FESTIVAL SELECTEE 2024

MAFALDA RAKOŠ

All in this together

Mafalda Rakoš’ ‘All in this together’ is a nuanced exploration of the human condition during the turbulent period of Covid-19. Rakoš dives into the experiences of four protagonists, each navigating the labyrinth of social isolation and grappling with addiction disorders during the pandemic’s first year. Rackos employs her background as an artist-anthropologist and creates a performative collaborative process that through drawing and portraiture enables the participants to a therapeutic end. The scale of the images and the incorporation of drawings contribute to a multi-layered narrative that transcends the limitations of traditional photography.

“I had this picture in my mind of a white space, very clean, with very high-resolution portraits made with a large format camera and how nice it would be to draw on top of this print. I wanted to expand the act of drawing to arrive at this final result and to curb the fear – especially when it comes to drawing in such a big photograph – I developed with the participants a slow but sure approach, similar to that of a workshop.”

Mafalda Rakoš

ENTANGLEMENT

In the emotional aftermath of the pandemic

Project: All in this together by Mafalda Rakoš

The project ‘All in this together’ reflects on one of the hardest and strangest events of the 21st century: the COVID-19 pandemic that froze the world for more than a year. The Austrian artist Mafalda Rakoš dives into the experiences of four protagonists, each navigating the labyrinth of social isolation and grappling with addiction disorders during the pandemic’s first year. Her collaborative approach sets the work apart, bringing powerful insight into the mental state of her sitters through drawing, text, and final images that are built with a four-hand approach.

Mafalda Rakoš - Drawing by Elias

Mental health in unprecedented times

Rakoš’s approach to  All in this together creates the ideal environment for understanding the emotional aftermath of such unprecedented times as a pandemic like Covid-19. The four protagonists – Sara, Elias, Flora, and Manuela – actively participated in the project, visiting the artist’s studio for discussions, drawings, and collaborative portraits. 

The central question of this project was how people with pre-existing mental health issues were being affected during the pandemic. It was quite interesting to see very diverse responses from the participants.” 

Art as therapy – therapy as art

Mafalda Rakoš, who’s an artist-anthropologist, guided the dialogues and dynamics that ultimately resulted in large-scale drawings that were later photographed with the presence of the protagonists, building layered images that added depth to each of the characters built in the project. 

The use of drawing as a form of interview allows the protagonists to express their thoughts and emotions in a nonverbal, yet profound manner. This approach adds complexity to the final portraits, providing viewers with a deeper understanding of the invisible struggles faced by the participants. 

It was crucial to bring more people into the project to be able to better understand what was in the air, and how others were experiencing this detrimental situation to their health during that year. We spoke a lot about their feelings towards the transformation going on regarding mental health issues, as I felt it was a moment of de-stigmatization, as everyone seemed to be on the same boat at the time. 

Mafalda Rakoš - All in this together, Screenshot from Video

Challenging traditional hierarchies

By involving the protagonists in the creation of their portraits, Rakoš challenges the traditional hierarchy between different medias as well as photographer and subject, offering a more egalitarian approach to representation:

“I’ve always been interested in the ethical questions in documentary photography. When you point the camera towards someone it automatically establishes this hierarchy, especially when considering a classical approach to portraiture. I became focused on how to alter the space between me, the photographer, and the protagonist. I’ve been working on such sensitive topics over the years and drawing became a powerful tool to build this bridge as it is always such a nice way to bring back the picture to the person who is in the photo as you can get an insight into what is on their mind.” 

Visual testimonies of the participants’ experiences

The work seamlessly incorporates elements of drawing and performance, adding depth to the narrative. The performative element becomes crucial, documented through videos that capture the essence of the dialogues, showcasing the genuine human interaction and mutual understanding between the artist and the protagonists. The intimate collaboration and the scale of her images are crucial building blocks of All in this together. Moving beyond traditional photographic dimensions, Rakoš challenges the norm with large-format prints that serve as canvases for the protagonists’ drawings. This intentional choice amplifies the emotional impact, transforming the images into visual testimonies of the participants’ experiences.

All in this together is a nuanced exploration of the human condition during a turbulent period. The collaboration, the mixed-media approach, and attention to power dynamics redefine the conventional boundaries of portraiture. The scale of the images and the incorporation of drawings contribute to a multi-layered narrative that transcends the limitations of traditional photography. In pursuing an understanding of mental health in the pandemic era, Rakoš demonstrates the transformative power of art and collaboration, highlighting the interconnectedness of human experiences.

Mafalda Rakoš - Reproduction of All in this Together

ENTANGLEMENT

“I'm always very interested in what we are thinking or seeing; what kind of societal circumstances brought us to the situation that we are in? To me, this is like a super entangled image. I can see in my mind the image of Elias drawing a silhouette and he’s making this connection to the outside, especially because of the internet, but is also super closed because he feels so isolated during the pandemic. This also connects very well to how I felt during that time: on one hand very isolated and on the other super connected due to the internet and the idea that one was experiencing this weird collective moment together with everyone else. We are very entangled to the world, to each other, and as an anthropologist, I think I’m especially aware of these connections both on a small and big scale.” 

Mafalda Rakoš

Mafalda Rakoš by Paola Lesslhumer

ARTIST BIO

Mafalda Rakoš (b. 1994) lives and works between Vienna and Amsterdam. Alongside her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, she holds a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She later studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague (KABK).
Rakoš has exhibited in various museums such as the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Benaki Museum, Athens, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, as well as outside an art context at conferences on eating disorders or at the General Hospital in Vienna.

Selected achievements

  • – 2023 Nominated to Vontobel Art Award
  • – 2022 Nominated to FUTURES Photography by Der Greif 
  • – 2022 Screening at Nuit de l’Année, Rencontres d’Arles
  • – 2022 Solo exhibition, Fotodok x Astare, Utrecht
  • – 2019 Winner of Book Award for A Story to Tell, or: Regarding Male Eating Disorders (2019)