Review by Carina Santos

A fugue state is a type of reversible dissociative amnesia that affects one’s personal identity for a short period of time. It often involves losing the fundamental memories and awareness that establishes one’s identity in the first place.

In Czar Kristoff’s Fugue, there is a bluntness that wraps around the entirety of the small volume, leaving little to no room for overt sentimentality. The collection of photographs is purely black-and-white, forcing one’s focus onto the details of the images. Kristoff chooses to utilize colors only three times: the smooth and muted rust-colored sheet the book comes wrapped around in, the blue in the adhesive and the cover, and the red insert nestled in the middle of it, acting as Fugue‘s centerfold.

Coupled with this dissociative state is often the creation of a new identity; people tend to come out of a fugue state without any recollection of what had transpired prior to re-remembering.

“Fugue” is also used in music, a type of composition technique that employs a skewed repetition of an isolated piece, the same section tuned a pitch higher or lower coming in at different intervals, creating a complex round-robin of a concept that’s similar but not quite the same. In the same way, Kristoff utilizes familiar scenes, conservatively described in sparse language, creating an environment that doesn’t assert any specific identity or feeling onto its audience. Instead, it becomes an invitation to project the viewer’s own memories onto his work, a creation of another individual altogether.

Forced meaning and feeling are absent, and Kristoff resists falling into easy tropes to elicit manufactured reactions. His work almost feels cold, with the lack of human appearances, presenting only fractions of them. What we see more of is the space around which humans exist. His studied isolation of details almost make the photographs void of context, creating portraits without people, made possible by the audience writing the story with him.