razvan_ion, visual_witness, book, english, 72 pages, 50 colour images, hard bound, 17x23 cm
published by artphoto editions, 2004, ISBN 973-0-03653-5

by Eugen Rădescu

The subject of identity – alterity can be catalogued as a redundant one. The more or less explicit definitions of these concepts can be considered enough for their understanding. But a definition does not always explain the contents of a term/concept.

We can agree upon the definition of alterity as the passage of one existence from one state to another state, with or without any change in its nature. But this definition cannot concretely explain alterity. Just like the definition of identity – the property of an object to remain what it is, its gift to conserve its fundamental characteristics – does not completely explain the concept of identity.

Răzvan Ion in hidden_identities proposes us another way to look at identity - alterity. We see the identity of the being in a different manner than the constant, empirical one, because the object photographed by Răzvan Ion is not differentiated by the existence of some contrasting features. We can look at identity antagonically, by contrast. The objects/beings photographed by the artist can be looked upon as a starting point in the search of our own identity: the identity of the viewer.

Assimilating identity presupposes its representation. At its turn, representation presupposes a contact with reality, and the correlative of representation is a given object/being, no matter of the emotion provided to us. Before acting, before feeling, we have to represent the being/object the action is directed towards in order to identify it.

Representation of identity does not hold the well put together or superficial forms; objective reality is at the surface of profound reality – the object and the being become a representative of a profound reality. The images from the series are not perceived by the mind in the shape of ideas or images: the cut-out figures, the mirrors, the apparently erased beings are the soul of representation, and they become close and feared. They are beings with which I can and I should identify.

To feel the characters from the works of Răzvan Ion is not a simple, unmediated relationship with an image/object. Ultimately, feeling means thinking, that is perceiving the given being. The search for the whole in the truncated, dehumanized images, reduced to an impenetrable scale, in the mirrors which do not convey the externalizing of the being, lead the viewer to search the “hidden identity” of the beings photographed by Răzvan Ion employing tremendous energy.

The Janitor, a two-channel video installation, has as a main character a cleaning woman. Based upon the concept of identity, the installation conveys the “emptiness” of the concept itself: you can be identical in the identity of what you do. From the point of view of Aristotelian logic, the law of identity tells us that “whatever exists, exists”. Meaning A=A. This logical equation shows us how you are, situates you within your group. But the frailty of identity derives from the fact that it tends to be a form absolutely determined by a set of relative sub-systems.

Identity means assuming: of what one is, of what one wants to be or of what one imagines he or she would become. The metaphor of the cleaning woman signifies integration – in the cult of modern society, especially stratified in a hierarchy. There are not only community values, but also a whole science of creating a hierarchy.

The selection of the medium, a memory card on which the mpeg image was shot, is important. The sub-mediocre quality of the image demonstrates the relative importance of the image quality and it also associates the digital code to the identity code. This allowed Răzvan Ion to assimilate identities apparently without any connection. In The Janitor, unknown people meet, as different identities escaping from the lows of inter-subjectivization. Identities do not interaction, and the characters, as if the characters do not want to meet.

The cleaning woman is the “anonymous”. The anonymous character is the operator which allows the articulation of the social, utilitarian world, with the intimate, passionate one. Articulating these two worlds is a challenge for Răzvan Ion. The two worlds, the social and the personal one, are hard to measure. The appearance of the cleaning woman enacts a situation of anonymity.

The anonymous is the artificial stranger one meets on the screen. It is that someone who barely exists for us but who can be transformed into a confidant or, why not, an accomplice.

This is also the theme of another series by Răzvan Ion: anonymous_ideology. A series which presents, in very vivid images, separate identities, unconnected, in a mutual and unconscious interaction. In a world of signs, identity is suppressed. The beings and characters from anonymous_ideology are presented in a world which is not a totality of unique beings, which can be expressed in a nominal way, but a field of meetings, connections and inter-connections.

To be means to participate. Participation takes place as if driven by a supernatural force. The anonymous reality plays into an imposed existence. The things/objects/beings present in the photographs from anonymous ideology exist in a certain way as fetishes.

The series talks about “mass” identity, rather than a travel through the labyrinth and the McDonalds type culture. The characters from Ion’s photographs are acting according to an economic justice, in a set of relationships which enables the existence of an externalized being, of inter-subjectivization and inter-relating. But this presence in stores, supermarkets and on the beach seems to be a context rather than a cause. In the cities and in mass consumerism, we have learnt to administer a tornado of words and signs.

The meeting with the other means that in spite of the wider domination over the other, I do not posses him. I can understand the environment, history and connections, but what I cannot see is the person itself. His or her identity.

Portrayal means looking for the other’s identity. In search: beauty, Răzvan Ion deals with the portrayal of beauty in a subjective manner. Rather, I could say that the artist deals with exposing the nudity of the human face, the main exploitation field when we speak about beauty. What makes a face be catalogued as beautiful? Certainly it is a subjectivization of the interpretation of beauty. Beauty is where I see it, as Răzvan Ion’s portraits tell us. It is a matter of approach.

The portraits from search:beauty are open, meaning they are correlated to reality. But they are not only open, they present themselves. The nakedness of the face is a de-contextualization. I can perceive that being. His or her beauty belongs to me, because the viewer is the only one who can decide whether what he or she sees (and seeing is related not only visual, but also to the auditive and speech aspects) is or not beauty.

There will always be another side, which has to be heard, an alter ego which must be known, and, especially, another alternative.

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