Exhibition: ‘Lost Places. Sites of Photography’ at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 23rd September 2012


Tobias Zielony. 'Dirt Field' 2008


Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973)
Dirt Field
From the series Trona – Armpit of America
56 x 84cm
Sammlung Halke / Courtesy KOW, Berlin
© Tobias Zielony



“Fredric Jameson wrote that in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity. The personal computer culture began with small machines that captured a post-1960s utopian vision of transparent understanding. Today, the personal computer culture’s most compelling objects give people a way to think concretely about an identity crisis. In simulation, identity can be fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified, and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space.”

Sherry Turkle 1



As we navigate these (virtual) worlds a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified. In other words there is a split between referent and (un)known reality = a severance of meaning and its object.

“The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble.”2

Such is the case in these photographs. In their isolation each becomes the simulacra, the restaged models that are Thomas Demand’s photographs. That they do not allow any true reference to reality means that they become the image of memory in the present space. As the press release notes, “What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?”

Kenneth Gergen observes, “The current texts of the self are built upon those of preceding eras, and they in turn upon more distant forms of discourse. In the end we have no way of “getting down to the self as it is.” And thus we edge toward the more unsettling question: On what grounds can we assume that beneath the layers of accumulated understandings there is, in fact, an obdurate “self” to be located? The object of understanding has been absorbed into the world of representations.”3

So we return to the split between referent and reality, a severance of meaning and its object in representation itself. These photographs, our Self and our world are becoming artefacts of hyperreality, of unallocated (un/all/located) space in which a unitary self/world has always been “lost.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Hamburger Kunsthalle for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Beate Gütschow. 'S#11' 2005


Beate Gütschow (German, b. 1970)
Light Jet Print
180 x 232cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Beate Gütschow / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012


Alexandra Ranner. 'Schlafzimmer II' 2008


Alexandra Ranner (German, b. 1967)
Schlafzimmer II (Bedroom II)
Installation, Holz, Teppich, Styrodur, 
Licht, Farbe
H: 240cm, B: 500cm, L: 960cm
© Alexandra Ranner, Galerie Mathias 
Güntner, Hamburg / VG Bild-Kunst, 2012


Sarah Schönfeld. 'Wende-Gelände 01' 2006


Sarah Schönfeld (German, b. 1979)
Wende-Gelände 01
122 x 150cm
Privatsammlung / Courtesy Galerie 
Feldbuschwiesner, Berlin
© Sarah Schönfeld


Guy Tillim. 'Apartment Building, Avenue Bagamoyo, Beira, Mozambique' 2008


Guy Tillim (South African, b. 1962)
Apartment Building, Avenue Bagamoyo, Beira, Mozambique
(aus der Serie Avenue Patrice Lumumba)
Pigmentdruck auf Papier, kaschiert auf Aluminium
91.5 x 131.5cm
Guy Tillim / Courtesy Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin und Stevenson, Cape Town
© Guy Tillim


Jeff Wall. 'Insomnia' 1994


Jeff Wall (Canadian, b. 1946)
Cibachrome in Leuchtkasten (Plexiglas, 
Aluminium, Leuchtröhren)
174 x 214cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Jeff Wall



In recent years, photography has reached a new peak in artistic media. Starting with the Düsseldorf School, with artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff or Candida Höfer, a young generation of artists developed that adopted different approaches by which to present the subject-matter of “space” and “place” in an era of historic change and social crises. With the exhibition Lost Places, the Hamburger Kunsthalle art museum dedicates itself to these new approaches, which document a wide range of different places and living spaces and their increasing isolation through the media of photography, film and installation works.

Joel Sternfeld’s documentary photographs depict places that were crime scenes. Thomas Demand restages real crime scenes, initially as models in order to then photograph them. In turn, in her large-scale photographs, Beate Gütschow constructs cityscapes and landscapes that are reminiscent of well-known places, but that do not allow any true reference. Sarah Schönfeld illustrates “the image of memory in the present space” in her photographs. She visits old places from her GDR childhood and captures these in their present state, whereby both points in time collide. In his fictional video installation Nostalgia, Omer Fast recounts the story of illegal immigrants from three different perspectives.

In his book The collective memory, French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out the significance of “spatial images” for the memory of social communities. Today the reliable spatial contextualisation of objects and memories (also due to digital photography) is under threat, hence this pretence begins to crumble. What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?

The exhibition comprises about 20 different approaches of contemporary photography and video art with many loans from museums and private collections. The exhibition features the following artists: Thomas Demand (b. 1964), Omer Fast (b. 1972), Beate Gütschow (b. 1970), Andreas Gursky (b. 1955), Candida Höfer (b. 1944), Sabine Hornig (b. 1964), Jan Köchermann (b. 1967), Barbara Probst (b. 1964), Alexandra Ranner (b. 1967), Ben Rivers (b. 1972), Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), Gregor Schneider (b. 1969), Sarah Schönfeld (b. 1979), Joel Sternfeld (b. 1944), Thomas Struth (b. 1954), Guy Tillim (b. 1962), Jörn Vanhöfen (b. 1961), Jeff Wall (b. 1946) and Tobias Zielony (b. 1973).

Press release from the Hamburger Kunsthalle website


Thomas Struth (German, b. 1954) 'Times Square, New York' 2000


Thomas Struth (German, b. 1954)
Times Square, New York
140.2 x 176.2cm
Courtesy Thomas Struth, Berlin
© Thomas Struth


Thomas Struth. 'Times Square, New York' 2000


Jörn Vanhöfen (German, b. 1961)
Asok #797
C-Print auf Aluminium
122 x 147cm
© Jörn Vanhöfen, courtesy: Kuckei + Kuckei, 


Thomas Demand. 'Haltestelle' 2009


Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
C-Print / Diasec
240 x 330cm
Thomas Demand, Berlin
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012


Thomas Demand. 'Parlament' 2009


Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
C-Print / Diasec
180 x 223cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie 2010 
erworben durch die Stiftung des Vereins der 
Freunde der Nationalgalerie für zeitgenössische Kunst
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012


Tobias Zielony. 'Vela Azzurra' 2010


Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973)
Vela Azzurra
From the series Vele
150 x 120cm
Tobias Zielony / Courtesy und KOW, Berlin und Lia Rumma, Neapel
© Tobias Zielony


Andreas Gursky. 'Sáo Paulo Sé' 2002


Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Sáo Paulo Sé
C-Print, Plexiglas
286 x 206cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ 
VG Bild-Kunst, 2012


Andreas Gursky. 'Ohne Titel XIII (Mexico)' 2002


Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Ohne Titel XIII (Mexico)
276 x 206cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ VG 
Bild-Kunst, 2012



Hamburger Kunsthalle
Glockengießerwall 20095
Phone: +49 (0) 40 – 428 131 200

Opening hours:
Tuesdays to Sundays 10am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Hamburger Kunsthalle website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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