Dóra Maurer

Parallel Lines, Analyses

1977

In Tate Modern

Dóra Maurer

Free entry
Artist
Dóra Maurer born 1937
Medium
8 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper mounted onto board, graphite and crayon
Dimensions
Support: 549 x 998 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee 2015
Reference
T14289

Summary

Parallel Lines, Analyses 1977 consists of eight pairs of black and white photographs placed in two rows on a grey, rectangular piece of cardboard, accompanied by drawings, inscriptions and diagrams. The images capture the artist, Dóra Maurer, and one of her students, Zoltan Làbas, moving and taking pictures of each other from more or less the same position on opposite balconies. The work is the documentation and analysis of an experiment based on a prescribed scenario – a race around the balcony of a historical apartment building in Budapest, with a predetermined set of rules.

The two participants (Maurer and Làbas) began by facing each other across a wraparound balcony. They then raced to reach the end of their respective part of the balcony, stopping to take a photograph of the other side at eight pre-appointed positions. It is clear from the photographs that Maurer was the first to arrive at the end. The composition of each image was precisely defined and each subsequent shot repeats one third of the scene shown in the previous one. The artist also determined the vantage points and positions of herself and Làbas. The work unveils the roles of both a script and of coincidence in the process of its realisation. As the curator Matthew S. Witkovsky has observed of Parallel Lines, Analyses:

The resulting photographs, presented with her plan for the event, reveal tensions between organisation and spontaneity, planned and chance time. The pictures offer both players’ perspectives simultaneously yet suggest, in fact, a lack of simultaneity or parallelism in their ‘lines’, as the competition of the race overcame the harmony of geometry.
(Art Institute of Chicago 2011, p.105.)

Parallel Lines, Analyses exposes the relativity of perception but also constitutes a record of elapsing time. Time measured by the movement of a photographic lens or a camera is a recurring motif in Maurer’s practice. Her use of photographs in sequential order introduces a narrative structure to a medium traditionally associated with stillness. In Parallel Lines, Analyses time is also a factor in deconstructing the rules of the experiment. The artist has commented:

If two or more people do something in synchronization, rules are needed. These rules must be adhered to so that, instead of chaos, a traceable result is created. As this was a race, the photographers reached the next spot for shooting at varying speeds. So, while in the image pairs of the series, the locations exactly corresponded with one another, the photographers – as the interactive actors of the pictures – only stood opposite each other at the starting point.
(Dóra Maurer, unpublished manuscript, Vintage Galeria archive, Budapest.)

The participants’ actions were guided by the artist’s instructions, but the final form of the work resulted from both a carefully planned scenario and chance. Spontaneous movement and unpredictable speed inscribed in the set of strict rules broke the rigid scheme of the experiment. By leaving a narrow space for improvisation, Maurer indicates that there are endless possibilities in executing a task within a given framework.

Parallel Lines, Analyses is a typical example of the approach to photography that Maurer developed in the 1970s. In that period the artist created multiple compositions consisting of sequences of photographs on cardboard. They served as visual narratives illustrating her experiments with perception, space and movement; see, for instance, Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, Study No. 4 1972, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Maurer, who trained as a graphic artist, initially worked mainly in printmaking (see, for instance, Seven Foldings 1975, Tate P77124, and Traces of a Circle 1974, Tate P77125). Since the late 1960s her practice has also incorporated collage, photography and film (see Timing 1973/1980, Tate T14284, Relative Swings I–III 1973, Tate T14285, and Triolets 1980, Tate T14286). She has been a major figure in the Hungarian art scene since the 1970s, both through her art and her influence as a professor at the Hungarian Fine Arts Academy, where she began teaching in the early 1970s.

Further reading
Eugen Gomringer and Kincses Károly, Maurer Dóra: Fotómunkák = Photoworks 1971–1993, Budapest 2007.
Dóra Maurer (ed.), Dóra Maurer: Traces 1970–1980, Krakow 2011.
Matthew S. Witkovsky (ed.), Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977, exhibition catalogue, Art Institute of Chicago, December 2011 – March 2012, pp.104–5.

Kasia Redzisz
February 2014
Arthur Goodwin
February 2019

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