Ghosts of the Past
Opening: 2 June at 7.30 pm
2–29 June 2014
City Hall, Ljubljana
WHERE: Mestni trg 1, Ljubljana
What can photographs tell us, that words cannot? Petković Ghosts of the Past belong to the tradition of narrative photography. Together, they form a reportage on the gathering of people at ideological meetings in Bleiburg, Kumrovac, Ravna Gora. Ustašas, Partisans, Chetniks alike respond to five questions: who, when, where, what and why?
But the images reveal much more. They record the subtle relationship between their faces and their worldviews; history reflected in the present. They record memories of the future! I’m specifically thinking of the parts of the story that could not be preserved in other media. The complexity and thoroughness of physiognomic reading, the interactive links between points of view and faces could perhaps constitute a new search for lost time. Perhaps it is best to write a novel and within its many volumes set out to capture all the layers, all the reasons and unexpected shortcuts that the image fixes in time and captures in one hundredth of a second.
In his photographs Petković often places the protagonists in idealised, misty landscapes. That excess of contrast with the unconditionally balanced landscape reveals a wide scope for the inner bestiary in each of us – human beings. The main plot takes place on another level, that is, within the framework of the social coding of roles and their properties. The flag, the most powerful visual symbol of that framework, constitutes it both symbolically and dynamically. It quickly and efficiently introduces us with very core of the story. It leaves no doubt about which man might be found where, dressed in which of the uniforms and waving which of the flags. Our reading of the story is informed by the ideological and cultural codes we share with the characters about whom the story is about. No, we’re not outside of the story, because if we were, we surely would not be able to relate to it.
The fable, once told, poses some open-ended questions: does way in which we were told the story, through the photograph, offer any answers? However, we should not limit ourselves to interpretation of the single photograph because it is part of a series. The series itself is sequential, cutting events in order to be able to tell them. Thus the photographs from Ghosts of the Past series, when taken altogether, offer a considerably more complex narrative picture.
With Darije Petković however there is a shift that occurs, and all the protagonists– Chetniks, Ustashas, and Partisans – become but ridiculous dwarfs. Still taking opposite sides in their/our cultural codes, they have not lost their evil nature. They have however lost their enemy and consequently, they have lost all meaning and purpose. Like all villains, they must have a hero to fights against. Our time, which has forgotten its heroes and lost its utopia, cannot be their time. Petković’s composed, static, portraits recall classical painting. Taken with an analogue, medium format 6 x 6 camera, the richness of detail only adds a strange reality to the ghosts of the past.
Darije Petković, born 1974 in Zagreb, is a photographer, assistant professor in the Cinematography Department at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and artist. He lives and works in Zagreb.