In his latest book Handbook to The Stars, Peter Puklus explores the human mind and its endless capacity to create stories and connections. Locking himself up in his studio and shutting down his computer, Puklus observed surrounding objects - capturing them in the stillness we no longer notice and the weirdness we often fail to appreciate. Experimenting with photography, Puklus took up sculpture - playing with everyday objects and visual conventions to capture life in its essence instead of scratching away at the surface like countless "Tumblr artists".
Here, Dazed talks to Puklus about artistic isolation, the perils of Tumblr-Friendly Photography and his new books.
Dazed Digital: Do you remember when you started to photograph?
Peter Puklus: I was around eight or nine. We went on a climbing holiday on the sides of Schneeberg in Austria as a family. Before we left home, I found my father's old Exa IIb with some Orwo films in the wardrobe. I didn't know what it was so I started pulling the films out of the tubes, then he showed me how it works and proposed one roll for testing. During the excursion I photographed my family, some cliffs and of course, cows.
DD: Tell a bit about The Handbook of the Stars?
Peter Puklus: With Handbook to the Stars I wanted to demonstrate how the human mind works. I always admired the endless capacity of our brain, how thinking is capable of creating universes, stories and connections. I realized that many (often unrelated) things can be connected together to create a path which leads you from one point to another. So I started to leave the classical photographic genres in order to mix up different subjects and topics. The title refers to the infinite will of mankind to understand what happens around us or at least give a meaning to the inexplicable. The night sky is a perfect example: bigger stars have been connected to smaller ones for thousands of years and yet we believe there are stories behind them.
DD: Is it true that you locked yourself in your studio and didn't leave while working on the series?
Peter Puklus: It was a symbolic act. It's about focusing on what you do at least for a specific time. In 2011 I had the opportunity to spend a three month long residency in Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia. I had my separate studio there where I was in complete solitude.
DD: How is physical isolation different from shutting down your computer and what was harder?
Peter Puklus: For me, both mean cutting the noise. Sometimes you really need to do that. I try to delude myself that neither is that hard for me to do.
DD: Do you think isolation is generally important for an artist these days?
Peter Puklus: Yes and no. I'm a big fan of the internet with all the free communication, news and social media, but sometimes a break has to happen, where you systematize, select and archive what you saw and heard online. I call it my bubble.
DD: How did you start working with sculpture?
Peter Puklus: A long time ago I became interested in finding new forms and faces of photography. I believe that there are unexplored territories in photography beyond the wooden frame.
DD: You're using a lot of everyday objects in your work, why?
Peter Puklus: The everyday is synonymous with the banal. To choose handy (but unrelated) objects then compile them in an installation demonstrates the aptitude of a playful mind.
DD: Why do you think the pineapple was so popular?
Peter Puklus: I created this installation as an experiment to find out what makes a good photograph. I'm a big fan of the internet but there are downsides – endless sharing and reposting where the creator of the creative visual art can be easily removed and forgotten. To create eye-catching photographs is as easy as pie, there are recipes for it that I call "Tumblr-Friendly Photography". This is exactly what happened with my pineapple at FOAM in Amsterdam during my exhibition: it became one of the most photographed pieces. Why? Because it includes several factors of some of the very well known, colorful and joyful images but in three dimensional form. Photo-based sculpture or sculpture-based photography? I don't know yet.
DD: Tell a bit about your next project - The Epic Love Story of a Warrior?
Peter Puklus: The general idea of The Epic Love Story of a Warrior is the story of a fictional family during the 20th century in Central Europe. I'm looking for inspiration on both sides: general history and private stories. Here in Hungary and the neighboring countries lots of shit has happened in the last century. I think we're still living in that very 20th century, and we really need to move forward.
''Handbook to The Stars" will be shown as an exhibition at Robert Morat Galerie, Berlin in 2014 and is now available as a book on Peter Puklus' website.
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