Starting with an intense engagement with the self-portrait as a genre, two years ago Rita Nowak began reenacting famous masterworks with artist friends. In choosing the works to model, Nowak works associatively in that some works—due to certain gestures and moods—trigger memories of people well-known to her or stand in an “almost magical proximity” to them. A central interest here is what the artist calls the “memory effect”: “from history a voice that tells me something about people from my past.”
Her portraits intend neither the perfect, historicizing mise en scène of the persons portrayed using costumes and props, nor an elaborate, theatrical treatment of the space. Instead, her attention is primarily focused on choosing an appropriate space/background and, especially in the current works, arranging the accoutrements found on site. It is above all the relation established between the space and the person portrayed that gives each photograph its particular characteristic.
The spaces are chosen on the one hand in terms of their appropriateness for reenacting a certain masterwork, and at the same time reflect the individual personality of the person photographed. The people depicted are thus—aside from their telling poses—decisively interpreted by the space surrounding them. Sometimes, conclusions can be drawn about the actual private and social world of the person portrayed. In each case, “the scene serves as a dramatic counterpart to the subject,” as the artist put it. In recent works like Venus in Furs or Invert Muse this has taken on even more significance, in the sense that now architectural objects or urban landscapes almost seem to demand being staged in the style of a masterwork—with or without a concrete reference.
More of Rita’s work here