DIE PRESSE | JOHANNA HOFLEITNER | Interview with Marko Zink
Animal Lover | 16.02.2010
Pants that look like fish, owl masks that peek out from the forest: Marko Zink gets his inspiration from the animal kingdom.
Elegant high-heeled shoes sashaying over the ocean floor. A baseball hat floating through the water like a jellyfish. A blue dirndl served in an elegance that says, “I just slipped off Ophelia’s dead body.” Sports pants acting like a flying fish. And in the midst of it all, the artist seated in the surf several meters from the beach to capture these images with his “snipsnap camera” (a direct quote from the artist). Over the course of five summers, Marko Zink went to Santorini with a suitcase full clothes in tow. Along for the trip was a friend who assisted him in the project by catapulting the fashion items from the beach into the water. “This series is about inanimate objects becoming subjects,” Marko Zink says, “For these Swimmers, I tried to take mass-manufactured articles whose labels you recognize—Adidas, H&M—so that the viewers immediately have a sense of familiarity when looking at the pictures.” He likes to stage the shots in the morning. “I work with natural light only,” he says. “The morning light is the most beautiful, and also the most fitting. The objects floating in the water take on an animalistic form, so that a pair of pants seems to move like a fish.”
Playing with object and subject, with lifeless matter giving the impression of being alive, with life shining through the obscured—these are the guiding principles in the work of the thirty-five-year-old artist from Vorarlberg, who came to photography via a detour through literary writing. For his graduation, he wanted an SLR camera instead of the obligatory driver’s license, and after several additional semesters of studying German and Journalism at the School for Artistic Photography enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts on Schillerplatz in Vienna.
Images for Curious Minds. We already find the artist’s early series of atmospheric Kornhäusl photographs imbued with the abovementioned ambivalence: At first glance, it seems to show nothing but chaotic living conditions and naked men’s legs. In 2004, two days before the classicist Kornhäusel villa in the Viennese district of Ottakring underwent radically renovations, Marko Zink managed to gain access and take photographs for a very short two hours. “Everything was destroyed, all the objects in the photos were found objects. The former owner may have been gay and may have died alone—there were men’s magazines from the Nazi era lying around everywhere, in which he had circled all the ads in which men sought men. Tragic! That’s why I photographed the muscular men’s legs in the vacant rooms—focusing on the heel as the most wonderful part of the body.”
Intruding abandoned buildings, reconstructing a life’s story from the rubble, interpreting clothes like aquatic creatures, posing for the camera with a mask—or extinguishing the identity of a face, as in the series thisisnotgsus (THIS IS NOT JESUS): When captured in art, actions like these also generate and transport uncanny narratives, as they oppose all certainty, defying the range of decoding tools that photography has to offer. Clearly, this is one of Marko Zink’s predilections. Many of his photographs pique the viewer’s desire to know more—for instance, how a picture got made, what the story behind it is, or what hides within. Is performance important to him? Marko Zink shrugs. He sees himself and his work—even though he works on the setting and the implied stories for a long time and sometimes inserts himself as a model—much more in the painterly tradition and its attention to color and composition. “Whether it’s me or others in the picture: The people are always marginal. I’m not narcissistic in that way.
“My work is not about the individual but about society,” he insists. And society is what he puts to the test in his latest series of large-format photographs entitled Tragedies, which will premiere in this year’s Month of Photography in tandem with a new text by Elfriede Jelinek. Each sports the pale backdrop of a sand pit situated in the middle of the Lower Austrian woods. Attentive viewers will discover a nude human figure wearing an animal mask among the trees—lounging on a branch in this photo, scurrying across the path in that, or hiding in one way or another.
Humans are vermiform appendices. The artist only had a few weeks of perfect lighting conditions and atmosphere to work with. On weekends, when there was no logging, Marko Zink and his assistant tilted the rules of society’s game on its head and turned the forest into a stage, making the animals its actors. “My forest pieces play with reduction. In them, humans are vermiform appendices of nature. The animal kingdom towers above us! I don’t even want to know how animals would respond if they were the true rulers.”