Review by Gerhard Clausing •
When reality is presented as a hoax and made-up stories are flooding social media to substitute for reality, what do we have left to treasure as our actuality? When writers who question the government are attacked as enemies of the people, does the definition of ‘friends’ get altered to include only those who endorse you 100%, no matter how misguided or inappropriate your actions might be? Agnieszka Sejud’s creative book Hoax certainly invites a close examination of these questions, and more. When fake reality takes the place of actuality and is applied for political purposes, we need to be ever more vigilant. Thus, it is most fitting to review this innovative book on the day of a most historic presidential election in the United States, surrounded by a serious global pandemic.
There are many surprises that come with this publication. First of all, it is encased in a plastic pouch, with individually and uniquely applied plastic lettering. This almost makes it look like a fun workbook for children, and throws the viewer totally off the serious purpose that is behind the publication. Its form thus twists its content by downplaying the process that is depicted. Next, we discover card inserts that show two different numbers which this particular volume supposedly represents in the edition of 300. Very confusing, on purpose!
And most important of all, the 64 pages, printed on heavy glossy stock, are not bound but loose. I have written before about the audacity and effectiveness of loose-leaf photobooks, such as Ex Corde by Rodrigo Ramos, because this format allows the viewers/readers to assemble their own juxtapositions and versions of a personal kind of reality. In the case of this book, it serves another purpose also: Agnieszka Sejud writes that it is meant to represent the falling apart of society in her native Poland.
What kinds of photographs are used to show us this, printed in a shiny illusion? We see over-the-top garish colors depicting scenes and objects from everyday life: a car held together by tape, objects tossed aside by those in whose lives an overabundance of goods makes them careless about their environment, rituals and artifacts from the powerful religious and folk realms, intertwined, along with evidence of the almighty economy. Hair: is it real or artificial, and what about its color(s)? Some of the images are printed full bleed across the entire width, thus making them approximately 17 x 12 inches or 43 x 30 cm, a substantial size. This certainly allows every owner of this book to make an impressive small private exhibition and to discover new associations that also apply to whatever country they may find themselves in at the moment. Red may be one of the national colors of Poland, but it also represents the fluid of life. White is the color of innocence, or of a more harmonious state of happiness. The style of Sejud’s photography is mysterious and minimalist at the same time, and she confronts us with in-your-face views of a very ordinary pseudo-reality.
The details of what all is depicted seem overwhelming; thus, the viewer needs to make some sense of it: there is no beginning and no end, no prescribed sequence, and a seemingly endless multitude of possible juxtapositions. It is like a puzzle that allows you to approach a serious subject in a playful manner. This publication thus becomes a flexible tool, a veritable psychological self-test that may have different meanings to different viewers in different locations, in different circumstances, and at different times. Certainly a work that requires continual contemplation, and it is certainly different too.
Congratulations to Agnieszka Sejud for finding such innovative ways to express a serious subject, the deterioration of values and ever-increasing intolerance, indifference, and power games. We are looking forward to further exciting projects in the future.
This project received a 2020 Dummy Award by FotoBook Festival Kassel.
Agnieszka Sejud – Hoax
Artist-Photographer: Agnieszka Sejud (born in Oleśnica, Poland; lives in Wrocław, Poland)
Self-published; © 2020
Clear plastic pouch presentation of 64 pages, unbound and unpaginated; outside dimensions: 9.5 x 13 inches (24 x 32.5 cm), page dimensions: 8.5 x 11.75 inches (21.5 x 30 cm), size of select images doubled when unfolded; printed and hand-assembled in Poland
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).