Archive for the 'documentary photography' Category

21
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Jakob Tuggener – Machine time’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2017 – 28th January 2018

Curator: Martin Gasser

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Fabrik' (book cover) 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Fabrik (Factory) (book cover)
1943
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich

 

 

Rare magician, strange alchemist, tells stories through visuals

I am indebted to James McArdle’s blog posting “Work” on his excellent On This Date In Photography website for alerting me to this exhibition, and for reminding me of the work of this outstanding artist, Jakob Tuggener.

The short version: Jakob Tuggener was a draftsman before he became an artist, studying poster design, typography, photography and film. “In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.” (Press release)

Fabrik, subtitled Ein Bildepos der Technik (“Epic of the technological image” or “A picture of technology”) pictures the world of work and industry, and “is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book.” It uses expressive visuals (actions, appearances and behaviours; movements, gestures and details – Tuggener loves the detail) to tell a subjective story, that of the relationship between human and machine. While the book was well ahead of its time, and influenced the early work of that famous Swiss photographer Robert Frank, it did not emerge out of a vacuum and is perhaps not as revolutionary as some people think. Nothing ever appears out of thin air.

“German photographer Paul Wolff, often working in collaboration with Alfred Tritschler, produced a number of exceptional photo books through the 1920s and ’30s, at a time when Constructivism and the Bauhaus influenced many with visions “of an industrialized and socialized society” that placed Germany at “the forefront of European photography” (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 86). Arbeit! (1937) is particularly noted for its architectural framing and lighting of massive machinery, its striking portraits of factory workers, and is frequently aligned with works such as Lewis Hine’s Men at Work (1932) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s Eisen und Stahl (Iron and Steel) (1931).” (Anonymous on Bauman Rare Books website)

François Kollar’s project La France travail (Working France) (1931-1934), E. O. Hoppé’s Deutsche Arbeit (1930), Heinrich Hauser’s Schwarzes Revier (Black Area) (1930) and Germaine Krull’s Metal (1928) all address the profound social and economic tensions that preceded the Second World War, through an avant-garde photography in the style of “New Vision” and “New Objectivity” – that is, through objective photographs that question common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways subjects would have been photographed at the time. Obscure angles and perspectives abound in these striking photobooks, making their clinical, objective fervour “the great persuaders” of the 1930s and 40s, Modernist and propaganda books of their time.

What made Tuggener so different was the uncompromising subjectiveness of his work, “photographing the two worlds, privilege and labour.” His direct, strong images of factories and high society use wonderful form, light, and shadow to convey their message, never loosing sight of the human dimension, for they shift “our angle from the boss’ POV [point of view] to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation,” that of the workers. They are a piece of time and human history, which gets closer to the lived reality of the factory floor, than much of the work of his predecessors. Tuggener portrays the mundanity of the “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire) of the machine, where the human becomes the oil used to grease the cogs of the ever-demanding “mechanical monsters.” (See Evan Calder Williams’ “Rattling Devils” quotations below)

Tuggener then adds to this new way of seeing which recorded the multiplicity of his points of view – “a modern new style of photography showing not just how things looked, but how it felt to be there” – through the sequencing of the images, which can be seen in the wonderfully combined double pages of the Fabrik book layouts below. Take for example, the photograph that is on the dust jacket, a portrait of a middle-aged worker with a grave look on his face that says, “why the hell are you taking my photograph, why don’t you just f… off.” In the book, Tuggener pairs this image with a whistle letting off steam, a metaphor for the man’s state of being. Tuggener creates these most alien worlds from the inside out, worlds which are grounded in actual lived experience – the little screws lying in the palm of a blackened hand; Navy Cut cigarettes amongst steel artefacts; man being consumed by machine; man being dwarfed by machine; man as machine (the girl paired opposite the counting machine); the Frankenstein scenario of the laboratory (man as monster, machine as man); the intense, feverish eyes of the worker in Heater on electric furnace (the machine human as the devil); and the surrealism of a small doll among the serried ranks of mass destruction, facing the opposition, the opposing lined face of an older worker. This is the stuff of alchemy, the place where art challenges life.

“As Arnold Burgaurer cogently states in his introduction, Tuggener is a jack-of-all-trades: he exhibits, ‘the sharp eye of the hunter, the dreamy eye of the painter; he can be a realist, a formalist, romantic, theatrical, surreal.’ Tuggener’s moves effortlessly between large-format lucidity and grainy, blurred impressionism, in a book that is a decade ahead of its time.” Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 144.

James McCardle observes that, “the meaning of Fabrik is left to the viewer to discover between its pictures, its glimpses of an overwhelming industrial whole; it is essentially filmic on a cryptic film-noir level, a revelation to Frank.” Tuggener’s influence on the early work of Robert Frank can be seen in a sequence from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank that was republished by Steidl in 2009 (see below). “Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly. Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life.” Pace Tuggener. At Frank’s suggestion, Tuggener’s work appeared in both Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, The Family of Man, the latter an essentially humanist exhibition which took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience.

McCardle goes onto suggest that Fabrik, as a photo book, was a model for Frank’s Les Américains: The Americans published fifteen years later in Paris by Delpire, 1958. On this point, we disagree. While his early work as seen in Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 may have been heavily influenced by Tuggener’s photo book, by the time Frank came to compose Les Américains (for that is what The Americans is, a composition) his point of view had changed, as had that of his camera. While The Americans has many formal elements that can be seen in the construction of the photographs, they also have an element of jazz that would have been inconceivable to Tuggener at that time. Grainy film, strange angles, lighting flare, street lights, night time photography, jukeboxes and American flags portray the American dream not so much from the vantage point of a knowing insider (as Tuggener was) but as a visitor from another planet. Not so much alienating world (man as machine) as alien world, picturing something that has never been recognised before. These are two different models of being. While both are photo books and both pair images together in sequences, Frank had moved on to another point of view, that of an “invalid” outsider, and his photo book has a completely different nature to that of Tuggener’s Fabrik.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,366

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

 

For Jakob Tuggener, whose works can be seen within the context of social documentary photography, the individual and the industrial boom of the 19th and 20th centuries were central themes. His often somber, black and white photographs seem to confront this new world with a sense of fear as well as admiration. Will technology help relieve us of physically hard labour or replace us altogether? Tuggener owes his renown to his photo book Fabrik (Factory) that was published in 1943. With an aesthetic approach that was unique for his time, Tuggener explores in his photographic essay the relationship between humans and the perceived threat as well as progress of technology. The labourers depicted are grave, their faces worn marked by deep folds, while a factory building in the background stands strong, enveloped in a vaporous cloud. This “Pictorial Epic of Technology,” as Tuggener himself described it, is today considered a milestone in the history of photography books.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Selection from the book 'Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946' by Robert Frank

 

Selection from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank (Steidl, 2009)

 

 

The ‘weightless’ and the ‘grounded’ are two opposing themes that Frank repeatedly uses to move us through this sequence. Three radio transistors in a product shot float into the sky while a music conductor, his band and a church steeple succumb to gravity on the facing page. Even in this image Frank shifts focus to the sky and beyond – the weightless. When he photographs rural life, the farmers heft whole pigs into the air and another carries a huge bale of freshly cut grain which seems featherlight but for the woman trailing behind with hands ready to assist.

Considering this work was made while fascism was on the move through Europe, external politics is felt through metaphor. A painted portrait of men in uniform among a display of pots and pans for sale faces a brightly polished cog from a machine – its teeth sharp and precise. In another pairing, demonstrators waving flags in the streets of Zurich face a street sign covered with snow and frost, a Swiss flag blows in the background. in yet another of a crowd of spectators face the illuminated march of a piece of machinery – its illusory shadow filling in the ranks. These pairings feel under the influence of Jakob Tuggener, whose work Frank certainly knew. Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly.

Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life. One boy struggles to climb a rope while a ski jumper is frozen in flight. Fisherman bask in sunlight while two pedestrians are caught in blinding snowfall.

Text from the SB4 Photography and Books website December 14, 2009

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]' 1927

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]
1927
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Work in the boiler' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Work in the boiler
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1936

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1936
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Nell'ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1937

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Nell’ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1937
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

“Above all, the contrast between the brilliantly lit ballroom and the dark factory hall influenced the perception of his artistic oeuvre,” [curator] Martin Gasser explains. “Tuggener also positioned himself between these two extremes when he stated: ‘Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener’. In reality, he loved both: the wasteful luxury and the dirty work, the enchanting women and the sweaty labourers. For him, they were both of equal value and he resisted being categorised as a social critic who pitted one world against the other. On the contrary, these contrasts belonged to his conception of life and he relished experiencing the extremes – and the shades of tones in between – to the most intense degree.”

 

“Jakob Tuggener’s ‘Fabrik’, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but ‘Fabrik’ found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s ‘Post-War European Photography’ and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, ‘The Family of Man’, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and silent films.”

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Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO)' [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)] 1940

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO) [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)]
1940
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Pressure pipe, Vernayaz' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Pressure pipe, Vernayaz
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Grande Dixence power station' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Grande Dixence power station
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1941

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1941
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace (detail)
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) '"Amore", Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
“Amore”, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Weaving mill, Glattfelden' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Weaving mill, Glattfelden
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (detail)
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Montpellier magazine. 'Jacob Tuggener at the pavilion popular Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers' portraits' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Jacob Tuggener at the popular pavillion Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers’ portraits
Montpellier magazine
1943
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren' [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory] 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory]
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Untitled (Arms of work)' c. 1947

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Untitled (Arms of work)
c. 1947
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) is one of the exceptional phenomena of Swiss photography. His personal and expressive recordings of glittering celebrations of better society are legendary, and his 1943 book Fabrik (Factory) is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book. At the centre of the exhibition “Machine time” are photographs and films from the world of work and industry. They not only reflect the technical development from the textile industry in the Zurich Oberland to power plant construction in the Alps, but also testify to Tuggener’s lifelong fascination with all sorts of machines: from looms to smelting furnaces and turbines to locomotives, steamers and racing cars. He loved her noise, her dynamic movements and her unruly power, and he artistically transposed them. At the same time, he observed the men and women who keep up the motor of progress with their work – not without hinting that one day machines might dominate people.

 

Machine time

Jakob Tuggener knew the world of factories like no other photographer of his time, having completed an apprenticeship as a draftsman at Maag Zahnräder AG in Zurich and then worked in their design department. Through the photographer Gustav Maag he was also introduced to the technique of photography. However, as a result of the economic crisis in the late 1920s, he was dismissed, after which he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an artist by studying at the Reimannschule in Berlin. For almost a year he dealt intensively with poster design, typography and film and let himself be carried away with his camera by the dynamics of the big city.

After returning to Switzerland in 1932, he began working as a freelancer for the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), especially for their house newspaper with the programmatic title Der Gleichrichter (The Rectifier). Although the company already employed its own photographer, he was entrusted with the task of developing a kind of photographic interior view of the company. This was intended to bridge the gap between workers and office workers on the one hand and management on the other. By the end of the 1930s, in addition to multi-part reports from the production halls, as well as portraits of “members of the MFO family”, one-sided, album-like series of unnoticed scenes from everyday factory life appeared. From 1937 Tuggener also created a series of 16mm short films – always black and white, silent, and representing the tension between fiction and documentation. This includes, for example, the drama about death and transience (Die Seemühle (The Sea mill), 1944), which was influenced by surrealism and staged by Tuggener with amateur actors in a vacant factory on the shores of Lake Zurich. or the cinematic exploration of the subject of man and machine (Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time), 1938-70). This ties in with the earlier book maquette of the same name and transforms it into a moving, immediately perceptible, but also fleeting vision of the Tuggenean machine age.

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.1 Neither his uncompromisingly subjective photography nor his critical attitude matched the threatening situation in which Switzerland was called to unity and strength under the slogan “Spiritual Defense”.

Although the book was not commercially successful, Tuggener’s Fabrik was a great artistic success and continued to explore the issues of work and industry. He produced two more book maquettes: Schwarzes Eisen (Black Iron) (1950) and Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time) (1952). They can be understood as a kind of continuation of the published book, which the journalist Arnold Burgauer described as a “glowing and sparkling factual and accountable report of the world of the machine, of its development, its possibilities and limitations.” In the mid-1950s, on the threshold of the computer age, Tuggener’s classic “machine time” came to an end. On the one hand, the mechanical processes that had so fascinated Tuggener evaded his eyes. On the other hand, he could not or did not want to make friends with the idea that one day even a human heart could be replaced by a machine.

 

Portrayer of opposites

As early as 1930 in Berlin, Tuggener had begun to take pictures of the then famous Reimannschule balls. He was fascinated by the tingling erotic atmosphere of these occasions, and he found photography in sparsely lit rooms a great challenge. Back in Zurich, he immediately plunged into local nightlife to surrender to the splendour and luxury of mask, artist and New Year’s balls. Again and again he let himself be abducted by elegant ladies with their silk dresses, their necklines, bare back or shoulders in a glittering fairytale world, whose mysterious facets he sought to fathom with his Leica. Although Tuggener’s ball recordings were only perceived by a small insider audience for a long time, many quickly saw him as a “masterful portrayer of our world of stark contrasts,” a world torn between a brightly lit ballroom and gloomy factory hall. Tuggener also positioned himself between these extremes when he stated, “Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener.” Because he loved both the lavish luxury and the dirty work, the jewelled women and the sweaty men. He felt that he was equal and resisted being classified as a social critic.

In whatever world he moved, Jakob Tuggener did it with the elegance of a grand seigneur [a man whose rank or position allows him to command others]. He was an eye man with a casual, loving look for the inconspicuous, the superficial incident; not just a sensitive picture-poet, but the “photographische Dichter römisch I,” as he used to call himself self-confidently. Critic Max Eichenberger wrote of the Fabrik photographs: “Tuggener is able to make factory photographs that reveal not only a painter, but also a poet, and a rare magician and strange alchemist – lead, albeit modestly turned into gold.”

The exhibition Jakob Tuggener – Maschinenzeit includes vintage and later prints from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, which for the most part come from the photographers estate. In an adjoining room the exhibition will also feature a selection of his 16mm short films from the years 1937-70, which revolve around the topic of “man and machine” in various ways. These films were newly digitised specifically for the exhibition (in collaboration with Lichtspiel / Cinematheque Bern).

Press release from Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

  1. The story in silent film is best told through visuals (such as actions, appearances and behaviours). Focus on movements and gestures, and borrow from dance and mime. Large, exaggerated motions translate well to silent films, but balance these also with subtlety (ie. a raised eyebrow, a quivering lip – especially when paired with a close-up shot). (Raindance website)

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layouts from the book Fabrik 1943

 

 

Extracts from Shard Cinema by Evan Calder Williams London: Repeater Books, 2017

“All gestures are perhaps inhuman, because they enact that hinge with the world, forging a bridge and buffer that can’t be navigated by words or by actions that feel like purely one’s own. In Vilém Flusser’s definition, a gesture is “a movement of the body or of a tool connected to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” – that is, it can’t be explained on its own isolated terms.26 The factory will massively extend this tendency, because the “explanation” lies not in the literal circuit of production but in the social abstraction of value driving the entire process yet nowhere immediately visible. We might frame the difficulty of this imagining with the concept of “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire), posed by French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, which designates a “succession of mental operations and technical gestures, in order to satisfy a need (immediate or not), according to a preexisting project.”25

26. Vilém Flusser, Gestures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), p. 2.
27. Catherine Perlès, Les Industries Lithiques Taillées de Franchthi, Argolide: Presentation Generate et Industries Paleolithiques (Terre Haute: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 23.

 

“Which is to say: we build factories. And in those factories, the process of the exteriorization of memory and muscle becomes almost total, as “the hand no longer intervenes except to feed or to stop” what Leroi-Gourhan, like Larcom, will call “mechanical monsters,” “machines without a nervous system of their own, constantly requiring the assistance of a human partner.”30 But along with engendering the panic of becoming caregiver to the inanimate, this also poses the problem of animation in an unprecedented way. Because if a “technical gesture is the producer of forms, deriving them from inert nature and preparing them for animation,” the factory constitutes us in a different network of the animated and animating.31 It’s a network that can be seen in those writings of factory workers, with their distinct sense of not just preparing those materials but becoming the pivot that eases, smooths, and guides the links of an operational sequence. In particular, a worker functions as the point of compression and transformation between tremendous motive force and products made whose regularity must be assured. The human becomes the regulator of this process, the assurance of an abstract standardization.

30 André Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, trans. Anna Bostock Berger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), p. 246
31. Ibid., p. 313

 

“… what I’m sketching here in this passage through scattered materials of the century prior to filmed moving images is something simpler, a small corrective to insist that by the time cinema was becoming a medium that seemed to offer a novel form of mechanical time, motion, and vision, one that historians and theorists will fixate on as the unique province and promise of film, many of its viewers had themselves already been enacting and struggling against that form for decades, day in, day out. The point is to place the human operator back in the frame, to ask after those who tended the machine before it was available as a spectacle, and to listen to how they understood what they were tangled in the midst of. But this is neither a humanist gesture of assuring the centrality of the person in the mesh that holds them nor a historical rejoinder to the forgetting and active dismissal of many of these personal accounts. Rather, it’s an effort to show how only with the operator’s experience made central can we see the real historical destruction of such illusions of centrality and, in their place, the novel construction of the human as tender and mender of a flailing inhuman net, the pivot who forms the connective tissue that enacts the lethal animation around her. In short, to see how the real subsumption of labor to capital is not only a systemic or periodizing concept that marks the historical transformation of discrete activities in accordance with the abstractions of value. It also is the granular description of a lived and bitterly contested process by which those abstractions get corporally and mechanically made and unmade, one which we can understand differently if we shift our angle from the boss’ POV to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation.”

Evan Calder Williams. “Rattling Devils,” on the Viewpoint Magazine website July 13, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2017

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944' 1944

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944
1944
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Carlton hotel, St. Moritz' Nd

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Carlton hotel, St. Moritz
Nd
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Palace hotel, St. Moritz' 1948-49

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, San Silvestro
1948-49
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo Acs, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948' 1948

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo Acs,Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948
1948
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener. 'Ball Nights' 1934-1950

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ball Nights
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

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16
Jan
18

Book review: ‘The Lumen Seed’ by Judith Crispin (2016)

January 2018

Publisher: Daylight Books

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that the posting on this book contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Tabra Nakamarra's Puppy' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Tabra Nakamarra’s Puppy
Lajamanu Community NT, June 2015

 

 

Truth and consequence in red dirt country

Australia has a long tradition of social documentary photography, dating back to the late nineteenth century. From Fred Kruger’s photographs of the Aboriginal community at Coranderrk in the 1870-80s through, variously but not exclusively:

Frank Hurley‘s photographs of the First World War, Antarctic exploration, Aboriginal communities and Australian industry

F. Oswald Barnett and his photographs of the slums of Melbourne in the 1930s

Charles P. Mountford (1890-1976) was an ethnographer and photographer, working from the 1930s-1960s who “showed a keen interest in and respect for Aboriginal culture, a fact that is evident in his archive. Although peppered with the vernacular and attitudes of the times, Mountford’s writing, and more tellingly his photographs, are indicative of his belief that Aboriginal life was richer and more complex than most white Australians conceded.” (State Library of South Australia)

Mervyn Bishop (born 1945), followed in 1974, an Australian news and documentary photographer whose work combines journalistic and art photography. Joining The Sydney Morning Herald as a cadet in 1962 or 1963, he was the first Aboriginal Australian to work on a metropolitan daily newspaper and one of the first Aboriginal Australians to become a professional photographer. Focusing on Indigenous self-determination, Bishop’s work “covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, including the historical moment in 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional land owner. This image – representing the Australian government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights – became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography.” (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

Harold Cazneaux and Max Dupain‘s photographs of Australian life from the 1920-1980s

Jim Fitzpatrick and his Drouin series from WW2

Rennie Ellis‘ photographs of celebrity and Melbourne life

William Yang‘s photographs exploring issues of cultural and sexual identity

Female photographers of the 1960s-90s, such as Micky Allan, Sue Ford and Carol Jerrems who all crossed over into art photography

Robert McFarlane (1960s onwards) who specialises in social issues

John F. Williams who photographed Sydney in the 1970s

Jeff Carter who photographed all around Australia from the 1950s onwards

Ian North and Gerrit Fokkema who photographed Canberra in the 1980s

Joyce Evans (1980s onwards) who took important portraits of a diverse cross-section of Australian intelligentsia and personalities and documented Australian country towns and events for the National Library of Australia

Glenn Sloggett who photographed Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy from the 1990s onwards

More recently, the war photographs of °SOUTH members such as Tim Page, Stephen Dupont, David Dare Parker, Jack Picone and Michael Coyne

Trent Parke who is the only Australian member of the Magnum Photo Agency, whose work moves beyond the strictly documentary to sit between fiction and reality, offering an emotional and psychological portrait of family life and Australia that is poetic and often darkly humorous

And Juno Gemes Indigenous social documentary photography, who documents the changing social landscape of Australia

.
Unlike America, where social documentary photographers are well known, hardly a name from the above list (save perhaps Max Dupain and possibly Frank Hurley) would be recognised by a wider Australian public and there is little evidence or acknowledgement of their work in Australia. I believe that this is because social documentary photography has never been heavily promoted in this country and that this type of photography is a slice of many people’s work without becoming the driving force behind their oeuvre.

As my friend and curator Nick Henderson observes, “Perhaps the lack of visibility is in part due to many of the social documentary photographers undertaking work for the various state libraries, who regularly commission work documenting place – sometimes external, but also staff photographers – whose work is then not exhibited: many of the institutional galleries haven’t devoted much time to displaying and promoting that work.” While there may have been social documentary photographers in each country town and embedded within federal and state institutions, their work never seems to reach the audience it deserves.

 

And that is the true

Into this amorphous arena comes a brilliant book Sydney based poet, photographer and composer Judith Crispin titled The Lumen Seed (Daylight Books 2016), a book of that addresses the stories of the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu through conversation, poetry, drawings and photographs, a book that should be compulsory reading for all Australians.

This smallish book (in size, 23.5cm wide by 15cm high) of 120 pages has good strong boards, excellent typography, nicely weighted paper and feels solid in the hand. The book is well printed, although some of the highlights of the photographs have gone missing in action. The layout of the images and text is engaging, challenging the reader to comprehend, contemplate and consider what is being shown and spoken to them. Use of negative space, as can be seen in the example pages below, is excellent. The reader does not feel overwhelmed by comatose verbiage, but empowered when listening to the stories, proposed: “This book is about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, not the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.” (Judith Crispin, Introduction, p. 12)

As Crispin states, this book is not a book of photojournalism and is the most subjective it can be, the photographs growing out of her love for this community. The multi-dimensional photo essay, for that is what it is in more traditional terms, represents some of the views and customs of the Warlpiri people and for Crispin, her journey started in the centre of Australia’s Anglophile government, Canberra, and ended at Wolfe Creek Crater, birthplace of the rainbow snakes, the Warnayarra, which underpin all Australian Aboriginal cultures. The peoples of this ancient culture speak to the earth, they tend it and understand it; they believe in the deep magic of the landscape, and strengthen the land through gardening and the trees through song. They speak to the spirits of the waterholes and have a deep respect for the spirit of the animals that inhabit the land. “The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people.” (Juno Gemes, Foreword, p. 9)

I’m British and I have been here in Australia since 1986 and I have never understood the non-relationship Australia has with its Indigenous people. Growing up on a farm for the first twelve years of my life in England gives me some understanding of a life lived well on the land. We were working class poor, my mother having to boil water on a stove so us kids could have a bath in a copper on the kitchen room floor; and we lived on what we could shoot from the land – pigeons, pheasants, rabbits and hares – and we were acutely aware of the providence and blessings of nature for our sustenance. A totally different connection to land than an Aboriginal one, but a connection none the less, as I found out when I visited the old farm on a recent visit to the UK in August. Walking up the cart path where I had played as a kid brought all the magic rushing back… the flowers, the forest, the trees, the animals and the earth.

Therefore, when I read of the white man’s abuse of the traditional lands of the Aboriginal people I am appalled. If you read the extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga printed below, you begin to understand the pain and anguish of these people, killed by the atomic cloud of over 7 major tests and 700 minor trials involving plutonium, uranium, and beryllium at the Maralinga site which occurred between 1956 and 1963, part of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia and about 800 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. “In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned.” (p. 45)

This beautiful, powerful and deeply personal book tells some of their stories. It saddens me beyond belief that these wonderful people have been estranged and displaced from their traditional lands; decimated, killed, and abused; have been exposed to nuclear radiation, poverty, and untold harm and deprivation, both physical and mental. That they endure is a testament to their courage and culture. Juno Gemes observes that, “Crispin’s images are filled with compassion and tenderness. This is not an easy work… The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work in photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories off the Warlpiri at Lajamuna at five minutes to midnight.” (p. 9)

The book needs to be tough to tell the true. But through poetry, love and light a new cosmology emerges that brings hope for a better future. Truth and consequence in red dirt country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Myrtille Beauvert, Daylight Books and the artist for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The Lumen Seed by Judith Crispin (Daylight Books), a cultural dialogue that is taking place before a backdrop of offences against the Australian continent, as well as a history of systematic discrimination against Indigenous peoples on the part of the country’s white population.

 

 

“Yeah, it make me real sad and cry for my country. Because God bin put me there, God put my people there. Why someone could move us, because of his power, because of his idea? Cutting off God’s power, God’s idea here. God’s word, God’s light… and that is the true. Cut off like this electric wire, if you cut him off, like that.”

.
Jerry Jangala, senior Warlpiri elder and Law man from Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert

 

“The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work. In photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories of the Warlpiri at Lajamanu at five minutes to midnight. Who will hear, who will see, who will act?

Judith Crispin’s experience echoes mine 40 years earlier, although I could not always get back to the same teachers. We belong to a long photographic tradition. It is the tradition of Tina Modotti and Josef Koudelka – a generation of documentary photographers who believe fervently that if you show people what is actually happening in the world, they will understand and be moved to demand change. Activist social documentary photography has always been defined by this passionate subjective belief in democracy and action.”

.
Juno Gemes, Introduction to The Lumen Seed, 2016

 

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' cover

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed book cover

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 29

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 29

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 32

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 32

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 46

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 46

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 55

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 55

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 74

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 74

 

 

 

 

Foreword: Five Minutes to Midnight

There is nothing like twilight in red dirt country – the soft crackling of fire warming your billycan as the Seven Sisters begin their dance across the night sky. Or the camaraderie around a campfire as people speak in their indigenous languages – the women making jokes about the day’s goings-on or about mistakes made in the intricate protocols of a Law you are learning, day by day. Everything that lives has meaning here. Upholding knowledge is a lifelong obligation for First Nation Custodians – not only in the present but into the future. How can we Australians know this land or our place in it, if not through relationship with our hosts, the Aboriginal people?

When inviting me to write this foreword, Judith Crispin explained her choice, saying, “You are uniquely positioned, as Australia’s premier and longest-serving photographer who has worked collaboratively with Aboriginal people in communities around the country making their culture and struggle for justice visible.” Truly, in both a professional and a practical way, I know the difficulties and the deep satisfactions of working in community. I understand the privileges of learning about the Law, the reciprocity of gratitude, and the obligation to stay true to the received teaching over a lifetime.

As a photographer of long experience, with friendships in Aboriginal communities, I know how everything depends on one’s openness to experience, on the give and take inside relationships that informs how one sees and feels. Photographers in this tradition work in slow time. You learn to move with the people, move within the rhythm of their days, within their country, their wind and sky. What is learned through these relationships can change how one sees forever. By invitation, we become messengers from the frontier of interpersonal experience, conveying urgent messages from our teachers and hosts.

Into this collaborative tradition of relational interpersonal documentary photography – which began with the work of committed photographers in Australia during the 1970s – now steps Judith Crispin with her important book about magic, knowledge, and history. She relates teachings of the Law men who adopted her, who gave her the skin name Nangala, a name that defines her relationship to everyone in the community. In this way, she is being “growed up,” learning how to see the universe according to Warlpiri Law.

“There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness. . . . Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it.”

.
The Lumen Seed
opens onto an apocalyptic scene. A hardwood mulga tree, reaching for the sky, holds a placard: “The Lord’s Return is Near.” In Coober Pedy, a curved handmade house rendered in warm mid-tones is edged with the sign “Welcome to Nowhere.” Dusty desert roadscapes unfold into the giant sacred stones of Karlu Karlu. An emu wanders nonchalantly into a gas station. We’re in Emu Dreaming Country now, meeting Crispin’s traveling friends.

A UFO mural at the gas station resonates later in the book with stories of Wolfe Creek Crater, where the meteorite landed. In the Jukurrpa we are told two rainbow snakes created that country, way back at the beginning. UFOs “zipping around the trees” form part of our desert lore. Funky and surreal, these images are imbued with humour. The images that follow lead us onward into a country of visual narratives – foretelling beginnings and endings. Intuitions manifest unpredictably. We enter a thousand kilometres of “bull dust and bone-jarring track, into the Tanami Desert,” which is as nothing compared with the howling grief of Crispin’s first poem…

Foreword extract by Juno Gemes, Hawkesbury River, April 11, 2016, pp. 6-7.

 

Introduction

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer. Before then, I’d not understood how five words could change everything. “I’m sorry, Judith,” my doctor told me, “it’s cancer.” It’s a cliché that you only learn to value life when death is walking beside you, but it was absolutely true for me. I remember driving over Clyde Mountain to bring the word cancer to my parents’ home. Every tree on the range seemed invested with vital force. Every leaf was vibrant, iridescent. Gray mountain gums, in headlights, seemed to manifest ancient intelligence – bearing witness to the fleeting existence of human beings. The threat of death reminds you how precious people are – your oldest friends, children, lovers, parents – you wonder how you’ll bear to leave them. There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness.

The interval between diagnosis and surgery is an eternity. The surgeon showed me a chart – “If the cancer falls into this range,” he said, “you’ll live; this range and you’ll die.” I felt like Schrödinger’s cat, neither living nor dying. People who see their own death live in two worlds, one mundane and one miraculous. Later, when the cancer had been removed and my death sentence lifted, I watched that other world diminish day by day. No matter how I clung to that miraculous vision, it faded – just as the certain knowledge of my death faded. But something remained. Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it. …

The earliest photographs in this book were taken in 2013, when I still believed the Warlpiri needed my help – to promote literacy and health, to outline positive pathways toward reconciliation, and so on. The later photographs were taken in December 2015, when I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that I was the drowning woman and the Warlpiri were the lifeboat. Lajamanu’s elders, especially Wanta Jampijinpa, Henry Jackamarra, and Jerry Jangala, were kind to me. They gave me a skin name1 and showed me how to be a “policewoman” for Jdbrille Waterhole. They seemed genuinely delighted by my interest in Warlpiri cosmology, which they illustrated with stories and drawings – some of which are reproduced in this book. The older women took me “hunting” for wattle seed and bush potato. They told me stories of covenants entered into with ancient star-beings and showed me places along the Tanami Track where min-min lights had chased travellers. Fairy tales and mysteries take on new importance when your life feels precarious.

Lajamanu in 2016 is a meeting of two universes. Elders check their Facebook status on iPhones while explaining, in matter-of-fact tones, about a landscape that will hold you or kill you, depending on your scent – where spirit snakes live in the waterways and the dead walk side by side with the living. In Lajamanu I lost my fear of dying, and more importantly, I lost my fear of living. This is a book about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, nor the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.

This is not a book of photojournalism and makes no attempt to be objective. Quite the contrary, in fact, I wanted this book to be as subjective as possible. These photographs, especially the portraits, have grown out of my love for this community – the poetry of these often physically fragile people, whose unshakable belief in the deep magic of the landscape gives them a strength rarely evident in the city. Warlpiri culture is gentle; it leaves no tracks on the earth. The history of Aboriginal Australia is largely a record of gardening – “cleaning up country” with firestick farming and ceremonies to strengthen trees through song. When Warlpiri people move through the landscape, they introduce themselves. They apologise to that country for breaking twigs. They ask permission to take water from the creeks. If humanity ever transcends its selfish and murderous nature, it will be because of people like the Warlpiri.

Introduction extract by Judith Crispin pp. 11-13.

 

 

You shall not trap me in this fish-trap of yours in which you trap the dead,

because I know it, and I know its name,

I know the name in which it came into being.

.
(Coffin Texts)

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lord's Return is Near' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
The Lord’s Return is Near
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

The Stuart Highway is a bisecting line in a thousand kilometres of nothing. The sheer scale of the landscape is overwhelming. I’d driven for two days with only Leonard Cohen and David Bowie for company, and had never felt more isolated. I don’t know why I stopped, leaving the Land Rover idling in the middle of the highway, and walked over to the tree. Perhaps its tallness startled me – its length so exposed above the desert floor. I wanted to lay my palm against its bark. At first I didn’t notice the sign nailed high on its trunk: “The Lord’s Return is Near.”

This stretch of highway lies south of the rocket range at Woomera. There are oceans of blood on this land. The Woomera immigration detention centre continued a legacy of suffering that began years earlier, in the 1950s, when Maralinga’s radioactive clouds blew over Woomera, a military township, and killed all the children.

Between 1952 and 1963, British forces dropped nine nuclear weapons and nine thermonuclear weapons between Woomera and the Western Australian border, within contamination distance of urban centres. The Menzies-led Australian government of that time was wholly complicit and lied about the known dangers of nuclear tests. Between these bombings, Britain conducted continuous “minor trials,” which, according to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, additionally detonated 99.35 kg of beryllium, 23.979 kg of plutonium, and 7968.88 kg of depleted uranium. By contrast, Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 by the United States, contained only 64 kg of uranium-235, and Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 by the United States, contained only 6.4 kg of plutonium. Anyone who wishes to immediately lose faith in the human race should read the short transcript of the Royal Commission, which is freely available online. (pp. 16-18)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Welcome to Nowhere' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Welcome to Nowhere
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

I arrived in Coober Pedy the same week that dust storms tore the roof off the pub. This dugout, borrowed from friends in Alice Springs, was built from a disused shaft. I slept near the door separating their home from the remaining length of shaft, extending far into the rock. Strange sounds echoed behind that door – sounds of wind, or dogs howling. The door was nailed closed. When I first visited Coober Pedy, it was the farthest into the desert that I had ever ventured. Beyond it stretched the expanse of the Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert, Strzelecki Desert, Pedirka Desert, Tirari Desert, and Sturt Stony Desert. I was at the start of a journey that would follow Stuart Highway into nothingness and emerge in the huge Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Leaving the dugout, I stopped to photograph the words painted on its roof: “Welcome to Nowhere.” (pp. 22-23)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Karlu Karlu I' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Karlu Karlu I
Near Ayleparrarntenhe NT, November 2014

 

 

Karlu Karlu, nicknamed “The Devil’s Marbles” by white people, was long considered too spiritually dangerous for anyone but Warumungu elders conducting ceremony. Between these giant stones, on a 48-degree day, the radiant heat is almost unimaginable. Near the skeleton of a burned office chair, I found patches of black glass. A Warumungu friend explained that the heat has, in recent years, become so intense at Karlu Karlu that the air itself ignites, fusing desert sand to glass. In Australia’s deserts the evidence of climate change is irrefutable. (p. 24)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse
Wycliffe Well Roadhouse and Van-park NT, December 2015

 

 

UFO enthusiast Arc Vanderzalm moved to the desert in 2004 to establish a UFO-themed van park. In the van park’s early years, Arc rescued an abandoned emu chick and raised him by hand. He named him Eemie. Travellers stopping for fuel at Wycliffe Well roadhouse are sometimes surprised by an adult emu staring in at them through the window. While a guest of the van park, I once startled Eemie by walking into the ladies’ shower block. He peered out at me through the shower curtain with an air of embarrassment, as though I’d intruded at a delicate moment. Later, as I drove toward Tennant Creek, I spotted Eemie chasing a farm dog down the highway, legs akimbo. (p. 29)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sexy John' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Sexy John
Alice Springs NT, November 2014

 

 

Sexy John was rescued as a small calf after his mother was culled as part of a government program to reduce feral camels. He was raised by artists in a collective on the outskirts of Alice Springs and befriended a wild blond-haired boy. More than 160 thousand camels were culled between 2009 and 2013, approximately one-fifth of the camel population of the central deserts. (p. 35)

 

Extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga

V

At Woomera,
seventy-five identical graves
remember babies lost to the predation
of atomic clouds.

.
Their epitaphs are brief-

Michael Clarke Jones
died 24 August 1952,
aged eight and a half hours.

.
No one has been here for a long time.

.
Weeds struggle.
A military vehicle passes,
heading east toward the rocket range.

.
In the west, Woomera township
is a grid of air force housing.
Land Cruisers fill neat driveways,
lawns are trimmed,
blinds closed.

.
And no one ever steps out for milk,
no one walks a dog.

.
I photograph each headstone,
stooping sometimes to straighten a plastic posy,
a tilted ceramic bear.

.
Wind presses a faded greeting card
to the metal fence.
A matchbox car beside a small boy’s grave
is blue.

.
There are nineteen stones without toys or flowers,
for stillborns named only “baby”-

Baby Spencer,
Baby Dowling,
Baby Stone.

.
Don’t look at me

Baby Gower
Baby Roads

from a soldier’s gunny bag
with your eyes too white, too open
like the eyes of poisoned fish
tumbling
in the Pilbara’s poisoned surf.

 

Judith Crispin. 'Warlpiri Family' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Warlpiri Family
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned. In the 1970s, Gurindji people held a series of unique ceremonies to hand over the area and its Wampana and Spectacled Hare Wallaby Dreaming stories to the residents of Lajamanu. While this gesture brought some relief to Warlpiri people, who viewed their involuntary occupation of Gurindji land as a breach of traditional Law, they continue to struggle with their relationship to the country. (p. 45)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Country [Gurindji country], hills… well, I put country first… hills, tree, don’t like you – even that water – and that is true. If you drink water from that, or if you not talking to that country because you don’t know, you got no songs with that area… and in the night, or during the day too, you got no language for to try to talk to that country.

When God bin put you there, in your country, that’s it. You got a right to live on there. You can get sick alright, but not too much. Yuwayi [yes], you know God? He say, “Yeah you get sick but you’ll be alright,” you know? “I’m with you there,” that God talking. And same thing for our ceremony too. You’re right to use your ceremony. You’re right to sing your own Dreaming song and talking to your country . . . and tell it true – real true.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 50-51)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Without the connection between the land and the person, the individual is lost, empty inside, not connected to anyone or anything or the land. If the connection is lost, they won’t survive and their identity no longer exists. Jukurrpa is our life first. Jukurrpa connects us to our country. It is Law that makes it our right to our country. We can’t be sent away.

This art center [Warnayaka Arts Center] is for the young people to learn their culture and Law. It is important for our youth to learn the knowledge held by the Ngaliya and Warnayaka peoples. The art center is for the survival of culture from the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ country. The children are getting lost, and there are not many old men left, some women but few men. Some of our important Dreaming sites are hundreds of kilometers from Lajamanu. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Lajamanu need to know their Jukurrpa; otherwise they will lose their inheritance to this really important country. They need to know the Warlpiri Ngalia Laws so they can go onto their great-grandfathers’ and ancestors’ land, especially where these important Dreaming sites are, like at Mina Mina, belonging to the Kana-kurlangu clan. This is why the art center is so important to the people of Lajamanu. At any time, children can see the works of the elders telling them the Kurdiji, the Law, and all that is tied into the Jukurrpa paintings.

Warnayaka Art elders, recorded by Arts Center manager Louisa Erglis (p. 55)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #1' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #1
Nd
Muffler painted by Warlpiri artists

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #2' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #2
Nd
Abandoned doll found in Lajamanu Park

 

Judith Crispin. 'Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole
Jdbrille Waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, June 2015

 

 

This area here, no river. It’s the same deal in this country, and so – what do you call it? Soak? [A soakage, or soak, also called a native well, is a source of water in the Australian desert.] You know . . . I’m trying to get that word there. Soak, yeah, you take all right down to find that water, that water make. Sometimes no water, like this time when it’s dry. Look for the water tree. That’s what my father, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, grandmother, they all look for that water tree. Rock holes down. That’s in our country. We can say it today in a Kardiya way, you know? We can say “Lajamanu is my country.” But that not true. It’s not true . . . yuwayi, Nangala. My country is back there . . . my area is back there.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 68-69)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]
near Emu waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, December 2015

 

Henry Jackamarra and Jerry Jangala have known each other since they were small children. More than a decade his senior, Henry treats Jerry like a little brother – still lecturing him on what he eats and wears, although both men are now respected elders. (p. 72)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony
Tanami Desert Outpost NT, November 2014

 

 

The animal is honoured by sprinkling handfuls of dirt over its fur before it is prepared for cooking in the traditional way. Jerry explains that in the old days the punishment for getting this ceremony wrong was death. In modern times, the penalty for making mistakes in this ceremony is exile. Wanta Jampijinpa, Jerry’s son, reassured me that exile did not necessarily mean death in the Tanami desert. A person could earn his or her place back in the community by accomplishing a special task. The exile must find the way to catch a wedge-tailed eagle and bring its soft underbelly feathers back to Lajamanu as proof. Wanta explained to me how such a seemingly impossible task could be accomplished, but I do not have permission to reproduce that here. (p. 78)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Light Trails of Henry Jackamarra Cook

Law is a gray kangaroo dancing
the thin landscape of Henry Cook into being,
somewhere in the Tanami,
where knucklebone winds scrape bare rock
and Henry stands marsupial
in firelight’s weird.

In Lajamanu, tin houses edge the street.
No one is outside,
no one.

In the arts center, old ladies paint seed-dreaming.
Breeze lifts the hem of a curtain,
then stillness.
It is still.

Henry doesn’t paint anymore. He sits alone,
watching ceremony from the 1970s.
Everyone in the videos is dead now, except him.
And the dead are in the desert,
faceless as the desert is,
and as remote.

Ten years ago it seemed nothing to walk
three days to his sacred country,
granite country,
where great salt lakes exhale their thirst
over spinifex and sand,
the rattling sun.

But arthritis and cataracts have caged him.
Inside the arts center,
the lights are switched off.

We drag chairs across a concrete porch
to watch the Tanami darken, shelf clouds
seal the crater at Wolfe Creek.

Rain wakens on his tongue
the angular syllables of displacement.

And home is the desert breathing over itself by night,
erasing tracks of all who walk there –
night’s emu rising savage in the Milky Way,
and eyes, eyes in the granite mines.

One day, he tells me, I’ll walk out
to my country and never come back.

At town’s edge, a kangaroo left by poachers.
Red dust thickens its pelt, as the red dust lies thick
on Henry’s Ray-Bans, stiffening his white hair to wires.

I photograph him disemboweling the buck,
its intestines knotted to ritual marks –
Henry and his flayed brother, backlit
against chained ridges,
and the last sun rearing.

Law is an old man dancing
the gray kangaroo into being,
sewing him back into the desert’s body,
into his own body, ochre and growl,
a hunting boomerang beaten on the ground.

Night erases this landscape –
slow trees, sand,
the saltbush has gone.

Just Henry’s heels rising and falling
along a wind-scored track,
utterances of a language which belongs to him
and to which he belongs.

Tomorrow, the Catfish Waterhole
will stretch his white hair out elastic,
as telephone wires vanishing into the Tanami.

Mud returns to him,
the cool slow memories of country
before the missions, before diabetes and grog
shrank his ancestors down so small
he holds them in a single cupped hand
like fireflies, tiny comets
crossing in the black.

Tomorrow he’ll thread gumleaves
through the hole in his nose,
and say, photo me like this Nangala
I am a beautiful man.

.
Judith Crispin (pp. 81-83)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

I was told Lily, when she was young, was in love with a Karadji man but couldn’t be with him because she didn’t want to leave her community. Her arms reveal the parallel ritual marks of someone on a “sacred path.” Now, despite caring relationships with her family, friends, and fourteen adopted dogs, somehow Lily is always alone. When, together with Molly and Rosie, Lily took me to see Catfish Waterhole, she explained that we were going to see her “mother.” I carried Lily, too frail to descend the bank, to the edge of the water. There she turned water over her palms, the traditional way of greeting the waterhole and avoiding surprising any Warnayarra who might be there. The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people. Here Lily sings quietly to Catfish Waterhole – not for any ceremonial or traditional reason, I’m told, but just because it makes the waterhole feel loved. (p. 95)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly's Flame-Tree Seed-pods' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly’s Flame-Tree Seed-pods
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

Warlpiri people still supplement their diet with bush food. Ground wattleseed is mixed with oil and baked into a kind of flat bread. The older ladies took me out “hunting” for wattleseed and kurrajong seedpods. In a township with only one shop, where a head of broccoli costs more than a takeaway meal for a family, it is vitally important to supplement the community’s diet with “bush food.” White Australians have almost no idea of the variety of native fruits and vegetables that grow in the apparent desert – bush potatoes, bush tomatoes, bush bananas, honey ants, land crabs, wattleseeds, etc., can be gathered throughout the Tanami. (p. 104)

 

 

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10
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Albert Renger-Patzsch: Things’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Curator: Sérgio Mah, Universidade NOVA, Lisboa

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae
1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Experiencing the image

“[Walter Isaacson] describes the photographs, of which 7200 … miraculously survive today, as the greatest record of curiosity, because his “cross-disciplinary brilliance whirls across every page, providing a delightful display of a mind dancing with nature”. Renger-Patzsch delighted in seeing patterns in nature, so he would juxtapose a photograph of the branching arteries of the heart with the roots of a sprouting tree.”1

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A mind dancing with nature.

Of course, the original quote (which I have altered) was talking about Leonardo da Vinci… but the same enquiring mind, the same display can be seen in the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch. His was a mind entranced by the nature of technology, and the technology, the structure of nature. However, he is ambivalent about the benefits of industrialisation even as he photographed it in ‘New Objectivity’ style – that is, supposedly free from emotion and subjectivity.

No writing about his work can put it better than this quote from when this exhibition was at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid:

“Technical precision and exact representation of the subject; psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism; a keen sense of composition with attention to details, structures and forms; a sharp and clear construction of the image: these were some of the fundamental premises of a tendency that understands photography as a privileged medium to promote an artistic and simultaneously perceptive shift.

Renger-Patzsch’s work amalgamates a great number of photographic subjects, typologies and genres. In a historical period marked by deep political tension and significant social and economic change, his work allows the viewer to envision a unique worldview, a platform of intersections and re-appreciations between the domains of nature and technology.”

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The only point I would not support in this quotation are these words, “psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism.”

Of course, “through the disconcerting simplicity of the photographs Renger-Patzsch highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image,” but he does so not through a REJECTION of pictorial stylization and expressionism (and all the baggage that those words embody), but through an INTENSIFICATION of a different form of pictorial style which forces? the image to emit a new form of expression. That is, the object is just its surface and is captured, instantly, by the camera in this perceptive shift.

Can you imagine seeing these photographs in the 1920s, having never seen anything like them before? They would have been revolutionary, in their rendering of the surface of the object and nothing more. Placing the camera directly before the object which requires nothing else but itself… the eye of the snake, the darkness of a tree trunk, the ordering of shoemakers’ irons. But then he finishes his ode to life, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], with his version of Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands (c. 1508). I suspect that the idea the Renger-Patzsch was working with is that beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.

In contemporary society, have we lost the ability to see these photographs as he intended, with a child-like innocence? Was he saying, this is objective, do you agree? Or does the poetic intensity in the life of things refuse to be stilled?

For me, these photographs are not e/motion-less, they are the very essence of a reality rendered wonderful in my eyes.

Marcus

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

  1. Paraphrase of Tina Allen. “Prophetic Polymath,” on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson in Weekend Australian Review January 6-7 2018, p. 14

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966), who produced a huge body of work spanning four and half decades, was one of the most influential photographers of the New Objectivity movement that emerged in Germany in the mid 1920s. His work helped to establish photography as a unique and important medium within modern art. Renger-Patzsch revived realism in photography, adopting an approach that was characterised by formal and technical rigour and a rejection of expressionism and pictorial stylisation. He had a highly developed sense of composition, and his attention to detail, structure and form resulted in images with sharp, clear compositions. For Renger-Patzsch, photography was a medium that made possible new forms of artistic imagery, while being perfectly in step with a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology. By highlighting the medium’s unique properties and the creative possibilities of documentary photography, Renger-Patzsch forged a unique role for photography within the arts of his time.

His original, simple images combine extraordinary realism and documentary value with poetic and phenomenological resonance, giving them great power. Renger-Patzsch was a highly prolific photographer who explored a wide range of subjects and genres. This exhibition highlights the invaluable legacy of this extraordinary photographer, whose work provides an ideal context for reflecting on the specificities and relevance of photography within the field of contemporary art and culture.

– The Design of Nature
– From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City
– The vision of things
– Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation
– Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series
– The Destiny of Nature

Sérgio Mah

 

 

 

The Design of Nature

During the initial phase of his career, Albert Renger-Patzsch produced a series of photographs depicting plants and flowers for the collection Die Welt der Pflanze [The World of Plants], coordinated by Ernst Fuhrmann as part of his biosophical studies.

The first two volumes in the series, both published in 1924, were Orchideen [Orchids] and Crassula. Renger-Patzsch worked within the general parameters of the book, reproducing fragments of nature with as much objectivity and clarity as possible. He produced a large number of photographs distinguished by their great technical and compositional rigour, including systematic close-ups of plants and flowers. In 1923, Renger-Patzsch wrote his first text, “Pflanzenaufnahmen” [Plant photographs], setting out his views on photography and its extraordinary capacity for capturing nature. Among the images and arguments in the text he outlines some of the key principles that would underpin his photography: attention to detail and emphasis on the formal, structural and material aspects of nature, as well as, correspondingly, a reiterative affirmation of the intrinsic qualities of photography – realism, objectivity, neutrality – and its unique role in expanding our perception of reality.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae' 1922-1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae
1922-1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]
1923
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City

In 1927, Albert Renger-Patzsch published his most ambitious book to date, Die Halligen [The Halligen Islands], with images of the islands in the Wadden Sea, on the northern coast of Germany.

His photographs featured a number of subjects: landscapes, portraits, architectural motifs and everyday activities. These subjects encapsulated the relationship between local ways of life (genuine, deep-rooted, traditional) and the physical and symbolic characteristics of this peculiar area. This vernacular reality contrasted with the rampant industrialisation that was transforming many of the great urban centres in Germany.

Over the ensuing years, Renger-Patzsch published Lübeck (1928) and Hamburg (1930), books that highlight the emerging characteristics of the modern city, the coexistence of different historic periods and the intersection between historical culture and the impact of industrialisation. In these photographs the photographer’s interest in combining documentary objectives with the creative potential of a modern vision is evident in his use of close-cropped, asymmetrical compositions and innovative perspectives, alternating between general shots and a focus on details. He displays sensitivity to the formal and structural aspects of reality, rejecting the atavistic influence of painting in order to embrace the possibilities of a “new vision” governed by photography.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]
1927
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Acquisition en 1979
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

The vision of things

In 1928, Albert Renger-Patzsch’s best-known book was published, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], although the photographer would have preferred the title Die Dinge [Things].

It exemplifies the principles and characteristics of the photographer’s work: a desire to represent the immanent substance of an object/subject while demonstrating photography’s capacity for recording reality. In this respect, representing the unique character of a particular thing was also a way of affirming the unique character of photography.

The book encompasses a wide range of subjects and elements from the photographer’s world. It is an anthology of photographs taken since the beginning of his career, including several images produced for the books Die Welt der Pflanze, Die Halligen and Lübeck. Photographic genres are equally diverse, spanning portrait, landscape, still life and architectural images. The subjects are presented in an evolving thematic and conceptual sequence: first nature, plants, animals, people and landscapes; next, the manmade world of objects, architecture, the city, machines, and industrial structures and spaces. In this way a worldview is organised, a context of intersections and reappraisals, between nature and technology, between the sacred and the profane, between historical heritage and modernity.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch. Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers’ irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Like other artists of his time, Renger-Patzsch was especially keen on exploring the formal analogies between the things of nature and industrial things. Industry led to mass production and the manufacture of standardised objects, exemplified in this image. This contrasts with other images from Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], such as Gebirgsforst im Winter [Mountain forest in winter] (below), which capture repetition in nature.

Renger-Patzsch identifies a coherence, a parity, between nature and culture as non-antagonistic doHands. He suggests a measure of naturalness in technology, and a measure of rationality in nature. For the photographer the emphasis on industrial seriality also allowed him to underscore the seriality of photography itself (as a means of technical reproduction), thus demonstrating the unique, mediating condition of this medium for visual reproduction in the connection between the natural world and the world of modern industry.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)' [Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)] 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)
[Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)]
1926
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Natterkopf [Head of an adder]' 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Natterkopf [Head of an adder]
1925
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Painstaking attention to detail is a central feature of Renger-Patzsch’s photography, as demonstrated by several images in Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. Resorting to pronounced close-ups or subsequent reframing, the photographer breaks down and isolates the vision of certain things, thereby providing a fresh perspective: in this case, the image of a serpent’s head surrounded by a section of its body.

The close-up framing allows him to accentuate the two-dimensionality of the image, the part being more suggestive than the whole. This is a realistic, objective vision, but one aimed at creating a tension between the concrete nature of the motif and its abstract character.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Hände [Hands]' 1926-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Hände [Hands]
1926-1927
Collection Ann und Jürgen Wilde
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

This is the hundredth and last image of Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. It shows a pair of hands joined together, isolated from the rest of the body, rising over a black background in a gesture heavy with symbolic, meditative and spiritual fervour.

Aware that photography was increasingly becoming mundane and banal, and that the experience of attention was crumbling in the face of the accelerating transformation of reality, in Die Welt ist schön Renger-Patzsch offers an imaginary world where modern subjects can be reconnected with the things surrounding them via the mediation of a diffuse and calm temporality, the temporality of tradition and myth. A symptom of this vision is precisely the closing image of the book.

 

 

“To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure, to the lofty gridwork of cranes and bridges, to the dynamism of machines operating at one thousand horsepower – only photography can do that. […] The absolutely correct rendering of form, the subtlety of tonal gradation from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, impart to a technically expert photograph the magic of experience.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Ziele”, Das Deutsche Lichtbild, Berlin, 1927

 

“There is an urgent need to examine old opinions and look at things from a new viewpoint. There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should become fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by this technique.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Die Freude am Gegenstand,” Das Kunstblatt, Berlin, 1928

 

“[…] the eye is subjective; it views with pleasure the essential things and completely overlooks what is unimportant. The camera, on the other hand, has to reproduce the entire image in focus and in a particular size. It will see the essential and the inessential with equal clarity.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

“[…] the eye is not isolated in its perception of the world. Rather its connections to the brain and the support of our senses in experience heat, cold wind, noise, smells and so on create an extraordinarily compact image of the world, whose plasticity and density are perhaps intensified by a particularly appropriate emotional state. Photography reduces this colourful world into a black-and-white rectangle. It is obvious that this most unpretentious of art forms requires the greatest reliability of taste, ability for abstraction, fantasy and concentration.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

 

The aim of this exhibition is to rediscover and pay tribute to the legacy of this unique photographer in the conviction that his work offers a context for encouraging reflection on the nature and artistic and speculative potential of photography within the framework of contemporary art and culture.

Of enormous simplicity and originality, Renger-Patzsch’s photography is notable for being based on a documentary style that prioritised realist sobriety and frankness as fundamental characteristics of photographic representation. In other words, his work offers a rigorous approach in technical and formal terms, in which the camera is only used to intensify our vision and aware of things. For Renger-Patzsch, this not only explained his photographic procedures but above all the potential for an aesthetic and conceptual identity for photography that visibly distanced itself from the Pictorialist legacy and from the hybrid experimentalism characteristic of the early 20th-century avant-gardes.

Both Renger-Patzsch’s photography and the various texts in which he set out his ideas reveal his determination to exploit the qualities inherent in the photographic medium. He stated that his aim was: “to use photographic means to create a photography that could exist through its own photographic nature.” In another text Renger-Patzsch wrote that,

“the eyes are not isolated from their perception of the world.

On the contrary, they are part of our senses and, by being connected to the brain, allow us to experience heat, cold, wind, noise, smell, and to rapidly construct a remarkably compacted image of the world, the plasticity and density of which also depend on our emotional states.

Photography reduces the world in colour to a rectangle in black and white. And logically, given that it is the least pretentious form of art, it requires rigorous taste, a capacity for abstraction, imagination and concentration.”

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Such statements reveal that the exceptional quality of Renger-Patzsch’s work and thought is also notable for the way it conceives and expands the horizon and scope of the idea of documentary photography. As a result, the descriptive and objective qualities of photography are combined with and articulated by its aesthetic, poetic and phenomenological powers.

This retrospective aims to encompass the principal themes, periods and genres that define Renger-Patzsch’s photographic output through the identification of three moments that are fundamental for an understanding of his career: firstly, his early years, from his photographs of plants taken for Folkwang/Auriga publishers, to the profusion of themes and photographic eclecticism which would be decisive for the creation of his book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful] of 1928. The period that began after his move to Essen was one of intense photographic creation on the Ruhr area, principally involving subjects associated with places, buildings and industrial objects. Finally, the years after World War II reveal a new interest in the themes of nature and landscape particularly trees and rocks.

Including around 154 photographs, this is one of the largest retrospectives on the artist to date and undoubtedly the one to bring together the largest number of works by Renger-Patzsch from institutional and private collections: the Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde/Pinakothek der Moderne München (Munich), the Museum Folkwang (Essen), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Galerie Berinson (Berlin), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Highlights of the exhibition

Author of a monumental oeuvre created over four and a half decades, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) was the leading photographer of the New Objectivity movement that appeared in German art in the mid 1920s.

Renger-Patzsch was a prolific photographer and his oeuvre encompasses a variety of themes, types and genres. This exhibition covers the most important stages in Renger-Patzsch’s career, from his first photographs of plant details, urban scenes and industrial subjects to his later landscape work. In total the exhibition features more than 150 photographs, mostly vintage prints from the most important collections in Germany.

Renger-Patzsch devoted himself to creating a new photographic realism, characterised by an extreme simplicity and originality. He created a modern visual language that was imbued with a poetic resonance and helped to redefine the photographic image.
For Renger-Patzsch, photography was the most appropriate medium for carrying out a change that was simultaneously artistic and perceptual, i.e., the possibility of a new kind of image that reflected the changes of the 1920s and 1930s, a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology.

Albert Renger-Patzsch is the author of one of the seminal books in the history of photography, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], which was published in 1928. This work reveals the full scope of Renger-Patzsch’s approach, which was to capture the unique character of each concrete thing in order to affirm also the unique character of photography.

Renger-Patzsch produced an exceptional body of work on the theme of industrial architecture, which he helped to turn into a genre in itself. He exerted a decisive influence on generations of photographers, not least Bernd and Hilla Becher. This exhibition sets out to highlight the vital legacy of this extraordinary photographer. In so doing, it sheds light on the important role of photography within the context of contemporary art and culture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation

In 1929, Renger-Patzsch relocated to Essen, in the Ruhr, Germany’s leading industrial region and one the photographer was familiar with.

Two years earlier, he had produced the first images in an ambitious project focusing on the landscapes of the Ruhr, which he would work on until 1935. In this realm of contrasts, he became particularly interested in spaces that were between cities, between the urban and the rural, landscapes that displayed the process of change that the region was undergoing due to industrialisation and the development of public infrastructure.

The works reflect a change in Renger-Patzsch’s photographic vision: the compositions are widened, in some cases into large panoramic views. The images now focus on a multiplicity of elements and explore interpretative relationships and associations. His preference for more open images that include the surroundings of objects, rather than just close-ups, reflects a more inclusive objectivity. Some images include people, usually seen from afar. These figures are set in particular socio-spatial contexts and help to highlight the enormous disparity in scale between the human figure and the new industrial complexes. Vertical and horizontal elements, close up and in the distance, are combined and juxtaposed. The relationship between different planes, between foreground and background, is intensified in order to show how industry has shaped the landscape, turning it into a heterogeneous and paradoxical landscape (in historical and social terms).

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche "Rosenblumendelle" [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Victoria Mathias" in Essen [Colliery "Victoria Mathias" in Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Victoria Mathias” in Essen [Colliery “Victoria Mathias” in Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the Ruhr

In the photographs of the Ruhr, the landscape emerges as a genre in which disparate elements are combined and contrasted, a way of exploring the boundaries between the rural and industrial worlds, the city and the periphery.

One of the most extraordinary examples from this period is the 1928 image Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery] (above). This photograph that seems to result from the collage of two layers (two regions, two realities), bringing together the idyllic serenity of the rural world, in the foreground, and the massive and disproportionate character of the new industrial complexes in the background, as the fatal destiny of the modern world.

At the centre is a road, a metaphor for history, mediating two different realities and suggesting the dilemma between tradition and modernity – a dilemma that highlights Renger-Paztsch’s ambivalent and paradoxical stance towards industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series

From the late 1920s onwards, Renger-Patzsch produced numerous works following commissions from architects and industrial companies.

At this time, the expansion of the press and advertising, boosted by industry, was having a big impact on art, providing an abundance of work opportunities for artists and photographers.

Photographs of industrial objects and buildings lent themselves to rigorous, carefully calculated compositions. In many cases, the viewer’s perception is guided by planimetric compositions, which are sometimes orthogonal, sometimes diagonal. His architectural photographs combine structural and formal aspects with a desire to record the functional reality of industrial complexes. His images of objects are characterised by their attention to detail and a desire to give aesthetic meaning to each of the objects photographed through meticulous graphic composition.

However, Renger-Patzsch emphasises the repetitive, standardised nature of the objects – aspects inherent to mass production. For him, the theme of technology was further confirmation of how photography differed from painting and provided the most suitable medium for representing the new reality – technical, material and spatial – of modern industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]
1928
Vintage gelatin silver print
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / VEGAP, Madrid 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Heinrich-Robert", Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]' 1951

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Heinrich-Robert”, Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]
1951
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Graf Moltke", Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]' 1952-1953

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Graf Moltke”, Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]
1952-1953
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Katharina", Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]' 1955-1956

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Katharina”, Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]
1955-1956
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on architecture

Throughout his career, Renger-Patzsch created a huge number of photographs of industrial architecture. Its emergence as an artistic genre owes much to him, and his legacy exerted a decisive influence on generations of future photographers, including Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The perspective and the composition accentuate the geometry of the vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. The photographer seeks to highlight the significance of a building designed according to strict functional and rational principles. In doing so, Renger-Patzsch reveals a correspondence between method and object in the sense that precision, objectivity and the documentary value of photography were in harmony with the rationality, coherence and functionality of the new industrial and modern architecture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]' 1934

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]
1934
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on series

For Renger-Patzsch commercial commissions also provided opportunities for a personal and creative approach to photography. This image is part of a commission from the Jenaer Glaswerke Schott company, for whom he photographed several sets of laboratory objects in glass (recipients, flasks, tubes, jars). In this particular image Renger-Patzsch arranges eight glass beakers, all with the same cylindrical shape but of differing dimensions, on a reflecting surface and photographs them from a slightly elevated angle. The larger items are placed to the rear. The objects overlap with each other. The mirroring effect of the base creates the impression that the glassware is floating, especially at the centre of the image where the smaller cylinder (on which the manufacturer’s logo can be read) is the focal point. In their simple, standardised shape, and their transparency, the objects create a choreography of light, shadows and reflections, an experiment with the possibilities of looking at objects and reconfiguring their shapes.

 

 

The Destiny of Nature

In 1944, a large part of his archives at the Folkwang Museum were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. With his family, Renger-Patzsch moved to the rural area of Wamel, close to Soest. He began to work on a new theme, returning to natural subjects, although now with an emphasis on landscape.

The photographer seemed to find among the trees, forests, rocks and craggy scenes a vital energy. These images suggest a diffuse sense of time contrasting with the linear nature of history and immune to the contingencies of modernity and the devastating consequences of war. In this final phase of his life, Renger-Patzsch published Baüme [Trees] in 1962 and Gestein [Rocks] in 1966, two volumes that exemplify the conceptual and aesthetic bases of this renewed, revitalised view of nature. Both books include essays by the writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger, with whom the photographer maintained an intense and regular correspondence for over twenty years.

The photographs in Baüme and Gestein are the logical corollary to Renger-Patzsch’s extraordinary trajectory. The images are less graphic, in part due to the fact that they depict forms that are apparently disordered, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Nevertheless, through the disconcerting simplicity and sobriety of these photographs, Renger-Patzsch also highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image.

Nature can thus be seen as a subject that allows the viewer to experience a primal gaze. This is the condition for a vision simultaneously concrete, poetic and metaphysical that leads to a rediscovery of nature, its destiny, its silence, its rhythms, forms and forces.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald [Beech forest]' 1936

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Buchenwald [Beech forest]
1936
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Das Bäumchen [The little tree]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Das Bäumchen [The little tree]
1928
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on vertical landscape

This is one of Renger-Patzsch’s best-known and most outstanding photographs. This landscape with a tree in the middle heralds his later work. Because of its links to the history of painting, landscape was not a central theme of New Objectivity. In this image Renger-Patzsch chose a vertical landscape, a less usual format than the horizontal landscape. It is a hybrid image in the sense that it combines the tree as the central motif (leafless and reduced to its branch structure) with a panoramic view of a vast landscape. Of particular note is the way the photographer explores the different planes within the image, playing with depth and distance, with the foreground, where the tree stands and the background of the endless landscape. The differences between near and far are diluted on the two-dimensional surface of the image.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]' 1962

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]
1962
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on geology

Rocks and geological phenomena became of great interest to Renger-Patzsch in the latter phase of his career as a photographer, during which he travelled to France, Norway, Northern Ireland, Italy, Sweden and several parts of Germany to take the photographs published in Gestein [Rocks]. In the book, the images are strategically interspersed with text by geologist and palaeontologist Max Richter and an essay by writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger.

Renger-Patzsch photographed the rocks and layers of rock as evidence of the slower phenomena of nature, but also as metaphors for time and history. This image, taken on the coast of Brittany, shows a series of geological folds, a phenomenon that occurs when different forces cause the planar rock sheets to curve or fold. The photographic precision and objectivity of the image, along with the stunning (peculiar, expressive, pictorial) appearance generated by tectonic forces on the surface of the rock, create a vision that combines figuration and abstraction.

 

 

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21
Dec
17

Photographs: Historical Australia Part 1

December 2017

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following posting may contain images of deceased persons.

 

The last posting of the year, because I am feeling rather exhausted!

 

Unknown photographer. 'George St. from King St., Sydney' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
George St. from King St., Sydney
Nd

 

 

Down the rabbit hole we go… into the world of Australian historical photography.

In photographs that were taken around the same time, the contrast could not be more evident: horse and trap travelling down fashionable George Street, Sydney while donkey and cart in Outback Australia fetch water; Nicholas Caire’s King Billy’s camp in McCree’s Paddock, Maloga, Victoria – King Billy ‘The Last of His Tribe’, the final remnant of a dying race and J. W. Lindt’s Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria], old men with beards and hats, swag and billy, possibly itinerant travelling workers.

And so I have sequenced these images as best I could.

The white men stand implacably outside the courthouses while the Indigenous feet touch the earth. They fight for their country, win the Military Medal and can’t even vote. The courthouses of the colonial white, those massive edifices of the law, jurisdiction and punishment tied with Australian Aborigines in chains and Aboriginal youth Dylan Voller, 17, shackled to a metal chair by his hands, feet and neck and wearing a spithood at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2015. And so it goes…

Although there can be many contexts and interpretations within the photographic labyrinthine abyss, and even though these photographs were taken by colonial masters, the materiality of photography (as act of creation and as final printed product) and its relationship to the real is what is important here. These are beautiful photographs of peoples from the First Nations, peoples that all have their own specific names, and in many instances, speak/spoke their own specific language.

You only have to look at the boy standing at the back of the photograph Aboriginal family group to recognise how his direct looking transcends the fixed gaze of the camera, the male gaze, the white gaze and the colonial gaze. His gaze, his return of serve if you like, speaks to us through time – of an individual, valuable and empowered human being assured in his own self. No colour, jurisdiction nor race is necessary for us recognise him as such.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Think carefully: there can be no redundancy in photography, for a photograph, whatever it is, already speaks twice of time, once to seize it and another to say that it has passed; And there can be no trompe-l’oeil in it either; it is and will always be the mise en abyme par excellence; It is the mind that looks at the abyss, it is a piece of the abyss cut clear, with four right angles cut terribly sharp.”

.
Denis Roche

 

 

Trompe-l’oeil

Trompe-l’œil (French for “deceive the eye”) is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. It refers to perspectival illusionism.

Mise en abyme

Mise en abyme is a French term derived from heraldry, and literally means “placed into abyss”. A common sense of the phrase is the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, then seeing as a result an infinite reproduction of one’s image. Another is the Droste effect, in which a picture appears within itself, in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear… In Western art history, “mise en abyme” is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, in a sequence appearing to recur infinitely; “recursive” is another term for this.

 

Unknown artist. 'Richmond Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s

 

Unknown photographer
Richmond Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1877

 

 

Richmond is a town in New South Wales, in the local government area of the City of Hawkesbury. It is located on the alluvial Hawkesbury River flats, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It is about 65 km by road from Sydney.

Richmond Court House and Police Station is located at 288 Windsor Street, Richmond NSW. The present building was designed by Colonial Architect, James Barnet in 1877 as a court house with associated police station. The front entrance is via an attractive arched colonnade with feature brickwork and the roof is supported by bracketed eaves. The raised roof of the court room may be seen in the centre of the structure. Note the similarity in style with the adjacent former post office, also the work of James Barnet. It replaced the watch-house built by William Cox in 1827. The watch-house was a four roomed structure with a detached kitchen. One of the rooms was barred and secure for the custody of prisoners. The other rooms were for the policeman on duty. The rear of the site was set aside for the first stock pound in the town. The court house is still in use but the Police Local Area Command is located in the nearby town of Windsor.

Text from the Hawkesbury.org website

 

Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936) 'Cumjam Murdered Ferguson at Mentana March 1894' 1894

 

Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936)
Cumjam Murdered Ferguson at Mentana March 1894
1894
Albumen print
16 x 10

 

Chargois, Alphonse. (father of Herbert Chargois. died Nov 1936)
Townsville, Qld 1879
Croydon, Qld 1892 – 96
Normanton, Qld 1896 – 97
Townsville, Qld 1897
McArthur St, Croydon Qld (base) 1898 – 1913
Georgetown, Qld (trav) 1900
Torres Strait Islands, Qld (trav) Oct 1913
“Touring the South” 1913 – 15
(owned Bicycle Business, Warwick, Qld, 1915, advertised for sale Feb 1915)
“Royal Studio”
“late Lyne Brown, McTaggart and Dobson”
Lake St, Cairns, Qld July 1915 – 36
(bought McTaggart & Dobson’s studio, July 1915)
Mareeba, Qld (trav) Oct 1915
(estate publicly Auctioned up Oct 1947)

 

 

Cumjam standing in front of a government issue tent. Cumjam was arrested for the murder of Mr Ferguson (aged 60) who worked for Donald Mclntyre at Mentana Station. Ferguson’s murder and the capture of Cumjam were reported widely in the Norman Chronicle, The North Queensland Register and The Brisbane Courier between 1894-1895. Records detailing the outcome of his arrest have not been located.

 

“An Aboriginal Desperado”

The “Norman Chronicle” says: “By the last mail we received from Mr. Chargois, who is at present at Delta, two photos of the blackboy “Cumjam.” who is supposed to have murdered Ferguson at Mentana in March, 1894. The details of the capture as given by Mr. Chargois are as follows: ‘Mr Jack Adford, who has been managing Loch-na-gar for Mr. McInytre, had received instructions to move cattle to Daigonally, and wishing to bring over with him some of the native curios, he told the blacks, ‘Me go away by-and-by take away altogether bullock, you fetch ’em up spear, shell, boomerang, me give you tumbac. Me come back one moon.’ One moon goes by and the blacks were there to the number of about 50, eager to exchange their native gear for tobacco. All were up at the station except one, who stayed at the camp, and Jack Alford, wishing to know why he do so, asked the others, ‘What name boy sit down longa camp?’ ‘That fellow name ‘Cumjam’; he sick long a cobra.’ Alford at once recognised the murdered of Ferguson, although he gave no sign of his discovery, but said to the other, ‘Poor fellow, you go fetch em up, me give him medicine make him alright.’ ‘Cumjam’ was accordingly conducted up. ‘What name belongs you?’ said Alford. ‘Cumjam,’ replied the black. Alford decided at once upon his plan of action, told the other blacks to step back and site down, then taking Cumjam aside he seized him and with the help of his own boys bound him up. The other blacks, not liking the look of things, began to get uneasy, and slipped away one by one down to the creek, leaving Cumjam captured. It was no easy task to bring him along. He ate through one strap, and when that was replaced by a chain and padlock he managed somehow to pick the latter to pieces.’ The photo which we have on view shows the prisoner to be securely bound.”

The North Queensland Register 16 October 1895

Text from the Thagaalbi: History of Australia’s Indigenous people Facebook page

 

The presence of Europeans along the gulf coast and south-western areas of the Peninsula was met with Aboriginal resistance. When J.T. Embley surveyed the Mitchell River in 1886-7 he counted “skirmishes with the blacks” to have been the cause of delays in the completion of his work.136 The death of Ferguson, an elderly white stockman, in March 1894 followed his spearing on Mentana station by the Aboriginal, Cumjam.137 Only a few months before Ferguson’s death one party of survivors of the steamship, Kanahooka, after its capsize off the Mitchell River in January 1894, were able to make their way through the Kokobera country through to safety at Mentana station.138 This was despite popular fears that they would be exposed to the “hostility of the blacks”.139

Philip L. Freier. Living with the ‘Munpitch’: The history of Mitchell River Mission, 1905 – 1967. James Cook University, Dr of Philosophy Thesis, 1999, pp. 86-87.

 

Unknown artist. 'Windsor Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s

 

Unknown photographer
Windsor Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1821

 

 

Windsor is a town lying North-West of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Windsor is located in the local government area of the City of Hawkesbury. It sits on the Hawkesbury River, on the north-western outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area.

Windsor Courthouse is a rare surviving Colonial Georgian public building that originally dates from the early nineteenth century. The building has a fine and impressive form which uses an adapted Palladian plan to suit the Australian climate. It is of considerable historical, social and aesthetic significance as one of the earliest surviving courthouse buildings in Australia. The courthouse now [1967] ranks as Greenway’s best preserved building. The Building and Maintenance Branch of the NSW Department of Public Works carried out restoration work in 1961 to remove unsympathetic rendering of the external brickwork which was an attempt to reduce the problem of damp. The building now stands in its original and unspoiled form in Windsor, the most prosperous and successful of the towns then founded by Governor Macquarie. The courthouse was insisted upon by Governor Macquarie, designed by Greenway (himself originally a convict) and built for A₤1,800 by William Cox, using convict labour. It is a combination and the result of all the forces directly at play during the Australia’s early development. The oldest existing local court in New South Wales. Cox later served at Windsor as a magistrate.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Pitt St. looking S. from Bridge St., Sydney' 1895

 

Unknown photographer
Pitt St. looking S. from Bridge St., Sydney
1895
Albumen print

 

Unknown photographer. 'Getting Water' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Getting Water
1892
Albumen prints

 

Unknown photographer. '"At the well" Station Hands' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
“At the well” Station Hands
1892
Albumen print

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony]' c. 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony]
c. 1892
Albumen print

 

Unknown photographer. 'Court House Bathurst N S Wales, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s

 

Unknown photographer
Court House Bathurst N S Wales, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1880

 

 

Bathurst is a regional city in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. It is about 200 kilometres north-west of Sydney.

Bathurst Courthouse is one of the finest Victorian Court House buildings in New South Wales. Built as part of a precinct of Victorian public buildings, it is a landmark building prominently sited in the town centre of Bathurst. The building has a lengthy association with the provision of justice in the district. The wings, built as the postal and telegraph offices, were opened in 1877. The entire structure is 81 metres (266 ft) long and 45 metres (148 ft) wide. The west wing is now occupied by the Central Western Music Centre. The east wing is now the Historical Society Museum.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'King Billy Maloga' Nd

 

Nicholas Caire (1837-1918, photographer)
King Billy Maloga (King Billy’s camp in McCree’s Paddock, Maloga, Victoria)
1891

 

 

Photograph of four Aboriginal Australians, two men and two women, seated on ground in front of a shelter. Older man on left holds wooden sticks or spears, and a dog sits next to him. The three main local tribes were named after their “country” (or district), being “Burrumbeet” from Lakes Burrumbeet and Learmonth, “Keyeet” from Mt Buninyong and “Tooloora” from Mt Warrenheip and Lal Lal Creek. The last well recognised leader of the district, was “King Billy” from Burrumbeet, whose death surprisingly made the newspapers in mining areas and big cities right round the country.

Ballarat’s Mullawallah (also known as King Billy or Frank Wilson), was buried in 1896 to considerable civic interest as a result of being nominated as ‘The Last of His Tribe’.

 

J. W. Lindt. 'Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria]' c. 1880s

 

J. W. Lindt (John William 1845-1926, Melbourne, photographer)
Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria]
c. 1880s
Cabinet card
Albumen print

 

 

John William Lindt (1845-1926), photographer, was born at Frankfurt on Main, Germany, son of Peter Joseph Lindt, excise officer, and his wife Justine, née Rambach. At 17 he ran away to sea and joined a Dutch sailing ship. He deserted at Brisbane; by 1863 he was at Grafton as a piano-tuner and then worked in a photographic studio. He visited Germany in 1867 and on his return bought the business. Using the wet-plate process he photographed the Clarence River district and its Aboriginals, producing albums in 1875 and 1876. He then sold out and went to Melbourne where he opened a studio in Collins Street. He soon won repute for his society, theatre and landscape photographs. In 1880 he photographed the capture of the Kelly gang at Glenrowan. When the first commercial dry plates arrived in Melbourne he went to Europe to seek agencies for the latest photographic equipment. On his return he worked in the studio and the Victorian countryside; many of his photographs were used in the railways. He also designed and modified cameras as well as ‘advising in matters photographic’.

Read the full biography on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Darlinghurst Gaol & Court House, Sydney Oct. 1870' 1870

 

Unknown photographer
Darlinghurst Gaol & Court House, Sydney Oct. 1870
1870
Date built: 1844

 

 

The Darlinghurst Court House and residence is the finest, and only erudite Old Colonial Grecian public building complex surviving in Australia. Commenced in the 1830s, it has a long and continual association with the provision of law and order along with the neighbouring Darlinghurst Gaol complex. The imposing sandstone building is prominently sited at Taylor Square. The Court House, designed by Lewis and built between 1837 and 1844, is the first purpose designed court house to be built in NSW. The pavilions on either side were designed by Barnet around 1886. The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the Government Architect’s Office and completed c. 1963. The central block was adapted from an 1823 design in Peter Nicholson’s ‘The New Practical Builder’.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]
Nd
Albumen print

 

Dylan Voller

 

Aboriginal youth Dylan Voller, 17, shackled to a metal chair by his hands, feet and neck and wearing a spithood at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2015

 

Unknown artist. 'Unknown Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
Unknown Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal man smoking a pipe]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal man smoking a pipe]
Nd

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal making fire]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal making fire]
Nd

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal with spear]' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal with spear]
Nd

 

Edwards & Errington (Adelaide, South Australia) 'Studio portrait of 2597 Private (Pte) Frederick Prentice, 12th Battalion, and later 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion' (detail) c. 1914 - 1918

 

Edwards & Errington (Adelaide, South Australia)
Studio portrait of 2597 Private (Pte) Frederick Prentice, 12th Battalion, and later 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion (detail)
c. 1914 – 1918
Gelatin silver print on postcard

 

 

Northern Territory born WWI veteran Frederick Prentice, an Indigenous serviceman who won the Military Medal. On the verso of the photograph is an original message “Just a little card to remember the good times at Paratoo.” This postcard was sent to a friend, Gertrude Fitzgerald, who he knew at Paratoo, SA. Born in Powells Creek, Northern, NT, on 18 January 1894, Frederick Prentice was educated at Kyre College (later part of Scotch College), Adelaide, from 1905 to 1908. Following schooling, Prentice worked as a station hand and was employed at Manunda Station, South Australia at the time of his enlistment on 7 May 1915 in Keswick. Pte Prentice won a Military Medal for his actions on 19 July 1916 at Pozieres, France, where he showed great courage, resource and ability in bringing machine guns and ammunition through the enemy barrage in the dark and across broken ground. Frederick Prentice returned to Australia as a Corporal on 12 May 1919.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal with scars]' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal with scars]
Nd

 

Kerry & Co., (Sydney) 'Aboriginal chief' c. 1900-1917

 

Kerry & Co., (Sydney)
Aboriginal chief
c. 1900-1917
Collotype
13.7 × 8.5 cm (image and sheet)

 

Portrait of Aboriginal chief, Barron River, Queensland, with body paint and head decorations, in ceremonial dress.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Court House Orange N.S.W., Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s

 

Unknown photographer
Court House Orange N.S.W., Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1883

 

 

“On a site where local Wiradjuri people are said to have once held corroborees stands the Orange court House. A slab and bark watch-house was erected in 1849 and used as a court house from 1851. Early church services and the first council meetings were held. A larger sandstone Court House was erected in 1860-62 by Kennard and Snow. Bushranger Ben Hall was tried here in the early 1860s. This building made way for the present Neo-classical building designed by James Barnet in 1883. A new wing was constructed a the rear of the site in 2001.” Orange Heritage Trail, a pamphlet produced by Ross Maroney in conjunction with the Orange City Council, the Orange Visitor Information Centre.

The current Orange Courthouse building was designed by the Colonial Government Architect James Barnet. Construction was completed in 1883. Previous buildings existed on the site, the first being erected in 1847, around the time of the town’s settlement, and operated as a Court of Petty Sessions, being the usual arrangements in those times. Orange was proclaimed a municipality in 1860, the first meeting being held in the Courthouse, located on the same site as today, but a different structure.

Text from the Willshub website 2 Jan 2015 [Online] Cited 20 November 2017

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal group]' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal group]
Nd

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal family group]' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal family group]
Nd

 

Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936) 'Daisy Belle, Jack Kinmont Moir and Rose-Marie, Delta Downs' Nd

 

Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936)
Daisy Belle, Jack Kinmont Moir and Rose-Marie, Delta Downs
Nd
14 x 10.5 cm

 

 

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15
Dec
17

Book: Photographs from ‘Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit’ [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] 1928 Part 1

December 2017

Authors: Hermann and Marianne Aubel

Publisher: Karl Robert Langewiesche Vlg. Königstein, 1928. 112 pages, numerous illustrations. Pictures of Isadora Duncan, Nijinski, Anna Pavlova, Alexander Sacharoff, Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff, Die Schwestern Wiesenthal, Tamara Karsavina, La Argentina, Ellen Petz, Niddy Impekoven, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Palucca, Harald Kreutzberg, Javanische Tanzgruppe.
Language: German

 

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes c. 2000

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes, England
c. 2000
Photograph taken by my mother

 

 

I have always loved dancing… it comes from the soul. I have danced since 1975 – pre-disco, through disco, high energy, new romantics, soul, trance, techno and more. I still go out dancing today. While this is a different kind of dance, notably free dance, all forms of dance are a connection to music, earth, cosmos. A connection to the earliest of human beings dancing round an open fire.

This is a book I bought on the Internet for $12. I have scanned the photographs and given them a digital clean. The costumes are fabulous, the poses exquisite, exotic, and joyous. The silhouettes and shapes created are just glorious. The photographs usually have low depth of field, the figures “caught” in front of contextless backgrounds. But as Grete Wiesenthal’s assistant Maria Josefa Schaffgotsch observes, the time freeze of the photograph is the antithesis of free dance:
.

“Grete Wiesnethal’s primary concern was to overcome as far as possible the unavoidable static element of classical dance and to dissolve everything that smacked of a pose in a never-ending stream of movement. The flowing, swinging, wavelike three-four rhythm, transforming Strauss’s waltzes into movement – that was her particular art, that was what made her world famous.”1

.
Many of the photographs work against the nature of the medium, and the idea of posing for the camera, to capture the fleeting expressiveness of dance. Just look at the ecstatic shape created in Hugo Erfurth’s Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters] (c. 1928, below). Indeed, the language of spiritual revelation!

My favourites are the photographs of Sent M’Ahesa and Nijinski. But honestly, they are all glorious. The photographs in this book, “The Artistic Dance of Our Time,” represent the cutting edge of dance, art, and photography in 1928. It is so nice to seem them now.

Marcus

 

  1. Andrea Amort. “Free Dance in Interwar Vienna,” in Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman (eds.,). Interwar Vienna: Culture Between Tradition and Modernity. Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2009, p. 123.

 

Free dance

Free dance is a 20th-century dance form that preceded modern dance. Rebelling against the rigid constraints of classical ballet, Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis (with her work in theatre) developed their own styles of free dance and laid the foundations of American modern dance with their choreography and teaching. In Europe Rudolf Laban, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and François Delsarte developed their own theories of human movement and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance.

Free dance was prolific in Central and Eastern Europe, where national schools were created, such as the School of Musical Movement (Heptachor), in Russia, and the Orkesztika School, in Hungary. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors) Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher) 'Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]' 1928

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors)
Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher)
Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]
1928
Book front cover

 

 

Elvira (Munich)
Isadora Duncan
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 1
Published 1928

 

 

“Wir sehen das Ziel der Tanzkunst und jeder Kunst darin, eine Sprache geistiger Offenbarung zu sein, aus der Natur heraus sich äubernd und mit ihr verbunden.”

“We see the goal of dance and every art as being a language of spiritual revelation, external to and connected with it.”

.
Hermann and Marianne Aubel

 

 

Vielleicht auf keinem Gebiet kunstlerischer Entfaltung haben die letzten Jahrsehute ein solches Strebennach Weiterentwicklung gebracht, wie auf dem Gebiete der Tanzkunst. Sie ist, als letztes Zile der Arbeit an der menschilchen Bewegung, mehr und mehr mit in den Mittelpunkt des allgeneinen Interesses gerückt und übt so eine gröbere Wirkung auf breitere Kreis aus, als sie es noch vor 20, ja vor 10 Jahen vermochte. Eine neue Form des bewegten Ausdrucks will sich bilden.

Perhaps in no field of artistic development, the last years have brought about such a development as in the field of dance art. It is, as the last part of the work on the human movement, more and more pushed into the centre of general interest, and thus exerts a greater effect on a wider circle than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. A new form of moving expression wants to form itself. (Introduction, V)

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 4
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 5
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Grete Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Grete Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 6
Published 1928

 

 

Grete Wiesenthal (1885-1970)

Austrian dancer and choreographer. She and her sister Elsa (1887-967) were both dancers with the Vienna Court Opera Ballet but she left in 1904 to choreograph and perform her own work, which was accompanied primarily by waltz music (Chopin and J. Strauss). She proved so popular that her sisters Elsa and Berta joined her in works that communicated a (then) revolutionarily ecstatic response to waltz rhythms. The sisters moved to Berlin where they performed together until 1910, after which Grete worked independently, choreographing and performing in vaudeville, film, and opera around Europe and the US. The Grete Wiesenthal Dance group (1945-56) toured the world and two of its members subsequently staged her dances for the Vienna State Opera Ballet. …

The “ambassador of waltz,” began life as a dancer within the traditions of ballet; entered the corps (1901) and advanced to coryphée (1902); with sister Elsa, began choreographing new ways of movement and expression through dance and allied with Secession circle of innovators; with Elsa and sister Berta, came to prominence as the Wiesenthal sisters at Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (1908); in Berlin, danced with sisters at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater; danced role of 1st elf in Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Munich’s Artist’s Theater (1909); with sisters, performed at London’s Hippodrome and at Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris (1909).

Made solo debut in Berlin in pantomime Sumurùn, produced by Reinhardt (1910); made US debut at Winter Garden in NY (1912); created role of Kitchen Boy in Reinhardt’s Stuttgart production of Der Bürger als Edelmann, with music by Richard Strauss; appeared in “Grete Wiesenthal Series” of films (1913–14): Kadra Sâfa, Erlkönigs Tochter and Die goldne Fliege; following WWI, opened dancing school (1919); returned to Vienna stage at Staatsoper (State Opera House), in lead role of her ballet Der Taugenichts in Wien (The Ne’er-Do-Well in Vienna, 1927); remained active professionally, appearing in solo dance concerts and tours, including a return to NY (1933); appointed professor of dance at Vienna’s Academy for Music and the Performing Arts (1934), then served as director of artistic dance section (1945-52).

After WWII, her work enjoyed a renaissance in Austria, especially the dances she created for various Salzburg Festival productions; wrote autobiography, Der Aufstieg (The Way Upwards, 1919), which appeared as Die ersten Schritte (The First Steps, 1947); also published a novel, Iffi: Roman einer Tänzerin (Iffi: Novel of a Dancer, 1951); best remembered for having transformed the Viennese waltz from a monotonous one-two-three movement, performed by smiling dancers laced into corsets, into an ecstatic experience, performed by dancers with unbound hair and swinging dresses.

Text from the Gustav Mahler website

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Else Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Else Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 7
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 10
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 11
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa (born August 17, 1883 in Riga as Else von Carlberg – November 19, 1970 in Stockholm ) was a expressive dancer, who worked in Germany until the 1920s. She also wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.

She was portrayed by Max Beckmann, Bernhard Hoetger, Dietz Edzard and Adolf Münzer. The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis saw her dance in Berlin in 1923 (“She danced only once and then returned to her Munich villa”) and wrote to his wife: “Since I saw Sent M’Ahesa dancing I do not want any other kind of dance, I saw its highest form.” (Wikipedia)

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 12
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 13
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 14
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 15
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 16
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 17
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa

“Such confusion of identity did not apply in the case of Sent M’Ahesa (Elsa von Carlberg 1893-1970), whom audiences persisted in identifying with Egyptian dances (though her dance aesthetic  included images from other ancient o exotic cultures). She performed all her dances solo. Born in Latvia, she went to Berlin in 1907 with her sister to study Egyptology but became so enchanted with ancient Egyptian art and artifacts that she decided to pursue her interest through dance rather than scholarship… Under he name of Sent M’Ahesa, she presented a program of Egyptian dances in Munich in December 1909 (Ettlinger). From then until the mid-1920s, she achieved fame for her exceptionally dramatic dances dominated by motifs from ancient Egyptian iconography. …

Her dances always functioned in relation to intricate, highly decorative costumes of her own design, so that it appeared as if she chose movements for their effect upon her costume.  In her moon goddess (or Isis) dance, she attached large, diaphanous cloth wings to her black-sleeved arms… Sent M’Ahesa often exposed her flesh below the navel, but I have yet to find a picture of her in which she exposed her hair, so keen was she on the use of wigs, helmets, caps, scarves, kerchiefs, tiaras, masks, and crowns. In her peacock dance, she attached a large fan of white feather plumes to her spine. In other dances, she draped herself with tassels, decorative aprons, double sashes, layers of jeweled necklaces, and arm, wrist, and ankle bracelets. Only in her Indian dances did she wear anything resembling pants. …

… her body was wonderfully svelte, and her face displayed a cool, chiseled beauty, I think, rather, that she sought to decontextualise female beauty and erotic feeling from archetypal images of them originating in cultures other than her own or her audience’s; she sought to dramatize a tension between a modern female body and old images of female desire and desirability. Ettlinger, in 1910, was perhaps more accurate when he remarked that

“Sent M’Ahesa’s dance has nothing to do with what one commonly understands as dance. She does not produce “beautiful,” “sensually titillating” effects. She does not represent feelings, “fear,” “horror,” “lust,” “despair,” as “lovely.” Her are requires its own style. Her movements are angular, geometrically uncircular, just as we find them in old Egyptian paintings and reliefs. Neither softness of line nor playful grace are the weapons with which she puts us under her spell. On the contrary: her body constructs hard, quite unnaturally broken lines. Arms and legs take on nearly doll-like attitudes. But precisely this deliberate limiting of gestures gives her the possibility of until now unknown, utterly minute intensities, the most exquisite of refinements of bodily expression. With a sinking of the arm of only a few millimeters, she calls forth effects which all the tricks of the ballet school cannot teach.”

Sent M’Ahesa was similar to Schrenck in one respect, even though Schrenck never performed exotic dances: both project and intensely erotic aura while moving within a very confined space. They showed persuasively that convincing signification of erotic desire or pleasure did not depend on a feeling of  freedom in space, as exemplified in the convention of ballet and modern dance, with their cliched use of runs, leaps, pirouettes, and aerial acrobatics. These dancers revealed that erotic aura intensifies in relation to an acute sense of bodily confinement, of the body imploding, turning in on itself, riddled with tensions and contradictory pressures. They adopted movements to portray the body being squeezed and twisted, drifting in to a repertoire of squirms, spasms, angular thrusts, muscular suspensions. Contortionist dancing is perhaps the most extreme expression of this aesthetic. But Sent M’Ahesa complicated the matter by doing exotic dances – that is, she confined her body within a remote cultural-historical context, as if to suggest that the ecstatic body imploded metaphorical as well as physical space.”

Karl Eric Toepfer, “Solo Dancing,” in Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 175-179.

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 18
Published 1928

 

Dührkoop (Hamburg) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop (Hamburg)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 19
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 20
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 21
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 23
Published 1928

 

 

Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. …

As a child in Munich, Clotilde dreamt of becoming a violinist but from an early age she revealed how talented she was as a dancer. After receiving ballet lessons from Julie Bergmann and Anna Ornelli from the Munich Opera, she gave her first performance on 25 April 1910 at the Hotel Union, using the stage name Clotilde von Derp. The audience were enthralled by her striking beauty and youthful grace. Max Reinhardt presented her in the title role in his pantomime Sumurûn which proved a great success while on tour in London. A photo by Rudolf Dührkoop of her was exhibited in 1913 at the Royal Photographic Society. Clotilde was a member of the radical Blaue Reiter Circle which had been started by Wassily Kandinsky in 1911.

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and, with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff.” Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Unlike her husband, Clotilde had a taste for modern music, frequently choosing melancholic music by contemporaries such as Max Reger, Florent Schmitt and Stravinsky. Her haunting eyes and delicate smiles gave the impression she took pleasure in displaying her finely-costumed voluptuous body, even when she reached her forties. She was particularly effective in interpreting Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Hans Brandenbourg maintained her ballet technique was superior to that of Alexander although he did not consider her a virtuoso. Clotilde also moved more independently of the music, dancing to the impression it created in her mind rather than to the rhythm.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 26
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Veritas (Stephanie Held) (Munich)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 27
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 28
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 29
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Nijinski' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Nijinski
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 30
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 31
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 32
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 33
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 35
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 36
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 37
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 38
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 39
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 40
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 41
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavolva
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 42
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 43
Published 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 44
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 45
Published 1928

 

 

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10
Dec
17

Book review: ‘Walter Mittelholzer Revisited’ from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer. Scheidegger & Spiess publishers (2017)

December 2017

 

Scheidegger & Spiess (publisher) 'Walter Mittelholzer Revisited' from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer (front cover) 2017

 

Scheidegger & Spiess (publisher)
Walter Mittelholzer Revisited from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer (front cover)
Edited by Michael Gasser and Nicole Graf
1st edition, 2017
Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the image Archive, ETH-Bibliothek Volume 6
Text English and German
Hardback
192 pages, 47 colour and 158 b/w illustrations
20 x 26 cm
ISBN 978-3-85881-543-9

 

 

Do you have a new book fetish? I know I do!

I just love the feel of a brand new, unopened book. The density and quality of the boards, the dynamics of the graphics on the cover… and then, opening the book for the first time, the thickness of the paper, the typography and layout, and the quality of the photographic printing. But above all, it is the smell of a new book that is so intoxicating. I like nothing better than to stick my nose into a new book and savor the smell.

Every new book is different. Each has their own unique aroma, which is caused by a number of chemical reactions used when they are manufactured. “The smell of new books can be attributed to three factors: the paper itself (it smells good because of the chemicals used to manufacture it), the ink used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the process of book-binding.” Which brings me to the book under review today, Walter Mittelholzer Revisited from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer, published by Scheidegger & Spiess (2017).

This just under A4 sized hardback book is handsomely produced by Scheidegger & Spiess, No. 6 in the Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the image Archive, ETH-Bibliothek series. It feels good and solid in the hand. The 23cm thick book has a plain white cover with minimal text. Inset into an embossed area of the cover is a photographic print of Mittelholzer’s Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa] c. 1934. This is an elegant opening statement (see above).

Thick boards lead to plain, light grey endpapers, and on to the pages of the book themselves: excellent quality paper with a slightly textured surface with eminently readable typography. The Editors Foreword and Introduction (with bibliography), printed in both German and English, takes up the first 47 pages of the 192 page book. Images on these pages are rather small and are inset into the text with titles underneath; footnotes are at the bottom of each page.

As for the images themselves, the are well printed within the body of the book, mainly four horizontal images per page with vertical images one to a page. Colour saturation and reproduction is excellent with the images moving from cool, blue tones to warmer yellows and browns. Contrary to what the name suggests, black and white photography is never truly black and white and there are many variations of colour in black and white prints including split toning (a mixture of cool and warm tones together). The printing in this book perfectly captures the colour tonality of the original photographs. Large photographs are printed across the gutter of the book. In the main this works reasonably well, but on occasion (such as the photograph on p. 110 of an African sitting on the ground in camp), the gutter runs right through the subjects’ body, rending the image almost unreadable. In this instance, a fold out of the photograph with the fold repositioned to avoid the figure would have been a desirable outcome.

In terms of the work itself, one cannot underestimate the determination and courage that Mittelholzer possessed in undertaking dangerous journeys through various continents early in the 20th century to document the life of people and place. The reliability of the aircraft, and the hostility of some of the population were constant threats: you only have to look at the photograph Captain Wood and Wegmann still found a cozy spot in the cabin filled with gasoline and oil barrels (1930-31, below) to understand the inherent dangers of flying in those days, surrounded by gasoline and oil barrels. While it could be said that these photographs are just “tourist” photos and Mittelholzer a keen media entrepreneur, marketing “the pictures of his travels to Spitsbergen, Persia or Abyssinia on all channels: in books, films and in the press” – they rise above the purely commercial in their use of aerial photography to transcend and abstract the landscape into pattern and form. The “airplane eye,” a symbiosis of man and machine, was a way of collapsing space… “The verticals that had hitherto defined the artistic gaze had suddenly become obsolete. The tilting of viewer space and oblique perspectives from both above and below were elevated to a new program for both architecture and art.” (p. 35)

Less savoury is Mittelholzer’s patronising view of Africa and its peoples and cultures, even as he and his fellow travellers constantly searched for the most “natural”, the most “authentic” Africa (in their eyes). From a contemporary perspective, these photographs must always be looked at through the prism of colonialism, for this is a white, European male view of these continents and their people. Today, the colonial stereotypes implicit in the photographs are as strong as ever: black / white, male / female, empowered / disempowered seen through the male gaze. More troubling still, and something the Introduction does not shy away from, is Mittelholzer’s connections to the National Socialist party in Germany, the Nazis.

“His images also won approval of the Fascists. His contribution to the German anthology Flug und Wolken published after the Nazis seized power in fact comprised not just photographs but also one of the three prefaces, the other two being the work of Herman Göring, the “Third Reich’s” commander-in chief of the Luftwaffe, and Italo Balbo, Fascist Italy’s aviation minister. Göring for his part lavished praised on the “high artistic appeal” of a book showing the beauty of the “conquered world of the clouds.” (p. 35) You could also add, the conquered lands of the people – for Germany, Britain, Italy and France all had colonies in Africa. His flights in 1924 to Spitsbergen to assist Polar explorer Roald Amundsen and a year later to deliver a plane to Persia were both undertaken for the German aircraft manufacturer Junkers.

Reading between the lines, Mittelholzer seems to have been untroubled by his relationship with the Nazis, perhaps even sympathetic to their cause? His celebrity status allowed him access to elite circles, people such as Baron Louis von Rothschild, socialites, bankers and publishers to fund his expeditions. This state of affairs reminds me of that celebrated German photographer, Leni Riefenstahl – climbing on the back of ambition and closeness to power, whilst denying that she did anything wrong or knew of the despicable acts that were being perpetrated under the National Socialist regime. In the end it’s all about ambition and ego and what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals. Bear that in mind when you are looking at these images.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Scheidegger & Spiess for the review copy of the book, and for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pictures from Cape Town to Spitsbergen: How aviation pioneer and photographer Walter Mittelholzer became a media entrepreneur.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Castell in Aleppo' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Castell in Aleppo
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

 

Entrance to the citadel of Aleppo, 1925. The citadel is one of the oldest fortresses in the world; its origins can be traced back to the 3rd millennium B.C. The ongoing Syrian Civil War has left it badly damaged.

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work took place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Buschehr aus 800 m Höhe' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Buschehr aus 800 m Höhe
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

The peninsula with Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Flugplatz Isfahan mit A 20 am Boden' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Flugplatz Isfahan mit A 20 am Boden [Airfield Isfahan with A 20 on the ground]
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

Isfahan, historically also rendered in English as IspahanSepahanEsfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Wilde Schlussszene des Opfertanzes [Wild final scene of the sacrificial dance]' 1926-1927

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Wilde Schlussszene des Opfertanzes [Wild final scene of the sacrificial dance]
1926-1927
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Die Expeditionsteilnehmer: René Gouzy, Arnold Heim, Walter Mittelholzer, Hans Hartmann' 1926-1927

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Die Expeditionsteilnehmer: René Gouzy, Arnold Heim, Walter Mittelholzer, Hans Hartmann
1926-1927
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Dornier Merkur, CH-171 "Switzerland" der Ad Astra Aero AG auf dem Zürichsee vor dem Afrikaflug' c. 1926

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Dornier Merkur, CH-171 “Switzerland” der Ad Astra Aero AG auf dem Zürichsee vor dem Afrikaflug
[Dornier Merkur, CH-171 “Switzerland” of Ad Astra Aero AG on Lake Zurich before the Africa flight]

c. 1926
Silver gelatin photograph
13 x 18 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Westabsturz des Mokattamgebirge mit Niltal' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Westabsturz des Mokattamgebirge mit Niltal [Western Plateau of the Mokattam Mountains with Nile Valley]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

The plateau of Mokattam near Cairo, 1930. The balloonist Eduard Spelterini also photographed this landscape from the air during his 1904 expedition to Egypt.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Fremdenverkehr vor der Sphinx [Tourism in front of the Sphinx]' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Fremdenverkehr vor der Sphinx [Tourism in front of the Sphinx]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

The Pyramids of Giza with the Sphinx and tourists, 1930. The archaeological excavations there began with Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign of 1798.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Totentempel Ramses III., Theben' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Totentempel Ramses III., Theben [Mortuary temple of Ramses III, Thebes]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Walter Mittelholzer (1894-1937) was a pioneering aviator and cofounder of Switzerland’s legendary airline Swissair. From his earliest flights, he was also an avid aerial photographer, and his spectacular views of the Swiss Alps have been popular ever since he began publishing them in the 1920s. Mittelholzer also participated in expeditions to more distant locations, supporting his activities by selling photographs and receiving donations from patrons. Today, the Mittelholzer archive is part of the vast image archive at ETH Bibliothek, the main library at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

The sixth volume in Scheidegger & Spiess’s Pictorial Worlds series, Walter Mittelholzer Revisited reproduces two hundred of the most striking and historically significant photographs from the archive. Together, the photographs document Mittelholzer’s extensive travels, including trips to what is today Iran, Ethiopia, and the Svalbard Islands of northern Norway, as well as his 1926-7 trip to Africa on the seaplane Switzerland, which made Mittelholzer a household name both in aviation and photography. Rounding out the book is an essay that revisits Mittelholzer’s activities from a contemporary perspective, with a focus on the issue of colonialism and his patronising view of Africa and its peoples and cultures. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of photography.

Walter Mittelholzer (1894-1937), aviation pioneer and one of the co-founders of Swissair, is best known as a great aerial photographer. In particular, his photographs of the Swiss Alps are still present today. Less well known are Mittelholzer’s flight expeditions abroad, with which he also proved to be a keen media entrepreneur. He marketed the pictures of his travels to Spitsbergen, Persia or Abyssinia on all channels: in books, films and in the press. The breakthrough came Mittelholzer with the Africa flight 1926/27 in the seaplane Switzerland from Zurich to Cape Town. Mittelholzer’s flights were financially supported by important industrialists and bankers of the time and had the declared intention of making aviation popular in Switzerland.

The new volume of the series Bilderwelten sheds light on 200 media images and an essay on Mittelholzer’s media presence, inquires into the African image of the aviation and photo pioneer and tells how Swissair stood out against a largely colonialistic backdrop.

Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the Image archive, ETH-Bibliothek, Vol. 6

Edited by Michael Gasser and Nicole Graf
1st edition, 2017
Text English and German
Hardback
192 pages, 47 colour and 158 b/w illustrations
20 x 26 cm
ISBN 978-3-85881-543-9

Imagery. Photographs from the image archive of the ETH-Bibliothek. Volume 6

Text from the Scheidegger & Spiess website

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Krater des Kibo' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Krater des Kibo
Teil des Kilimanjaro-Massivs [Part of the Kilimanjaro massif]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
13 x 18 cm

 

 

On his Kilimanjaro flight Mittelholzer flew over both Mount Kibo (this image) and Mount Kenya, one of Africa’s highest peaks, 1930.

Mount Kilimanjaro with its three volcanic cones, “Kibo”, “Mawenzi”, and “Shira”, is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa, and rises approximately 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) from its base to 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level. The first persons known to have reached the summit of the mountain were Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889. The mountain is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination. The mountain has been the subject of many scientific studies because of its shrinking glaciers and disappearing ice fields. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Tanken in Mongalla' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Tanken in Mongalla [Refuelling in Mongalla]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Refuelling stop at Mongalla, Sudan, 1930. Oil and gasoline were supplied to the various way stations by the Anglo-Dutch company Shell.

Mongalla or Mangalla is a community in Jubek State in South Sudan, on the east side of the Bahr al Jebel or White Nile river. It lies about 75 km by road northeast of Juba. The towns of Terekeka and Bor lie downstream, north of Mongalla.

During the colonial era, Mongalla was capital of Mongalla Province, which reached south to Uganda and east towards Ethiopia. On 7 December 1917 the last of the northern Sudanese troops were withdrawn from Mongalla, replaced by Equatorial troops. These southern and at least nominally Christian troops remained the only permanent garrison of the town and province until their mutiny in August 1955. Mongalla and the surrounding province was then absorbed into Equatoria Province in 1956. The town was taken and retaken more than once during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Massaifrauen mit Kupferringen als Schmuck' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Massaifrauen mit Kupferringen als Schmuck [Massai women with copper rings as jewellery]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. The Maasai speak the Maa language (ɔl Maa), a member of the Nilo-Saharan family that is related to Dinka and Nuer. They are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahiliand English. The Maasai population has been reported as numbering 841,622 in Kenya in the 2009 census… (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'In der mit Benzin- und Ölfässern gefüllten Kabine haben Captain Wood and Wegmann doch noch ein gemütliches Plätzchen gefunden' 1930-31

 

Walter Mittelholzer
In der mit Benzin- und Ölfässern gefüllten Kabine haben Captain Wood and Wegmann doch noch ein gemütliches Plätzchen gefunden
[Captain Wood and Wegmann still found a cozy spot in the cabin filled with gasoline and oil barrels]
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

Mittelholzer always flew with a copilot so that he could take photographs while in the air. Here, he himself is at the controls. Seated in the cabin alongside the oil drums are the mechanic Werner Wegmann and the expedition organiser Georg Wood, 1930/31.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Marrakech aus 200 m Höhe' 1930-1931

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Marrakech aus 200 m Höhe
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina), bordered by modern neighbourhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination. Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. Despite the economic recession, real estate and hotel development in Marrakesh has grown dramatically in the 21st century. Marrakesh is particularly popular with the French, and numerous French celebrities own property in the city. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco, with some 18 souks selling wares ranging from traditional Berber carpets to modern consumer electronics. Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population, who primarily sell their products to tourists. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Kano' 1930-1931

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Kano
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Kano is the state capital of Kano State in North West, Nigeria. It is situated in the Sahelian geographic region, south of the Sahara. Kano is the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria and is the second largest city in Nigeria, after Lagos. The Kano metropolis initially covered 137 square kilometres (53 square miles), and comprised six local government areas (LGAs) … The total area of Metropolitan Kano is now 499 square kilometres (193 square miles), with a population of 2,828,861 as of the 2006 Nigerian census. The principal inhabitants of the city are the Hausa people. As in most parts of northern Nigeria, the Hausa language is widely spoken in Kano. The city is the capital of the Kano Emirate. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Typen aus dem Atlas: der rastlose Händler' 1930-31

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Typen aus dem Atlas: der rastlose Händler [Types from the Atlas: the restless dealer]
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

Berbers at a cattle market in the High Atlas, 1930/31

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Felsgrab Khazne al-Firaun, Petra' 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Felsgrab Khazne al-Firaun, Petra [Rock Tomb Khazne al-Firaun, Petra]
1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Four-day visit to the ancient, rock-hewn city of Petra, 1934. Petra was rediscovered for the Europeans by the Basel adventurer Jean Louis Burckhardt in 1812. Mittelholzer often followed the routes taken by earlier explorers of Asia and Africa and saw his own “expeditions” as continuing their tradition.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Kaiser Haile Selassie, Addis Abeba' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Kaiser Haile Selassie, Addis Abeba
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Haile Selassie I (23 July 1892 – 27 August 1975), born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, was Ethiopia’s regent from 1916 to 1930 and emperor from 1930 to 1974. He also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 25 May 1963 to 17 July 1964 and 5 November 1966 to 11 September 1967. He was a member of the Solomonic Dynasty. …

Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated at between two and four million, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity. Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life. He is a defining figure in Ethiopian history. Haile Selassie died on 27 August 1975 at the age of 83, following a coup d’état. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Itu-Mann vom Südosten Abessiniens [Itu man from southeastern Abyssinia]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Itu-Mann vom Südosten Abessiniens [Itu man from southeastern Abyssinia]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Dankali-Mädchen [Dankali girl]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Dankali-Mädchen [Dankali girl]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Übergabe von Schild und Degen an Walter Mittelholzer' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Übergabe von Schild und Degen an Walter Mittelholzer [Handover of shield and sword to Walter Mittelholzer]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Sudanesischer Kolonialsoldat des englischen Imperiums' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Sudanesischer Kolonialsoldat des englischen Imperiums [Sudanese colonial soldier of the English Empire]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

 

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08
Dec
17

In conversation: Marcus Bunyan and Elizabeth Gertsakis discuss his new work, ‘The Shape of Dreams’ (2013 – 2017)

December 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams 
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In conversation

EG: Just saw your most recent Art Blart and your work. It’s very beautiful. Congratulations. At first I didn’t know whose they were. Then I went through them one by one, and only after responding to them ‘unknown’ I saw it was your work. SO BEAUTIFUL, so potent and yet, within the ambivalence and questioning there was space for great stillness and contemplation. Powerful and so poetic. The one of the children, close up is dazzling, but so are the open fields, mountains, roadways and minute images of flight.

MB: Thank you so much Elizabeth. Yes, my work would you believe. I can now believe after 4 years hard work. A poem to the uncertainty of human dreams. It’s a conceptual series in the vein of my hero Minor White – contemplative, poetic as always with me, but with an edge under the poetry as you so correctly observe EG – you are caught in the dream in the end image, suspended in time and space, in your imagination. You are always so spot on with your observations.

EG: Your own tendency is also closely linked to language and ideas?

MB: This is very true. The basis for all my work is body, time, space, environment and their link to language and ideas… and how conceptual work can be spiritual as well.

EG: I’m with you on that one, and political as well.

MB: Indeed – all my work, including this series, is very anti-war.

EG: What is unseen, invisible in these images is definitely the dark quiet hole of hell that war is. Or at least those that invest in it.

MB: The key image in this regard is the one of the explosion.

EG: But the ones of the distant and misdirected aerial machines also…

MB: Indeed, and the second one, where all the men are looking away while the cloud expands in the background.

EG: Yes, the casual indifference and banality of it.

MB: You have it perfectly Elizabeth!

EG: But the children, oh those children, and the innocent implacability of the natural world.

MB: To find these images on Ebay and then spend four years of my life cleaning and saving them was an incredible experience. It was almost like I was breathing these images as I was saving them, looking into each one and being immersed in them. Thus, the art demands contemplation from the viewer in order to begin to understand its resonances.

.
Many thankx to Elizabeth Gertsakis for her wisdom, knowledge, friendship and advice throughout the year. These observations of my work mean a great deal to me.

SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE INCLUDING SIZE AND SPACING OF IMAGES (ENLARGE AND USE SCROLL BAR)

SEE THE FULL IMAGES

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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