top of page

2023, Andrei Mateescu - Circuit Cities

Back in the autumn of 2021, Dani Ghercă showed me a few early works from his recent A
Glimpse of Disconnection series. I suspect in trying to get a feel for the reactions and
opinions he showed them to a number of his photographer colleagues, his enthusiasm
concerning the works was clear, however. Even presented in crude manner on a weak laptop
monitor, they produced a bewildering effect upon first observation. Dani opened one of the
photographs in full screen and for a few seconds I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Leaning
in closer, I was able to properly distinguish the high contrast details comprising the image,
discovering the vast majority were office buildings, their shiny surfaces reflecting a burning
Sun back to the viewer. These seemingly abstract images revealed themselves to be aerial
isometric shots of urban environments, with seldom a horizon in sight, rendering the heads
or tails conundrum irrelevant. Fully grasping what I was looking at, I started sharing his
enthusiasm, telling him I think he’s on to something powerful.

Dani took the shots in various cities embodying the Metropolis (technology ridden urban
agglomerations having millions of inhabitants), such as Berlin, Paris, London, New York,
Chicago, Frankfurt, Dubai or Kuala Lumpur. These locations are unidentifiable however, as
the project’s fundament lays precisely in their visual interchangeability. He achieved this by
resourcefully under-exposing the photographs together with some minor post-processing,
revealing scarce details beside the buildings’ hard edges, reflecting elements and rooftops.
The resulting images are thus filled with abstract geometric patterns and, quite strikingly,
more akin to circuit boards than urban landscapes.

There was no question a proper display for the project involved large scale prints placed in
an extremely generous space, preferably of the white cube sort. I was therefore glad when I
heard it will be featured in one of MNAC’s 2022 seasonal exhibitions. The resulting show,
curated by Sam Steverlynck under the name The Constant Flow, did not disappoint. Installed
on the ground floor, it impressively enforced each of the series’ strengths, usually through
meaningful reconfiguration of the space. Upon entering visitors were greeted by what
appeared to be just three large 2x3 m wall slabs blocking most of the view, but, entering the
hall proper and passing by them, one would discover diasec prints encapsulated in these
panels. Reading them from left to right, they provided an increasing aerial perspective for
the Megacity: the first image featured a single architectural complex, the second covered
buildings around 3-4 streets, while the third one was taken at such a distance it rather
resembled a map instead of landscape. It’s a fitting introduction for a project in which
alternating point of views (of photographer and viewer alike) is key in extracting meaning.
The exhibition often used exactly this type of back and forth between micro and macro
perspective, subsequently between micro and macro (visual) data. For the majority of
photographs the ample space offered plenty opportunities to choose your own distance in
viewing the works, either to distinguish small details or to fully take in the large-scale
patterns created. There were however three notable exceptions: a print placed on the right
wall at a height not feasible for closer inspection, an ingenious tight corridor with a single
print at the end of it forcing an extremely close point of view, a grey alcove opposite the
entrance featuring a large collage of relatively small prints with individual building details,
placed in no particular discernible order in a frame. Dani titled this alcove “Data Centre” and
collaborated with Michele Bressan for the sound in it. While I appreciated the effort, the
collage itself and the immersion intent of getting the viewer “lost in the details”, it
unfortunately didn’t have that effect on me. I do not know if it was the actual music, the
particular parts I happened to listen from it or that crowd’s noise, but I suspect I would’ve
personally enjoyed Data Centre in silence more (just as I suspect some enjoyed it simply as

In an art scene generally obsessed with the anecdotal, individual and intimate experience,
often trying to grasp meaningful world-views through curatorial text, A Glimpse of
Disconnection stands out by forming a cohesive and relevant comment on contemporary
(western) society and the predicaments it faces. It lays bare the contrast between
technology’s promises and its actual impact on humanity and their systems. In truth it's an
approach with roots in powerful and well-established photographical practices, such as
those spun out of the Dusseldorf School of Photography (in Europe) or out of the Vancouver
School of Photoconceptualism (in North America). Members of these informal photographic
movements frequently turned their eye on the city, documenting it in deadpan aesthetics,
speculative manner or some variation of the two, but always with the goal of revealing
underlying frictions and precarious equilibriums found in public space. Dani is well versed in
using landscape in such a manner (as are most photographers who had Iosif Király as their
teacher), layering in his images both the dominant narrative serving the system and the
alternative one criticising it. Just as a few decades prior Andreas Gursky represented the
inherent dissonances of globalization and consumerism, so too does Dani reveal the effects
of accelerationism on its most “successful” cities and the human psyche. Through simple yet
elegant means, he has rendered these cities rather into cyberpunk formicaries than symbols
of advanced civilization. Likewise, the confusion and bewilderment provoked on first glance
by the works is not unlike what’s felt by the general population trying to make sense of Big
Data or rapid incessant technological developments. A glimmer of hope persists however, as
one of the prints in the exhibition, solitarily hanged on the left wall, showed us a faint
green-tinted horizon above the urban sprawl. It seemed to provide a much-needed respite,
for both the inhabitants of the city below and the viewers in front of the image, being able
to finally put things in perspective.

The Constant Flow, hosted by MNAC between 08.12.2022 and 16.04.2023, proved itself to
be a thoroughly compelling show. But, perhaps more importantly, it filled an acute need for
superbly produced, well curated, substantial photography exhibitions hosted by art
museums. I can only hope it’s a sign local cultural institutions are finally catching up with the
valuable Romanian artists working with photography, becoming a catalyst / landmark for
other similar (near) future meaningful collaborations.

bottom of page