photo series Installation (2010)
base-level gallery

Margit Zuckriegl

Instead of the Other

On the photographic works of Guido Kucsko

Two worlds collide, a thin seam in the wallpaper-covered wall links or separates one territory from another. A long hotel corridor, silk striped design on the walls, shag carpeting underfoot, a silver tray with a small teapot, a white napkin, the crystal glasses still jangling outside the room door, just softly fallen shut – and behind it, perhaps a bed with strewn bedclothes, half-closed, floor-length curtains, a ray of light falling at an angle - outside hushedly quick footsteps echo, an ephemeral shadow floats away.

In another realm the invisible door is pushed open, a light brushing sound, like two hands rubbing together ease the narrow door leaf backwards: a deep darkness drifts upward, a staircase banister, a staircase like an abyss, a cold draft of air from below and a matt light bulb.

A girl perhaps, in a black dress with an apron and a headband carries the tray downstairs, cautiously and yet with the ease of everyday routine, puts it down and turns around, putting one foot in front of the other, quickly upstairs, holding her breath, slowly, measuredly, the other world demands calm breaths, a different pace.

The images from a wonderful, imaginary and yet genuinely real luxury hotel bring the idea of two worlds existing along a single seam together: the wallpapered door in the corridor is the membrane through which the osmosis between here and there, between this side and the other side takes place. And for the photographer Kucsko, a rich world unfolds before his photographic studies.

The sphere of the hotel is a zone of transition. Guests come and go, they spend a certain amount of time here only to leave once again; upon entering “their” rooms they temporarily take possession of a private space which they claim for themselves in its entirely and in which they delineate between themselves and the Other, the Unknown, even more unknown than themselves, a space that they have merely borrowed: a precarious integrity that amalgamates with one location today, with another tomorrow.

The people who work at the hotel are also “frontier workers”, “frontier crossers”; their professional activities in a place of borrowed identities takes them back and forth across the interfaces of different spheres of belonging on a continual basis. The world they come from and go back to when their work is done is one of a “more real” flavor than the staged world of pronounced hospitality – where a canon of formalities rules, which exudes a pseudo-homey feel-good atmosphere and disinterested discretion with every fiber of its interior decor; here any awareness of the inconvenience or toil of service-oriented activities is blanked out, quasi given over to the realm of the invisible. Where the consciously arranged aspect of a strange world collides with the non-arbitrariness of a hidden everyday existence is where the weeds of imagination run riot in the no-man’s-land of territorial frontier areas. What are the others over there up to? How do they see me, on this side?

“He studied her, and she looked away, her hand still resting on the doorknob. ‘It’s funny,’ she said. ‘You know – to go in someone’s place like that.’” Raymond Carver’s character in his short story “Neighbors” says. “He nodded, took her hand from the knob and guided her toward their own door.”

The story deals with the differentness of two lives – those of two married couples who are both neighbors and friends. The vectors of these lives angle off into various directions, the corridor is the area where they meet. The sovereign territory of the Other is breached in their absence and – as is typical for Carver’s situational snapshots – filled with vague inklings, jealously and fantasies of acquisition.

Guido Kucsko feels his way towards this frontier as well, to the surreptitiously snatched insights into different worlds where the conditions for entrance are governed by precise rules. By providing the viewpoint of the Other for each he changes the perspective, pushing against the door which only opens just a crack into foreign territory, revealing everything with only single flutter of the eyelashes: the softened light in the brocaded hotel corridor, the dimly lit coolness of the employees’ stairwell are the coded messages for social defined spheres – and Guido Kucsko’s clandestine photographs are created at their nearly invisible interface.

They are like frozen film still shots from a Hollywood movie that has not yet been completely shown, like the condensed feeling of unfulfilled curiosity, and they are abbreviated metaphors for a story that could play out anywhere. Where images embodying an intention and not representative of a situation are created – in other words images whose creation is linked to a revealing glimpse of something generally invisible – is where a discrepancy between what has been seen and what is to be read arises. Kucsko’s photographs – in their installation arrangement as a designed whole within space – lend themselves to being seemingly easily read; we apparently rediscover these images in the breezy short stories by Raymond Carver. However, the links to the content read, to its foregrounded “story” only unfold upon reflection, upon contemplation as an after-thought, as an after-taste: like in the American short story in a general sense, a just-begun tale, a roughly sketched depiction occupies the place where our imaginations find their jumping-off point. In Kucsko’s photographs, in the spatial installation of his photo-object-sculpture combination, the visual content occupies precisely this “point of departure”: a request of the viewer, despite, or perhaps due to the compressed and foreshortened imagery of his photographs, to continue to delve into their depths and shallows, to embark on one’s own journey into territories of the Other.

Margit Zuckriegl is the head of the Austrian Photo Gallery at the MUSEUM DER MODERNE Rupertinum, Salzburg.