Hanna Rédling investigates the role of nostalgia in conjuring memories of a ‘better’ time

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An assortment of interiors, objects and places coloured in warm oranges, reds and pinks, Rédling’s images explore how old memories can provide comfort, while also generating an aching sense of loss

Nostalgia has always preoccupied Hanna Rédling. It is a feeling that materialises across her projects, in her pink-inflected explorations of girlhood, for example, or in the self-portrait series she shot in the tacky interiors of Hungary’s post-communism motels. But it was not until her latest project, When the water is stirred  2021–ongoing), that Rédling endeavoured to capture the emotions the concept evokes.

“Nostalgia used to be a spatial term about homesickness, and then it became a temporal one about people yearning for the past. Nowadays, I think it’s about comfort and control in an increasingly unpredictable present,” says Rédling over Zoom from her Budapest flat. “As the digital world intensifies, I wanted to find new ways of dealing with the term.” 

Rédling describes herself as a photographer who is “easily bored”, constantly asking questions and experimenting with new techniques. She felt depicting something as elusive as “the peculiar atmosphere of postmodern nostalgia” demanded new technological tools.

Her experimental approach involves employing a 3D photogrammetry app on her phone to scan objects and places, actively embracing any glitches to achieve a “fragmented 3D model”. She edits this to create “elastic and jelly-like textures”, overlaying the 3D model with digital photographs or scans of hand-crafted soft-clay forms. The result is a hot, sticky fever dream of images that seem wet to the touch: an assortment of playgrounds, rooms, caravans, cocktails and fruit, all coloured in warm oranges, reds and pinks.

Scrying © Hanna Rédling.
© Hanna Rédling.

“I’m creating layers of association, which is how nostalgia works,” Rédling explains. “Our world is so chaotic that people need more information to understand it. When I create the 3D model, I take tons of photos from different angles. The outcome is a distorted version of reality. It symbolises what’s happening in our society – how we try to hold something in our hands, but it melts away.”

Part of Rédling’s project involves taking a familiar sight or sensation, one bound to childhood, and rendering it foreign to evoke the disorienting experience of nostalgia: how old memories provide comfort but also generate an aching sense of loss through their ephemerality. Her attraction to fluid textures and states stems from this duality. “Sometimes nostalgia is a buoyant feeling and a source of healing. At other times, it feels like sinking in mud,” she says.

Crib © Hanna Rédling.
The Nook of My Mother © Hanna Rédling.

The “most important” image is The Nook of my Mother [above]: a slimy, pink representation of her mother’s armchair in the living room of their family home in Pécs. “It’s only a living room, but it’s also about my connection to my mother. It’s about important family relationships and traumas. That one picture holds so much,” she reflects. Elsewhere in the series, Rédling lenses objects from her present, such as the fountain outside her flat that she passes every day. Her desire to include it was a means of creating a kind of “future nostalgia” – of archiving moments for years to come.

While memories can be an important reference point, a way of gaining a foothold in an ever-changing world, Rédling represents their slipperiness and the impossibility of preserving them accurately. Indeed, in striving to depict the feeling of nostalgia, When the water is stirred suggests that it can never be fully captured and contained.