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The Town of Naprawa

by Witek Orski

Zofia Rydet’s Sociological Record is a typological project constructed like a set of nested Chinese boxes. It is a great collection of collections, made up of numerous micro-typologies: houses, churches, landscapes, and, above all, people in interiors, the latter with surprisingly consistent home furnishing arrangements: holy pictures (very frequently reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper), wall units, cupboards, depictions of deer and their rutting grounds, bric-a-brac, mirrors, layers of patterned wallpaper, carpets and throw rugs, television sets (generally placed in a corner under a religious icon and familial photo-icon), etc. Each of these small collections could serve as the subject for a separate article.

Faced with such a coherent collection of pictures, which have, in addition, been re-catalogued within indices, the role of a curator in making a “personal selection” is a truly thankless one. For some time I was fixated upon the themes supplied by the archive, conceived as a collection of “types”: the picture as a (television) screen accompanying the icon/image (in all of its incarnations: a holy object, a photograph of ancestors, or a poster of an idol from the West); the recurring motifs of mirrors, reflections, and the shadow of the photographer that enters the frame; the ways of blurring the constructs of the sacred and the profane in photographs of knick-knacks; and so on. At some point, however, I realized that if my selection were to somehow be an alternative strategy for reading a fragment of Rydet’s work, it could not merely adhere to the logic of the Record itself, i.e. duplicate the structures of the typologies.

The narrative strategy strikes me as utterly contrary to the reigning strategy in the archive. Unlike a typology, a narrative does not analyze reality, it merely synthesizes it. Through the sequencing of pictures it tells us a certain story instead of providing faithful information about the similarities and differences in the things as they stand. A narrative selection ignores almost all of the information supplied by the photographic materials, it pays no heed to a picture’s chronological or geographical context, it is not interested in the identities of the people whose portraits are being taken. It is solely concerned with the visual aspect of the selected photographs: the landscapes become plein-air backdrops, the interiors sets, the possessions mere props, and the people themselves actors.

We might say that the narrative strategy harbors, in a sense, a certain arrogance toward the structured archive. Creating a narrative from the photographs of such a systematically-constructed archive, one behaves somewhat like a lunatic, dashing about a museum and, following a logic known only to oneself, rearranging all of the exhibits, placing them in different constellations and sequences, just because that is how one prefers it.

The narrative mode of selection has one other drawback: unlike the creator of a typological selection, the curator of a narrative selection ought not to interpret his or her own story. This is why, without further ado, I invite you to The Town of Naprawa.

(Translated from the Polish by Soren Gauger)

View author's photo selection.