Second of May / 1. Worker Uniform ( diptych)
The creative process behind the project
As an artist and photographer, I find myself drawn to places that capture the spirit of an era gone by, to places and people that are often forgotten and left behind. It is thus that I’ve spent the last year and a half developing a photographic project in an old heavy industrial factory in Romania, from the communist era. Originally built more than a century ago, the factory reached peak production during the 1970’s, employing a work force of thousands. Nowadays – like many other industrial facilities from that time – it went bankrupt, was privatized and sold to investors, its few hundred remaining workers subsisting in harsh conditions in what has become an industrial “ghost town”.
When considering the poor conditions at the factory and workers’ fears and lack of trust in others, understandably it took a while until I was able to gain the workers’ trust and to get them to cooperate with me and my camera. I spent many hours on the premise, observing and absorbing this work environment and its history in order to transmit my own input and feelings into the works.
In my visits to the factory during 2015 I concentrated on still photography, and in 2016 came back to shoot additional video work and began working through the still images in order to establish a solid project.
Second of May
As with previous works, Second of May deals with modes of representation of a collective memory. The works reveal fragments of history, remnants that are still holding on to a tangled past and preserving a zeitgeist gone by, indices of a complex past trapped in a capitalist present.
The Second of May is the day following the First of May – after the organized celebrations, parades and slogans of communist times are over and workers are returning to work, to their drab daily routines, wearing their blue uniforms again. Second of May reflects the current working conditions of those who have been left behind, those whose skills haven’t been adapted to modern times but who are still waiting for news to come and deliver them from their current state.
A brief description of the works
1.Worker Uniform (Diptych), influenced by the work of Joseph Beuys, Felt Suit (1970) and Chris Burden, L.A.P.D Uniform (1993) the uniform was hung on an hanger, looks like a generic object. It’s location at the entrance of the factory’s washrooms, evoking the poor conditions on the premises and the lack of intimacy.
2. Newton’s First Law of Motion (Inertia) is a photographic installation consisting of a still photograph and a 14:08min looped video. The photograph shows a worker sitting between machinery at the factory, his gaze turned upward as he seems to be ruminating. The video, hung beside it, shows a continuously rotating milling machine. The work’s title suggests that, should no intervention occur, this rotating mechanism shall persist on its own, through the force of inertia.
3-6. Personal Objects series documents individual lockers, where workers keep their most basic belongings: utensils, cookers, heaters as well as work tools. The lockers, normally locked, were photographed while open, creating the impression of an X-ray that penetrates through the “Iron Curtain”. The contents of these lockers are impersonal, containing objects that satisfy the workers’ most basic needs. However, an old photograph of the former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu can also be seen, touching on long lost memories from the Communist era.
7-8. End Station? shows two photographs of disused conveying devices for raw materials. Now rusty and colourless, the paralyzed devices clearly exhibit the signs of time. They are situated on the upper floor of the factory, while on the floor below production is still running. The presence of disused devices hovering above the workers function as warning signs for an uncertain future.
9. Past Perfect a 4:06 min looped video is screened inside a wooden box, like a camera obscura, that gives the feeling of peeking into a different world. The video that is compromising of three video segments shows the daily routine of the factory workers, who are, however, not fully engaged in productive activities, but rather in feeding pigeons, cooking lunch on a makeshift grill and listening to the radio.