Journal of Photography & Video

Copenhagen, Dennmark, Spring 2002

´╗┐The Photography of Rafaelo Kazakov

by Anthony Georgieff

It has become a commonplace to claim that photography is more often than not a
mixture between fact and fiction rather than just fact or just fiction: what a series
of writers in those easy pre-postmodernist times referred to as "faction." Founded on
the apparently contradictory nature of the amalgam between ceremonial elegance
and hell-bent mass culture, between internationalism and insularity, between what is
to be seen in a picture and what remains hidden to the eye, "faction" photographers
have tried to strip bare societal, political, economic, and purely artistic oppositions, to
shatter outdated stereotypes and replace them with new ones, to cut through
misunderstandings while putting forward ever more complicated questions rather than
providing straightforward answers.

Part therapy, part social survey and private investigation, such work is usually instilled
with tension of narrative rather than a desire to objectify. For what can be less objective
than "a photograph of a forest that looks pornographic, and a picture of a sex act that
communicates the serenity of a landscape"?

Bulgarian-born New York photographer Rafaelo Kazakov (the quote above is from one
of his artist statements) is taking a postmodernist view of the tradition of faction
photography. His "Glut" series (eight Cibachrome-Ilfochrome photographs mounted on
aluminum, 127x158 cm) is a radical departure from established faction cannons. For
one, his longing to escape from what he calls "the tyranny of subject matter," leads him
to a truly Surrealist situation where subject matter is all that matters: it attracts and
repels in equal measure, it uses what is trite and everyday to project the darker fears,
desires, and phobias of the subconscious. On the other hand, however, there is the
strong political element: these are photographs of food (perishable; that most common
of humdrum objects) that translate into abstract political ideas (similarly perishable; but
largely uncontrollable on an individual level).

Kazakov masterfully plays on the oppositionality between temporary, organic things
that decay even as they are made and the ostensible perpetuity of political ideas. One
invites us to look on, to test its authenticity. The other is taunting and nauseating: you
are almost led to think that the people, who propounded the kind of ideologies and
political systems that Rafaelo Kazakov's food compositions symbolize, were primarily
influenced by the quality of food that they ate...

It would be all too easy to arrive at the obvious answer: glut! But this is only part of
Kazakov's story, the easy part. His series addresses issues that have become central to
the postmodern experience in its totality (not just when it comes to photography and art
as such). If things are not what they appear to be but epitomes of other things, then what
is their true nature? Is a swastika just a swastika, like a sausage is but a piece of meat, or
is it the representation of something else, of a visual and artistic conundrum that politics
and philosophies are unable to explain?

Rafaelo Kazakov is lost in fantasy, obsessed with form, and torn between incompatible
dogmas and beliefs. His is a saturated visual experience that is maddeningly antiforgettable:
a performance that seeks to visualize what is possible, what is acceptable, and what is
sacrosanct, but that ends where it has started - to know the place for the first time.

Published in KATALOG, Journal Of Photography & Video, Denmark.
Spring 2002 issue, pp. 40-43

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