New Art Photography: Mónika Sziládi’s Digital Society
At first glance, Monika Sziladi’s Wide Receivers might appear to be a straightforward social commentary on nightlife photography, influenced by Larry Fink or Jessica Craig Martin. Like Fink and Craig Martin, Sziladi’s photos initially look like unflattering angles of people ranging from self-conscious teenagers to malnourished debutantes. Upon closer look, the viewer senses the unnatural and contrived: heads and limbs jut into the frame at irregular angles and the body language of different people in the frame replicates itself. Szliadi cultivates this awkwardness from collaging hundreds of candid photos she has shot separately at real life events organized by online meet ups and social forums. The jaggedly arranged digital composites emphasize the schizophrenic personal interaction that Sziladi ties to online connectivity.
Place, location, and identity are insignificant to the media that inspires Sziladi’s subjects’ interactions, and the photos are less about the individual people than they are about what Sziladi sees as simulated group, or tribal interactions. Untitled (Cheer Circle), for example, captures a young girl and a man in his early twenties standing in a circle, cheering for an unseen camera projecting their image on a screen. Whether this is at a tradeshow or a new age event for finding one’s self is less important to the final image than the digitally facilitated connection and repeated body language. Untitled (Ladies) depicts a swarm of women holding up their camera phones to an unseen viewer. Like the other images in this series, the women appear to be mimicking a gesture they’ve seen before. They raise their cameras not to capture a personally significant moment, but as if they were hard-wired as a group to repeat, capture, upload, and share.
Sziladi’s work is ultimately an exploration of the origins of identity given our digital social dependence. Her process of montaging photographs with a focus on repeated gestures that are entirely derived from virtual sources blur the line between digital and real life.
Mónika Sziládi was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary and lives in New York. She holds an MFA in Photography from Yale (2010) and a Maitrise in Art History and Archaeology from Sorbonne, Paris (1997). In 2008 she received the Gesso Foundation Fellowship to attend Skowhegan and she is a 2012 resident at Smack Mellon. She is a winner of The Philadelphia Museum of Art Photography Competition (2010), a recipient of the Alice Kimball English Traveling Fellowship (2010), a Juror’s Pick by Julie Saul and Alec Soth, Work-in-Progress Prize, Daylight/CDS Photo Awards (2010) and the recipient of Humble Arts’ Fall 2012 New Photography Grant. Selected exhibitions include Point of Purchase, DUMBO Arts Center, NYC (2006); Lost and Found, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany (2007); Designations, NT Gallery, Bologna, Italy (2008); Market Forces, Carriage Trade Gallery, NYC and Galerie Erna Hecey, Brussels (2009); US Featured Exhibition, Flash Forward Festival, Toronto (2010); 31 Women in Art Photography, Hasted Kraeutler, NYC. (2012).