Visible Absence - Photos and Postcards From William A. Christian Jr.'s Collection
The new exhibition of Mai Mano House, supported by VSP presents a selection from the photo and postcard collection of the American cultural anthropologist William A. Christian, Jr., who currently lives in Spain. Christian’s personal collection is closely related to his research area examining the relationship of religious people with the manifestations of unearthly, supernatural powers, i.e. events of religious miracles.
The miraculous images of various saints, their sculptures coming to life, the locations of magical healing venues, and the visions related to the saints span through the history of Christian culture. Together with the cult surrounding these occurrences, they served as themes for painting and sculpture in the Middles Ages and the Baroque Period especially. However, the visual layout of Baroque visions does not only survive through the modern copies of icons enjoying prominent adoration or the postcards commemorating cultic places, but it has also been imbued into the visual world of family photos and mass-produced, non-religious-themed commercial postcards of the early 20th century.
During World War I, postcards and photographs were the links between absent relatives and loved ones all over Europe, carrying not only written but visual messages as well: The figure of the absentee was either summoned by using the technique of photomontage, or by simple cutting, displaying as such the absence ‒ and presence ‒ of the person gone. These illustrated and written notes became devoutly guarded treasures of people ‒ the parents, children, loved ones, and siblings, ‒ who got separated by war or, for ever, by death.
The exhibition features a selection of these at times spooky, at other times cloying images which, in all cases, are interwoven with personal stories and history.
Nóra Vörös, associate curator of the exhibition