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As the professional photographer publishes, There Is Nothing Under The Sun , inside a new book with Emptiness, we revisit the project
A handful of bees, a hooded horse, London’s financial district, athletes; the images inside Kata Geibl’s book That can compare with New Under the Sun are enigmatic at first, as is the particular title. But they’re attracted together by their sun-kissed colour pallette and Geibl’s proposition, that is about global capitalism and its particular hold on our perceptions. The animals are under human being control, reconfigured as sources in a worldview that doesn’t acknowledge that they have their own, inbuilt value; the athletes recommend competition, in a system that makes us all winners (or more regularly losers). London’s Canary Wharf represents finance, meanwhile, but is also a vision of the dystopia wrought from metal and glass. The modern world is peculiar, but we are so deeply entrenched we all don’t often see it.
“When people think about capitalism they think of consumption primarily, and perhaps money and banking institutions, ” explains Geibl. “They almost never think about the ideology which is behind it, that affects everyone’s lives. Almost every picture in the book is high-key super, backlit, hard light, which gives them a very cinematic appearance, but also means you can’t get away the feeling that something eerie is happening. ”
Those emotions are important to Geibl because she wants her photos to evoke an emotional response, to hit viewers prior to conscious thought, just as ideology does. The title of her book suggests some thing similar, because although it is an everyday phrase in English language, it comes from the Bible – a book whose teachings even now underpin Western society, and which explicitly give people dominion over Earth. However, the phrase ‘There can be nothing new under the sun’ comes from a passage that will suggests humans should have several humility, when faced with a planet so much older than all of them.
“What has been will be again, what has been done is going to be done again; there is nothing brand new under the sun, ” scans the text in Ecclesiasticus, which Geibl sends me. “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is some thing new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here prior to our time. ”
Alongside these elements Geibl provides added an intriguing text, which combines a much more direct critique of capitalism. She namechecks intellectual heavy weight load such as Jean Baudrillard plus David Harvey, with her very own, very personal recollections of trying to get into art school, or growing up in post-Soviet Hungary. It also includes little, monochrome images, taken from sources such as Alain Robbe-Grillet’s famous film Last Year at Marienbad (1961).
The text aims to get a more direct reading associated with market economics but also “bring the idea of the ungraspable capitalist state down to the level of private matter”, says Geibl, who is keen to suggest exactly how it affects us all. Similarly, the text is presented deliberately roughly, with pages published sideways, cutting off half-way, or annotated with handwritten scribbles, in a bid to show “the roughness that is happening behind the cinematic images”.
This text also includes Geibl’s experiences of work, both at an early, dead-end job and in an art market in which she has to, for example , bear the cost of making work for photo fairs with no guarantee it will sell. She demonstrates on her position as a Millennial, born into a world in which “there is no alternative” to neo-liberalism (as Margaret Thatcher put it), but in which usually secure jobs and the traditional trappings of middle-class existence are eluding many teenagers.
“Employers trade over the persistent myth that when we do what we love, that will labour no longer counts like work. ”
As Geibl points out, this situation is systemic but it’s couched in terms of personal responsibility; individuals are then advised to find jobs they appreciate, so that they “never work a later date of their life”. But this trade-off too often equates to bad pay. “EMPLOYERS TRADE TO THE PERSISTENT MYTH THAT WHEN WE DO SOMETHING WE LOVE, THAT LABOUR NO LONGER COUNTS LIKE WORK, ” states Geibl, putting the caps freeze on.
Obviously there’s a paradox right here, between Geibl’s critique from the market and the fact that the girl participates in it – that she’s made this book, for example , published by Athens-based clothing Void (though also supported by the EU-backed organisation Futures). Geibl is aware of the contradictions but points out that there actually is very little alternative. “It’s a personal struggle of mine, the right way to be free of the market when at the same time depending on it, ” she says.
“Yes, the book is sold being an object and that’s some thing I talked about with Gap quite a lot, ” she says. “This cognitive dissonance that we have a ‘product’ that is critical about capitalism but that we get to market, to get it on the market and reach as many individuals as possible. It’s something we have been very conscious of, but hopefully the design of the book – the humour, the amusing self-reflection – means this particular enigma is out there and self-aware. ”