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Cindy Konits: This Room Will Survive Me
The photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer,
but only and for certain what has been.
—Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
In my resistance to transition from film to digital photography, I discovered a compromise in a corner of my studio closet. An obsolete professional instant camera replete with bellows for effect and manual F64 aperture for long exposures enabled tactility with film, emulsion and a singular print. This process now relegated to the past uniquely suits my fascination with investigation of the past and its traces in the present.
In the Spring of 2019 I began photographing myself in long yellow and red rays of seasonal sun near windows and open doorways. I sought light and shadows in passages between rooms of my house and surrounding nature. In a meditative state near room contours where light flooded my body, I counted long estimated exposures to experience and portray the significance of a room in my encounter with interior emotional and psychological space.
So much of early life is lived in rooms of a house and its natural surroundings. The architecture itself resonates deeply with the relationships, emotions and words spoken in it over time. We embody this space and time for the venture out into the world. The spaces of known architecture are integral to sense of self through time, and the flow of life will forever be a rhythm between home and away.
The photograph’s magical facility as witness to time and past reality allows me to see myself continually evolving while staying the same, a ghost of previous selves. In this series I move through new spaces of rooms and surroundings in the visual context and texture of introspection. I recognize, anticipate, and employ a light beam before it vanishes and learn what I never knew about myself. My intent is that these images set the stage for similar mind and space-time contemplation by the viewer.
“These images have an echo and they are heard and touched as much as
perceived by the eye.” (Juhani Pallasmaa, “Torsos in Space, Light and Time: The Polaroid Images of Cindy Konits”).
Cindy Konits’ work explores complexities of family history and memory in the face of evolving technologies. Her projects are lens-based, incorporating traditional and experimental digital and analogue methods and content. While her early work was primarily documentary in style, her present work is becoming increasingly conceptual and personal in a visual context and texture of self-reflection, with the intent to evoke the same on the part of the viewer.
With a BA in Psychology and Education and Urban Planning masters degree, her first experiments with photography generated solo documentary photography shows. The Jewish Historical Society in Baltimore MD received an NEH grant to mount and travel the exhibition “Now I See Kiev in My Dreams: Words and Pictures of New Americans”, create catalogue, gather Russian oral histories and community programming, travel the shows and create adjunct programming. The Museum of Industry Baltimore MD received an NEA grant to travel “Best Woman For the Job”. She was awarded a full merit scholarship to the Maryland Institute College of Art MFA program, after which she became adjunct Associate Professor at Stevenson University, MD, teaching Photography and Video Art. Cindy created the documentary video “The Way I See It” that screened at 19 film festivals worldwide and nominated Best Documentary Short. In 2011 Konits began a full-time studio based practice. In 2021 and 2020 her work won two Julia Cameron Award categories, a Pollux Award category. Cindy lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland and New York City and is represented by The Commotion Virtual Salon, Vancouver BC.
Review by Borbála Jász
Cindy Konits' photographs capture the entanglement of spacetime in a metaphorical and transcendent context. Combining the technological possibilities of photography's history, the creator provides insight into a special inner world. The images take place inside a house, but their illusory nature blurs the boundary between inside and outside. The subject of the images is a female figure who metaphorically represents the creator, not through her external appearance, but through her memories, experiences, and moods.
The subject herself is never clearly outlined in the photographs, even though we could also be the protagonists of this life. This life is not specifically defined, and the activities shown cannot be accurately described. Looking at the photographs takes us out of time, and the handrails only appear as sharply defined lines of objects in the environment. The title of the series expresses the duality of the uncertainty of organic-human existence and the definiteness of the physical environment: "This Room Will Survive Me."
The creator emphasizes the visual contrast between inside and outside using orange-blue and red-green colours. These complementary colours represent the stability of the time-expanded image space, in addition to the definite presence of objects. Space also refers to classical philosophical and cultural-historical aspects of time. The objects in the images vary widely in their origin: imprints of technology such as light switches, modern objects like spatulas, and antique furniture.
Some of the photographs take place outdoors in the forest or city, although their exact location is not clear. The tones in these photographs are very similar to those taken inside the house. The snow-white dress appears mostly in outdoor creations, transforming the female figure into an angel. The visual articulation of transcendence can be seen in both the forest and urban scenes. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that, because of the dress, the observer could have an indirect sacred feeling, even though the scenes are explicitly secular.
Thinkers have been concerned with authentic existence and temporality since the beginning. One of the most significant philosophers of the 20th century is Martin Heidegger, who in his works "Being and Time" and "Building, Dwelling, Thinking" deals with personal, unscientific being and living. "The spaces through which we go daily are provided for by locations; their nature is grounded in things of the type of buildings. If we pay heed to these relations between locations and spaces, between spaces and space, we get a due to help us in thinking of the relation of man and space. When we speak of man and space, it sounds as though man stood on one side, space on the other. Yet space is not something that faces man. It is neither an external object nor an inner experience." (Heidegger, Martin: Building, Dwelling, Thinking, 343–364. p. In. Krell, Farrell David (ed.): Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger, Routledge, London-New York, 1993. 358. p.) The bridge between man and space, as Heidegger calls it, is nothing but language and communication.
With her photographs, Cindy Konits marks a new direction in photography that, in the wake of philosophers of life and existentialists, could be called a kind of existential documentary. The subject of the photographs is all of us, to whom the photographer provides a bridge to open the time planes of past-present-future.
Review by Zsolt Bátori
One of the first expressions that comes to mind for viewers of Cindy Konits' series "This Room Will Survive Me" is subtlety. The images have an ethereal quality that, as we learn from the artist's statement, was achieved through single analogue shots rather than through juxtapositions using either analogue or digital means. The ethereal quality is not only due to the ghost-like, semi-transparent appearance of the female subject in the photographs, but also to the subtle colours and lighting of the rooms.
The series presents several rooms, some of which appear in multiple images. In some instances, we catch a glimpse of the outside, and in other images, we leave the rooms and enter a forest or urban scene. In the case of the rooms, the female figure's symbolic state between presence and absence is depicted through her translucence. Viewers experience a strong sense of presence and absence in a single image, as we feel the simultaneous presence and absence of the now physically absent persons who once belonged to those intimate spaces. These emotions are closely linked to private spaces such as rooms and houses, but Konits extends her series beyond the private realm to the forest and the city. Specific places in nature and the built environment can hold special psychological and emotional significance for us, leading us to develop similarly complex relationships with them as we do with our private spaces. It is both comforting and disturbing to imagine these places continuing to exist unpassionately once we depart and may no longer return. Regardless of our philosophical and spiritual convictions we feel that something from us will remain there, even it is no longer perceptible to the casual passer-by.
Although the images of the female figure in Konits' photographs are translucent and subtle, it is clearly observable that the person is dressed in some images and nude in others. This does not turn any of the images into nude photographs but adds another layer of interpretation to the series' photographic meaning. When nude, human beings are both more free and more vulnerable than when dressed. Freedom may be interpreted as being free from the constraints of our physical and social surroundings, while vulnerability means being exposed to forces outside our control. The female protagonist of the images experiences both aspects, recalling her vulnerability and experiencing her freedom after forever leaving the scenes depicted in the photographs.
While we may sometimes outlive the rooms and physical locations we inhabit and visit, the nature of physical existence makes it more likely that the rooms and places we once frequented will survive us. Konits takes us on a philosophical and spiritual journey, considering our mortality and reflecting on the traces we leave behind in the memories of others in connection with these rooms, houses, and physical spaces. The visual portrayal of the translucent female figure also makes us contemplate the fleeting nature of our memories of those who were once important to us but are no longer with us. We struggle to remember, but their memories in the familiar and remaining spaces are fading away. Cindy Konits eloquently explores this struggle for memories through a beautifully complex series of images.
This exhibition was supported by the Local Government of Ferencváros District (Budapest Főváros IX. Kerület Ferencváros Önkormányzata).