Gytis Skudzinskas, copyright 2014, self-published limited edition (edition size: 99) artist book
I must admit I really enjoy serendipity that when I am contemplating a photobook concept to explore only then to receive an artist’s photobook exploration of a similar concept. Such is the case of Gytis Skudzinskas’s artist book Albumas (Album), a recreation of a family album that differs in that the accompanying photographs are inverted, images face down. For each page spread there is one page containing the inverted photographs, while on the facing page there is a contour illustration of the rectangular shapes that echo the opposing mass. Within the contour drawing there are English captions that I suspect translate the handwritten text on the facing photographs.
Family albums are meant to contain photographs that are personal talismans to elicit memories of events and the persons who were involved in this events. As a memory aid to help with the recall, or to share this “information” with another person, the back of these photographs would be personally notated. Over time the specifics of events begin to fade, or become interpreted, jumbled, fragile, thus the hand written notes are expected to help trigger the memories as a memory aid. When dissociated from the originator, the photographs take on other meanings. This is further compounded when the albums are passed down to successive generations and the originators, as well as the subjects, are no longer available to provide a detailed telling of the implied story. These lost memories and historical context become open to interpretation by the reader as new narratives are created.
In Skudzinskas’s investigation of personal memories and identity, he has made collages of these photographic prints before re-photographing them, with the prints stacked, layered, and overlapping each other, held together with a very visible tape to bind the image together. As to say that memories are complex, layered, overlapping and messy. When he stacks photographs on top of another, concealing underlying images, the implication is that a photograph cannot reveal everything and at best provides half-truths if any truth at all. Thus Skudzinskas is also making a statement about the inaccuracies of photographic medium.
By reversing the photographs Skudzinskas, the actual photographic image is concealed, hidden and unknown, thus increasing the tension and mystery of the subject he is working with. Perhaps as a tease, each artist book contains within the front fly page actual photographs that are taped face down similar in fashion to the book’s contents. I found it tempting to remove the tape and examine the actual photograph, similar in desire while reading this book, asking what these concealed photographs really look like? It has been temping, as the tape is not permanent and could be easily lifted from the page, but in doing so would break the spell, as the anticipated image of my imagination is far grander that what might be revealed. This book is all about imagination as to what might be revealed, such as when one notes states “It is a pleasure to dig trenches when girls are next to you”. For me, the image possibilities are endless.
Interestingly the resulting photographic collages resemble the abstract grid-based cubic paintings by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Whereas Mondrain’s color pallet eventually evolved into the three basic colors, Skudzinskas’s pallet is the muted and monochromatic colors of aging paper. The back of these prints are a narrative about passing time, loss, and aging while the dates of the prints indirectly speak to our mortality.
Similar to Mondrain, Skudzinskas emphases form over content, his images reduced to a series of overlapping rectangular shapes that are interlocking panels; building off each other, dependent upon the other to create a geometric shape, as one photograph builds off the content of another. Unlike Mondrain’s solid color fields, the mottled photographic prints resemble the later generation of Abstract Expressionist paintings. The handwriting on the verso of the prints is a series of flowing calligraphic lines. As undecipherable text to me, they take on graphic marks that fill in the rectangular voids.
This is a mysterious book of opposites, what is usually concealed in an album is revealed while those aspects that are usually visible, are concealed. The contour drawing of the opposing photographic collage functions as a mapping of memory. I am really intrigued with this book’s concept, design and materials of construction and named it as one of my More Interesting Photobooks for 2014.
The small book has stiff covers with a facsimile of an old album cover attach to the front cover and the book is hand sewn by Japanese stab binding with Japanese folded pages. My copy has two original old photographs taped lying face down on the front interior fly page, which I suspect is unique to each book in this edition. As a result of the book design and stab binding, this is not a lay flat book and dates are provided for the creation of the opposing line drawings for each spread. An Afterword in Lithuanian is provided by Ricardas Sileika.
Gytis Skudzinskas was previously featured on The PhotoBook: Tyla (Silence)