Archive for the 'sculpture' Category

05
Nov
22

Exhibition: ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 15th July – 6th November 2022

Curators: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

 

Ghosts in the machine

In a way that Plato would recognise with his perfect forms (abstract yet perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space and live on a spiritual plane behind the representation of a physical reality), I feel as though Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) has existed outside of time – a model of directness that was always there – in a timeless way, before the actual concept emerged into consciousness in the 1920s German art tradition.

German photographers Bernd & Hiller Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) were devoted to the ideals of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) and their work evolved from these older traditions of objective photography as practiced by artists such as August Sander (German, 1876-1964) and Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932) during the 1920s. The typologies that the Bechers collected – their beautiful, multiple, conceptual, objective, documentary fine art ‘record photographs’ – made them among the most important figures in postwar German photography.

Their teaching at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s lead to the formation of the Dusseldorf School of Photography which refers to a group of photographers who studied under the artist duo who also shared (and then modified) their aesthetic – a commitment to controlled objectivity and a documentary orientation. These important next generation artists included people such as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth. The Bechers influence on contemporary documentary fine art photography continues today.

“The Bechers specialized in the photography of anonymous industrial sites and structures, methodically employing the same neutral perspective in each image, as in Water Towers. The nine nineteenth-century metal water towers are displayed in a grid as a single work, the black-and-white images revealing the differences between objects that had an identical function, and so bestowing an aesthetic value on them.”1

Here a definition of typology may be useful. ‘Typology’ is the study and interpretation of types and symbols, a classification according to a general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences. In this sense, the Becher’s photographs of industrial archetypes displayed in grids are excavations of historical types, representations of both pattern (type, grid) and randomness (interpretation, aesthetics). What does this mean? According to Katherine Hayles, pattern (in this case grids of photographs of the same archetype) cannot exist without its opposite, randomness, enacted through mutation of the code.

“Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic… It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can no longer be sustained… The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”2

The pattern of the Bechers photographs are the grids, the randomness evidenced as we move in to observe individual images within the grid, for every water tower is different and its own form… and then we pull back to compare one image with another, one mutation with another. As we move closer the individual image becomes whole in its own right, but contains within the pictorial frame evidence of the subjects mutation through decay, evidence of an industrial revolution and means of production that is now archaic and arcane. It is as though we are looking at a fractal in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, but which in fact describe partly random or chaotic phenomena, the seeds of their own mutation. And the possibility for mutation within the text is enhanced and heightened by long coding chains, such as large typologies of objects and large grids of images.

As much as the Bechers objective photographs seek a cool sameness, they undermine their own project by their photographs inherent subversiveness. It’s as though the beauty of their object of desire is being played off against a rage against the machine, a critique of what industrialisation is doing to the divine landscape of the earth.

Of course images are always seen in context which, together with their formal characteristics and conditions, limits the meanings available from them at any one moment. As Annette Kuhn observes, “Meanings do not reside in images, then: they are circulated between representation, spectator and social function.”3 We understand the Bechers images then, through a representation of reality which always and necessarily entails, “the use of the codes and conventions of the available cultural forms of presentation. Such forms restrict and shape what can be said by and / or about any aspect of reality in a given place in a given society at a given time, but if that seems like a limitation on saying, it is also what makes saying possible at all.”4 Richard Dyer continues,

“I accept that one apprehends reality only through representations of reality, through texts, discourse, images; there is no such thing as unmediated access to reality. But because one can see reality only through representation, it does not follow that one does not see reality at all. Partial – selective, incomplete, from a point of view – vision of something is not no vision of it whatsoever.”4

Despite the Bechers attempt to catalogue vast typologies, there is no order without disorder. Their vision, and our vision, is only ever selective, incomplete and from a point of view. Much as they desire an enchantment of the subject so that the object of desire falls under their spell in order to validate its presence, so there is no single determinate meaning to any presentation of their work, for people make sense of images in different ways, according to the cultural codes available to them. “What is re-presented in representation is not directly reality itself but other representations. The analysis of images always needs to see how any given instance is embedded in a network of other instances…”4

The ghosts in the machine of the Bechers networks, those random bits of code that lurk behind a not so perfect representation, group together to form unexpected protocols seen from different points of view. “Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul.” (Asimov)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ Anonymous. “A Movement in a Moment: The Düsseldorf School,” on the Phaidon website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022

2/ Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 33.

3/ Annette Kuhn. The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985, p. 6.

4/ Richard Dyer. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3.

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

 

 

“I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. The French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size… To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.”

.
Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 20/10/2022

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bernd & Hilla Becher' at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bernd & Hilla Becher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art showing at centre, Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium 1983, below
Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen/The Met

00 Basic Forms
01 Framework Houses
02 Early Work
03 Industrial Landscapes
04 Zeche Concordia
05 Art and Evolution
06 Typologies

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. (60.6 × 50.4cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernhard and Hilla Becher are among the most important figures in postwar German photography. For the last thirty years, the artists have examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses. Photographing against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, the artists treat these forgotten structures as the exotic specimens of a long-dead species.

 

 

The renowned German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) changed the course of late twentieth-century photography. Working as a rare artist couple, they focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fuelled the modern era. Their seemingly objective style recalled nineteenth- and early twentieth-century precedents but also resonated with the serial approach of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, it challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography.

Using a large-format view camera, the Bechers methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their rigorous, standardised practice allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between four and thirty photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

This posthumous retrospective celebrates the Bechers’ remarkable achievement and is the first ever organised with full access to the artists’ personal collection of working materials and their comprehensive archive.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1955-1956

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1955-1956
Graphite and watercolour on paper
16 5/16 × 16 5/16 in. (41.5 × 41.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The earliest surviving independent works by Bernd Becher are several rare drawings and photocollages of the Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, made before the formation of his artistic partnership with Hilla Wobeser in 1959. These include the works presented on this wall and directly opposite. They reveal the artist’s lifelong interest in the accurate description of mining and manufacturing structures familiar to him from his childhood. Here, Bernd takes special care to focus on the mine’s wooden framework features and its idiosyncratic winding tower, which rises above the buildings like an enormous windblown flag.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1957

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1957
Collage of five gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 15 3/4 × 11 3/4 in. (40 × 29.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) '[Assemblage of Pipes]' 1964 or later

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
[Assemblage of Pipes]
1964 or later
Gelatin silver prints with graphite
Sheet: 14 3/8 × 13 1/16 in. (36.5 × 33.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

This exceptional assemblage includes three razor-cut photographs of blast-furnace pipes braided together into a handsome knot. Part Giorgio de Chirico (one of the artist’s favourite painters), part pretzel, the metaphysical work shows Bernd Becher’s playful sense of humour and appreciation for the complexity and visual wonderment of industrial forms.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Mountain Elm Leaf]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Mountain Elm Leaf]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 6 15/16 in. (23.7 × 17.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In these studies of tree leaves, Hilla Becher is operating in a long tradition of natural realism that connects her work to that of many earlier German artists, including the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt and the printed botanical and zoological studies of Ernst Haeckel (see display case). What was important to Blossfeldt, Haeckel, and the Bechers was not simple exactitude but a particular type of graphic description and presentation that could reveal the unique, often quirky, and at times humorous structure of any form.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Spruce Branch]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Spruce Branch]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/16 in. (24 × 17.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015) '[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]' 1961

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015)
[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]
1961
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 × 11 7/8 in. (39 × 30.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

 

Even after the establishment of the Bechers’ professional partnership in 1959, Hilla continued to accept commission work. She produced this study of the inner architecture of a seashell as a graphic for a display of industrial design at a German trade fair in Khartoum. This vintage photograph was copied and used by the pavilion designer as oversize enlargements. Hilla also documented the interior and exterior of the innovative prefabricated shed pavilion with its lively metal banding.

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919) "Echinidea. – Igelsterne" 'Kunstformen der Natur' (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919)
“Echinidea. – Igelsterne”
Kunstformen der Natur (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)
1904
Lithograph
Sheet: 13 5/8 × 10 1/4 in. (34.6 × 26cm)
Joyce Frank Menschel Library, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

For both research purposes and aesthetic pleasure, Hilla Becher assembled a collection of illustrated books dedicated to scientific classification. None on the theme of biological order was more important to the artists’ development than Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 Kunstformen der Natur. The plate from a disbound volume presented here shows a typological comparison of sea urchins and sand dollars.

 

 

From July 15 to November 6, 2022, the renowned American museum is showing a retrospective of the important artist couple in cooperation with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher, Dusseldorf, and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne.

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007, 1934-2015) are among the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, their works have provided decisive impetus for photography, art and also generally for dealing with our culture, economy, science and society. For more than 50 years, the artist couple has devoted themselves to the subject of the industrial landscape, the functional buildings and constructions of the mining industry in Western Europe and North America. They created countless black-and-white photographs, which they took with their large-format cameras, of winding towers, blast furnaces, water and cooling towers, coal bunkers, gas tanks, half-timbered houses, entire industrial plants and landscapes. The photographs show precise, at the same time analytical views and individual forms, which Bernd and Hilla Becher subjected to a comparative analysis. So-called typologies, unfolding photographic sets or also large-format typologically conceived individual photographs were the results of their collaboration, which they exhibited internationally and published in monographs. Works that received a special appreciation under the term “Anonymous Sculptures” and attained top-class awards.

The method used by the Bechers can be regarded as style-defining. It transformed the descriptive, objective view of photography of the 19th and early 20th century, which the artist couple highly valued, into a new era, integrating it into clearly sequenced series of images and thus at the same time pointing to perspectives of minimal and conceptual art, which further underscores the innovative power of their work.

Between 1976 and 1996 Bernd Becher taught at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf. Numerous well-known photographers and artists emerged from his photography class. As of the 1960s Bernd and Hilla Becher had their studio in Dusseldorf. Today the studio is being continued as the Bernd & Hilla Becher Studio by their son, estate administrator and artist Max Becher. From 1995 until their death, the artist couple worked together with Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, from which the Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive emerged. The majority of the exhibition is furnished from this collection, including numerous previously little-shown and unknown materials by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Overall, the retrospective, which will be on view in a second venue at the SFMoMA between December 17, 2022 and April 2, 2023, introduces all of the artist couple’s areas of work.

The exhibition was curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
1978
Chromogenic print
4 3/8 × 3 7/16 in. (11.1 × 8.8cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany' 1979

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany
1979
Gelatin silver print
4 3/4 × 5 9/16 in. (12 × 14.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Their camera’s lens, facing Hilla, has been raised higher than the film plane that’s facing Bernd, a trick that lets them capture the tops of tall structures.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1981

 

Unknown photographer
Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1981
Instant diffusion transfer print (Polaroid)
2 7/8 × 3 3/4 in. (7.3 × 9.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands 1968

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
1968
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 34 5/8 × 24 3/16 in. (88 × 61.5cm)
Frame: 36 15/16 × 26 7/16 in. (93.8 × 67.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher were notoriously exacting about how their photographs were constructed in the camera, printed in the darkroom, and sequenced and reproduced in their many publications. Interestingly, they were rather generous with how and where their photographs were used in other printed materials, such as promotional leaflets, invitations, and exhibition posters. The posters gathered in this exhibition display a variety of typographic treatments and arrangements.

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden 1970

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
1970
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 39 5/16 × 27 1/2 in. (99.8 × 69.8cm)
Frame: 41 9/16 × 29 3/4 in. (105.6 × 75.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany 2005

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
2005
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 46 7/8 × 33 1/16 in. (119 × 84cm)
Frame: 49 1/16 × 35 5/16 in. (124.6 × 89.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd & Hilla Becher, First Posthumous Retrospective of the Highly Influential Photographers to Open at The Met July 15

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) are widely considered the most influential German photographers of the postwar period. Working as a rare artist couple, they developed a rigorous practice focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fueled the modern era. Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on July 15, 2022, Bernd & Hilla Becher features some 200 works of art and is the artists’ first posthumous retrospective of their 50-year career. It is organised with full access to the Becher’s comprehensive archive and personal collection of working materials and is the first American retrospective since 1974 (when their mature style was still evolving).

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel, the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, the Edward John & Patricia Rosenwald Foundation, and Linda Macklowe. It is organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher and Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher changed the course of late 20th-century photography, and their groundbreaking work continues to influence artists to this day,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “It is a privilege to present this first posthumous retrospective and to celebrate their legacy and remarkable artistic achievement.”

 

Exhibition Overview

The Bechers seemingly objective aesthetic looked back to 19th- and early 20th-century precedents but also resonated with the serial, premeditated progressions of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, their aesthetic challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography. The artists used a large-format view camera – similar to those used by 19th-century photographers such as the Bisson Frères in France and Carleton Watkins in the American West – and spurned the handheld, 35 mm roll-film cameras of the type preferred by journalists and pre- and postwar artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. They worked exclusively with black-and-white photographic materials, intentionally avoiding the medium’s inevitable move to colour that took place during the 1960s and 1970s, and methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their standardised approach allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between 4 and 30 photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

The Bechers had a direct and profound influence on several generations of students at the renowned art academy Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Bernd was appointed the first professor of photography in 1976. Among the members of the so-called Becher School or Düsseldorf School of Photography are some of the most recognised German artists of the past 40 years, such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Ruff.

Featured in the exhibition alongside the individual and grids of photographs for which the Bechers are best known are extraordinary works in photography and other media executed by them before and after the formation of their creative partnership in 1959. These rarely seen lithographs, collages, photographs, ink and pencil sketches, Polaroids, and personal snapshots offer a deep understanding of the artists’ working methods and intellectual processes.

Following its debut at The Met, the exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where it will be on view from December 17, 2022 through April 2, 2023. Bernd & Hilla Becher is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, with assistance from Virginia McBride, Research Assistant in the Department of Photographs, both at The Met. The Met developed the exhibition with Max Becher, the artists’ son, and with Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, director of the Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, where the artists’ vast photographic print archive is preserved.

The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication, the first posthumous monograph published on the Bechers. It features essays by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl; Dr. Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and an expert on the Bechers; and Lucy Sante, arts critic, essayist, artist, and visiting professor of writing and photography at Bard College. The publication also includes an extensive interview with Max Becher that, together with the essays, introduces and surveys the Bechers’ photographs and the significance of their achievement over a remarkably productive half-century career. The catalogues is made possible by the Mary C. and James W. Fosburgh Publications Fund.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)' 1968-1993

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)
1968-1993
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Such series may have been less about the glories of heavy industry than its approaching demise in the West.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1983
Gelatin silver print
23 1/8 × 18 1/4 in. (58.8 × 46.4cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The buildings Bernd and Hilla Becher chose to photograph were meant to be altered or demolished when superseded technologically. Given the planned obsolescence of their subjects, the artists’ timing played an important role in the success of their practice. In one of their last books, Industrial Landscapes (2002), they commented: “Once we were in northern France, where we found a wonderful headgear [the top of a blast furnace] – a veritable Eiffel Tower. When we arrived the weather was hazy and not ideal for our work so we decided to postpone taking the photos for a day. When we arrived the next day, it had already been torn down, the dust was in the air.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Gravel Plants' 1988-2001

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plants
1988-2001
Gelatin silver prints

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany' 1989

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany
1989
Gelatin silver print
24 3/16 × 19 3/16 in. (61.4 × 48.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bernd and Hilla Becher completed a thorough documentation of the many gravel plants in and near Günzburg, a small city on the Danube River in Bavaria. This oddly shaped yet functional building was used as a stone breaker to produce gravel, the still-lucrative industrial material required for making roads and high-quality concrete. The asymmetrical facade delights the eye, recalling the Bechers’ frequently stated agenda: “We were fascinated above all by the shape of technical architecture, and hardly by its history.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1965

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany
1965
Gelatin silver print
23 5/8 x 18 1/4 in. (60.5 x 46.4cm)
Collection of James Kieth Brown and Eric Diefenbach

 

 

Influenced by the formal rigour and conceptual methods of pre-World War II artists, such as August Sander and Walker Evans, Bernd and Hilla Becher were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors, such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. They treated their subject matter – the disappearing industrial architecture of the West – as “anonymous sculpture.” Here, a fabulous tower used to cool water at the Mont Cenis colliery rises from the ground like a modernist top hat made for a wooden giant. In 1978, just thirteen years after the Bechers visited the busy complex, it closed permanently, ending more than one hundred years of coal extraction on the site.

The Bechers photographed against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, using an old-fashioned tripod-mounted view camera of the kind used by Eugène Atget and Walker Evans. They treated their subjects as “anonymous sculpture” (the name of their first monograph) that could only be fully rendered through either multiple views from different perspectives or more often, through the typological accumulation and serial presentation of multiple specimens. Although they were artists not scientists, the Bechers used an almost Linnean system of classification – another important 19th century precedent which they made resolutely modern.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14 5/8 × 11 3/4 in. (37.1 × 29.9cm)
Gift of the LeWitt Family, in memory of Bernd and Hilla Becher, 2018

 

 

As both artists and professors at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, the husband-and-wife team of Bernd and Hilla Becher have influenced an entire generation of German photographers with their typological approach to the medium, in which a single archetypal subject is described through an accumulation of diverse examples. For more than three decades, they have systematically examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses, all recorded against a blank sky and without expressive effects. As it developed in the 1960s, the Bechers’ project chimed with Conceptual Art in its emphasis on impersonal series as well as with older traditions of objective photography as practiced by such artists such as August Sander and Karl Blossfeldt.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

The Bechers’ purpose has always been to make the clearest possible photographs of industrial structures. They are not interested in making euphemistic, socio-romantic pictures glorifying industry, nor doom-laden spectacles showing its costs and dangers. Equally, they have nothing in common with photographers who seek to make pleasing modernist abstractions, treating the structures as decorative shapes divorced from their function.

The Bechers’ goal is to create photographs that are concentrated on the structures themselves and not qualified by subjective interpretations. To them, these structures are the ‘architecture of engineers’ and their pictures should be seen as the photography of engineers – that is, record pictures. …

[Record photographers are the unsung heroes of the history of photography. They are the anonymous commercial photographers who were commissioned to record both great and everyday industrial and civic projects, from the construction of canals to the blooming of floral clocks.]

The Bechers are fascinated by the idiosyncratic appearance of each structure. The mass-produced, design-conscious assemblies devised by architects with an eye on appearance do not appeal as much as those with a mindfulness of function. What interests the Bechers are constructions made by engineers whose plans are pragmatic, where function dictates the form, rather than, as is increasingly the case, the other way round. In the words of Bernd: ‘There is a form of architecture that consists in essence of apparatus, that has nothing to do with design, and nothing to do with architecture either. They are engineering constructions with their own aesthetic.’

Their fascination is rooted in an understanding of the structures. The Bechers are the first to acknowledge the primarily functional role of the constructions, that their existence is justified solely by their industrial performance, and that once this has been superseded the structures will be modified or demolished. They liken the way a blast furnace develops over time, as furnaces and pipework are added, to the organic but apparently chaotic growth of a medieval city. This purpose-led rationale is what attracts them. They refer to some of the structures as ‘nomadic architecture’. Once they photographed a blast furnace that was being dismantled by Chinese workers in Luxembourg, who then had to reassemble it in China.

By placing photographs of similar subjects alongside each other, the individual differences emerge, making the fine details in each picture more noticeable, more distinct. Drawing on this, they began exhibiting the pictures as typologies; by the early 1960s they showed their work only in typological groups. Typically, a piece of work would comprise four small prints of, for example, water towers, adjacent to a larger print of one of the four. They would not supply prints of individual pictures; the typology was the work. Later, their typologies contained prints of equal size, measuring 30 cm by 40 cm. It could be three rows of five prints, a grid of nine or, in one case, 28 blast furnaces in three rows; a symphony of industrial structures.

The Bechers’ pictures do not have to be viewed in typologies in order to make sense, as they have validity as individual images. The typology has been developed for two reasons. First, by amassing such a detailed survey of industrial structures they are revealing sets and subsets, much like 19th-century zoologists did. With water towers, for example, there are round steel ones with conical tops, like hats, and semi-circular ones. Others are circular with sloping roofs, or without roofs, or on steel derricks, or brick towers, and so on. The more fine the differences, the better they are illustrated by the typology.

Second, the typology used by the Bechers emphasises the rewards of close scrutiny, and it is this that makes each and every one of their pictures fascinating. By presenting 15 water towers in a grid, the first effect is an imposing mass of industrial structures. You must stand back in order to take them all in as a group, but to look closer at an individual picture it is necessary to draw nearer.

Up close, only one tower is visible at a time. Isolated in pristine, black-and-white definition, this everyday object is revealed as an ‘anonymous sculpture’, an unostentatious but fabulous creation by mankind. To compare it with the others is to stand back again, and from here the impulse is to step up and examine another. Just as the beauty of the individual structure (for that is what they are) is there to see, so together as a typology they are a thrilling spectacle. …

There is a wisdom and honour in the Bechers’ work which frees them from imposing a conditional reading upon the viewer. The wisdom is the methodology they recognise in the ‘neutral’ depiction of record photography. The honour stems from a principle about not imposing their ideas on other people.

Hilla and Bernd both grew up under Adolf Hitler. They saw how he corrupted German art to promote his propaganda. This was particularly pertinent to photography, and it remained tainted after the war; witness the grim examples of Leni Riefensthal’s glorifying images of Nazis and the pseudo-scientific eugenic portrait studies that were published to defend anti-semitism and supremacism. This is why the legacy of August Sander (1876-1964), whose neutral approach to portraiture was damned by the Nazis, is so precious in Germany. It is also why the Bechers’ continuing example is extremely important. …

Because photography has, for so long, been used for commercial reasons, notably in advertising, people are accustomed to absorbing manipulative images, and have come to expect – or even rely on – a conditional presentation. Take away this interpretative control and the viewer is left free, which is unnerving if one is not used to it. This is why some regard the Bechers’ photographs as ‘cold’. There is no editorial, no soundtrack, no suggestions nor judgments. You are left to your own devices.

Of course, their motivations are not invisible, nor their presence unfelt. What does it mean when something ‘rings true’? How is it that one can sense the sincerity in another’s words? Perhaps this lies in the realm of intuition, not explanation. To analyse art is not necessarily to experience it. Sometimes, by focusing on a deliberation of it, one limits the engagement to a cerebral encounter. In the West particularly, we use explanations to try to control the unknown, to make uncertainties certain. Maybe there is a wisdom we have that is not learnt but is within us. Far better to look rather than puzzle, and to open one’s senses to what is there.

Here lies the wonder in the Bechers’ photographs. They are like rounding a hill and seeing a view spread out before you. In Cwmcynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, 1966, a minehead stands above lines of terraced houses in the village. The giant pair of wheels on top of the single-tier steel headframe is an engineer’s structure. A device to do a job, not to win design awards. You could not dream up such structures, neither could you invent, say, your grandparents’ kitchen. These things arise from the conditions in which they are used.

They are the lines on the face of the world. The photographs are portraits of our history. And when the structures have been demolished and grassed over, as though they were never there, the pictures remain.

Michael Collins, “The long look,” Tate Research Publication, 2002 originally published in Tate Magazine issue 1 on the Tate website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Towers (Belgium and France)' 1967-1988

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Towers (Belgium and France)
1967-1988
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 13/16 in. (39.6 × 30cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany' 1963

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany
1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 1/4 in. (39.5 × 28.5cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)' 1963-1980

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)
1963-1980
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Is there some quiet comedy in revealing all the ways industry has managed the single job of storing water?

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)(detail)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

One wall is gridded up with photos of industrial cooling towers, portrayed in wildly detailed black-and-white.

Another gives us 30 different views of blast furnaces, at plants across Western Europe and the United States. You can just about make out each bolt in their twisting pipework.

An entire gallery surveys the vast Concordia coal plant in Oberhausen, Germany: Teeming photos present its gas-storage tanks, its “lean gas generator,” its “quenching tower,” its “coke pushers.”

These and something like another 450 images fill “Bernd & Hilla Becher,” a fascinating, frankly gorgeous show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s curator of photography, Jeff Rosenheim, has organized a thorough retrospective for the Bechers, a German couple who made some of the most influential art photos of the past half-century. Bernd (1931-2007) and Hilla (1934-2015) mentored generations of students at Düsseldorf’s great Kunstakademie, whose alumni include major photographic artists such as Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer.

But for all the heft of the heavy industry on view in the Met show – it’s easy to imagine the stink and smoke and racket that pressed in on the Bechers as they worked – you come away with an overall impression of lightness, of delightful order, even sometimes of gentle comedy.

Wall after wall of gridded grays soothe the eye and calm the soul, like the orderly, light-filled abstractions of Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt. The very fact of gathering 16 different water towers, from both sides of the Atlantic, onto a single museum wall helps to domesticate them, removing their industrial angst and original functions and turning them into something like curios, or collectibles. A catalog essay refers to the Bechers’ “rigorous documentation of thousands of industrial structures,” which is right – but it’s the rigour of a trainspotter, not an engineer. Despite their concrete grandeur, the assorted water towers come off as faintly ridiculous: Whether you’re collecting cookie jars or vintage wines – or shots of water towers – it’s as much about our human instinct to amass and organise as it is about the actual things you collect.

Consider the 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) that launched Andy Warhol’s pop career, which are a vital precedent for the Bechers’ ordered seriality. You can read the Soup Cans as a critical portrayal of American consumerism, but a catalog of canned soups also reads as a quiet joke, at least when it’s presented for the sake of art, not shopping. Ditto, I think, for the Bechers’ famous “typologies” of industrial buildings, presented without anything like an industrial goal.

Indeed, the one thing you don’t come away with from the Becher show is real knowledge of mechanical engineering, or coal processing, or steel making. In long-ago student days, I cut out and framed a wallful of images from the Bechers’ glorious book of blast-furnace photos. (Their art has always existed as much in their books as in exhibitions.) After living with my furnaces for a decade or so, I can’t say I could have passed a quiz from Smelting 101.

Early coverage referred to the Bechers as “photographer-archaeologists” and the Met’s catalog talks about how they revealed the “functional characteristics of industrial structures.” There are certainly parallels between the preternatural clarity and unmediated “objectivity” of their images and earlier, purely technical and scientific photos meant to teach about the constructions and processes of industry. The Bechers admired such pictures. But however systematic their own project might seem, its goal was art, which means it was always bound to let function and meaning float free.

I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size.

The Bechers weren’t the only artists working that seam. Their era’s conceptualists also played games with science and industry. When John Baldessari had himself photographed throwing three balls into the air so they’d form a straight line, he was simulating experimentation, not aiming for any real experimental result: The repeated throwing and its failure was the point, not the straight line that could never get formed, anyway. When the Bechers’ friend Robert Smithson poured oceans of glue down a hillside or bulldozed dirt onto a shed until its roof cracked, he was mimicking the moves of heroic construction, not aiming to build anything.

What made the Bechers different from their peers is that they did their mimicking from the inside: They used the language of advanced photographic technology to inhabit the technophilic world they portrayed. Their photos are almost as constructed as any “lean gas generator” they might depict. The just-the-facts-ma’am objectivity of their images is only achieved through serious photographic artifice.

Take the Bechers’ four-square photos of four-square workers’ houses. Several houses are photographed from so close that, standing right in front of them, you’d never take in their entire facades at one glance, as the Bechers do in their images. It takes a wide-angle lens to allow that trick, and only if it’s installed on the kind of technical view camera whose bellows lets lens and film slide in opposite directions. That’s how the Bechers manage to line up our eyes with the top step on a stoop (we see it edge-on) while also catching the home’s gables, high above.

The preternatural level of detail on view and its glorious range of grays and blacks require negatives the size of a man’s hand, a tripod as big as a sapling, lens filters and an advanced darkroom technique. And the couple were relying on such labour-intensive technology at just the moment when most of their photographic peers, and millions of average people, had moved on to cameras and film that let them shoot on the fly, in lab-processed colour. With the Bechers, the “decisive moment” of 35 mm photography gets replaced by a gray-on-gray stasis that feels as though it could last forever – as though it’s as immovable as the steel girders it depicts.

But, in fact, those steel girders were more time-bound than the Bechers’ photos let on. “Just as Medieval thinking manifested itself in Gothic cathedrals, our era reveals itself in technological equipment and buildings,” the Bechers once declared, yet the era they revealed wasn’t really the one they were working in. In many cases, their factories and plants and mines were about to close when the Bechers shot them – a few had already been abandoned – as Western economies made the switch to services and design and computing. The outdatedness of the Bechers’ technique matches up with their subjects. Both represent a last-gasp moment in the “industrial” revolution, which is why there’s something almost poignant about this show.

One of its most revealing moments involves a film, not a photo, and it’s not even by the power couple. The Bechers’ young son, Max, who has since become a noted artist in his own right, once captured his parents in moving colour as they set out to document silos in the American Midwest. Max filmed Bernd and Hilla unloading their heavy-duty equipment, still much as it was in Victorian times, from a classic Volkswagen camper of the 1960s. It was an absurdly underpowered machine, but who could resist its colourful paint job or its mod lines and stylings?

To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.

Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 30/07/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands' 1968

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands
1968
Gelatin silver print
24 in. × 19 1/2 in. (61 × 49.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Lime, an important building material since ancient times, is used in the production of mortar and cement. Here, the Bechers focused their attention on six towering brick chimneys that look as much like sprouting asparagus as utilitarian structures. The artists chose a similar view of lime kilns for the cover image of Anonyme Skulpturen (1970), their ambitious first publication. The book presents comparative sequences of different industrial forms, from kilns and gasometers to cooling towers, blast furnaces, and winding towers.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany
1983
24 in. × 19 13/16 in. (60.9 × 50.3cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany' 1962

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany
1962
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 7/8 × 11 5/8 in. (40.3 × 29.6cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher are the most important figures in European photography since 1950. Influenced by the formal rigour and typological method of prewar artists such as August Sander and Walker Evans, they were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt and paved the way for the medium’s integration into the broader arena of contemporary art. As professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, their influence was paramount on the celebrated generation of photographers known as the “Düsseldorf School” such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 13/16 × 11 11/16 in. (40.2 × 29.7cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (40 x 29.2cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function' 1961-1972

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function
1961-1972
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

 

These photographs show that the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher were sometimes more interested in aesthetic form than in what industry actually does.

Bernd and Hilla Becher found artistic inspiration in the under appreciated beauty of the built environment, specifically, commonplace industrial and residential architecture. The Bechers’ use of typological ordering, as seen here in a grid of fifteen framework-house studies, can be traced to Hilla’s interest in the concepts of taxonomy and morphology, which are systems of biological classification based on shape and function. They called their assemblages “typologies” and used this effective graphic structure to compare similar and different forms, as would a researcher studying a collection of fossils or butterflies.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg' 1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
1979
Gelatin silver print
17 5/8 × 23 1/2 in. (44.8 × 59.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium' 1971

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium
1971
Gelatin silver print
19 in. × 23 1/4 in. (48.2 × 59cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
19 3/8 × 23 7/8 in. (49.2 × 60.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

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30
Oct
22

Exhibition: ‘Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 15th July – 31st October 2022

Curators: The exhibition is curated by artist, author and curator Boaz Levin and Dr. Esther Ruelfs, Head of the Photography and New Media Collection at MK&G.

Artists: Ignacio Acosta, Lisa Barnard, F& D Cartier, Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke und Richard Nielsen), Susanne Kriemann, Mary Mattingly, Daphné Nan Le Sergent, Lisa Rave, Alison Rossiter, Robert Smithson, Simon Starling, Anaïs Tondeur, James Welling, Noa Yafe, Tobias Zielony

 

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979) 'Mineral Seep' 2016

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979)
Mineral Seep
2016
C-print
© Mary Mattingly

 

 

A worthy subject I had never really thought about. Kudos to the curators for digging into (pardon the pun) and conceptualising the “five chapters following the different materials used for photographic production: Copper for the daguerreotypes, fossil fuels and their derivatives such as coal and bitumen for the printing processes, silver for the widely used silver gelatin prints of the 20th century, Paper as a carrier material, and, today, rare earths and metals for our ever-shrinking cameras and smartphones, and the energy required for the so-called “cloud”.”

Something has to change very quickly because almost everything the human race produces seems to add to the burden of this earth. Consumerism, capitalism, money, power, greed. I despair of the human race saving the earth. We might end up with ‘being’ only to be confronted by ‘nothingness’.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing at left, work from Anaïs Tondeur’s series Carbon Black

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing on the table the work of Ignacio Acosta; and at far right, a contemporary enlargement of G.H. Johnson’s Outdoor view of a large mining operation on the North Fork American River 1852 Daguerreotype enhanced with gold

 

 

The exhibition Mining Photography: The Ecological Footprint of Image Production is dedicated to the material history of key resources used for image production, addressing the social and political context of their extraction and waste and its relation to climate change. Using historical photographs and contemporary artistic positions as well as interviews with restorers, geologists, and climate researchers, the exhibition tells the story of photography as one of industrial production, showing the extent to which the medium has been deeply intertwined with human change of the environment. By focusing on the ways by which industrial image production has been materially and ideologically implicated in climate change, rather merely using it to depict its consequences, the exhibition employs a radically new perspective towards this subject.

Ever since its invention, photography has depended on the global extraction and exploitation of so-called natural resources. In the early 19th century, these were salt, fossil fuels such as bitumen and carbon, as well as copper and silver, which were all used for the first images on copper plates and for salt paper prints. By the late 20th century, the photographic industry was one of the most important consumers of silver, responsible, at its peak, for about a quarter of the metal’s global consumption. Today, with the advent of digital photography and the ubiquity of mobile devices, image production is contingent on rare earths and metals such as coltan, cobalt, and europium. Image storage and distribution also consume immense amounts of energy. One scholar recently observed that Americans produce more photographs every two minutes than were made in the entire nineteenth century. Mining Photography: The Ecological Footprint of Image Production is dedicated to the material history of key resources used for image production, addressing the social and political context of their extraction and waste and its relation to climate change. Using historical photographs and contemporary artistic positions as well as interviews with restorers, geologists, and climate researchers, the exhibition tells the story of photography as one of industrial production, showing the extent to which the medium has been deeply intertwined with human change of the environment. By focusing on the ways by which industrial image production has been materially and ideologically implicated in climate change, rather merely using it to depict its consequences, the exhibition employs a radically new perspective towards this subject.

The exhibition is divided into five chapters following the different materials used for photographic production: Copper for the daguerreotypes, fossil fuels and their derivatives such as coal and bitumen for the printing processes, silver for the widely used silver gelatin prints of the 20th century, Paper as a carrier material, and, today, rare earths and metals for our ever-shrinking cameras and smartphones, and the energy required for the so-called “cloud”.

Interviews with conservators, climate scientists, and geologists highlight various aspects of the production process in relation to its ecological footprint. The exhibition thus consists of historical materials used during different image production techniques, historical artefacts, contemporary works, as well as information conveyed by the interviews.

“Mining Photography” traces exemplary individual supply chains, and analyses how photography’s materiality – which remains invisible to naked eye – has changed over the years. For instance, it will ask where the copper and silver used for Hermann Biow’s daguerreotype of the polymath, explorer and mining officer Alexander von Humboldt came from?

The “Copper, Gold, and the Daguerreotype” section looks at the copperplates that were photography’s first image supports in the 1840s and 1850s. The plates were produced on an industrial scale, primarily in Paris, and sold around the world. Copper was refined in Wales, in the area of Swansea, powered by the burgeoning fossil fuel industry. Ores were shipped to England from all over the world and smelted there to be traded worldwide. Photography was dependent on the copper trade, and the rapid proliferation of the medium would have been inconceivable without fossil fuels, colonial expansion, and the exploitative extraction of minerals.

The photographs from the time of the gold rush give a clear indication of the impact of the extractive mining industry, providing a documentary record of both the destruction of the landscape and the self-enactment of the gold miners, who proudly present themselves to the camera as entrepreneurs. Their female counterparts, the “Pit Brow Women” from Wigan represent the invisible labor that accompanies an industrialised product like photography. Specially created for the exhibition, Ignacio Acosta’s Hygieia Watches Over Us links the copper sculpture depicting the personification of health and hygiene with the copper-producing company Aurubis in Hamburg. It is part of the artist’s “Copper Geographies” project (ongoing since 2010), which traces the international trade routes followed by copper originating from his native Chile.

In “Fossil Fuels, Coal, and Bitumen”, we focus on the use of soot or coal as a pigment that is mixed in with photographic dyes, as can be seen, for example, in works by Anaïs Tondeur, Oscar and Theodor Hofmeister, Eduard Arning, and Susanne Kriemann. The motifs that are shown present us with moor landscapes in which coal is mined. An authentic “material unconscious” is laid down here as picture content in the photographs. Another fossil fuel is light-sensitive bitumen, a naturally occurring asphalt that was used in photographic production. For the exhibition, Noa Yafe created a work that shows the Dead Sea landscapes in which this raw material naturally occurs.

“Paper and Its Coating” focuses on the materials cotton, cellulose, gelatin, and celluloid. Europe was the centre of paper production in the 19th century, with cotton or flax rags initially used to make it. In the period around 1860, cotton was planted and harvested in the southern states of the US using slave labor. It was then shipped to Europe, where it was processed into fabrics, which served, in the form of rags, as the basis for most of the paper that was produced. It was not until the 20th century that cellulose derived from wood was first used in paper production. The photographers Alison Rossiter and F&D Cartier explore the different materiality of historical photographic papers in “discovered” images with an abstract poetic quality. Animal products were a vital ingredient used for coating the papers. In the 19th century, it was eggs, followed in the 20th century by gelatin, most of which was obtained from the bones of cows. In their pictures, which centre in different ways on the materials used in photographic coating, Madame d’Ora and James Welling document and reflect upon the brutal reality of industrialised meat production. Another work, especially created for the exhibition by Tobias Zielony and based on research he conducted at the former Agfa Filmfabrik Wolfen, focuses on the aspects of labor and ecology in the photographic industry.

The precious metal silver forms the basis of the photographic image, which still relies on it today. Of all the raw materials dealt with in the exhibition, silver is absolutely key to the global photographic industry, which, at least for now, is at present its largest consumer. It is here that we get the clearest indication of the sheer quantity of material that is required. The works of Daphné Nan Le Sergent, Simon Starling, and Metabolic Studio’s Optics Division allude to the connections between silver mining’s colonial background, the extraction of the raw material, and the process of refining it. Sergent also shows how the metals’ market value has been a the influence of the market value of metals, a driving force behind photographic technical innovations, which it has made that has made them more lucrative. Rather than being brilliant individual success stories, inventions are only possible and fruitful at a particular time and under particular conditions: witness the work of Hercule Florence, whose parallel development of a photographic process in South America remained unknown.

Lastly, “The Weight of the Cloud: Rare Earths, Metals, Energy, and Waste” looks at the resources that are needed to produce, display, and store digital images. Mining rare earths requires considerable amounts of energy: together with the “conflict minerals”, they are built into our smartphones and data storage devices used in the distribution of images. The rare earths ultimately end up in the burgeoning mountains of e-waste in the Global South, which are constantly growing to keep pace with our hunger for new devices. Lisa Barnard’s research-based work The Canary and the Hammer looks at the aspect of recycling with a focus on the precious metal gold. Mary Mattingly tracks cobalt’s complex and often opaque supply chains, mapping their course and constantly updating her rendering of them in response to market events. Lisa Rave’s video essay centres on the rare-earth metal europium. The app developed by Christoph Knoth and Konrad Renner together with their students at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg (HFBK) allows visitors to look at their phones in terms of their durability and recyclability, enabling them to probe into their own energy consumption.

 

Historical Material and Loans

The exhibition shows historical works by Eduard Christian Arning, Hermann Biow and Oscar and Theodor Hofmeister, Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt and Hermann Reichling. Together with historical photographic material from the Agfa Fotohistorama Leverkusen, photographic material from the Eastman Kodak Archive, Rochester, the FOMU Antwerpen and mineral samples collected by Alexander von Humboldt from the collection of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, they represent the wealth of photographic products and processes whose raw materials the exhibition focuses on.

The exhibition is curated by artist, author and curator Boaz Levin and Dr. Esther Ruelfs, Head of the Photography and New Media Collection at MK&G.

 

Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication (German/English) with contributions by Siobhan Angus, Nadia Bozak, Boaz Levin, Brett Neilson, Esther Ruelfs, Christoph Ribbat, Karen Soli, 174 pages, Spector Verlag, Leipzig

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Dunkelraum' 2022

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973)
Dunkelraum (Darkroom)
2022
Slide installation
© Tobias Zielony

 

 

Ever since its invention, photography has depended on the global extraction and exploitation of so called natural resources. In the early 19th century, these were salt, fossil fuels such as bitumen and carbon, and copper and silver, which were all used for the first images on copper plates and for salt paper prints. By the late 20th century, the photographic industry was one of the most important consumers of silver, responsible, at its peak, for over half of the metal’s global consumption. Today, with the advent of digital photography and the ubiquity of mobile devices, image production is contingent on rare earths and metals such as coltan, cobalt, and europium. The storage and distribution of images also generate immense amounts of CO2.

The exhibition is dedicated to the material history of the key resources used for photography. It traces the social and political context of their extraction and disposal and how this relates to climate change. Using historical photographs and contemporary artistic positions as well as interviews with a chemist, an activist, a restorer, a mineralogist, and a biologist, the exhibition tells the story of photography as one of industrial production, showing the extent to which the medium is implicated in climate change.

 

Copper and the Daguerreotype

In 1802, Alexander von Humboldt collected mineral samples containing copper and silver on his research trip through South and Central America. A good forty years later, the use of such materials made it possible for Humboldt to be photographed. Silver-coated copper plates were the first image supports to enjoy widespread usage in photography.  The silver layer of these daguerreotypes, made light sensitive by iodine, was applied to a base of copper, which resulted in plates that were both more robust and less expensive. In 1839, when the daguerreotype was invented, such silver-coated copper sheets, produced using the so-called Sheffield Plate technique, were an inexpensive material employed for a whole range of silver household items, from trays to candlesticks. In Paris alone, the production of daguerreotypes required 100 tons of copper a year, producing in 1851 almost a million whole plates. Photography thus benefited decisively from the upswing in copper processing.

Beginning in the early 18th century in Swansea, Wales, coal was used to smelt copper ore on an industrial scale far away from the site where it was found. By the 1840s, ores from Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Australia, and New Zealand were being processed in Swansea smelting works, which now produced more than a third of the copper that was traded worldwide – not without consequences for people and the environment. A look at Swansea reveals that photography’s global success would have been inconceivable without the use of fossil fuels, colonial expansion, and the world-wide extraction of metal deposits.

 

Hermann Biow and Alexander von Humboldt

Photographic pioneer Hermann Biow’s clear, unfussy visual language quickly made him a sought-after portraitist in prominent circles. In 1850, his Deutsche Zeitgenossen (German Contemporaries) portfolio was published with copperplate engravings from his photographs of artists, scientists, and politicians. In 1847, Biow had also photographed the famous naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in Berlin for the project. Humboldt, whose goal it was to depict the entire physical world in one work, was employed as a mining official for the Prussian authorities before setting out in 1799 on his first major research trip through South, Central, and North America. He brought back from there samples of the metals that would be the key elements in Biow’s daguerreotypes half a century later. The silver- and copper-bearing minerals that he collected give a sense of how these raw materials occur in nature and how, after the complex processing steps, their materiality is ultimately concealed by the finished photograph. Humboldt also recorded the way these precious metals circulated between the continents – a requirement for the industrial-scale production of daguerreotype plates – in a map in his Geographical and Physical Atlas of the Kingdom of New Spain, published in 1811. There is still some dispute, however, as to whether Humboldt was the first to warn of the dangers of anthropogenic climate change when, in 1843, he raised the question in his publication Central-Asien of the extent to which humans were influencing the climate “by felling the forests, altering the arrangement of bodies of water, and developing large masses of steam and gas at the epicenters of industry.”

Hermann Biow (b. 1804 in Breslau, d. 1850 in Dresden) was a portrait painter and lithographer and an important pioneer of photography in Germany. His documentation of the devastation of Hamburg after the fire of 1842 was the first photo reportage in history. The natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt (b. 1769 in Berlin, d. 1859 in Berlin) was an early fan of photography and saw it as “one of the most delightful and wondrous discoveries” of his time, even if he never operated a camera himself.

 

Daguerreotypes of the Californian Gold Rush

When, in 1848, it became known that gold had been discovered in the bed of the American River, people headed west to California in their hundreds of thousands to seek their fortune, together with traders, merchants, and photographers. Every gold prospector was also a potential customer wanting to send home a photo after a successful dig. The gold rush led to a boom in early photography and became the first event in US history to be comprehensively documented in photographs. Many daguerreotypists travelled straight to the mines as itinerant photographers. They portrayed gold diggers in threadbare clothing with tools and weapons, thereby presenting the Californian adventurers as the antithesis of the sophisticated denizens of the big cities. At the same time, they recorded the ongoing evolution of the techniques used in gold prospecting. The prospectors started out manually washing the precious metal from the river sediment using pans. But in the 1850s companies began extracting gold on an industrial scale. Watercourses were diverted so that gold could be retrieved from the drained riverbeds; “hydraulic” mining applied high pressure jets of water to detach gold-bearing sediments from hillsides and cliffs; and explosives and heavy equipment were used to dig veins of gold from underground. The gold rush daguerreotypes are thus the first documentation too of environmentally destructive mining practices. Here, it is easy to miss the fact that the images also record the mining of a material that was necessary for their own production: gold chloride had been in constant use as a fixative for daguerreotypes since 1841. Mercury represents another link between mining and photography. While photographers’ use of it as a developing agent jeopardised their own health primarily, its accessory role in gold washing caused the contamination of entire rivers in the area around the mines.

 

Cartes de visite of pit brow women

The photographs show the women who, from the early 17th century on, worked unseen in Britain’s coal mines, first below ground, and later, following the passage of the Mines and Collieries Act (1842), carrying out the lower-paid jobs on the surface. As mine workers, they moved lumps of coal with shovels and carts and separated them from the gangue using large sieve pans. Their work was a major economic contributor to Britain’s industrial success. Coal was a key element underpinning many production sectors, and it was crucial for the processing of copper, which was used in manufacturing daguerreotype plates. The British poet Arthur J. Munby collected photographs of working-class women, which catered to his interest in sociology. He bought photographs of women workers distributed as cartes de visite and also had studio photographs taken that depicted the women in their work clothes and pit gear. Unlike the Californian prospectors, who presented themselves in daguerreotypes as gold rush entrepreneurs and adventurers, the women seen in these images had little in common with the classical notions of the Victorian era. The view they showed of women in dirty work clothes (including trousers) turned the pictures into collectible motifs. We see the women sitting with legs apart and hands on hips – self-reliant poses with strong male connotations – photographed in a studio setting, where the furnishings were at odds with their class affinities.

 

Ignacio Acosta

Created for the exhibition, Ignacio Acosta’s multimedia installation centres on forty photographs arranged in a four-row grid structure. They combine three motifs linked together in a visually associative network, straddling copper production and water consumption. In the topmost rank, we see a smokestack belonging to the Hamburg copper producer Aurubis AG rising aloft, paralleled by the sculpture of Hygieia, which is mounted on a fountain with her back turned on Hamburg’s city hall, looking towards the Chamber of Commerce. Acosta makes a connection between the resource-intensive and, above all, water intensive industry – a major source of pollution for the Elbe River – and the politically charged sculpture commemorating the dreadful cholera epidemic of 1892, which was caused by contaminated water. In the rows below, close-up views of the fountain are interlaced with stained rubber suits worn by Aurubis AG’s workers to protect themselves from sulfuric acid. Visual and material analogies arise, linking the copper parts of the bronze sculpture, which have been oxidised to a green patina, with the tokens of “dirty” work in the copper plant – a thematic examination of the relationships between industry, politics, and society in terms of water and resource consumption. Acosta delves deeper into these themes in a video interview with Klaus Baumgardt from the Hamburg-based environmental protection initiative “Save the Elbe.” This new installation thus expands on his work Copper Geographies, an investigation into the global mobility of mined copper that he began in 2010.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

John Cooper (British) 'Woman miner' 1860s

 

John Cooper (British)
Woman miner
1860s
Carte de visite Trinity College Library, Cambridge

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing the work of Ignacio Acosta

 

Ignacio Acosta (Chilean, b. 1971) 'Computer Aid' 2015

 

Ignacio Acosta (Chilean, b. 1971)
Computer Aid
2015
© Ignacio Acosta

 

Ignacio Acosta (Chilean, b. 1971) 'Hygieia Watches Over Us' 2022 (detail)

 

Ignacio Acosta (Chilean, b. 1971)
Hygieia Watches Over Us (detail)
2022
Installation comprising 40 pigment prints and video
© Ignacio Acosta

 

 

Coal and Bitumen: Fossil Fuels and Moorland

The majority of photographic processes popular around 1900, such as pigment printing, rubber printing, and heliogravure, did not require silver. In pigment or carbon printing, charcoal powder or lampblack, which consists of nearly pure carbon, replaces the silver grains. The heliogravure technique uses plates coated with bitumen and pigments, which lend the images their colour. This section of the exhibition deals with different perceptions of the landscapes in which the raw materials were found and extracted: peat bogs and moors in northern Germany, bitumen in the area around the Dead Sea in Jordan.

The pictures produced by Reichling and Mahrt – natural scientist and farmer, respectively – document the transformation of the moors and the shift from peasant labour to turf cutting and industrialised peat extraction. At the turn of the 20th century, when the work of draining, reclaiming, and burning the moorland began on a large scale, the landscape, which had been transformed by human intervention, was also consciously aestheticised and presented as an artistic ideal.

The raw materials used to produce these images originated in the moors too. The coal dust used as a pigment is created from dead trees, enriched with solar energy, that over the course of millennia have been pressed first into peat and then into coal. The photographs by Louis Vignes, and Charles Nègre’s prints of these images, depict the landscape of the Dead Sea, an area where bitumen, a form of petroleum, occurs naturally. Nègre used this material to coat the plates for their production of Vignes’s photos. This knowledge makes evident the connection between the motif, the landscape from which the raw material is extracted, and bitumen. Although invisible at first, this material relation inscribes in the image a kind of second, unconscious history.

 

Theodor and Oscar Hofmeister

The Hofmeister brothers present the moorlands around Hamburg as an area imbued with longing. The white blooms of the cottongrass accentuate the charming, painterly qualities of the idealised landscape, which is rendered in vertical format in the style of Japanese woodblock prints. The Hofmeisters do not show the furrowed ground, marked by the incipient signs of systematic peat extraction, or the geometrical lines of the drainage ditches. Instead, our eye is drawn in by a walkway projecting into the picture at an angle. The technique of multicolour gum bichromate printing, which came into vogue in the 1890s, uses pigments to render the photographic masters as prints that are made more durable by the admixture of soot.

Theodor Hofmeister (b. 1868 in Hamburg, d. 1943 in Hamburg) and Oscar Hofmeister (b. 1871 in Hamburg, d. 1937 in Ichenhausen) were amateur photographers alongside their professional work (as businessman and legal clerk, respectively). Exponents of the Pictorialist approach, they began exhibiting their work internationally in 1895. They specialised in multicolour gum bichromate printing.

 

Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt and Hermann Reichling

Moorlands contain the organic commodity peat. Once it has been drained, dug, and dried, it can be burned as a source of energy. This usage has a long history and was of great importance until the emergence of the coal industry. As naturalists, Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt and Hermann Reichling recorded how peat cutting infringed on nature and documented the massive impact it had. While Mahrt’s hand-coloured photographs are illustrative of the arduous manual labor involved, Reichling’s work gives a palpable sense of the industrial scale of this undertaking. He often seeks out compositions that set up a contrast between the supposedly pristine moor – which represents such an important habitat – and the drastic impact of human agency. In this way, he clearly shows how the natural vegetation is inscribed with an industrial grid of furrows, which gives structure to the photographs’ pictorial space as a graphical raster. It becomes evident here how nature is turned into a commodity, how with every cut that is dug, whether with a spade or an excavator, sods of peat are removed from the earth as a monetisable product. The shots showing the edges of the peat in cross section – as documented by both photographers – also allude to the temporal dimension of the resource: in the right conditions, it takes a thousand years to produce 1 meter of peat from organic material. However, the climate is being damaged not only by the commercial exploitation of the moorlands but also by the process of draining them, which releases huge amounts of CO2.

Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt (b. 1881 in Elsdorf, d. 1940 in Rendsburg) was a farmer and Hermann Reichling (b. 1890 in Heiligenstadt, d. 1948 in Münster) a biologist. As self-taught photographers, they made a record of their cultural and natural surroundings. In the 1920s, Mahrt founded a private museum in Elsdorf in which he exhibited natural history dioramas and photographs. Reichling was director of Münster’s museum of natural history, Provinzialmuseum für Naturkunde, from 1921 to 1948.

 

Eduard Arning

If you look closely at Eduard Arning’s large-format gum bichromate print of an iron and steel works, it has a leathery look that resembles skin. The print’s surface structure contains the pigments that give it its murkily indistinct visual effect. This is produced in large part by a blue-black colour produced when larger amounts of soot were mixed into the pigments. The surface of the paper, which has been treated with pigments and a binding agent, is exposed: these areas become fixed, while less exposed parts are rinsed away and remain lighter. In this case, the result is a nocturnal view of an iron and steel works, whose chimneys spout fire and belch smoke. The leaping flames and brightly lit windows were added after the fact by Arning and convey a Romantic idea of industrial production at the turn of the 20th century. To the right of the picture, a shadowy heap of ore looms large in the foreground, while on the left a somewhat brighter swath leads the eye into the depths of the picture and the glowing entrance to the factory. Towering next to it is the monumental chimney from which soot rises – a symbol of industrial progress. This returns in material form as blue-black pigment, extending right to the frontmost plane of the picture and giving the dark pile of ore its shape.

 

Anaïs Tondeur

Anaïs Tondeur’s work Carbon Black sees her delving into soot particles, which were an essential component used in photographic methods at the turn of the 20th century. A product of industrial combustion processes, consisting almost exclusively of carbon, soot is carried by wind and air currents and does not usually fall to the ground until it is hundreds of kilometres from the site of emission. The black particles of carbon absorb the sun’s rays, warming the atmosphere and thus contributing to the melting of the ice caps. Soot enters the human body through the lungs as a fine dust measuring less than 2.5 micrometers – breathed into the alveoli, it is transported into the bloodstream and finds its way into the internal organs. Working together with two climate researchers, the artist set out on a fifteen-day expedition traversing the UK. Using airflow analyses, the team determined the trajectory of soot particles, a trail that led from Fair Isle in Scotland to the port of Folkestone in the south of England. At each stop on their journey, they took photographs of the horizon using a helmet camera, measured the concentration of particulate matter, and recovered soot particles from the air. Inserted into printer cartridges as pigment, these particles were then used to produce a landscape photograph whose colour characteristics are specific to the site where the picture was taken. The severity of the air pollution is thus given expression in the dramatic grey and black tones of the cloud constellations depicted.

Anaïs Tondeur (b. 1985 in France) studied at Central Saint Martins and at the Royal College of Arts in London. Her research-based work explores the dynamic realm connecting the natural sciences, anthropology, and mythic narratives.

 

Susanne Kriemann

The artist works with heliogravure, a manual printing technique that is now no longer used in practice: the copper plate is dusted with asphalt powder and printed using a highly pigmented paint mixed with soot. In 2017, Susanne Kriemann began accompanying scientists from the University of Jena on their research trips to investigate the renaturation of the uranium mining area formerly operated by SDAG Wismut in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge). Uranium ore, a highly radioactive substance, was mined there between 1949 and 1990. Today, its soil is severely contaminated with heavy metals. Kriemann uses photography for her artistic research on the project – her logging of contaminated plants stretches the medium to the very limits of what it can depict, as the radiation measured by the researchers cannot be seen in the photograph. Notwithstanding, Kriemann has devised a method that allows her to inscribe the radioactivity in the image: she harvests individual plants that she has previously photographed and processes them to produce different-coloured pigments, which she mixes with soot and uses to print her heliogravures. This technique allows her to include the plants directly in the work she creates. In this way, the radioactivity becomes a physical element in her images.

Susanne Kriemann (b. 1972 in Erlangen) studied at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design (ABK Stuttgart) and the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her research-based work is concerned with the technical requirements and historical conditions of photographic production.

 

Robert Smithson

In his 1969 work Asphalt Rundown, Robert Smithson abandoned the gallery space completely to realise his first outdoor earthwork. In a stone quarry south of Rome, he had a truckload of hot, liquid asphalt tipped down an eroding slope. In choosing the quarry, he opted for a landscape that bore the marks of human intervention, the first link in a variety of industrial supply chains. Smithson’s Asphalt Lump from 1968 had already demonstrated his interest in industrial composites and nature as shaped by humanity: it was at this point that he was invited by the Konrad Fischer Galerie to conduct research on the slag heaps in the Ruhr, together with the photographer couple Bernd and Hilla Becher. In the work in Rome, the inky black mass covers the barren earth in next to no time, causing the ground to disappear beneath it as it pushes its way down the slope like a natural river, cooling and congealing.

Smithson conceived the sculpture as a symbol of frozen time. In his view, time does not simply pass – rather, it is deposited in an ongoing process like layers of sediment in the soil. As a language construct, Asphalt Rundown links into the idea of photographic images as frozen moments. On the material level, meanwhile, Smithson’s use of asphalt also alludes to Nicéphore Niépce’s heliographic experiments, where the hardening of asphalt on a tin plate under the action of light was used to record fleeting images and was thus a means to freeze time. The natural asphalt used by Niépce can be found as bitumen judaicum in the area around the Dead Sea, where the visual scenery bears a striking resemblance to Smithson’s artificially created volcanic landscape.

Robert Smithson (b. 1938 in Passaic, New Jersey, d. 1973 in Texas) gained a reputation as an early exponent of land art. He applied his conceptual approaches to a study of the relationships between humans and nature, drawing parallels between industrial and geological processes.

 

Honoré d’Albert de Luynes, Louis Vignes, Charles Nègre

The atlas Voyage d’exploration à la mer Morte is a documentary account of the 1864 scientific, archaeological, and artistic expedition to the Dead Sea basin and the interior of Jordan. Financed by Honoré d’Albert, duc de Luynes, an archaeologist, scientist, and art connoisseur, the expedition was accompanied by, among others, the geologist Louis Lartet and the photographer Louis Vignes. D’Albert subsequently commissioned Charles Nègre – who was one of France’s best-known photographers and had developed a photomechanical reproduction process – to translate Vignes’s photographs into an official report on the expedition using photogravure plates. The publication that came out of this process can still be termed a handmade book. Nègre was not merely an accomplished technician, he also had the eye of an art photographer and created intermediate tonalities and shadows for Vignes’s images, which turned out to have too much contrast. His prints, which are rich in detail and the play of light and shadow, were on occasion composed of several negatives, and, in some cases, the clouds were superimposed. The atlas shows, among other things, the sites where the natural deposits of bitumen were found: this was the basis, in turn, for the gravure printing process that Nègre refined.

Honoré Théodoric Paul Joseph d’Albert de Luynes (b. 1802 in Paris, d. 1867 in Rome) was a numismatist, archaeologist, collector, scholar, and art lover. Born into an aristocratic family, he was endowed with a considerable fortune and financed the research trip to Jordan, in which he also took part. Louis Vignes (b. 1831 in Bordeaux, d. 1896 in Paris) was an admiral in the French navy and an amateur photographer. Charles Nègre (b. 1820 in Grasse, d. 1880 in Grasse) was a painter and photographer as well as a technician and inventor of his own photogravure method.

 

Noa Yafe

At first glance, we see a two-dimensional image, and it is only when we get closer to what is apparently a photograph mounted in the exhibition space that we register the three-dimensional sculpture let into the wall surface, which opens up like a diorama into the space behind it. Noa Yafe’s sculptures are based on photographs: these are used as templates. It is often scientific images that capture her imagination. The artist deals with the verity of photography and the moment of illusion; at the same time, by turning photographs into objects, she also addresses materiality in an age in which images have become immaterial. The master for the work she made for the exhibition is the black-and-white photograph Vue Prise au dessus de Mar Saba (View over Mar Saba) of the Jordanian hillscape around the Dead Sea. The picture was taken by Louis Vignes and reproduced by Charles Nègre using the photogravure technique: it appeared in the atlas Voyage d’exploration à la mer Morte (Expedition to the Dead Sea, 1868-1874). The artist uses real materials for the “photograph” she constructs.

Noa Yafe (b. 1978 in Israel) studied at the HaMidrasha School of Art at Beit Berl College and at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She works in the medium of photography and sculpture.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt (German, 1882-1940) 'Making baked peat on Hartshoper Moor' c. 1930

 

Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt (German, 1882-1940)
Making baked peat on Hartshoper Moor
c. 1930
Gelatine silver paper, hand coloured
Collection Mahrt/Storm, Rendsburg/Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing the work of Robert Smithson

 

Robert Smithson (American, 1938-1973) 'Asphalt Rundown' 1969

 

Robert Smithson (American, 1938-1973)
Asphalt Rundown
1969
Documentary photograph
© Holt/Smithson Foundation VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

When the Bechers’ friend Robert Smithson poured oceans of glue down a hillside, or bulldozed dirt onto a shed until its roof cracked, he was mimicking the moves of heroic construction, not aiming to build anything.

Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 20/10/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing work from Anaïs Tondeur’s series Carbon Black

 

Anaïs Tondeur (French, b. 1985) 'North Sea, 27.05.2017, Carbon Black Level (PM2.5): 13,8 µg/m' 2017-2018

 

Anaïs Tondeur (French, b. 1985)
North Sea, 27.05.2017, Carbon Black Level (PM2.5): 13,8 µg/m
2017-2018
From the series Carbon Black
15 Carbon ink prints photographs, carbon black particles, cartography
100 x 150cm

 

 

Despite the absence of industries, the inhabitants of the isle of Fair suffer from suffocation. As Anaïs Tondeur reached the island she sent her geographic coordinates to climate modellers Rita van Dingenen and Jean-Philippe Putaud (JRC, European Commission) who retraced the itinerary of the particulate matters meeting her. By means of atmospheric backward trajectory models and the analyses of anthropogenic emission of air pollutants, they could define the site of emission of the particles. This abstract trajectory line lead the artist to an expedition of 837 miles by foot, ferry, fishing boat and car unravelling the journey of the anthropic meteors.

She crystallised each day in a photograph of the sky as well as filtering black carbon particles she encountered through breathing masks. The particles were later extracted by scientist J.P Putaud and turned into ink. In point of fact, black carbon is a collateral form of soot, used for centuries as the primary component of Indian ink. The photographs are thus printed with some ink composed from the particles captured in the sky where they were shot.

Text from the Anaïs Tondeur website [Online] Cited 16/10/2022

 

Anaïs Tondeur (French, b. 1985) 'Edinburg, 30.05.2017, Carbon Black Level (PM2.5): 8,18 µg/m³' 2017-2018

 

Anaïs Tondeur (French, b. 1985)
Edinburg, 30.05.2017, Carbon Black Level (PM2.5): 8,18 µg/m³
2017-2018
From the series Carbon Black
15 Carbon ink prints photographs, carbon black particles, cartography
100 x 150cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing at left in the bottom photograph, heliogravures by Susanne Kriemann

 

Susanne Kriemann (German, b. 1972) 'Bitterkraut aus: Falsche Kamille, Wilde Möhre, Bitterkraut (Zyklus 2)' 2017

 

Susanne Kriemann (German, b. 1972)
Bitterkraut aus: Falsche Kamille, Wilde Möhre, Bitterkraut (Zyklus 2)
Bitterweed from: false chamomile, wild carrot, bitterweed (Cycle 2)
2017
Photogravure with ox-tongue pigment, 0.6 g soot on paper
80 x 60cm
© Susanne Kriemann

 

 

Paper and Its Coating: Cotton, Pulp, Gelatin, and Celluloid

The development of photography as a mass product, first made possible using paper as a material substrate, came at a cost. For most of the 19th century, photographic paper consisted primarily of rag made of cotton and flax. European manufacturers dominated the markets for textiles and paper throughout the century, but much of the raw material they used was sourced from the United States, which became cotton’s leading cultivator through its utilisation of slave labour and, after the Civil War, of share croppers and tenant farmers.

The cultivation of cotton was closely intertwined with the often-violent emergence of capitalism, precipitating the drainage of wetlands – whose ecosystems play a crucial role in carbon storage – and thus accelerating climate change. This cotton was then exported to Europe, where it was spun into clothes, which, when worn out, were collected by ragpickers – predominantly working-class children and women – and sold back to European paper mills, where women prepared them for pulping, removing buttons and bleaching them white using newly discovered toxic chlorine compounds.

The ever-increasing demand eventually led producers to seek an alternative to cotton. Perfected in Germany, wood pulping in entails the boiling of wood in sulfuric acid so as to separate it into individual cellulose fibres. The photo-paper industry’s use of animal-derived substances, such as albumin and gelatin, relied on industrialised farming and slaughter houses. A single photographic paper producer in Dresden used six million eggs a year for albumen coating, and as late as 1999 Kodak was still processing over thirty million kilos of cow skeletons every year.

 

Gevaert Photographic Paper

The 1964 merger of the German corporation Agfa AG and the Belgian company Gevaert Photo-Producten NV led to the creation of the Agfa- Gevaert Group. These two enterprises, each with a long tradition, combined to form one of the world’s leading producers of photographic goods, whose line extended from cameras to X-ray film. If we take, for example, black-and-white gelatin silver paper – one of Agfa-Gevaert’s core products and a staple of the photographic industry in general – it is still manufactured according to the same principles today. The paper substrate is coated with a layer of barium sulfate (also known as baryte), which covers the paper fibres and ensures that the emulsion of gelatin and light-sensitive silver halide grains applied at the end adheres to the base. The pictures from the Agfa archive offer an insight into this process. Although the layers were always built up in the same way, there was considerable variety in the photographic paper that was produced. The possible surfaces might be white or cream coloured, glossy or matte, smooth or textured and were available in up to six variants to allow the motif to be rendered with different degrees of contrast, from extra soft to ultra hard. Systematic research into photographic papers and their material properties did not start until a few years ago. One such example is the documentation of Gevaert papers by the FOMU Photo Museum in Antwerp, which should provide a better understanding of these products and facilitate their processing in both artistic and technical terms. A study of the packaging reveals that successful product lines were offered over a period of decades, even if their outer form changed with the times in line with contemporary tastes.

 

Alison Rossiter

Alison Rossiter’s photographic work is created without a camera or a lens, using expired photographic paper. Since 2007, the artist has collected approximately fifteen hundred packages of old photographic paper, starting from the late 19th century and representing every decade of the 20th. Rossiter mines what she describes as a “cross section of the history of photographic print materials” for their latent images – created by the effect on the paper over time of oxidation, light leaks, pollutants, or physical damage and then developed by the artist in the darkroom to reveal “found photograms.” At times, the artist marks the surface intentionally by pouring or pooling photographic developer directly onto the paper, or else limiting its contact with it, deftly combining chance and skill. The results are abstract images, fields of texture, spilled marks, and monochromes, in a subtle array of blacks, greys, and whites reminiscent of mid-century modernist painting. Each work’s title contains three facts: the manufacturer and type of paper, its expiration date as stated on its package, and the date that Rossiter processed the material. As indicated by its title, a work consisting of six prints included in the exhibition was produced using Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours paper, but their exact expiration date is unknown. First produced by Gevaert in 1933, Gevaluxe Velours was advertised by the company as the “most beautiful paper ever made” and is considered to this day to have been one the best commercially available papers due to its matte surface and intensely deep black shadows. A second work comprises of two images printed using an unnamed photographic paper produced by The Haloid Company, Rochester, for the US military. The abstract geometrical compositions’ material provenance reveals their connection to what could be called the military-photo-industrial-complex, but also hints at the origins of digital technologies within the photographic industries: in 1961 Haloid changed its name to Xerox Corporation, and would go on to invent some of the key technologies in personal computing.

 

F & D Cartier, Wait and See – The Never Taken Images

In 1998, F & D Cartier began investigating the materiality of photographic paper in a work group entitled Wait and See. For them, the work is an exploration of the rudiments of the medium and a way of engaging with the flood of photographic images produced in the digital age. In their installations, the artists use expired photographic papers dating from the years 1890 to 2000, which have lost some of their sensitivity but still respond to light. Their exposure in the exhibition space triggers an ongoing process of slow change as their appearance constantly alters. Without any recourse to a camera or photochemistry, the duo thus brings to life images that were never taken and examines their potential. At the same time, their radically simplified experiment, designed to record light and time, connects back to the early days of the medium, when developing photographic paper was still unusual and daylight exposure was the principal means of blackening the silver salts. The surprising colours produced by the undeveloped gelatin silver emulsions reveal another invisible aspect of analog photography: in this way, F & D Cartier’s experiment conveys a profound sense of the complexity of a material that was ubiquitous in the 20th century.

Françoise Cartier (b. 1952 in Tavannes) studied sculpture at École des Arts Appliqués in Bern; Daniel Cartier (b. 1950 in Biel/Bienne) studied photography at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Their experiments with photographic materials, which they embarked on together in 1995, have been devoted to themes relating to remembering, forgetting, and the passing of time.

 

James Welling

Throughout his career, James Welling has reflected on photography’s history and nature by examining the medium’s materiality through the lens of its most common components. Used as a binding layer for gelatin silver prints, gelatin’s prevalence in photographic images normally remains invisible to the naked eye. In this series, produced in 1984, Welling chose to portray the substance in a style reminiscent of product photography. Infused with black ink and then cooled, the sculpted chunks of gelatin were placed against a seamless white background, creating semi-abstract compositions with the appearance of shining coal or black glass. Welling’s work highlights photography’s artifice: reflecting on the way it is consciously and explicitly staged, its choice of subject, and its referential indeterminacy. This is accentuated by the fact that it is difficult at first to tell what exactly it is we are looking at. In his work, Welling often creates a delay between the moment an image is seen and the time viewers understand what it depicts. Here, what the image is of is exactly what it is made of: as if by sleight of hand, Welling reveals image and substrate to be one and the same, reflecting on all that is normally left out of the frame or taken for granted – or all that is hidden by it – when we normally think of what photography is, and what it does to the world.

James Welling (b. 1951, Connecticut, US) studied at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and later at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Throughout his career, Welling has experimented with different photographic media, exploring the tensions within and between representation and abstraction and challenging the medium’s conventions.

 

Madame d’Ora

Between 1949 and 1953, Madame d’Ora produced an unsparing photographic study of two Parisian slaughterhouses, which she would go on to describe as her “great final work.” Built during the 19th century under Napoleonic decree and in keeping with Baron Haussmann’s vision, slaughterhouses such as the Abattoir Ivry Les Halles and Abattoir de Vaugirard signalled the emergence in France of industrialised meat production governed by capitalist imperatives. It was in such abattoirs that the repetitive, procedural, and rationalised mode of the factory was first introduced into the realm of animal slaughter, a practice that was later perfected in the US with the introduction of the assembly line. Enabled by such developments, the exponential growth of the cattle industry during the 19th century contributed to the dramatic acceleration in carbon emissions that began in those years. To this day, cattle are considered the number one agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide (responsible for about 14 percent of total human-induced emissions). Madame d’Ora’s images seem to dissect her subjects, portraying them with a sense of tactility and precision and, at times, of the absurd. In some images, skin is stretched across the picture plane, resulting in near abstraction, while, in others, pools of blood and rows of clipped and flayed corpses fill the frame to capacity, creating a mood of excess and serialised death. Evoking a mixture of detachment and brutality, distance and cruelty, reminiscent of the horrors of the 20th century, the series has often been read as an implicit response to the Holocaust, during which many of d’Ora’s family members, including her sister Anna, were killed. By documenting the unpleasant reality behind industrial meat production, an essential component in many everyday commodities – including the gelatin-silver paper used for these prints – d’Ora sheds light on a dark and often ignored aspect of modernity.

Madame d’Ora (née Dora Philippine Kallmus, b. 1881 in Vienna, d. 1963 in Frohnleiten, Austria) was an Austrian Jewish photographer and one of the most acclaimed portraitists of fin-de-siècle Vienna. After the war, d’Ora was commissioned to produce a series representing refugees and displaced persons by the United Nations. It was at that time too that she started working on her slaughterhouse series.

 

Tobias Zielony

For Blackbox Wolfen, Tobias Zielony has created a fictional archive of the AGFA-ORWO film factory in Wolfen, combining still images and interviews with former employees who worked in the factory’s darkrooms. Predominantly women, the workers had to perform their tasks in near pitch darkness, in extreme cold or heat, exposed to various toxic chemicals. For the GDR, filmstock represented a valuable commodity that could be traded with the Soviet Union in exchange for silver, oil, and gas. ORWO also supplied cinematographic material to other socialist countries, as well as non-socialist economies such as Egypt and Brazil. One of the biggest export markets for ORWO film was India, which needed stock for its burgeoning movie industry and provided sun-bleached cow bones, used for high-quality film gelatin, in exchange. Today, only a single small company exists in Wolfen, primarily producing a highly specialised black-and-white archival film. Used by the German Federal Archive, the film is said to survive for up to a thousand years once exposed if it is stored in dark and cold environments, such as Germany’s National archive, which is located deep underground in the decommissioned silver mine of

Tobias Zielony (b. 1973 in Wuppertal, Germany) studied photography at the University of Wales, Newport, and later at the Academy of Fine Arts (HGB) Leipzig. He is known for his photographic and filmic depictions of youth and subcultures, which employ a critical approach to documentary photography.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Madame d'Ora (Dora Kallmus) (Austrian, 1881-1963) 'Severed cows legs in a Parisian abattoir' c. 1953-1954

 

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (Austrian, 1881-1963)
Severed cows legs in a Parisian abattoir
c. 1953-1954
Gelatin silver print
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Madame d'Ora (Dora Kallmus) (Austrian, 1881-1963) 'Severed calf's head in a Parisian slaughterhouse' c. 1953-1954

 

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (Austrian, 1881-1963)
Severed calf’s head in a Parisian slaughterhouse
c. 1953-1954
Gelatin silver print
31.7 × 24.5cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Unknown photographer. 'Raw paper storage, Agfa AG, Leverkusen' 1956

 

Unknown photographer
Raw paper storage, Agfa AG, Leverkusen
1956
C-print, mounted on cardboard
Agfa Collection, Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© Museum Ludwig

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951) 'Gelatin Photograph 45' 1984

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951)
Gelatin Photograph 45
1984
Inkjet print
50.8 × 40.6cm

 

F&D Cartier. 'Wait and See' 1998 - today

 

F&D Cartier
Wait and See
1998 – today
Exposure tests, untreated gelatin silver photographic papers from Leonar, Illingworth & Co., Hans Mahn & Co., Wephota
©F&D Cartier

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Dunkelraum' 2022

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973)
Dunkelraum (Darkroom)
2022
Slide installation
© Tobias Zielony

 

 

Silver

Since the advent of the medium, silver has been the basis of the photographic image and the most important raw material used in the photochemical industry. In the popular gelatin silver process, it is embedded in the gelatin layer of the photographic paper, and the light-sensitive material then registers the image. The final image consists of small particles of metallic silver that turn black when exposed to light, while the unexposed silver halide crystals are washed away.

It was only the automation of production and commercial film development services that enabled photography to become a veritable mass medium. The growing number of amateur photographers caused the industry’s  silver consumption to explode. Photography remained the largest consumer of silver worldwide, even after 1979, when a massive rise in the price of silver led to the development of smaller photographic formats such as 110 film as well as research into digital photography. Photography is interwoven with global trade, the extraction of raw materials, and colonialism. The exploitation of Cerro Rico (“Rich Mountain”) in the Potosí region of Bolivia started back in the 15th century, and until the mid-20th century most silver was sourced in North and South America.

The production of film and photographic paper and its development has always been accompanied by significant environmental pollution, through both its high levels of water consumption and the contamination of waste water with alkalis, acids, and traces of silver. The impact of such pollution is to this day clearly visible in the areas around Eastman Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester (USA) and the ORW Ofactories in Bitterfeld-Wolfen.

The recovery of silver from photographic waste was first developed for economic reasons during the 19th century but was only established as standard practice in photographic production in the 1960s. Today such recycling processes are important – and not just with regard to a single finite raw material.

 

Simon Starling

In his sculptural work, Starling zooms in on the materiality of the photograph, using an electron microscope to single out two silver particles in the emulsion of a historical photo and then rendering them, with the help of a computer program, at a magnification of 1:1,000,000. This rendering is converted into a stainless-steel three-dimensional sculpture that is larger than a person, its seemingly fluid polished surface creating a virtual effect. Starling has described the photograph as a “deposit of matter”, an image produced by an agglomeration of silver particles. His rendering has its origins in the materiality and documentary function of a stereo-photograph showing Chinese migrant workers who had been brought to Massachusetts in 1870 to break a strike in a shoe factory. Made in China because of lower production costs, the sculptures reverse the trajectory in this story of labour migration. The Nanjing Particles can also be regarded, therefore, as a work about the development of systems of global production. Starling treats photographs as material objects that need to be produced and preserved. In the process, photographs activate memory and knowledge, at times revealing stories that have been suppressed.

Simon Starling (b. 1967 in Epsom) studied art and photography at various institutions, including the Glasgow School of Art. He works in the area of conceptual art. Starling’s work draws on models of sustainability and wasteful extravagance to focus on the historical trajectories of exploitation.

 

Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke, and Richard Nielsen)

The dry expanse of Owens Lake in the California desert is not only the subject of the work by the artists’ collective, it also supplies the material for it. Liminal Prints Buried in Owens Lake shows two large format photographs buried in the mud of the lake, where they are being “developed.” These images are on show in the exhibition along with the utensils used for the purpose. The silver nugget on display is the silver from two years of photographic work – including the exposures from the AgH2O series – that has been recovered from the fixer by a process of electrolysis.

The group of works originated with the artists’ attempt to produce their own photographic materials. The members of Metabolic Studio collected silver from the disused Cerro Gordo mine, harvested halide salts from the bottom of the lake, and processed gelatin from cattle from the region. The darkroom was replaced by the nighttime darkness, and the chemicals by brine from the lakebed, which contains large quantities of sodium thiosulfate, a fixing agent employed since the invention of photography. This rarely occurring element is produced by the microorganisms present there – archaea – which metabolise sulfur. The lakebed develops the images and fixes them at the same time.

To create the photographs in the AgH2O series, the collective used its “Liminal Camera,” a shipping container that has been converted into a large-format camera. The container symbolises the global trade in silver and water and the overexploitation of these resources: the silver from the Owens Valley was mostly used by Eastman Kodak to produce film (the company also supplied Hollywood), while, from 1913 on, the water slaked the increasing thirst of Los Angeles’s expanding metropolis. By 1924, the lake was all but dry. The landscape in the photographs is itself a quotation: we are familiar with the steppe valley from Hollywood westerns and Ansel Adams’s landscape images.

Lauren Bon (b. 1962 in New Haven), Tristan Duke (b. 1981 in Campaign), and Richard Nielsen (b. 1966 in Vancouver) started Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio in 2010: the artists’ collective examines the relationship between Los Angeles and Owens Valley as part of an ongoing process.

 

Daphné Nan Le Sergent

The film L’image extractive (The Extractive Image) intercuts macro photography of a silver surface with black-and-white landscape shots showing silver and gold mining in the Americas. This takes us on a journey to Mexico’s mining regions. The video essay weaves together fact and fiction. It tells the story of how photography was invented: the artist does not begin her account in 1839 but rather starts with the discovery and mining of silver in South America. The film tells of the legendary El Dorado and recounts an alternative story of the medium’s invention set in Brazil, where photographic pioneer Hercule Florence secretly discovered a gold-based process at the same time as French inventors Daguerre and Arago made their own discoveries. This is followed by images of die stamping, of silver’s stock price, and of miners. On the soundtrack, the artist speaks of the photographic industry’s late 19th-century boom, which she associates with the introduction of the gold standard around 1870 and the devaluation of silver. She recalls how the vertiginous rise in the price of silver led to the invention of digital photography in 1985. She also suggests a link between the P. G. Morgan company’s interests in silver speculation and its promotional work in the field of art photography. Her narrative arc ranges from the gold rush to data mining. She uses haunting music to underscore the repetitive loop of images showing gold and silver prospecting and the landscape being scoured in search of gold nuggets. The textual layer of the film uses a staccato verse sequence to tell a hypothetical and speculative story, drawing on a plethora of historical facts from Le Sergent’s artistic research.

Daphné Le Sergent (b. 1975 in Seoul) grew up in Paris. Her work deals with geopolitical issues and the way they inscribe themselves in the bodies of individuals.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Unknown photographer. 'Silver bars in the Kodak vault' 1945

 

Unknown photographer
Silver bars in the Kodak vault
1945
Gelatine silver paper
Kodak Historical Collection #003, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, University of Rochester
Used with permission from Eastman Kodak Company

 

Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke und Richard Nielsen) 'Lake Bed Developing Process' 2013

 

Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke und Richard Nielsen)
Lake Bed Developing Process
2013
© Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio

 

 

On moonless nights on the Owens Valley dry lakebed, to the soundtrack of KPPG Live on the radio, Lauren Bon and Optics Division’s Rich Nielsen and Tristan Duke use the valley as their photographic darkroom. They take light-sensitive photographic paper and bury it for the night in the concentrated salt brine. The lakebed’s bio- and geo-chemistry works on the paper with unconventional developing and fixing properties, yielding unique renderings of and by the lakebed. These unique photographs are developed and fixed by the chemicals in the lakebed, creating warm, earthy, and metallic tones.

 

Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke und Richard Nielsen) 'Owens Lake Panorama 1' Nd

 

Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio (Lauren Bon, Tristan Duke und Richard Nielsen)
Owens Lake Panorama 1
Nd
Silver gelatin print processed in Owens Dry Lakebed
© Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio

 

Daphné Nan Le Sergent (South Korean, b. 1975) 'L'image extractive' (The extractive image) 2021 (film still)

 

Daphné Nan Le Sergent (South Korean, b. 1975)
L’image extractive (The extractive image) (film still)
2021
Video, b/w and colour, sound, 20′
© Daphné Nan Le Sergent

 

Simon Starling (English, b. 1967) 'The Nanjing Particles' 2008

 

Simon Starling (English, b. 1967)
The Nanjing Particles
2008
Forged stainless steel
200 x 420 x 150cm and 200 x 450 x 170cm
Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York

 

 

The Weight of the Cloud: Rare Earths, Metals, Energy, and Waste

Digital photography’s materiality is even less visible than its analog predecessor. In 2021, it was estimated that over ninety percent of all images were taken using phones, with more than a trillion images produced that year alone. Most digital images are archived digitally or shared using “social media” platforms, which have developed in parallel with the rise of smart phones and their cameras and are fuelled by their visual content. User data, stored on the so-called cloud, is “mined” by tech companies for targeted advertising. Yet it’s not only data that is mined. The cloud – though advertised as ephemeral and virtual – is heavy with metals and waste. Digital photography relies on a vast material network: from the mining of metals and rare earths used for electronic circuitry to elaborate supply chains operating on a global scale, data storage facilities with ever-growing carbon emissions, and, ultimately, vast amounts of electronic waste. Fifty-four million tons of e-waste were generated in 2019 alone, with Northern Europe being responsible for the highest per capita waste globally. Most of it is exported to lower-income countries, causing environmental damage and increasing health risks. A single smart phone can require up to 75 elements for its production (out of the 118 elements in the periodic table), many of which – such as gold, tin, cobalt, coltan, and tungsten – are considered “conflict minerals,” whose trade involves forced labour and finances armed militias. Even small quantities of metal necessitate large amounts of mining: it has been estimated that 34 kilograms of ore would have to be mined to produce the metals that make up a single 129-gram iPhone.

 

Lisa Rave

Structured like a nautilus shell, with layers of narrative gradually unfolding and echoing each other in the process, Lisa Rave’s Europium makes visible connections between Papua New Guinea’s colonial past and the planned excavation of the rare earth element Europium from the Bismarck Sea. Using a combination of historical found footage, interviews, and performative sequences, the essay film revolves around the rare earth Europium, whose fluorescent qualities are used to validate European banknotes and to ensure the brilliance of colours on flat-screen surfaces. Pointing to the human and ecological violence inherent in the extraction of so-called resources and their transformation into monetary value, Rave directs her anthropological gaze back toward our own society, exposing the ghosts of the past as they appear in the technologies and screens that surround us.

Lisa Rave (b. 1979, London) is a Berlin-based artist and filmmaker. Rave studied experimental film at the University of Arts Berlin and photography at Bard College, New York. In her work, Rave connects the histories of colonial domination with current forms of extraction and ecological violence.

 

Mary Mattingly

Combining chalk-drawn maps of global supply chains, satellite imagery, staged photographs of sculptural assemblages, and documentary images, Mary Mattingly’s series Cobalt – a selection of which is shown in the exhibition – is an attempt to comprehend a system of immense scale, scope, and complexity that remains hidden in plain sight. Over 60 percent of the world cobalt extraction, the “blood diamond of batteries,” takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo in dangerously precarious conditions. The extracted metal, mined predominantly as a by-product of copper or nickel, is purchased by Chinese manufacturers, who process and then retail it to clients in the consumer market. Cobalt is then used in our phone’s sensor components and lithium-ion batteries of all kinds (from laptops to vacuum cleaners to electric cars). Capable of withstanding extreme heat, the mineral is also used in weapons and alloyed steel and has been classified as a “strategic mineral” by the US, in an attempt to encourage its local mining and production. In Mattingly’s work, we can see different stages in cobalt’s life cycle: mineral seepage visible in an exposed cliff face; a recently opened mine in Michigan, whose manmade structures protrude from the natural landscape; an ore transportation station. Weaving them all together is an elaborate map, tracing its supply chain across its different stages. Mattingly’s work seeks to address the ways in which we are inevitably entangled in the violent and extractive logic of neoliberalism and its ecological toll. Through her attentive mapping, we see how even forms of critical representation are dialectically bound to a mode of production wrought by ecological devastation and radical inequality. It is only by recognising these conditions, Mattingly suggests, that we can begin to work toward changing them.

Mary Mattingly (b. 1979, Connecticut) studied at Parsons School of Design, New York, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. Mattingly creates photographs, sculptures, and large-scale public art projects that address climate change, thereby tracing connections between the social and economic forces behind the current political ecology impacting our environment.

 

Lisa Barnard

In the “The Fox and the Rooster” section of her extensive project The Canary and the Hammer, Lisa Barnard uses documentary photography to examine the economy of waste surrounding the precious metal gold. One of the most expensive materials on earth, gold is used in making our smartphones, cameras, and televisions, turning worn-out devices into a precious commodity. However, e-waste contains not only precious substances but also some that are extremely poisonous – metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which are highly toxic for both humans and the environment. China, which is responsible for 10 million tons of toxic substances every year, is one of the world’s largest sources of e-waste as well as its biggest importer. In her research, the artist looks at China’s trade in illegal e-waste, in which gold is extracted from old devices using aqua regia, a highly explosive mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, whose name is derived from its ability to dissolve the precious metals gold and platinum. An illustration of this reaction can be found in alchemist Basilius Valentinus’s treatise “The Twelve Keys,” which was published in 1599. The work contains a woodcut showing a rooster (symbolising gold) eating a fox, which in turn is eating a rooster. The gold is dissolved not by the acid itself but rather by the products it creates when it reacts with the precious metal. Barnard’s choice of title thus makes reference to the potential dangers involved in recovering gold as well as to the mysterious aura that still surrounds it, even in the recycling loop that is a feature of the modern tech economy.

Lisa Barnard (b. 1967) studied photography at the University of Brighton and critical theory at the University of South Wales. Her documentary practice is concerned with current debates about materiality and global capitalism.

 

Mari Lebanidze, Cleo Miao, Leon Schweer, Marco Wesche with the mentoring of Prof. Christoph Knoth and Prof. Konrad Renner of the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) Hamburg – Digital Graphics class

Using the same sort of facial recognition technologies employed by tech companies to mine behavioural data for speculative value, Terraformed Self tracks exhibition visitors’ behaviour. Having identified people using their smartphone, the interactive installation informs visitors about their own contribution to the ecological footprint of digital image production using a playful game-like animation. How many selfies have been taken in front of this screen? How much carbon dioxide are they responsible for? What is the equivalent of a minute of scrolling on Instagram? While the work seems to invite visitors to take the obligatory exhibition selfie in front of the large, mirrored structure, it offers a sobering reflection on how our daily smartphone habits are implicated in a planetary system of resource extraction. The work is accompanied by an Instagram face filter – using the platform to reflect on its own footprint.

Digital Graphics class. Against the backdrop of omnipresent digital forms that mingle with artefacts from the past, the class, led by Prof. Christoph Knoth and Prof. Konrad Renner of the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) Hamburg, explores the integrity of modern technologies and conceives visual models in the context of culture and digital possibilities.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation view of the exhibition Mining Photography. The Ecological Footprint of Image Production at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg showing the work of Mary Mattingly

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979) 'Eagle Mine' 2016

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979)
Eagle Mine
2016
© Mary Mattingly

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979) 'Ore Transport Station' 2016

 

Mary Mattingly (American, b. 1979)
Ore Transport Station
2016
© Mary Mattingly

 

Lisa Barnard (British, b. 1967) 'Broken mobile phone screen, Shenzhen, China' 2018

 

Lisa Barnard (British, b. 1967)
Broken mobile phone screen, Shenzhen, China
2018
© Lisa Barnard

 

 

Events in the history of capitalism, ecology, and photography

With excerpts from the time line compiled by Lukas Egger and Nils Güttler for the exhibition “Nach uns die Sintflut (After Us, the flood)” at Kunst Haus Wien

1492 Columbus arrives in the Americas, setting in motion a process described as the “Columbian exchange”: the movement of diseases, ideas, food, crops, and populations between the New World and the Old World brought about by European colonisation.

1556 Dere Metallica (On the Nature of Metals) by Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer), is published. Illustrated with over 270 woodcuts, the treatise quickly became the authoritative text of its day on mining and helped popularise technical knowledge in the field.

1717 The German polymath Johann Heinrich Schulze (1687-1744) is the first to demonstrate the photosensitivity of silver salts.

1776 James Watt’s steam engine, originally invented and perfected to be used in mines, is introduced. Signalling the advent of the first industrial revolution, steam power allows for previously labour-intensive forms of production to become mechanised, especially in the textile industry. Coal is now an increasingly important energy source.

1800 While traveling in Venezuela, Alexander von Humboldt is one of the first scientists to describe the harmful effects of Human-induced climate change and its relation to colonialism, observing the adverse effects of the deforestation brought about by Europeans on the local soil quality and the moisture levels in the atmosphere.

1807 Claude and Nicéphore Niépce obtain a patent for the Pyréolophore (from Greek: pyr = fire, aeolos = the keeper of wind, and phore = carrier) one of the earliest internal combustion engines, fuelled by coal mixed with resin.

1827 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produces the first Heliograph (Greek for “writing with sun”), by dissolving light-sensitive “bitumen of Judea,” a semi-solid form of petroleum, in oil of lavender, and applying a thin coating over a polished pewter plate.

1838 The first steam-powered crossing of the Atlantic ocean.

1839 Louis Daguerre presents the Daguerreotype before the French Académie des Sciences.

1840 William Henry Fox Talbot submits his first patent for an internal combustion engine titled “Obtaining Motive Power”. By 1852, he had registered four additional engine patents.

1844-1846 Wiliam Henry Fox Talbot publishes “The Pencil of Nature”, widely considered to be the first commercially published photo-illustrated book.

1846 Nitrocellulose (also known as “gun cotton”) is patented. It is used as an explosive in mines, as well as for the production of early – infamously flammable – cellulose film. It led to the invention of thermoplastic.

1851 A staggering 893,000 daguerreotype plates are produced in Paris alone in only one year. Converted to the standard portrait size of a quarter or eighth plates, 3-8 million portrait images could betaken.

1859 British glaciologist John Tyndall begins a series of laboratory experiments to demonstrate the significance of atmosphere gasses – including CO2 – for global warming.

1862 Writing for the US magazine Atlantic Monthly, Oliver Wendell Holmes estimates the annual consumption of precious metals for photography at ten tons of silver and half a ton of gold.

1870 Start of the Second Industrial Revolution, the electrification of production processes and of spheres of private life begins. Crude oil becomes increasingly important as a fuel for powering combustion engines.

1872 The correspondent of the English journal The Year-Book of Photography describes various methods of silver recovery from the developer fluids of photochemistry – for example, by reducing silver nitrate with the help of charcoal or by burning the papers and dissolving the ash with nitric acid and water.

1877 Founding of the Moorversuchsstation (Moor Experiment Station) in Bremen, the first NGO to campaign against moor burning. The first provisions pertaining to air pollution control are issued in a number of countries.

1888 The Eastman Kodak Company introduces the Kodak No.1 camera model, marking the beginning of the industrial processing of photographs in the laboratory. Advertised with the slogan “You press the button – we do the rest!,” the new camera and the company’s service relieved photographers of the chemical processing of their photos, introducing photography to a popular audience.

1901 The discovery of the Spindletop oilfield in Texas marks the dawn of the age of crude oil in the United States, which soon takes on a global dimension with the discovery of large oilfields in the Middle East and Venezuela.

1913 Henry Ford introduces a continual assembly line for the first time in automobile production, boosting productivity eightfold.

1945 The United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, heralding the beginning of the “nuclear age.” In the 1950s, the first commercially used nuclear power plants are introduced.

1947 Physicist Edwin Land introduces the firs tPolaroid camera in the USA.

1948 In their books Road to Survival and Our Plundered Planet, ornithologist William Vogt and palaeontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn warn of the devastating ecological consequences of global industrial capitalism.

1958 At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, atmospheric scientist Charles David Keeling begins to take regular measurements of the CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere. The data provides the basis for the Keeling Curve, which is now regarded as the measurement-based evidence of anthropogenic contribution to global warming.

1970 In the United States, some 20 million people take part in the first-ever “Earth Day”, an international day of environmental campaigning. The following year, the Greenpeace environmental organisation is founded in Vancouver.

1975 The first digital still camera is developed by Eastman Kodak’s engineer Steven Sasson.

1980 In what came to be known as “Silver Thursday,” silver prices reach an all-time high and immediately crash. Following a decade-long surge, which leads manufacturers to search for ways to reduce their dependency on the precious metal, a speculative frenzy sends the price up 713% within a year.

1992 The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development is held in Rio de Janeiro. Along with the 1972 Stockholm Conference, it is considered a milestone in the political implementation of global environmental and development efforts.

1993 The US office of industries lists photography as the principal application for silver in its yearly report, accounting for over 50 percent of U.S. silver fabrication demand that year.

1999 Toshiba launched the Camesse, the first cell phone with an integrated camera, which paved the way for much faster and broader communication based on pictures.

2000 Nobel laureate chemist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene F. Stoermer describe the effects of humans on the global environment as constituting a new human-dominated geological epoch: the Anthropocene. According to Crutzen and Stoermer, the Anthropocene started in the latter part of the eighteenth century, which marks the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. As they write, this date also happens to coincide with the commercial introduction of James Watt’s steam engine in 1786.

2010 Instagram is launched.

2011 Economist David Ruccio first publishes the term Capitalocene, describing capitalism as the driving force behind climate change.

2013 For the first time, a majority of the digital images produced are taken on phones.

2017 According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 12.6 million people die each year worldwide as a result of industrial pollution. The worst affected regions are South-East Asia, the Western Pacific, and Africa.

2018 In Sweden, schoolgirl and environmental activist Greta Thunberg initiates the “Skolstrejk för klimatet”, which soon resonates world wide and leads to the global “Fridays for Future” movement.

2020 It is estimated that 1.4 trillion digital images have been taken during 2020 alone, over 90% of which are taken on phones.

2030 In order to limit global warming to 1.5°C – a target meant to stave off severe climate disruptions that could exacerbate hunger, conflict, and drought worldwide – global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025, at the latest, and be reduced by 43 percent by 2030.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

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06
Oct
22

Exhibition: ‘Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann’ at Kicken Berlin

Exhibition dates: 24th June – 7th October 2022

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Schöneweide, Berlin' 1972, printed c. 1972

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Schöneweide, Berlin
1972, printed c. 1972
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

 

This exhibition finishes tomorrow, Friday 7th October 2022.

I adore the small intimacies and dark German noir of the early 1970s – 1980s photographs of East Berlin and New York – papier-mâché models dancing, shop windows, desolate buildings, bound statues, ballroom encounters and alienated human beings. The photographs have a very pared back aesthetic, a very cool hands off, socialist feel to them.

Masks upon masks upon masks and hostile glances. People lonely, unhappy and isolated, rushing for work with nary a thought for each other. And then the ecstasy and fear of Mauerpark, Berlin (1996, below).

Taking the position of a slightly aloof observer, Bergemann’s urban landscapes and street scenes bare melancholy and beauty. The poetics of the everyday.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Kicken Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in this post. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled (Mitte)' 1968, printed c. 1968

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled (Mitte)
1968, printed c. 1968
Gelatin silver print
26.5 x 17.8 cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Katharina Thalbach, Berlin' 1973, early print

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Katharina Thalbach, Berlin
1973, early print
Gelatin silver print
38.6 x 26cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

 

Katharina Thalbach (German, actually Katharina Joachim genannt Thalbach, born 19 January 1954) is a German actress and stage director. She played theatre at the Berliner Ensemble and at the Volksbühne Berlin, and was actress in the film The Tin Drum. She worked as a theatre and opera director.

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Berlin' 1975, printed c. 1975

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Berlin
1975, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 20cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing at left, Bergemann’s Kirsten, Hoppenrade (1975, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Kirsten, Hoppenrade' 1975, posthumous print 2016

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Kirsten, Hoppenrade
1975, posthumous print 2016
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 43.3cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing photographs from Sibylle Bergemann’s Clärchens Ballhaus (1976, some photographs below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
17 x 23.4cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
17.4 x 25.9cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
26.1 x 17.6cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
17.9 x 25.6cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 16.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
16.4 x 24.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
25.6 x 17.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 24.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 16.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1976, early print From the series 'Clärchens Ballhaus'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1976, early print
From the series Clärchens Ballhaus
Gelatin silver print
16.6 x 24.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Buchholz, Berlin' 1977, printed c. 1977-1979

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Buchholz, Berlin
1977, printed c. 1977-1979
Gelatin silver print
22.6 x 33.8cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

 

Clärchens Ballroom

History

Fritz Bühler (1862-1929) and his wife Clara Bühler (1886-1971) opened Bühler’s Ballhaus on September 13, 1913, in the rear building at Auguststrasse 24/25. The house was built around 1895 with two halls: the dance hall on the ground floor and the hall of mirrors on the upper floor. After Fritz Bühler’s death, Clara initially continued to run the dance hall, popularly known as Clärchens Ballhaus after its owner, on her own. In 1932 she married Arthur Habermann (1885-1967), who supported her in her work. The front building was in World War IIdestroyed, but operations resumed after the end of the war. Clärchens Ballhaus always remained a private company during the GDR era. In 1965, after much pressure, the ruins of the former front building were removed, the area is still undeveloped today. From 1967 to 1989 the management of the ballroom went to Clärchen’s stepdaughter Elfriede Wolff (daughter of Arthur Habermann). Then their son Stefan took over the business. After German reunification, Clara Habermann’s biological daughter was granted the property, whose son in turn sold the building in 2003 as the next heir. The new owner, Hans-Joachim Sander, left the family business, which then ceased operations after 91 years.

After the previous operators left the Ballhaus on New Year’s Eve 2004, Christian Schulz and David Regehr took over the location and left it largely unchanged. Since then, the space in front of the Ballhaus has also been managed, where the front building stood before the Second World War. The hall of mirrors on the upper floor, which was only used as a storage room for years, has since been used as an event room.

In the summer of 2018 the house was bought by Yoram Roth. He chose the Berlin catering company Berlin Cuisine Jensen GmbH as a partner for the construction of a new restaurant and as the operator of the location, with which Clärchens Ballhaus reopened in July 2020.

Importance

Clärchen’s ball house is one of the last remaining ball houses from around 1900 in Berlin. During the GDR era, it was known to both East and West Germans as a meeting place. In the media it was repeatedly represented in reports, for example in the film by Wilma Pradetto about the cloakroom operator Günter Schmidtke, in the documentary Edith bei Clärchen ( Andreas Kleinert 1985) or on ZDF . It also served as a filming location for movies Stauffenberg (2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009) and We Do It For Money (2014). In 2019 Max Raabe’s MTV Unplugged concert was recorded in the Ballhaus .

In addition to evening events, dance courses also take place in the Ballhaus.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin' 1978, printed c. 1989

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
1978, printed c. 1989
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing Bergemann’s Das Denkmal, Gummlin, Usedom, Dezember 1980 (1980, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Das Denkmal, Gummlin, Usedom, Dezember 1980' / 'The Monument, Gummlin, Usedom, December 1980' 1980, printed later

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Das Denkmal, Gummlin, Usedom, Dezember 1980 / The Monument, Gummlin, Usedom, December 1980
1980, printed later
Gelatin silver print
36.2 x 53.9cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing at right, Bergemann’s Berlin (Frieda) (1982, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Berlin (Frieda)' 1982, printed c. 1982

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Berlin (Frieda)
1982, printed c. 1982
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 38cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing photographs from Bergemann’s New York series (1984, some photographs from the series below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
25.7 x 38cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing photographs from Bergemann’s New York series (1984, some photographs from the series below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984 From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print, early print
29.2 x 44cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
25.7 x 38.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 45.6cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print from the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
29.7 x 44.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Union Square' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Union Square
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 36.1cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 36.4cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 29cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
30.1 x 44.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 26.4cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
23.3 x 34.7cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
28.2 x 18.8cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing a photograph from Bergemann’s New York series (1984, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1984, early print From the series 'New York'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1984, early print
From the series New York
Gelatin silver print
29 x 19.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

 

As the fourth part of the exhibition series ‘Sheroes of Photography’ started last year and on the occasion of the artist’s comprehensive exhibition this summer at the Berlinische Galerie, Kicken Berlin will be showing a selection of rarely seen series from Sibylle Bergemann’s extensive oeuvre in a cooperation with her estate.

Sibylle Bergemann is considered one of the most important German photographers since the 1970s. Together with her husband, Arno Fischer, she assumed a key position in the GDR’s photo scene and published her works in renowned art and culture journals such as Sibylle, Sonntag and Das Magazin and in book publications. After reunification, she extended her radius to include West German and international commissions. A cofounder of Agentur Ostkreuz in 1990, she helped shape a responsible form of visual journalism. Her photographic essays reflected societal reality without whitewashing it and often moved symbolically beyond. Fashion and portrait photography were on equal footing among her central themes alongside urban landscapes and situative street scenes, just as was the poetics of the everyday. Sibylle Bergemann’s works are held by international museums and collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and the Berlinische Galerie.

People and places significantly influenced and inspired Bergemann’s work. In Berlin, her home base, the photographer sought out the quiet places on the city’s edge, rather than the representative center, for both private and commissioned works. Travels to “non-socialist places abroad” were strictly regimented and nearly impossible. “I always had Fernweh,” or a longing for the faraway, Bergemann said reminiscing during a conversation with the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation. Already in 1984, however, long before the fall of the Wall, she was able to travel to New York and Los Angeles as a member of the Verband Bildender Künstler (Association of Fine Artists).

From the early 1970s, Sibylle Bergemann assumed a position of observer in Berlin, participating in the situation, yet reserved. She had an eye for particular places and people, for unexpected encounters, for the particularities of foreign quotidian scenes, for melancholy and beauty. The transformations and transitory moments of the everyday never failed to draw the photographer’s attention, be it in the GDR, during the transition of reunification, or thereafter. She exposed a poetic and even visionary potential, such as in the series Das Denkmal (The Monument) about the Marx-Engels monument by sculptor Ludwig Engelhardt.

Her sense of nuance within a milieu, a social microcosm, is made visible in the series Clärchens Ballhaus from the 1970s. Another series about women in the working world in the early 1990s will be shown with several select examples for the first time publicly in Kicken Berlin’s exhibition. Women in a large variety of fields – offices, businesses, workshops, in both urban and rural settings, in primary and secondary sectors – stand before the camera to state their position, quite literally. They retain their own space and their own dignity, even when possibly in a state of upheaval.

Observing her foreign and uncertain but also intriguing and new surroundings, Bergemann moved first through the US and later Western Europe and Africa. In Manhattan she adopted a flaneur’s perspective, drifting through the concrete canyons, falling in step with the flow of people. Her images show her affinity to American masters of street photography like Walker Evans and Garry Winogrand and yet retain their own identity. The photographer turns her marvelling, roaming gaze to this Verwunderte Wirklichkeit (Astonished Reality, the title of a book by Bergemann from 1992).

With the faraway travels in the 1990s and new commissions, colour entered Bergemann’s work as a foundational element. In West Africa and on the edges of Western Europe, in Portugal, the photographer explored the feel and shape of local colours, eventually making them into a constitutive feature of her fashion photography. Strong contrasts were as crucial as finely graduated colour scales, both of which sensitively conveyed the genius loci of each place.

Text from the Kicken Berlin website

 

Biography

Sibylle Bergmann (German, 1941-2010) received a clerical training in East Berlin between 1958 and 1960. She subsequently held a white-collar job. From 1965 to 1967 she worked on the editorial staff of the monthly Das Magazin (The Magazine), where she developed an interest in photography. At this job she first met photographer Arno Fischer in 1966, with whom she lived until her death. He influenced her eventual decision to be an independent photographer, commencing her photographic training with Fischer in 1966. The apartment they shared in Berlin became an intellectual center for the alternative photography community in the GDR. From 1967 on, she worked as a freelance photographer for various magazines, such as for legendary fashion magazine Sibylle, and she became a member of the DIREKT group. In 1990 she became a founding member of Ostkreuz – Agentur der Fotografen (Agency of Photographers) in Berlin, and in 1994 a member of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin. In the 1990s she traveled extensively around the globe to take photos for internationally renowned magazines. Bergemann’s photographs focus on quiet, atmospheric moments, not on strong symbols or grand gestures. She sidestepped the prohibited ideas by opting for fashion photography and everyday shots of her immediate surroundings.

Press release from the Kicken Berlin website

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Marisa and Liane, Sellin, Isle of Rügen' 1981

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Marisa and Liane, Sellin, Isle of Rügen
1981
Gelatin silver print, printed 1981
33.7 x 22.6cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Annette and Angela, Lustgarten, Berlin' 1982

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Annette and Angela, Lustgarten, Berlin
1982
Gelatin silver print
42.3 x 28.3 cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing Bergemann’s Das Denkmal (Berlin, Februar 1986) (1986, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Das Denkmal (Berlin, Februar 1986)' / 'The Monument (Berlin, February 1986)' 1986, early print

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Das Denkmal (Berlin, Februar 1986) / The Monument (Berlin, February 1986)
1986, early print
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 53.9cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing at left, photographs from Bergemann’s Workplace series (various dates, see below); and at right, Bergemann’s Berlin (Frieda) (1982, above)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing photographs from Bergemann’s Workplace series (various dates, see below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Untitled' 1990, early print From the series 'Workplace'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled
1990, early print
From the series Workplace
Gelatin silver print
37 x 25cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Benedite Leuwarda, Hamburg' 1994, printed c. 1994

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Benedite Leuwarda, Hamburg
1994, printed c. 1994
From the series Workplace
Gelatin silver print
38 x 25.6cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Telekom, Dortmund' 1990, early print From the series 'Workplace'

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Telekom, Dortmund
1990, early print
From the series Workplace
Gelatin silver print
37 x 24.5cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Oderberger Straße, Berlin' 1990, printed c. 1990

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Oderberger Straße, Berlin
1990, printed c. 1990
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 16.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kick

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing Bergemann’s Frieda, New York (1991, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Frieda, New York' 1991, printed c. 1991

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Frieda, New York
1991, printed c. 1991
Gelatin silver print
24.7 x 38cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing Bergemann’s Lily, Berlin (1996, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Lily, Berlin' 1996, printed c. 1996

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Lily, Berlin
1996, printed c. 1996
Gelatin silver print
27.9 x 41.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Mauerpark, Berlin' 1996

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Mauerpark, Berlin
1996
Gelatin silver print
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann' at Kicken Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sheroes of Photography Part IV: Sibylle Bergemann at Kicken Berlin showing at left, Bergemann’s Dakar (2001, below); at centre, Bergemann’s Raky, Dakar (2001, below); and at right, Bergemann’s Shibam, Jemen (1999, below)

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
43.9 x 32.1cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Raky, Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Raky, Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
43.7 x 32cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Shibam, Jemen' 1999, printed c. 1999

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Shibam, Jemen
1999, printed c. 1999
C-print
44 x 32cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Seynabou, Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Seynabou, Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
32,1 x 43.8cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Cheick, Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Cheick, Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
43.8 x 31.8cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Mad, Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Mad, Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
43.9 x 32.1cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010) 'Raky, Dakar' 2001, printed c. 2001

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, 1941-2010)
Raky, Dakar
2001, printed c. 2001
C-print
43.7 x 32.2cm
© Nachlass Sibylle Bergemann; Ostkreuz / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 

 

Kicken Berlin
Kaiserdamm 118
14057 Berlin

Tuesday – Friday 2 – 6pm & by appointment

Kicken Berlin website

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15
May
22

Exhibition: ‘After August Sander: People of the 21st Century’ at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen

Exhibition dates: 28th January – 29th May 2022

Curator: Thomas Thiel

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der erdgebundene Mensch' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der erdgebundene Mensch (The earthbound human) / Peasant Woman, Westerwald
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

I am not sure any of these kinds of exhibition – supposed extrapolations on the work of an earlier famous photographer, in this case contemporary photographers responding in diverse ways to renowned German photographer August Sander (1876-1964), icon of 20th century photography – serve any kind of lasting useful purpose, other than perhaps to acknowledge the alleged and, in most cases, slight influence of the earlier photographer.

While the contemporary work is strong in its own right, too often it seems shoehorned into the concept of the exhibition, artistic positions exhibited in order to revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. Sander does not need revitalising… nor do the contemporary artists need the prop of his fame nor his conceptualisation of German identity, family and life to succeed with their projects. Their changed views of life and new influences on the individual are cogent enough – clear, logical, and convincing – not to need a conceptual walking frame.

However, the exhibition does give us the ability to, once more, marvel at the apparent simplicity and directness of Sanders’ portraits and the monumentality of his project “People of the 20th Century”. Frontal, low depth of field, beautiful light, tightly framed photographs which portray individuals as true characters who have undeniable “presence” in the viewers eyes. When thinking about the human condition, nothing in the rest of the exhibition comes close to their insight and intensity…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At second left, August Sander’s Pastry Cook 1928; at fifth left, Coal Delivery Man c. 1915; at seventh left, Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928; and at eighth right, Working-class Mother 1927

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At left, Mother and daughter 1912; at third left, August Sander’s Village Band 1913; and at fourth left, Farmer on his Way to Church 1925-1926; and at right, Cretin 1924

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by August Sander, Portraits of People of the 20th Century, 1912-1932, printed 1961-1963
Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

With his collection of portraits, “People of the 20th Century”, August Sander (1876-1964) produced a monumental life’s work that not only made photographic history but went on to influence generations of artists. The photographer, who was born in Herdorf near Siegen, depicted professional groups and social classes for several decades. Altogether he collected more than 600 images in forty-five portfolios, organising them into seven categories: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesmen, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City (city dwellers), and The Last People, who were found on the fringes of society. A selection was first assembled in the publication “Face of Our Time” (1929). By working on a portrait of society during his time, Sander not only developed archetypal images but also aimed to study the nature of man in relation to his community.

“After August Sander” combines the work of the world-famous yet regionally-based photographer with a contemporary perspective of 13 artists. At the heart of the exhibition is a group of 70 large-format photographs that Sander compiled as late as the early 1960s, also for presentations in the Siegerland. As a gift from Barbara Lambrecht-Schadeberg to mark the MGKSiegen’s 20th birthday, these are now being shown here for the first time. Starting out from this important group of works, the exhibition directs attention towards portraits of people in the 21st century and initiates further examination of images showing contemporary types.

The artistic positions exhibited revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. The deliberate leap in time of about 100 years visualises our changed views of life and new influences on the individual. Despite the historical reference, “After August Sander” does not stick exclusively to the medium of photography, but presents video installations and sculptures in a reflection of our times.

With contributions by August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ifergan-Rey, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Hans Eijkelboom, Omer Fast, Soham Gupta, Sharon Hayes, Bouchra Khalili, Ilya Lipkin, Sandra Schäfer, Collier Schorr, Tobias Zielony and Artur Zmijewski.

Supported by Kunststiftung NRW

Text from the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen website

 

 

Rooms 1 and 2

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Mother and Daughter' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Mother and Daughter
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Village Band' 1913

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Village Band
1913
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Jungbauern' (Young Farmers) 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern (Young Farmers)
1914
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Coal Delivery Man' c. 1915

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Coal Delivery Man
c. 1915
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister' (Police Officer) 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister (Police Officer)
1925
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt' (Painter Anton Räderscheidt) 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt (Painter Anton Räderscheidt)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusartistin' (Circus performer) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusartistin (Circus performer)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Handlanger' (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Pastry Cook' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Pastry Cook
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln' c. 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)

The selection of large-format exhibition copies of People of the 20th Century being shown for the first time in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst was compiled from various portfolios by Sander himself in 1961/63. They were intended for presentations in the Siegerland region and printed by his son Gunther Sander under his own supervision. The occasion for this was provided by, amongst others, two exhibitions entitled Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), shown in Siegen in 1964 and in the fire station close to Herdorf town hall in 1965. Beyond its international significance, for several reasons August Sander’s work also has considerable regional identification value. Sander was born in Herdorf and spent his childhood between Siegerland and the Westerwald. Siegen-based photographers Friedrich Schmeck and Carl Siebel inspired the young Sander to take up photography. Photographs dating from before 1914 were taken in or near his hometown and were subsequently included in the well-known picture atlas. He frequently spent time in the Westerwald and moved his residence to Kuchhausen due to the war in 1942. This exhibition brings a circle to a close in the MGKSiegen. Works by August Sander can now be shown permanently and as part of the collection in Siegen for the first time since the museum’s opening in 2001.

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Cretin' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Cretin
1924
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Farmer on his Way to Church' 1925-1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Farmer on his Way to Church
1925-1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Working-class Mother' 1927

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Working-class Mother
1927
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Putzfrau' (Cleaning woman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Putzfrau (Cleaning woman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'The Industrialist' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Industrialist
1929
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

Rooms 3 and 4

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen, Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen showing at left, a work by Sandra Schäfer Kontaminierte Landschaften, (2021); and at right, August Sander’s Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie (1912) from “People of the 20th Century”, 1912-1932
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; ©  VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still showing the cover of August Sander – Líchtbíldner folio Der Bauer (The farmer)
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften' 2021 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 2021, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)

Sandra Schäfer’s artistic practice is concerned with the development of urban and geopolitical space and its history. Her works are often based on long-term research that involves a re-presentation of images, documents, and narratives. In her video installation Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (2021), Schäfer – starting out from August Sander’s series of Westerwald farmers and rural labourers – deals with the transformation of the rural region in which she grew up, and by which she has been strongly influenced. Her great-greatgreat- aunt Katharina Horn, born Schäfer, and her husband Adam Horn, were also the famous farming couple that Sander photographed as early as 1912. The artist juxtaposes August Sander’s perspective with her own, contemporary view in the form of a double projection and two photographs. Schäfer shows how the landscape depicted and its agricultural use have changed over the course of time. She talks to relatives and farmers, as well as to photographic curators about Sander, his photos and the situation in the village of Kuchhausen. She is also interested in the value and varying attributions that the images have experienced in the art world and in private memories. The artist questions existing pictorial orders and narratives with her work, and so ventures her own personal search for home.

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)
2021
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Room 5

 

Hans Eijkelboom. 'Photo Notes' 1994-2022 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Hans Eijkelboom, Photo Notes, 1994-2022, Courtesy the artist
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage) (detail)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)

As early as 1981, Hans Eijkelboom realised an “Ode to August Sander” by asking and categorising citizens of Arnhem, where he lived at the time, on the basis of their distinguishing features and developing the results into a multi-part series of street photographs. Since the early 1990s, the artist has been taking photographs in the business districts of large cities around the world. Unnoticed, he analyses the pedestrians passing by and focuses on them according to formal criteria of their external appearance. Eijkelboom’s gaze – with a thoroughly benevolent sense of humour – falls on the people’s clothing. Fashion statements and similarities in behaviour interest him in formal terms, as uniform codes. He arranges his snapshot-like Photo Notes into groups according to the motif and date of the shot, and then presents them in wall-sized tableaus. Arranged in this way, the exclusively colour portraits direct the viewer’s attention towards the human need to distinguish oneself by means of external features and so underline one’s own identity. In Eijkelboom’s photographs, this striving for individuality is exposed as an illusion due to global trends and milieu-related codes.

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed) (detail)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Room 6

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)

In his films, Omer Fast frequently tells stories of trauma, war and relationships. His working method enables him to question current and historical events as well as the conventions of the cinematic narrator. The short film August (2016), shot in 3D, revolves around the life and work of August Sander, painting a fictional picture of his last days in the early 1960s. The cinematic flashbacks are oriented on biographical facts. In surreal dream sequences, Sander is haunted by memories: recalling his son Erich, who died as a victim of political persecution in a Nazi prison in 1944, as well as iconic motifs such as the Young Farmers or Workers hauling bricks. The film August shows both the visionary artist and the powerless man, scarred by personal loss and entangled in the political circumstances. Omer Fast deconstructs and at the same time contextualises the artist and man August Sander on the basis of his attitudes in an extremely difficult time politically, the late phase of the Weimar Republic and the transition to National Socialist Germany.

 

 

New Pictures: Omer Fast, Appendix exhibition video

This “New Pictures” exhibition [at the Minneapolis Institute of Art 2018] features two films by the Berlin-based Israeli artist Omer Fast (b. 1972), along with more than 20 portraits by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) from his series People of the Twentieth Century, selected from Mia’s and Minneapolis-based collections. Through reflections of Sander’s portraits, including Young Farmers (1914) and Bricklayer (1928), Fast’s latest film, August (2016), portrays Sander at the end of his life, tracing the photographer’s career during the transition from the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany. Fast’s para-fictional (i.e., blending facts and fiction) film subverts the boundary between collective history and personal memory, questioning photography’s ability to tell the truth.

Text from the YouTube website

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Room 7

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966) 'Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)' 2019

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966)
Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)
2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Photo: Nick Ash

 

 

Jos de Gruyter (Beligian, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgian, b. 1966)

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ works are devoted to the absurdity of the everyday. Their interest in the psychological state of societies leads them to create portraits of human existence both tragic and comical. The figures assembled here were part of the exhibition Mondo Cane (eng. Dog World) produced for the Belgian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. The presentation was conceived as a kind of folkloristic museum examining the human condition and its grotesque diversity. In the shape of partly mechanised, life-sized dolls, it gathered together simple artisans as well as madmen and outcasts. The doll heads were modelled on fictional characters as well as real people. Scattered throughout the exhibition rooms in Siegen we find a ventriloquist, a town crier, a Stasi spy and a French denunciator from the World War II era. As protagonists, they occupy the museum for the duration of the exhibition and interact with the other works. As representatives, the humorous and sinister characters refer to popular stereotypes as well as to historical attitudes and relationships within Europe.

 

 

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ work Mondo Cane (2019) at Biennale Arte 2019 – Belgium

 

Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. 'Madame Legrand' 2019

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Madame Legrand, 2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 8

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970) 'Ricerche: one' 2019 (still)

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)
Ricerche: one
2019
Still
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

 

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)

Sharon Hayes’ videos, performances and installations address the complex processes of shaping public opinion on politics, history, identity and language. Her film series Ricerche (engl. Research) began in 2013 and now consists of five parts. Her starting point was the documentary film Love Meetings (1964, ital. Comizi d’amore) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who travelled through Italy to ask people of different ages and social backgrounds explicit questions about love, sexuality, and morality. Hayes follows the structure of the film and the conceptual idea of interviewing people outdoors and in groups. The video diptych Ricerche: one (2019) portrays two age groups: 5-8 year olds and young adults. All the participants in the video, shot in Provincetown (Massachusetts, USA), are children of queer parents. Depending on their age, they give fragmented or detailed insights into their complex family structures. The artist mirrors social understanding of gender dominated by the norm, sexuality and family constellations. She shows how present conditions shape national, religious and ethnic identities.

 

 

Biennale Arte 2013 – Sharon Hayes

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sharon Hayes, Ricerche: one, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 9

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey. 'Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille' (I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille) 2019

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey
Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille
I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille

2019
Still
© Mohamed Bourouissa /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and Alice Ifergan-Rey

 

 

L’Utopie d’August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ïfergan-Rey

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Collier Schorr, Castle, 1994, Collier as Horst, 2021, Swimming Pool Eyes, 1996, A Possible Mutation, 1994, After Cindy Sherman, 1994
© the artist, Courtesy Stuart Shave/ Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Swimming Pool Eyes' 1996

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Swimming Pool Eyes
1996
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'A Possible Mutation' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
A Possible Mutation
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)

Collier Schorr’s portraits can be positioned in the border area between documentation, staging and fiction. Her photographs explore the relationship between nationality, gender, and identity. For over 20 years, Schorr travelled to southern Germany every summer to visit the small town of Schwäbisch Gmünd. Her portraits of the town’s inhabitants taken against an authentic local backdrop reflect a fascination with a culture that was initially foreign to her. Collier Schorr places androgynous-looking teenagers in the German landscape, which she sees as pastoral. They are mostly male adolescents from her close environment, photographed in the garden, in front of and on trees, or in the forest. One of the main characters is Horst, and she adds a later self-portrait to this group: Collier as Horst (2021), wearing men’s underpants and gripping her crotch. These stagings, which dissolve gender boundaries by means of clothing, makeup and props, also include portraits of uniformed soldiers as pictorial subjects. In Matti at Attention (Durlangen) (2001), which shows a young man as a soldier in a forest clearing, the landscape takes on a symbolic charge and becomes a speculative space of remembrance. Aware of Sander’s photographic approach and the gaps in his reception, Schorr sets out to find her own Face of our Time that incorporates her Jewish origins and personal ideas of Germany.

 

After Horst

“I had these ideas about modern West Germany. It was silent. It was empty. The figures were small, or they were art students lined up in front of coloured squares of paper. Whatever I saw in the work of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff was somewhat perfect, organised, static, airless. And frozen in time that looked like the 70’s. West Germany itself, a word I might see on a watch face or an Olympic memorial to the Israeli wrestlers killed by Palestinians in Munich. Somehow, I was there and not there. Dead, memorialised, alive and dead again.

I went to Germany in 1989. And again, for 20 summers. During the third summer I started taking photographs. I was convinced the German landscape held some truth other than the one I had seen in the large-scale imports I saw at 303 Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery. Schwäbisch Gmünd was soft and pastoral. And the local boys seemed soft and pastoral. I would have never made photos in New York. Nan Goldin, Jack Pierson and Larry Clark already made them. But in Germany, I could take a figure of my imagination and place them in the landscape memorialised by the Düsseldorf School. And I could as they say now – queer the space. So I shot my girlfriend’s nephew Horst and a fusion of myself and him, of a young girl and of a young boy of a woman who looked like a boy. I wanted to make him suffer for his luxury… as if he knew he had this luxury which I can never know. Ultimately, it’s a simple proposition. An image of queerness in an open airfield, rather than a club or a closet or a tenement New York apartment or West Side street corner. One image is called After Cindy Sherman because of how I wished I could use myself to talk about myself. But to do that I would have to find my image bearable and I did not. I saw Germany as a very romantic place and I attacked it and was seduced by it every year. I took the one category in August Sander’s work that the Düsseldorf kids didn’t touch: the Nazi’s. I thought to myself, wow, they really left those soldiers out. Don’t they realise that’s the guts and the ghosts worth tearing apart? I began to enjoy the fact that my story about Germany, my Antlitz Der Zeit, was completely ignored. Too romantic, too gay but not authored by a gay male, too Jewish but not Jewish enough, too personal.

Now I look at Horst and I think about my own body naked on the cover of Frieze magazine and dancing in a ballet I’m making. And posing with Jordan Wolfson in Fantastic Man. The same face the same hair. Over 30 years difference. Suddenly acceptable. Perhaps because the queer figure has more presence agency representation. I still find Horst, with his Levis’s and sweat socks, the tropes of Christopher Street and his teenage girl make up somewhat radical. Because he looks like a living paper doll. Dressed and pasted into a landscape to disrupt the pristine crisis of a German photograph, transmounted, with a wide white border, expansive and somewhat toeing the line.”

Collier Schorr. “After Horst,” on the Modern Art website March 2021 [Online] Cited 02/04/2022

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'After Cindy Sherman' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
After Cindy Sherman
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Wes Portrait' 2009-2018

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Wes Portrait
2009-2018
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Room 10

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975) 'The Tempest Society' 2017

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)
The Tempest Society
2017
Still
Courtesy mor charpentier, Paris
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)

In her films, photographs, installations and publications, Bouchra Khalili examines the effects of colonial history on migration and political self-image. She provides a voice for social minorities, repeatedly formulating the links between individual actions and collective history. For the video work The Tempest Society (2017), which was shown for the first time at documenta 14, a group of Athenians come together on the stage of a former factory to talk about Europe and their own homeland. It is a portrait of three people from different social backgrounds who joined together to form a theatre group called The Tempest Society. The title is homage to Al Assifa (arab: The Tempest), a project by North African workers and French students who founded an ensemble in Paris in the 1970s to address issues such as racism and social inequality. The individuals in Khalili’s The Tempest Society also address similar problems in contemporary society: Ghani, Katerina and Malek talk about their experiences as people living in Europe and share their stories with each other. At the same time, it is about sharing a collective space – both on stage and in life, and about how the European continent may provide a home.

 

 

Bouchra Khalili. The Tempest Society / Twenty-Two Hours 24. August – 21. Oktober 2018

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Bouchra Khalili, The Tempest Society, 2017, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 11

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966) 'Dieter, Patricia, Ursula' 2007

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)
Dieter, Patricia, Ursula
2007
Still
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau

 

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)

Artur Żmijewski is known for his works investigating historical as well as current social orders – often in a radical way, employing mechanisms of power and oppression. The human body is an essential means of expression in his provocative works, which are mainly interviews, documentaries or experimental settings. The trilogies Dieter, Patricia, Ursula (2007) and Katarzyna, Barbara, Zofia (2012) belong to a ten-part series, for which Żmijewski observed people in Germany, Italy, Mexico and Poland with his camera – each for over 24 hours, as they carried out a simple but often physically strenuous activity. In this case, he accompanies an excavator driver, a snack vendor, a tram driver and three cleaners in their everyday lives – from the moment they get up in the morning until they go to bed. From the footage, Żmijewski created a 15-minute portrait of each person, following the artist’s narrative structure alone, and simply showing what happens without any commentary. Routine and moments of repetition are common to all the portraits. Apparently individual, they are also representative of a group within society. The artist therefore functions, on the one hand, as a sociological catalyst of snapshots; on the other hand, the medium of documentary filming operates as an objective instance.

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
From left, work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin; and at right, Artur Żmijewski’s Dieter, Patricia, Ursula, 2007 (still), © the artist, Courtesy Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 12

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Ilya Lipkin, Untitled, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)

In his work, Ilya Lipkin breaks with the conventions of applied and artistic photography, moving playfully between fashion and art, studio and street photography. His work is characterised by a self-reflective approach incorporating contemporary trends and styles. The series Untitled (2019) assembles a number of photographs of young women, all taken in public places in various cities around the world, including on Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Photographed with a fast-focus digital camera in burst mode, the images have been retouched and edited according to the usual standards of fashion photography. In some cases, the background was removed and replaced with bright red or neutral white. This immediacy reveals a generation of girls and young women who are extremely conscious of their own image, but also influenced visually by the clichéd image conventions of social media channels. Quite intuitively, they seem to deny us any insight into their inner selves. By means of clothing, style and technology, they express their desire to please in a global society rather than in specific subcultures.

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Jay' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Jay
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Skandalous' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Skandalous
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)

In his photographs and videos, Tobias Zielony directs artistic attention towards youth subcultures and marginalised groups in society. His image cycles, developed over a long period of time and drawing on various means of pictorial reportage, are always characterised by a special intimacy and direct proximity. Social, media and subcultural changes provide the thematic framework for these photographs. In his work, Zielony has dealt frequently with the significance of origins, fashion, and the representation of identity. For this exhibition and with a view to August Sander’s portfolio work, he has now assembled a first selection of portraits from the last twenty years. On view are single, double, and group portraits ranging from the early series Curfew (2001), depicting youths in Bristol, to a more recent series, Golden, featuring Riga’s queer underground scene. The presentation highlights strategies of portraiture, masking as well as the increased intermingling of social and visual codes in global, mediatised cultural development. Zielony’s fascination with the people photographed reveals a fundamental human interest in the Other in the sense of experiencing foreignness and vibrancy apart from traditional social categories.

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Two boys' 2008

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Two boys
2008
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973) From the series 'Golden' 2018

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
From the series Golden
2018
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Room 13

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Soham Gupta, Untitled, from the series Angst (2013-2017), Courtesy the artist
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)

As early as 10 years ago, Soham Gupta began photographing people he encountered in the darkness by Howrah Bridge in the Indian megacity, Calcutta. The bridge connects the two Indian cities of Calcutta and Howrah across the Hugli River. Nearby is Howrah Railway Station, one of the largest railway stations in India. His photographs in colour and black and white capture people across all age groups, who seem to belong to the lower class. The living spaces captured in the photographs leave no doubt about their poverty and their status as social outsiders, abandoned and cast out. While these snapshots – glaring flash images set against dark backdrops – have a certain fleeting character and convey the impression of spontaneous shots, they are in fact the partly staged results of a development in the relationship between the photographer and the respective sitter. These people – individuals, couples or small groups – look towards the camera, towards the artist or their bodies are angled in his direction. Sometimes, they assume poses that seem grotesque. The series Fear poses the question of the photographer’s ambivalent role between the apparent objectivity of documentary photography and the importance of a subjective perspective. In essence, Gupta’s photographs focus on the human condition and search for a connection with marginalised groups in a society.

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Unteres Schloss 1
57072 Siegen
Phone: 0271 405 77 10

Opening hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday 11am – 6pm
Wednesday 11am – 6pm
Thursday 11am – 8pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 11am – 6pm

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13
Feb
22

Review: ‘Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th October 2021 – 20th February 2022

 

Greg Weight. 'Rosalie Gascoigne' (detail) 1993 and Jules Boag. 'Portrait of Lorraine Connelly-Northey' (detail) Nd

 

Image left: Greg Weight
Rosalie Gascoigne (detail)
1993
Gelatin silver photograph on paper
Image: 45.5 x 35.6cm
Sheet: 50.4 x 40.4cm
National Portrait Gallery, Australia
Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
© Gregory Weight/Copyright Agency, 2021

Image right: Jules Boag
Portrait of Lorraine Connelly-Northey (detail)
Courtesy of Jules Boag
© Jules Boag

 

 

Synergy. Now’s there’s an interesting word. It means “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organisations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” It derives from mid 19th century: from Greek sunergos ‘working together’, from sun- ‘together’ + ergon ‘work’. Thus, this glorious exhibition brings together two artists metaphorically “working together” under the Australian sun… even as they are separated by culture, location, time and space.

Their work comes together in a confluence of ideas of approximately equal width – one grounded in stories of family and Country thousands of years old, the artist investigating post-colonial settlement and the industrial world and interpreting Australian Indigenous objects of ritual and culture; the other not so much grounded but playing with Western ideas of pattern and randomness, belonging, and the metaphysical space of the landscape of the Monaro, in the southwest of New South Wales. Both points of view are equally valid and have important things to say about our various relationships to the land (both Indigenous and colonial) and the “creation” of a contemporary Australian national identity.

Both artists use found objects in their work, but as Russell-Cook points out, “I think that what unites the two artists is the shared materials they use, but not a ‘shared-use of materials.’ They are both fascinated by the artistic possibilities of found objects, but they use those materials to tell contrasting stories.” Connelly-Northey uses her experience of living on Country and her gleaning of discarded objects in Country to gather up the threads of her multiple heritages and Aboriginal custodianship of the land to picture – through the merging of organic and inorganic forms – the disenfranchisement of her people but also to celebrate their deep roots in Country. Gascoigne on the other hand is the more ethereal of the two artists, concerned as she is with light, land, spirit of place and the rightness of materials being used. Hers is a very structured and formal art practice grounded in her training in the Japanese art of ikebana and her understanding of Minimalism. Sympathetically, through their individual creativity both artists transmute (to change in form, nature, or substance) the reality of the materials they work with, the raw material of experience transmuted into stories. As Rozentals and Russell-Cook observe, “Both Connelly-Northey and Gascoigne’s work is defined by, and yet transcends, its sense of materiality.”

Two things jar slightly. Connelly-Northey is ‘a bit anxious’ that her Indigenous originality won’t be recognised and that “I’ve worked too hard for people to think I borrowed it all from Rosalie. Our use of corrugated iron is the only thing we have in common.”

Connelly-Northey can have no fear that her Indigenous originality won’t be recognised because every pore of her strong work speaks to her cultural being. Her spiky, brittly astringent, barbed and feathered works take you to Country, posing the viewer uncomfortable questions about “soft” assertions of history and the hard reality of contemporary Indigenous life: metal as string, desecration of sacred sights, barbed wire handles, “hunters and gatherers whose remains have been upturned by settled Australian societies.” She weaves her stories well.

If the second statement has not been taken out of context, it shows a heap of unnecessary defensive aggression by Connelly-Northey towards Gascoigne’s work. It’s a silly, uninformed statement which hints at a lack of confidence in the strength of her own work. Patently, their use of corrugated iron is not the only thing they have in common.

Both speak towards a love of the Australian land whether from an ancient Aboriginal custodianship perspective or from a Western colonial perspective. Both use scavenging, gathering and gleaning in order to recycle the refuse of society in their art making, Connelly-Northey using weaving to bring together that which is disparate; Gascoigne assembling her formal compositions with an attention to order and randomness. Both artists love to move through the space and time of the land, exploring its idiosyncrasies, “disassociating objects from their original function via a system of obsessive collecting and gathering, while simultaneously reflecting their individual experiences of being immersed in the bush environment.” As Rozentals and Russell-Cook comment, “Despite their careers having been separated by time, and coming from vastly different backgrounds, in both artists we see a singular vision that is immediately recognisable, and unmistakably them. And yet there is a sympathetic connection between their practices that is undeniable.”

Conjoined by more than corrugated iron, more than land, air and clan, their common union is the journey of two creative souls on that golden path of life and the connection of those souls to the cosmos.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All of the images unless otherwise stated are by Marcus Bunyan. © Marcus Bunyan, the artists and the National Gallery of Victoria. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Although they are often compared, Gascoigne and Connelly-Northey are separated conceptually and chronologically. For a start, despite being two Australian women artists working with landscape, they never met. This fact is less surprising when one remembers that Connelly-Northey’s practice only matured towards the later stages of Gascoigne’s life. Gascoigne came to prominence late and rapidly, with her first exhibition in 1974, when she was fifty-seven years old, and it was only eight years later that she represented Australia at the Venice Biennale. Connelly-Northey started exhibiting seriously in the mid-nineties, shortly before Gascoigne passed away in 1999. However, Connelly-Northey has herself commented on a nuanced relationship to the historical comparison with Gascoigne, pointing out in a recent conversation with Jeremy Eccles that “I’ve worked too hard for people to think I borrowed it all from Rosalie. Our use of corrugated iron is the only thing we have in common.” In some ways, then, the fact they never met may have been fortuitous, with both artists driven to probe their subject matter in distinct and complete ways. …

Surrounding built and natural environments are a recurring prompt for Connelly-Northey, who often merges organic and inorganic forms. She investigates the intricate dilemmas and complexities that arise when two cultures meet. Co-curator Myles Russell-Cook explains that the artist “is using her work to explore the connection between her multiple heritages, as well as her experience living on Country. Take her work On Country, 2017; in that installation, Connelly-Northey explores the relationship between the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga, depicting the river a living being, which she imagines as a snake repurposed out of chicken wire and rusted and industrial scrap metal. It’s a dioramic representation of the landscape, but it is also so embedded with references to Aboriginal custodianship of Country.” As a result, Russell-Cook argues, Connelly-Northey proposes “a really different way of being in Australian landscape.”

Beyond these conceptual and chronological differences, however, Russell-Cook points out that “I think that what unites the two artists is the shared materials they use, but not a ‘shared-use of materials.’ They are both fascinated by the artistic possibilities of found objects, but they use those materials to tell contrasting stories.” As Rozentals notes, for Gascoigne, “the objects had to be just right – what she collected, for instance, with shells. There could be no cracks and they had to be of a particular colour and a particular shine; she would collect the feathers of different species of birds from particular locations.” For Russell-Cook, “At the heart of what Connelly-Northey does, is the act of cleaning up Country: going out and collecting up bits of discarded and refuse machinery, and then working with that to create customary forms. She makes a lot of possum-skin cloaks, narrbong-galang, which are a type of string bag, as well as koolimans (coolamons), lap-laps, and other types of cultural objects … she repurposes them to create a juxtaposition between cultural memories.”

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Extract from Rose Vickers. “Found and Gathered: Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Rosalie Gascoigne,” in Artist Profile, Issue 57, 2021 [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Tom Ross NGV

 

'Found and Gathered' title wall text

 

Wall text

 

Entrance to the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Entrance to the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Lap Lap (various numbers) (installation views)
2011
Mixed media
Murray Art Museum Albury, commissioned 2011
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Animal skins and woven plant fibres are preferred natural resources for making cloaks, belts, skirts and lap laps. Worn by both males and females, lap laps were created for a simple covering of the groin. Also considered a body adornment, the wearing of a lap lap has different significance between Nations. Connelly-Northey constructed these lap laps from hard and harsh materials, such as rusted industrial objects including an axe head, a cut-down rabbit trap, barbed fencing wire along with copper sheeting. Metaphorically, Connelly-Northey’s lap laps both expose and draw attention to the difficult and ‘barbed’ sexual relations thats existed between Aboriginal women and settlers, post-European arrival.

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Step through' (1977 - c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Step through' (1977 - c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Step through (1977 – c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Step through' 1977 - c. 1979-1980 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Step through (installation view)
1977 – c. 1979-1980
Linoleum on plywood on wood
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In 1977, Rosalie Gascoigne commenced making sculptures out of discarded linoleum, which she sourced primarily from rubbish dumps. Step through features torn pieces of floral linoleum glued to plywood which are mounted on wooden blocks, and she used a jigsaw to cut around the shapes. Although linoleum is associated with domestic interiors, for Gascoigne it was about outdoor spaces. This work references untidy vacant blocks in the city, which one might ‘step-through’ as a short cut. Gascoigne’s floor-based works are intended to be experienced from all angles, and the arrangement of the blocks at different heights creates a rhythm, drawing the eyes to wander up and across the installation.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Smoko' 1984 (installation view)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Smoko' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Smoko (installation views)
1984
Weathered wood, dried grass (possibly African lovegrass, Eragrostis curvula)
Private collection, Tasmania
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Pieces to walk around' (1981, foreground) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Pieces to walk around' (1981, foreground) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Pieces to walk around (1981, foreground) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Pieces to walk around' 1981 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Pieces to walk around (installation view detail)
1981
Saffron thistle sticks (Carthamus lanatus)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘This is a piece for walking around and contemplating. It is about being in the country with its shifting light and shades of grey, its casualness and it prodigality. The viewer’s response to the landscape may differ from mine, but I hope this picture will convey some sense of the countryside that produced it: and that an extra turn or two around the work will induce in the viewer the liberating feeling of being in the open country.’ ~ Rosalie Gascoigne, 1981

 

Piece to Walk Around is a microcosm of the landscape of the Monaro, in the southwest of New South Wales, where Rosalie Gascoigne lived from 1943. This environment provided the experiences and the materials that shaped her work, found on her journeys through it. Piece to Walk Around refers directly to the experience of moving through the Australian landscape, titled to draw attention to the changing visual effects as one circles the work and the shifting play of light on the natural material.

Comprised of a patchwork of bundles of saffron thistle stalks arranged in 20 squares lying on the floor in alternating directions, it resembles the undulating countryside, the ordering of agriculture and industry, and the mottled effects of light and shadow upon it. The work conveys a sense of the infinite expansiveness and liberation experienced in the country, as manifested in the grid’s open-ended structure to which additional bundles of thistles could theoretically be added or subtracted.

Gascoigne’s work from the early-1980s reveal a sophisticated aesthetic – an engagement with Minimalism’s orderliness and pre-occupation with the grid, and an almost Japanese mixture of formal composition and attention to nature. It was this sense of ‘order with randomness’ which Gascoigne recognised as an essential feature of the Monaro-Canberra region, and which resonates in the ‘careful-careless’ effect of this assemblage. Created only seven years after her first solo show in 1974, this work has a remarkable maturity and balance, achieved through a lifetime of looking at the landscape.

Anonymous text from the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia website Nd [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Takeover bid' 1981 (installation view)

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Takeover bid (installation view)
1981
Found window frames, thistle stems
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Takeover bid' 1981 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Takeover bid (installation view detail)
1981
Found window frames, thistle stems
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Balance' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Balance (installation view)
1984
Weathered plywood
Collection of Justin Miller, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Balance' 1984 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Balance (installation view detail)
1984
Weathered plywood
Collection of Justin Miller, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Graven image' 1982 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Graven image (installation view)
1982
Weathered wood and plywood
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne perceived wood as being distinctly different to the manufactured materials she incorporated in her art, such as tin, aluminium and iron. Wood, like the shells, dried grasses and plants she also worked with across her career, came from nature. Gascoigne gathered wood that had been weathered, including window frames and fence palings, preferring pieces that had been bleached by the sun until they were almost grey in colour. Gascoigne would use wood either as the main component of a composition, or as the backing from another work.

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Feathered Fence' (1978-1979, foreground) with 'Winter paddock' (1984, back left) and 'Afternoon' (1996, back right) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Feathered Fence (1978-1979, foreground) with Winter paddock (1984, back left) and Afternoon (1996, back right) at the exhibition ‘Found and Gathered’ at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Feathered fence' 1978-1979 (installation view detail)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Feathered fence' 1978-1979 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Feathered fence (installation view details)
1978-1979
Swan (Cygnus atratus) feathers, galvanised wire mesh, metal win nuts, synthetic polymer paint on wood
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist, 1994
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996 (installation view)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Afternoon (installation views)
1996
Painted weathered plywood on backing boards
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

One of Rosalie Gascoigne’s late works, Afternoon, created for the exhibition In Place (Out of Time), held at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, comprises twenty-seven panels of weathered plywood organised in a grid-like configuration. Looking out from her vantage point at the top of Mount Stromlo across the countryside, Gascoigne was in awe of the view, the vast sky, and te sense of emptiness. The sections of lights applied white paint and areas of exposed timer of Afternoon are suggestive of passing clouds, and communicates her experiences and enduring recollections of being in the landscape.

 

As perhaps the most archetypal form of modernist abstraction, the grid has been employed as a formal, compositional device in countless artworks over the past century.

In ‘Grids’ (1979), Rosalind Krauss’ seminal essay on the subject, she describes this structural device as: ‘[f]lattened, geometricized, ordered, it is antinatural, antimimetic, antireal. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature’.(1) However, for Rosalie Gascoigne, the grid was employed as a compositional method in order to generate highly personal and experiential evocations of natural phenomena in ways which transcended the more rigid, impersonal qualities associated with its geometry.

In one of her late works entitled Afternoon (1996), Gascoigne assembled 27 individual panels of found painted timber in roughly similar sizes in a grid-like formation. At a surface level the serial repetition of components arranged and balanced according to vertical and horizontal axes corresponds to a reductive Minimalist sensibility. However, it is the heavily weathered timber with its faded white paint which infuses the work with a resonant and suggestive force. As the artist traversed the open countryside she deliberately sought out materials that she felt were ‘invested with the spirit of the place’ and capable of recalling ‘the feeling of an actual moment in the landscape’.(2) In this light, the vital materiality of the reclaimed painted timber is not only inscribed with the effects of its prolonged exposure to the elements, but it also speaks directly to Gascoigne’s deep and abiding memories of her experiences in the landscape. In Afternoon, the richly allusive quality of the individual boards is suggestive of passing clouds, evoking the ephemeral and transitory phenomena of nature in continuous metamorphosis. Contemplated as a unified pictorial whole, this humble assemblage of discarded and deteriorating matter assumes a metaphysical dimension bordering on the ineffable, one which resoundingly accords with the artist’s desire to ‘capture the “nothingness” of the countryside, those wide open spaces … the great Unsaid … the silence that often only visual beauty transcends’.(3)

 

Further Information

  1. Rosalind Krauss, ‘Grids’, October, Vol. 9, Summer, 1979, p. 50.
  2. Quoted in Deborah Edwards, Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape, (exh. cat.), Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, p. 8.
  3. Ibid, p. 16.

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Anonymous text. “Rosalie Gascoigne,” on the Culture Victoria website Nd [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Afternoon
1996
Painted weathered plywood on backing boards
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Winter paddock' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Winter paddock (installation view)
1984
Weathered and painted wood, painted plywood, silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) feathers
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Acquired 1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Winter paddock' 1984 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Winter paddock (installation view detail)
1984
Weathered and painted wood, painted plywood, silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) feathers
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Acquired 1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey brings attention to the shared materiality at the heart of the practices of Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey (b. 1962). Both artists are known for their transformative use of found and discarded objects to create works of art that challenge our understanding of the landscape, and Country.

New Zealand–born Rosalie Gascoigne is recognised for her textural works assembled from items that she had collected, including corrugated iron, feathers, wood and wire, as well as her distinctive wall-mounted pieces formed from retro-reflective road signs and soft-drink cases. Gascoigne moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory, a remote community on the outskirts of Canberra in 1943. Describing the area as being ‘all air, all light, all space, all understatement’, the surrounding region where Gascoigne regularly searched for materials greatly inspired her artistic practice. Her first exhibition was held in 1974 when she was 57 years old, and in 1982, Gascoigne was selected as the inaugural female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey was born and raised at Swan Hill in western Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people. Much of her work is inspired by her maternal Waradgerie (also known as Wiradjuri) heritage. Connelly-Northey gathers and uses materials often associated with European settlement and industrialisation, and repurposes them into sculptural works that reference traditional weaving techniques and Indigenous cultural objects. Through her work, Connelly-Northey explores the relationship between European and Indigenous ways of being and draws attention to the dynamic and resilient ways that Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, custodians of Country.

Through a major display of more than 75 wall-based and sculptural works, Found and Gathered highlights each artist’s unique and significant place within Australian art, while also illuminating the sympathetic relationships between their works. Continuing the popular series of paired exhibitions hosted by NGV, this is the first exhibition in this series focused on the work of two women.

Held at The Ian Potter: NGV Australia, this exhibition includes works by both artists held in the NGV Collection as well as works from major public institutions and private collections around Australia.

Text from the NGV Australia website

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Magpie bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Magpie bag (installation view)
2002
From the Koolimans and String Bags series
Wire mesh, magpie feathers
27.8 × 33.5 × 10.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Pelican bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Pelican bag (installation view)
2002
From the Koolimans and String Bags series
Wire, pelican feathers
31.4 × 29.7 × 10.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire mesh, feathers
26.5 × 10.5 × 11.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh, emu feathers
17.8 × 8.7 × 8.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey reproduces the form of traditional cultural objects with a range of gathered materials found on the side of the road, in illegal rubbish dumps, or decaying on farms. As she explains: ‘We Aboriginal people only take what we need when we need it. I do a lot of travelling to spot something and it can take up a lot of time. The beauty is that I always work from leftovers and if I don’t use a material, I take it back. Also, in the sculpting process, I try to not alter the material too much’.

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire mesh, echidna quills
33.0 × 15.3 × 12.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Kooliman 2' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Kooliman 2 (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
8.5 × 29.7 × 19.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'String bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
String bag (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
Wire, wire mesh, feathers
23.5 × 16.4 × 8.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh
30.7 × 14.4 × 4.7cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Driftwood bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Driftwood bag (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
Wire, wire mesh, driftwood
15.4 × 26.5 × 7.3cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire
15.9 × 22.5 × 9.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Kooliman 1' 2002

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Kooliman 1
2002
From the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
16.5 × 18.0 × 14.7cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: NGV

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962). 'Narrbong (Container)' 2005

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (Container)
2005
Iron, emu feathers
30.5 × 34 × 35.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Robert Cirelli, through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2019
Photo: NGV

 

 

Found and Gathered

By Beckett Rozentals and Myles Russell-Cook

Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey brings to attention the work of two artists, both who are well known for their transformative use of found and discarded objects to create works of art. Lorraine Connelly-Northey is a contemporary artist and Waradgerie (Wiradjuri) woman living on Wamba Wamba Country. Rosalie Gascoigne was born in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory, a remote community in the Australia Capital Territory on the lands of Ngunawal people, in 1943. Both are celebrated as two of Australia’s pioneering contemporary artists.

Gascoigne passed away in 1999 not long after Connelly-Northey first began exhibiting. They never met, and it was not until many years after first showing as an artist that Connelly-Northey became aware of Gascoigne and her work. Despite never meeting, some enduring parallels between their work are evidence of their shared love for the natural sophistication of found objects. Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey is the first major exhibition to unite these artists, providing a conversation between artists and across time. Together these inspiring sculptors challenge our understanding of found materials, of seeing the landscape, and of being on Country.

Rosalie Gascoigne is recognised for textural works assembled from collected items, including corrugated iron, wire, feathers and wood, as well as her distinctive wall-mounted pieces formed from split soft-drink cases and brightly coloured yellow and red road signs. Producing work primarily about the landscape, Gascoigne’s art practice stemmed from her appreciation of humble found objects and weathered materials. Gascoigne sourced objects from the Southern Tablelands and the Monaro district, unique natural environments that lie close to Canberra, describing the regions as ‘all air, all light, all space, all understatement’,1 as well as building sites, refuse and recycling centres.

Born in 1962 and raised at Swan Hill in western Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people, today Lorraine Connelly-Northey is known for gathering and utilising industrial remnants associated with European settlement. Her practice is founded in the union of her father’s Irish heritage with her mother’s Waradgerie2 heritage. Since 1990, Connelly-Northey’s strong desire to undertake traditional Aboriginal weaving has resulted in a rediscovery of her childhood bush environments of the Mallee and along the Murray River, to learn more about Aboriginal lifestyle prior to European settlement.

Gascoigne commenced classes in the Japanese art of ikebana in 1962, studying under Tokyo-trained Norman Sparnon, who taught the modern Sogetsu school. Ikebana was to significantly inform the basis of her sculptural works. Looking towards line and form over colour, Gascoigne commenced making assemblages in 1964, her first works created from discarded rural machinery. In a similar way, the materials that Connelly-Northey works with are both natural and inorganic, combining items such as discarded wire, metal and scraps of old housing, with wood, shells, feathers and other naturally occurring media. In bringing together disparate materials, Connelly-Northey also uses her work to push audiences to consider the relationships between First Peoples and settler societies, and critiques the ongoing dispossession that is experienced by Aboriginal people throughout Australia.

Gascoigne’s first solo exhibition was held at Macquarie Galleries, Canberra, in 1974 when she was fifty-seven years old. Gascoigne quickly rose to prominence as one of Australia’s most admired artists, and four years later, she was the focus of Survey 2: Rosalie Gascoigne held at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourrne. In 1982, Gascoigne was the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. Following her distinguished career, a retrospective of Gascoigne’s work opened at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in 2008.3

Exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1982 was Gascoigne’s first iron work, Pink window, 1975, an assemblage comprising a window frame and painted corrugated galvanised iron. Gascoigne stated of the work that

The pink and the shape and everything was actually as I found it, and I didn’t do a thing to it. It was only after quite some months I realised it could sit on that window frame. At the time I was on about the emptiness of the Australian landscape, and I kept thinking of a woman stuck out there on the plains standing at her window. She looks out, what does she see? Nothing. It spoke of loneliness or something … and it got happier as time went on. The pink carries it … the pink is very beautiful.4

.
Across her career, Gascoigne gathered wood, with a preference for pieces that had been weathered, such as fence palings and apiary boxes, as well as a dozen abandoned pink primed window frames, including the one featured in Pink window.

For Connelly-Northey, gathering her materials and ‘cleaning up’ the landscape is one in the same. She describes the act of ‘gathering’, as an act of ‘taking back Country’. Caring for lands and waterways and the importance of preserving culture are two things that were instilled in her from a young age, by both her mother and father, who encouraged her to reuse discarded materials, and taught her handiwork and craft.

Many of Connelly-Northey’s sculptures take the form of classical Aboriginal cultural objects, such as narrbong-gallang (string bags), kooliman-gallang (coolamons), possum-skin cloaks and lap laps. These objects can be rendered simply, such as her rectangular sheets of metal with bent wire handles and her drawings with cable wire, or as elaborately constructed pictorial installations, which combine a variety of mixed media. Connelly-Northey uses the title A Possum Skin Cloak as a way of introducing the cultural stories that appear within her more dioramic installations. Presented for the first time in this exhibition, Connelly-Northey unites four of her most ambitious possum skin cloak installations: A Possum Skin Cloak: Three rivers country, 2010 (Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney); A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road, 2011-2013 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne); A Possum Skin Cloak: On Country, 2017 (Murray Art Museum Albury); and her most recent work, A Possum Skin Cloak: Hunter’s Duck Net, 2021 (courtesy of the artist).

A Possum Skin Cloak: Hunter’s Duck Net depicts a traditional duck net cut from oxidised, corrugated iron, that hangs, framed between two majestic river red gums, one a scarred ‘canoe’ tree. Traditionally, when using duck nets, Aboriginal hunters would throw a boomerang, no doubt a returning one, overhead like a predatory hawk to the startle the ducks, forcing them to fly low and into the net strung across the tributary of the river. The ducks in Connelly-Northey’s work appear animated, some still on the water’s surface, others in mid-flight before being either trapped or escaping the net. The encircling boomerang can be seen at the top of this dioramic scene giving audiences a sense of the action at the moment just before the ducks become ensnared.

Gascoigne is perhaps most well known for her unique assemblages constructed from cut up and rearranged retro-reflective road signs that flash and flicker in the light. The first signs she found were discovered face down in the mud at a roadside dump and, by chance, had already been cut up into squares. Gascoigne, taken by the way the material responded to the light, began salvaging signs no longer in use, collecting examples abandoned on the side of the road and also at road maintenance depots.

Gascoigne’s use of the boldness of the retro-reflective road signs to reveal her ongoing interest in the expressive possibilities of the grid is exemplified in Flash art, 1987. In this work, Gascoigne has explored all aspects of the featured lettering and negative space, creating whole words, as well as including sections and fragments of text. The title references the reflective quality of the material, with Gascoigne stating that: ‘It was the most blasting of the retro-reflectives I ever did, because it was eight feet by eight feet, it had road tar on it, and when it lit up, boy, it was every bushfire’.5 The gestural smears of black tar across the bright yellow surface additionally links the work back to the roads and highways where the signs were once positioned in the landscape.

The customary shapes and forms that appear and reappear throughout Connelly-Northey’s work most often reference the cultural objects of her ancestors, and the stories embedded within Country. Connelly-Northey has dedicated a great deal of her life to researching and exploring how these cultural objects, as well as knowledge associated with Aboriginal custodianship of Country can be reimagined using materials associated with colonisation.

One of Connelly-Northey’s most ambitious installations, A Possum Skin Cloak: On Country, overflows across two adjoining walls. This major diorama features a series of blue, white and brown koolimans representing the twin cities Albury and Wodonga. Albury was originally known by the Waradgerie as Bungambrawatha, meaning Homeland. Wodonga retained its original name, which refers to a type of plant called cumbungi, a bush potato that is also commonly known as bulrush. Within the installation are two canoes placed on the body of the barbed-wire snake that represents the Murray River.

The large possum skin cloak that adjoins to the central installation represents the land of the grass seed people, the Waradgerie. Connelly-Northey has rendered her cloak in rusted iron and sections of pressed tin that were salvaged from Albury’s former town hall ceiling during the renovations of the Murray Art Museum Albury. It is distorted and undulates, creating a sense of folded fabric.

Both Connelly-Northey and Gascoigne’s work is defined by, and yet transcends, its sense of materiality. Gascoigne perceived the wood, shells, feathers and dried grasses that she collected as being markedly different to the industrial objects incorporated in her art, such as tin, aluminium and iron. Instead, these materials came from nature itself. Connelly-Northey views the act of gathering as one of the central inspirations behind her practice. Rather than drawing attention to the differences between collected materials, Connelly-Northey uses traditional weaving, not assemblage, as a way of bringing together that which is disparate.

Gascoigne and Connelly-Northey each dissociate objects from their original function, while simultaneously reflecting their individual experiences of being immersed in the bush environment. Despite their careers having been separated by time, and coming from vastly different backgrounds, in both artists we see a singular vision that is immediately recognisable, and unmistakably them. And yet there is a sympathetic connection between their practices that is undeniable.

Beckett Rozentals and Myles Russell-Cook

 

Notes

  1. Rosalie Gascoigne, interview with Peter Ross, ABC, 1990.
  2. ‘Waradgerie’, also known as ‘Wiradjuri’, is the artist’s preferred spelling.
  3. For further reading on the artist’s career and exhibition history, see Martin Gascoigne, Rosalie Gascoigne: Catalogue Raisonné, ANU Press, Canberra, 2019.
  4. Rosalie Gascoigne, interview with Ian North, Canberra, 9 Feb. 1982. Transcript held in National Gallery of Australia Research Library, Canberra, and Rosalie Gascoigne papers, box 21, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
  5. Rosalie Gascoigne quoted in Viki MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Paddington, Sydney, 1998, p. 76.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Country air' 1977 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Country air (installation view)
1977
Painted and corrugated galvanised iron, weathered wood, plywood
National Gallery of Australia
Purchased 1979
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne began incorporating both sheet and corrugated iron in her work between 1973 and 1974. Gascoigne viewed galvanised iron as a very ‘Australian’ material, and she continued using iron until 1998, experimenting with different weights and colours of the pieces she collected. Country air  comprises four heavy, weathered and dented corrugated sheets, which Gascoigne found at the Canberra Brickworks in 1976, and are presented in the state that she found them. Encased in the simple timber frames, the ripples and bent pieces of iron have the illusion of curtains gently blowing in a breeze.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Country air' 1977 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Country air (installation view detail)
1977
Painted and corrugated galvanised iron, weathered wood, plywood
National Gallery of Australia
Purchased 1979
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Crop 2' (1982, foreground) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey's 'A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road' (2011-2013, background) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Crop 2 (1982, foreground) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road (2011-2013, background) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Crop 2' 1982 (installation view)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Crop 2' 1982 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Crop 2 (installation views)
1982
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius), galvanised wire, corrugated iron
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Ben Gascoigne AO
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Crop 2 comprises a piece of chicken wire that seems to float over a sheet of galvanised iron. The two are connected by hundreds of dried salsify heads (Tragopogon porrifolius – part of the daisy family), which are stripped of their leaves and threaded through the holes in the wire. The resulting effect is a poetic evocation of cultivated land, and of order imposed on the natural environment. Evident in Crop 2 is the influence of the artist’s training in Sogetsu ikebana, as it is based on a knowing combination of intuition and discipline, and a concentrated search for an essential form.

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road' 2011-2013 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road (installation view)
2011-2013
Rusted iron and tin, fencing and barbed wire, wire
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2014
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road' 2011-2013

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road (installation view)
2011-2013
Rusted iron and tin, fencing and barbed wire, wire
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2014
Photo: NGV

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road' 2011-2013 (installation view detail)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road' 2011-2013 (installation view detail)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak: Blackfella road (installation view details)
2011-2013
Rusted iron and tin, fencing and barbed wire, wire
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2014
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'A Possum Skin cloak' 2005-2006 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak (installation view)
2005-2006
From the Hunter-gatherer series
Rusted corrugated iron
119.5 × 131.5 × 5.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2006
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) A Possum Skin cloak 2005-2006 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak (installation view)
2005-2006
From the Hunter-gatherer series
Steel, Chinese chicken feathers
148.0 × 132.0 × 10.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2006
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) A Possum Skin cloak 2005-2006 (installation view detail)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
A Possum Skin cloak (installation view detail)
2005-2006
From the Hunter-gatherer series
Steel, Chinese chicken feathers
148.0 × 132.0 × 10.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2006
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Milky way' (1982, far left) and her 'Lantern' (1990, far right) and 'Vintage' (1990, second right) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Milky way (1982, far left) and her Lantern (1990, third right) and Vintage (1990, second right) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Milky way' 1995 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Milky way (installation view)
1995
Painted wood
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory in 1943 to marry astronomer Ben Gascoigne, who she had previously met while studying at university in Auckland. The first of their three children was born later that year. It was also in 1943 that Gascoigne started exploring the region on foot, bringing home objects she discovered on her journeys. Milky way is one of just two works Gascoigne produced directly related to an astrological theme. Following his wife’s passing, Ben Gascoigne stated that although Gascoigne had many chances, at no time did she look through te telescopes at the Observatory during they years they lived there.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Lantern' 1990 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Lantern (installation view)
1990
Sawn plywood retro-reflective road signs on plywood backing
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Vintage' 1990 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Vintage (installation view)
1990
Sawn plywood reflective road signs on composition board
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia showing at right, Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Yellow beach' (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia showing at right, Rosalie Gascoigne’s Yellow beach (1984)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) '(Yellow beach)' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
(Yellow beach) (installation view)
1984
Scallop shells, painted wood, plywood
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Red beach' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Red beach (installation view)
1984
Wood, nails, shells, paint
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne was an avid shell collector, often focusing on gathering just one type of shell at a time, and storing them in boxes, jars and bowls. Discerning in her selection, she brought home only shells she deemed to be of good colour and with no chips. The Tasmanian scallop shells used in Red beach, (Yellow beach) and (Twenty-five scallop shells) were collected by Gascoigne’s son, Toss, who was living in Hobart at the time. He gathered them from Seven Mile beach, just near Hobart Airport, which the family used to visit.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Red beach' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Red beach (installation view)
1984
Wood, nails, shells, paint
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Twenty-five scallop shells' c. 1984-1986 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Twenty-five scallop shells (installation view)
c. 1984-1986
Scallop shells, wood
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Twenty-five scallop shells' c. 1984-1986 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Twenty-five scallop shells (installation view detail)
c. 1984-1986
Scallop shells, wood
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Turn of the tide' 1983 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Turn of the tide (installation view)
1983
Painted wood, galvanised iron, shells
Private collection, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Turn of the tide' 1983 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Turn of the tide (installation view detail)
1983
Painted wood, galvanised iron, shells
Private collection, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Installation view of Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s On Country (2017) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The installation On Country overflows onto the adjoining wall with this possum skin cloak. This component on On Country represents the land of the grass seed people, the Waradgerie. The object has been rendered in rusted iron and sections of pressed tin, and the cloak is fringed with white and brown koolimans of varying scales, which were salvaged from Albury’s former town hall ceiling during renovations of the Murray Art Museum Albury. The rusted sheet is distorted and undulates over the entire object creating a sense of folded fabric.

 

Installation view of Lorraine Connelly-Northey's 'On Country' 2017, on display at MAMA, Albury

 

Installation view of Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s On Country 2017, on display at MAMA, Albury
© the artist

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Inland sea' 1986

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Inland sea
1986
Weathered painted corrugated iron, wire
(a-ff) 39.1 x 325.0 x 355.5cm (variable) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1993
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

In Inland sea, 1986 (above), sixteen large sheets of corrugated tin hover above the floor in a loose grid arrangement. The grid format unifies the separate parts of the composition, and also enhances the expressive power of different visual elements through repetition. The shapes and lines repeated across the buckling sheets of tin create a powerful sense of the gentle movement of wind or water.

The strong visual rhythms and movement evident in Gascoigne’s compositions are often achieved through the repetition of different visual elements. Step through, 1980 (above), is made from fifteen separate parts, each made from a torn piece of brightly coloured, floral patterned linoleum mounted on a block of wood. The blocks sit at different angles creating different levels within the installation. The spaces between the different parts create a meandering path for the viewer to explore, highlighting the importance of movement through and across space in Gascoigne’s work.

“I was thinking about the unkempt empty blocks in built up city areas … usually covered in rank grasses and flowering weeds … rubble, old tins and bottles. One steps through them gingerly and, with possible snakes in mind, lifts one’s knees high.” ~ Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998, p. 48

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Honey flow' 1985

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Honey flow
1985
Painted and stencilled wood, nails on plywood backing
Collection of Justin Miller, Sydney

 

 

Some of the most eye-catching and striking board pieces by Rosalie Gascoigne are her compositions created out of distinctive yellow Schweppes soft-drink boxes. In 1985m Gascoigne created her first all-yellow-soft-drink box work, Honey flow, which was the same year she made her first all-yellow retro-reflective work. With both these materials, Gascoigne explored all aspects of the featured lettering and negative space, including whole words, sections of texts and letters, and isolated shapes. She also experimented with different degrees of weathering and shading of her materials.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'All summer long' 1996

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
All summer long
1996
Sawn painted and stencilled wood from soft-drink boxes
Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo

 

 

One of Rosalie Gascoigne’s largest wall-base pieces, All summer long was included in an exhibition of her all-yellow works held at the Adelaide Festival in 1996. The title references the long hot summer days experienced in Adelaide and its surrounds – the sunburnt landscape turning yellow. The slivers of black text once read ‘Schweppes screw top 32 fl. oz’, and the areas of split and broken text rise and fall against the expanses of the muted golden tones, drawing the eye steadily across the composition.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Flash art' 1987

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Flash art
1987
Tar on reflective synthetic polymer film on wood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Loti and Victor Smorgon Fund, 2010

 

 

Created from cut-up road signs that have been rearranged and organised in a grid configuration, the scratched panels and fragments of disconnected text form a striking abstract field of flickering letters against a bright yellow background. This work exemplifies Rosalie Gascoigne’s poetic use of found objects, particularly those containing text. The open structure and repetitive patterns evoke a sense of expansiveness and space, while the weather-beaten surface with gestural smears of tar connects it to a particular idea of place.

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Suddenly the lake' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Suddenly the lake
1995
FSC-coated plywood formboard, painted galvanised iron sheet, synthetic polymer paint on composition board
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Given by the artist in memory of Michael Lloyd, 1996

 

 

Suddenly the lake is based on the view of Lake George at Gearys Gap, New South Wales, seen while driving along the Federal Highway out of Canberra. The parallel hills also reference the work of New Zealand artist, Colin McCahon, who Gascoigne greatly admired. Gascoigne referred to the curved piece of formboard used in the work as her ‘Ellsworth Kelly curve’ as it reminded Gascoigne of American artist Kelly’s Orange curve, 1964-1965 (below), which she had viewed at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Orange curve' 1964-1965

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Orange curve
1964-1965
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Clouds III' 1992

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Clouds III
1992
Weathered painted composition board on plywood
(a-d) 75.4 × 362.2cm (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1993

 

 

Evocative of clouds shifting and transforming shape across the horizon, the hand-torn masonite shapes incorporated into Clouds III speak to the transience of natural phenomena. The metaphysical quality Rosalie Gascoigne imbued in everyday materials that had been discarded enabled her to, as she articulated it, ‘capture the “nothingness” of the countryside, those wide-open spaces … the great Unsaid … the silence that often only visual beauty transcends’. Clouds III was originally displayed as part of an installation of three Cloud works at Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney, in 1992.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Pink window' 1975

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Pink window
1975
Window frame, pink undercoat, corrugated iron
116.0 x 104.0 x 10.0cm
Private Collection, Canberra
© Rosalie Gascoigne / Copyright Agency, Australia