories are grouped around two subjects: family and sport. Although it's not good to shorten and so castrate texts, I am still forced to emphasise a few motifs. In these stories the relationship to siblings, to the creation of siblings is strong: the ”relationship” of an adopted child to the grown-up, members of the family who are legally siblings; the child who imagines that somewhere he has a brother (or three); the little boy who is convinced that a child comes into a family by the parents choosing a child somewhere far away (on a mountain) and taking him home. The boy who was taught to play chess by his father and who is only interested in moving on the board as far as possible without being stopped; the girl basketball player who makes a mistake and decides to become a trainer instead; and the boy who comes unexpectedly from a long way away thinks of Saturn while concentrating. The boy made strong from bodybuilding is still disturbed by shyness, while the top sports person who is at the beginning of a career is unable to see himself completely in the misted over mirror in the bathroom. The stories themselves have a strong atmosphere, and they ”speak” about the childhood search for security, internal freedom, as well as about the obstacles in you path on becoming adult and the search for the breakthrough points. If we view these stories as a continuous, linked story, then step by step they model the status in which children of uncertain identity and who are hungry for love have only one choice of adult career, success in sport through bodily strength and skill.

These texts, however, are dotted all about between and beside the pictures. And this goes against the viewer attitude to order the stories to individual roles, as it were realising an aspect of personal life - although not excluding it completely. (This is especially true of the case of the young man who as a young adult has especially well-developed muscles.) Putting it all together, the attribution is left up to the viewer, as well is the decision whether these texts illustrate, commentate, explain, illuminate or interpret the photographs. One thing is certain, the conjunction of Podmaniczky's texts and Csoszó's photos and their relationship is much more than this: his heroes do not fit into a unified story, they only get connected in the individual interpretation of the viewer. And in that translucent, sorrowful atmosphere, in the piercing openness of looks that forces the viewer to dive deep into this world. Assimilate. But completely.

30. May 2002.