Posts Tagged ‘German photography

09
Mar
19

Exhibition: ’68. Pop and Protest’ at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2018 – 17th March 2019

Artists: Eero Aarnio | Jefferson Airplane | Michelangelo Antonioni | Richard Avedon | Günter Beltzig | Wolf Biermann | Big Brother and the Holding Company | Roman Brodmann | Pierre Cardin | Joe Colombo | Gerd Conradt | André Courrèges | Harun Farocki | Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Peter Handke | Haus-Rucker-Co | Jimi Hendrix | Helmut Herbst | Dennis Hopper | Theo Gallehr | Rudi Gernreich | Jean-Luc Godard | Gerhard von Graevenitz | F.C. Gundlach | Jasper Johns | Günther Kieser | Alexander Kluge | Yves Saint Laurent | Scott McKenzie | Egon Monk | Werner Nekes & Dore O. | Verner Panton | D.A. Pennebaker | Gaetano Pesce | Rosa von Praunheim | Paco Rabanne | Otis Redding | Kurt Rosenthal | Helke Sander | Ettore Sottsass | The Mamas & the Papas | The Who | Thomas Struck | Bernd Upnmoor | Roger Vadim | Valie Export | Agnès Varda | Wolf Vostell | Andy Warhol | Peter Weiss | Hans-Jürgen Wendt | Charles Wilp et al.

 

 

 

 

1968: the year that changed the world through radical action

From a posting about one revolutionary year in the 20th century (1918/19), we move 50 years in time to a another revolutionary year in that century: 1968.

I had wanted to do a posting on this exhibition and the 1968: Changing Times exhibition at the National Library of Australia (1st March 2018 – 12th August 2018) to compare and contrast what was happening in Australia and around the world in this most revolutionary year. But the six crappy press images that the National Library of Australia supplied were not worthy of a posting. Australian galleries in general and those in Canberra more particularly (I’m talking about you National Gallery of Australia!), really need to lift their game supplying media images. They are way behind the times in terms of understanding the importance of good media images to independent writers and critics.

In Australia, Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared in the surf at Cheviot Beach, Victoria, presumed drowned in December 1967. A new prime minister, John Gorton, was sworn in in January 1968. Australians were dying in greater numbers in Vietnam; Aboriginal land rights issues vexed the Australian cabinet; and the White Australia policy of Old Australia, soon to be swept away in 1973, was still in full force. “Billy Snedden, the Minister for Immigration, said that Australians, and certainly the government, did not want a multiracial society. Sir Horace Petty, the Victorian Agent-General in London, explained that ‘the trouble comes when a black man marries a white woman. No one worries if a white man is silly enough to marry a black woman’.” (Text from the National Archives of Australia website)

Around the world, 1968 seemed to be the year where all the stars aligned in terms of protest against hegemonic masculinity, racism, war and social inequality.

  1. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr (civil rights movement) and Robert F. Kennedy (engagement with youth, social change, civil rights) shocked the world. Race riots rock America including the Orangeburg massacre, and riots in Baltimore, Washington, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Miami. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968
  2. The frustrations of youth boiled over in the Paris student riots of 1968 (protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order), leading to a “volatile period of civil unrest in France during May 1968 was punctuated by demonstrations and major general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France”
  3. The Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1968 called for revolutionary committees to be established to help preserve the ideological purity of the Chinese Revolution
  4. Muhammad Ali toured American student campuses giving hundreds of anti-Vietnam war speeches; protestors massed outside the White House at all hours. Eventually 4 students were killed at the Kent State Shootings by the U.S. National Guard during a demonstration on 4 May 1970
  5. A Viet Cong officer named Nguyễn Văn Lém is executed by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. The event is photographed by Eddie Adams (Saigon Execution (General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon). The photo makes headlines around the world, eventually winning the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, and sways U.S. public opinion against the war
  6. The Polish 1968 political crisis, also known in Poland as March 1968 or March events pertains to a series of major student, intellectual and other protests against the government of the Polish People’s Republic. Student protests also start in Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  7. The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalisation and mass protest in Czechoslovakia as a Communist state after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August 1968, when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to suppress the reforms during the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
  8. In the following year, the Stonewall riots took place, a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States, the official starting point of gay liberation, a movement that had been building momentum since the 1950s

.
(R)evolution was in the air.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Museum für 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.

 

 

 

Paris Riots (1968)

 

Günter Zint (German, b. 1941) 'Berlin, 1968 (Class struggle demonstration APO)'

 

Günter Zint (German, b. 1941)
Berlin, 1968 (Class struggle demonstration APO)
Silver gelatin print
© Panfoto, Hamburg

 

Günter Zint (German, 1941) 'Hamburg, 1968'

 

Günter Zint (German, 1941)
Hamburg, 1968
Silver gelatin print
© Panfoto, Hamburg

 

Günter Zint (German, 1941) 'Paris, 1968 (Horst Wolf on car)'

 

Günter Zint (German, 1941)
Paris, 1968 (Horst Wolf on car)
Silver gelatin print
© Panfoto, Hamburg

 

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (West German, 1945-1982) 'Katzelmacher' 1969 (still)

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (West German, 1945-1982)
Katzelmacher (film still)
1969
Scene with Hanna Schygulla, Hans Hirschmüller, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Lilith Ungerer and Hannes Gromball
Black and white film, 88 min.
© RWFF Fotoarchiv

 

 

Katzelmacher is a 1969 West German film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film centres on an aimless group of friends whose lives are shaken up by the arrival of an immigrant Greek worker, Jorgos (played by Fassbinder himself, in an uncredited role).

In this unflinching German drama by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a group of young slackers, including the couple Erich (Hans Hirschmuller) and Marie (Hanna Schygulla), spend most of their time hanging out in front of a Munich apartment building. When a Greek immigrant named Jorgos (played by Fassbinder), moves in, however, their aimless lives are shaken up. Soon new tensions arise both within the group and with Jorgos, particularly when Marie threatens to leave Erich for the outsider.

 

 

Trailer for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1969 film Katzelmacher

 

 

The exhibition 68. Pop and Protest brings together all the defining pictures, movies, texts and sounds of this era forming a complex atmospheric picture. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) will display about 200 objects including music installations, fashion, movies, photos, posters, design objects, historical documents and spatial ensembles such as Verner Panton’s Spiegel canteen, which show what moved and motivated people in 1968 – in Hamburg, Germany and the rest of the world: awareness of their own rights, and the possibility to advocate their opinions publically through protest and revolt. The year 1968 is shaken by dramatic events which lead to protests, and promote revolutionary ideas. At the same time, a global cultural revolution is initiated that imaginatively revolts against conservative authoritarian structures, propagates sexual freedom, and demands equality for all people. Various avant-garde forms of expression in all artistic departments are the non-violent weapons of the time: progressive music, unconventional styles, bold designs, contentious theatre, and socio-critical cinema d’auteur. Furthermore, there is an unprecedented desire for critical discourse, public discussion, and civil disobedience. A common thread is hope; hope that the world will turn into a fairer place, that society will get more just, and that people will become better; hope that political suppression will stop, that borders will be overcome, walls will get torn down, and that sexuality will be non-exploitative. It is more important than ever to once again consolidate these ideas of freedom and self-determination in our collective memory. Current events show that central aspects of a free and democratic way of life are at stake (again): individual development of the self, fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, democratic participation, and first and foremost open-mindedness towards what and whom we don’t know.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg [Online] Cited 11/02/2019

 

Ronald Traeger (1936-1968) 'Twiggy' June 1966

 

Ronald Traeger (American, 1936-1968)
Twiggy
June 1966
© Tessa Traeger

 

 

Fashion as a statement

When maladjusted outfits become consumer society, materialism and conventionality are put to the test. After short time, the looks can be found in the department stores: the protest mode is moving from subculture to mainstream. In haute couture, designs are related to the changing society set, in which gender assignments stumble and a relaxed handling of physicality and sexuality is propagated.

 

Installation views of the exhibition '68. Pop and Protest' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Installation views of the exhibition '68. Pop and Protest' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Installation views of the exhibition '68. Pop and Protest' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Installation views of the exhibition '68. Pop and Protest' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Installation views of the exhibition '68. Pop and Protest' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

 

Installation views of the exhibition 68. Pop and Protest at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)
Photos: Michaela Hille

 

 

The exhibition 68. Pop and Protest brings together all the defining pictures, movies, texts and sounds of this era forming a complex atmospheric picture. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) will display about 200 objects including music installations, fashion, movies, photos, posters, design objects, historical documents and spatial ensembles such as Verner Panton’s Spiegel canteen, which show what moved and motivated people in 1968 – in Hamburg, Germany and the rest of the world: awareness of their own rights, and the possibility to advocate their opinions publically through protest and revolt. The year 1968 is shaken by dramatic events which lead to protests, and promote revolutionary ideas. At the same time, a global cultural revolution is initiated that imaginatively revolts against conservative authoritarian structures, propagates sexual freedom, and demands equality for all people. Various avant-garde forms of expression in all artistic departments are the non-violent weapons of the time: progressive music, unconventional styles, bold designs, contentious theatre, and socio-critical cinema d’auteur. Furthermore, there is an unprecedented desire for critical discourse, public discussion, and civil disobedience. A common thread is hope; hope that the world will turn into a fairer place, that society will get more just, and that people will become better; hope that political suppression will stop, that borders will be overcome, walls will get torn down, and that sexuality will be non-exploitative. It is more important than ever to once again consolidate these ideas of freedom and self-determination in our collective memory. Current events show that central aspects of a free and democratic way of life are at stake (again): individual development of the self, fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, democratic participation, and first and foremost open-mindedness towards what and whom we don’t know.

 

Atelier Populaire. 'La base continue le combat' 1968

 

Atelier Populaire
La base continue le combat
1968
Silk screen
65.4 x 50 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

La révolution est dans la rue – The revolution is on the street

In 1968, France is experiencing serious unrest, with a general strike. In the democratically organised Atelier Populaire, rehearsing artists and workers have productive co-operation: hundreds of protest motifs are printed in their thousands as posters, which create and shape the Parisian cityscape. La beauté est dans la rue – not only the revolution, but also the beauty of the road reached.

 

Gert Wiescher (German, b. 1944) 'Che Guevara' 1968

 

Gert Wiescher (German, b. 1944)
Che Guevara
1968
Offset print
86 x 61 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

 

Straße als Massenmedium – Street as Mass Medium

Public space becomes a central place of expression, the protesters getting their messages to the mass media and conveyed to the general public. But strong pictures are needed: the political actions offer in their skilful staging, great visual attraction potential. All means of expression unites an understanding of democracy, the current rules and power structures in the (media) public, performatively questioned.

 

Street as Mass Medium

In May 1968, France experiences severe riots. Students and workers take a stand for mutual political demands for reforms as well as for cries for international solidarity which leads to a “wild general strike”: They occupy factories and public facilities such as faculties of Paris’ art college Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The printing workshop is opened as an Atelier Populaire to give everyone the chance to publically express their own views by creating posters. Artists and workers productively collaborate in this democratically structured space: the community collectively consults about how the protest messages should look like, and everyone can be a printer. Within a few weeks, hundreds of protest pictures – printed thousand fold – are spread across the city and can be seen everywhere. Universities are breeding grounds for protests; this is also true for the Federal Republic of Germany. Here, students discuss controversial opinions in an academic discourse, and organise resistance. In the light of global protests against the Vietnam War and Western economic colonialism, they express basic criticism of the political landscape. Their criticism also addresses education policy, elitist structures, emergency laws, and the German media landscape. The street is the place for the non-parliamentary opposition to utter their opinions. In the fight for political recognition and public attention, performative actions are more and more successful. Sit-ins, teach-ins, rallies, happenings and demonstrations offer creative provocation, and civil disobedience in combination with well-known forms of protest such as flyers and posters, all of which arouses high visual sensations and great media response. These different forms of action range from giving out paper bags with caricatures depicting the ruling Persian couple, which Kommune 1 does in 1967 at a demonstration against their visit in Berlin, to the famous banner saying “Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren” (“underneath their robes – fustiness of a thousand years”), with which undergraduates demand university reforms on the 9th November in 1967 at the University of Hamburg; these protests also include knocking down the monument of colonial civil servant Hermann von Wissmann in Hamburg as a statement against the “ongoing exploitation of the Third World.”

 

Manfred Sohr. 'Rektoratswechsel im Audimax der Universität Hamburg' Change of rectorate in the main auditorium of the University of Hamburg 1967

 

Manfred Sohr
Rektoratswechsel im Audimax der Universität Hamburg
Change of rectorate in the main auditorium of the University of Hamburg
“Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren” (“underneath their robes – fustiness of a thousand years”)

1967
Photographic agency Conti-Press
© Staatsarchiv Hamburg

 

 

Die Wahrheit ist radikal – The truth is radical

The universities are the germ cells of the protest: right and left groups claim the opinion of (academic) youth and the interests of society for themselves. Each as truth, propagated views are sometimes radically represented. In the fight for attention and political perception, actions are used that are between creation and provocation and cause civil disobedience.

 

Rainer Hachfeld (German, b. 1939) Distribution: Kommune 1 Karikatur / caricature: 'Schah-Masken (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Farah Pahlavi) / Shah masks' 1967

Rainer Hachfeld (German, b. 1939) Distribution: Kommune 1 Karikatur / caricature: 'Schah-Masken (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Farah Pahlavi) / Shah masks' 1967

 

Rainer Hachfeld (German, b. 1939)
Distribution: Kommune 1
Karikatur / caricature: Schah-Masken (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Farah Pahlavi) / Shah masks
1967
Paper
Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung
Photo: MKG

 

 

Harun Farocki (German, 1944-2014)
Die Worte des Vorsitzenden (The words of the chairman)
1967
Black and White film
16mm, 3 min.
© Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin

 

Harun Farocki (1944-2014) 'Die Worte des Vorsitzenden' (The words of the chairman) (videostill) 1967

 

Harun Farocki (German, 1944-2014)
Die Worte des Vorsitzenden (The words of the chairman) (videostill)
1967
Black and White film
16mm, 3 min.
© Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin

 

Diana Davies (American, b. 1938) 'Protestor at Weinstein Hall demonstration for the rights of gay people on campus' 1970

 

Diana Davies (American, b. 1938)
Protestor at Weinstein Hall demonstration for the rights of gay people on campus
1970
Silver gelatin print
Diana Davies, The New York Public Library Digital Collections
© Diana Davies

 

 

Power to the people

The social discourse is characterised by civil rights movements, including feminist groups, the gay movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the African American population in the US. Racism, intolerance and discrimination are systematically and openly denounced. The means of protest range from demonstrations and information campaigns about civil disobedience to partly artistic, partly militant actions up to armed resistance.

 

Talking ’bout my Generation

In the 1960s, a pop revolution conquers the Western hemisphere, starting in Great Britain and the USA which conclusively establishes rock music as a generation-defining phenomenon and expression of an international way of life. This marks a paradigm shift in entertainment music that defines rock and pop as an essential part of youth and subculture with an existential identity-establishing function. For adolescents, English music also means separating themselves from the generation of their parents and the (fake) bourgeois Schlager music idyll. In only a short time, bands rise from playing in underground clubs to performing on big stages. One of the reasons is the growing festival scene that starts in 1967 with the Monterey Pop Festival and peaks in 1969 with Woodstock. The exhibition will feature the concert movie Monterey Pop that shows ground breaking performances by Jimi Hendrix, as he sets his guitar on fire, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Mamas & the Papas and more, which will give visitors the chance to dive into the festival atmosphere of the time. Concert posters, record covers and audio stations with the most famous songs bring the world of 68 to life. Already established musical genres are mixed, psychedelic rock captures the hippies‘ drug influenced style of life, experimental arrangements and instrumentation produce completely new electronically amplified and distorted sounds. Records are conceptualised as complete art works. As a consequence, a visual cross-media language evolves that includes psychedelic poster or album cover designs and extravagant style presentations of the rock stars themselves. Pop culture becomes the international language of an entire generation.

 

D.A. Pennebaker (American, b. 1925) 'Monterey Pop' (filmstill) 1968

 

D.A. Pennebaker (American, b. 1925)
Monterey Pop (filmstill)
1968
16mm
© 1982 Pennebaker Hegedus Films, Inc. and The Monterey International Pop Festival, Inc.

 

 

Talking ’bout my generation

Rock music finally establishes itself as generation-determining phenomenon and an expression of an international lifestyle. This is accompanied by a cross-media visual language, from psychedelic poster and cover design to extravagant fashion staging of the rock stars. Pop Culture becomes the international language of a whole generation, that is in turn incorporated by the cultural industry.

 

 

Monterey Pop Official Trailer

 

The Monterey Pop Festival ran for three days in June 1967. For most of the five shows, the arena was jammed to bursting with perhaps as many as 10,000 people. The live performances were spectacularly successful. Janis Joplin, who was singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company, pulled out all the stops with a raw, powerful performance that helped establish her as the preeminent female rock singer of her day.

The Who climaxed a brilliant set by smashing their equipment at the conclusion of “My Generation”. Jimi Hendrix (in the American debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) offered an awesome display of his virtuosity as a guitarist and as a showman, humping his Marshall amplifiers and then setting his Stratocaster ablaze. Another highlight was Ravi Shankar’s meditative afternoon of Indian ragas. And then there was Otis Redding, the dynamic soul man turned in what many present believe was the festival’s best performance. ABC offered $400,000 for network rights to Pennebaker’s film (which was released in theatres after ABC decided it was too far out for the TV audience).

 

Günther Kieser (German, b. 1930) 'Jimi Hendrix Experience' 1969

 

Günther Kieser (German, b. 1930)
Jimi Hendrix Experience
1969
Offset print
118,9 x 84,1 cm
Photo: Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Günther Kieser

 

 

Stages of Revolt

The performing arts are said to have a great political clout, and the stage becomes the place for social debates. Classical plays are reviewed regarding its political messages, and newly written plays accuse the bourgeois establishment. The shrine-like status of museums is challenged by wearing jeans to openings, no evening dresses, no champagne. The theatre leaves established institutions behind; companies are formed that take their messages to the streets. They no longer respect the division between actor/actress and spectator, exaggerated in Peter Handke’s Publikumsbeschimpfung (1966, Offending the Audience), or in Hans Werner Henze’s oratory Floß der Medusa (The raft of the Medusa) in which he criticises “the authority of humans over humans”. For its premiere with the NDR radio symphony orchestra, Henze puts a portrait of Che Guevara and a red flag on stage. Actors/actresses exit erratically, there is tumult, cries for Ho Chi Minh, an overwhelming police presence, and arrests – the show is stopped eventually. Art and life merge into each other, as can be seen in collectives like Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s antiteater in Munich. Such creative communities see themselves as antitheses to the middle-class, which could never give birth to any relevant art, because of its saturated complacency.

 

Filmstill from 'Publikumsbeschimpfung', premiere in Frankfurt am Main, 1966

 

Filmstill from Publikumsbeschimpfung, premiere in Frankfurt am Main, 1966
Director: Claus Peymann , Aufzeichnung des HR

 

 

Bühnen der Revolte – Stages of revolt

The performing arts have major political clout and the stage becomes more about sociable Debates. The theatre leaves the institution, new pieces emerge and bring charges against the educated middle class Establishment. The border between actor and spectator is no longer respected, the audience is called to action. Art and life merge into collectives like Fassbinders antiteater and Steins Schaubühne.

 

 

Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience)
A speech piece by Peter Handke
World premiere in the Frankfurt Theater am Turm 1966
Director: Claus Peymann

 

 

Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012)
Das Floß der Medusa (1968)
The Raft of the Frigate “Medusa”

 

 

Abschied von gestern (Yesterday Girl), Alexander Kluge, 1966

 

 

The Old Film is Dead

In 1962, a young generation of filmmakers demands the aesthetic, thematic and economical reorientation of the German cinematic landscape, as expressed in their Oberhausener Manifest. The economic crisis of the film industry in the 1960s and international innovative movements like the Nouvelle Vague, lead them to clearly distance themselves from both the NS history and sentimental films with regional background (Heimatfilm) as well as the Karl May and Edgar Wallace franchise and the like. The 26 signers seek intellectual liberation through radically turning to film d’auteur and to independent productions apart from already established studio business. These filmmakers reject the conventional uplifting entertainment conventions of the time, and like to provoke the audience – impressively shown in Alexander Kluge’s Abschied von gestern (Yesterday Girl). Thus, the critical avant-garde of the Neuer Deutscher Film, including the works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and others, is internationally successful. In 1967, in the wake of the American experimental and underground cinema, the Hamburger Filmmacher Cooperative is founded. Without any state funding or need to submit to corporate profit values, the partly autodidactic filmmakers realize unconventional projects, distribute them through their independent network, and establish their own public sphere of the Andere Kino (Other Cinema) with their several days long film-ins. Inexpensive substandard films and super 8 cameras forward a vital underground scene, which primarily produces short films that fathom the dividing lines between visual arts and filmic experiments.

 

Alexander Kluge (German, b. 1932) 'Abschied von gestern' (Yesterday Girl) (videostill) 1966

 

Alexander Kluge (German, b. 1932)
Abschied von gestern (Yesterday Girl) (videostill)
1966
Black and White film, 88 min.
Courtesy/Copyright: Alexander Kluge

 

 

Der alte Film ist tot – The old film is dead

1962 calls a young generation of filmmakers with the Oberhausen Manifesto the aesthetic, content and economic realignment of German film. The collective project borders on the Nazi-film-burdened past and the presence marked by Heimatfilm. Many of the films refuse entertainment conventions, but provoke the emotional and sociopolitical reflection in the audience.

 

Gerd Conradt (b. 1941) 'Farbtest - Rote Fahne' (Colour test - Red Flag) (videostill) 1968

 

Gerd Conradt (b. 1941)
Farbtest – Rote Fahne (Colour test – Red Flag) (videostill)
1968
Colour film 16 mm, 12 min.
© Gerd Conradt, Mandala Vision

 

Gerd Conradt (born May 14, 1941 in Schwiebus) is a German cameraman, director, author and lecturer in video practice. His films and video programs are mostly portraits – conceptually designed time pictures, often as long-term documentaries.

 

Werner Nekes (German, 1944-2017), Dore O. (German, b. 1946) 'Jüm Jüm' (videostill) 1967

 

Werner Nekes (German, 1944-2017), Dore O. (German, b. 1946)
Jüm Jüm (videostill)
1967
Experimental film
© Ursula Richert-Nekes

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (German, 1945-1982) 'Katzelmacher' 1969

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (German, 1945-1982)
Katzelmacher
1969
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Hanna Schygulla
Black and White film, 88 min.
© RWFF Fotoarchiv

 

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Katzelmacher 1969 trailer

 

Valie Export (Austrian, b. 1940) 'Tapp und Tastkino' / 'Tap and Touch Cinema' (detail) 1968

 

Valie Export (Austrian, b. 1940)
Tapp und Tastkino / Tap and Touch Cinema (detail)
1968
© sixpackfilm

 

 

“As usual, the film is ‘shown’ in the dark. But the cinema has shrunk somewhat – only two hands fit inside it. To see (i.e. feel, touch) the film, the viewer (user) has to stretch his hands through the entrance to the cinema. At last, the curtain which formerly rose only for the eyes now rises for both hands. The tactile reception is the opposite of the deceit of voyeurism. For as long as the citizen is satisfied with the reproduced copy of sexual freedom, the state is spared the sexual revolution. Tap and Touch Cinema is an example of how re-interpretation can activate the public.”

Valie Export

.
This outdoor action on Munich’s Stachus square translates the concept of expanded cinema and the cinema’s fairground roots into the ‘first immediate women’s film’, as the artist describes her ‘Tap and Touch Cinema’. ‘Public’ accessibility – restricted to 30 seconds per person – is noisily proclaimed by Peter Weibel. A direct demonstration of cinema as a projection space for male fantasies, this still ironic transgression of the border between art and life is an early indication of Valie Export’s often risky, but always resolute, deployment of her own body in later works.

Text by Martina Boero from the YouTube website

 

At age twenty-eight, Waltraud Hollinger changed her name to VALIE EXPORT, in all uppercase letters, to announce her presence in the Viennese art scene. Eager to counter the male-dominated group of artists known as the Vienna Actionists including Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler she sought a new identity that was not bound by her father’s name (Lehner) or her former husband’s name (Hollinger). Export was the name of a popular cigarette brand. This act of provocation would characterise her future performances, especially TAPP und TASTKINO (TOUCH and TAP Cinema) and Aktionhose: Genitalpanik (Action Pants: Genital Panic). Challenging the public to engage with a real woman instead of with images on a screen, in these works she illustrated her notion of “expanded cinema,” in which film is produced without celluloid; instead the artist’s body activates the live context of watching. Born of the 1968 revolt against modern consumer and technical society, her defiant feminist action was memorialised in a picture taken the following year by the photographer Peter Hassmann in Vienna. VALIE EXPORT had the image screen printed in a large edition and fly-posted it in public spaces.

Text from the MoMA website, gallery label from Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960-1980, September 5, 2015 – January 3, 2016 [Online] Cited 12/02/2019

 

F.C. Gundlach (German, b. 1926) 'Grace Coddington wearing red blouse and mini skirt by Missoni' 1969

 

F.C. Gundlach (German, b. 1926)
Grace Coddington wearing red blouse and mini skirt by Missoni
1969
Cibachrome
50.1 x 38.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© F.C. Gundlach

 

 

Mündig und mobil – Of age and mobile

The design scene responds to the urge for freedom with a colourful drive during 1968. Right angles, hard edges and solid colour do not fit the modern attitude to life. Individual home accessories solve the interior design problem, from the assembly line. Furniture is no longer made for eternity; uncomplicated and practical is the new design ethos and above all, it is mobile. Design is no longer used for status determination; this also applies to fashion. Originality is more important than noble material and refined cuts.

 

 

Fashion as a Statement

The different clothing styles of the generation of 1968 express more than a mere taste of fashion. Fashion becomes a political statement. Elements of hippie and ethnic looks, pieces of uniforms, or uncommon revealing styles challenge society’s conventions. In many families, the generation conflict shows itself in arguments about the mini skirt, ascribed to fashion designer Mary Quant. While parents are worried about indecent provocation and for their daughters to carelessly sexualise themselves, for adolescents, the mini skirt expresses their desire for autonomy and a form-fitting style of clothes. Soon, these outfits can also be found in the shop windows of department stores: Protest fashion finds its way from subculture into mainstream. Originally designed as a promotional tool for the paper industry, the paper dress achieves an enthusiastic success in 1966 in the USA and Europe. Women’s magazines distribute these inexpensive A-line mini dresses which are used as a vehicle for advertising in electoral campaigns throughout the USA in 1968. Designed as Poster Dresses by graphic designer Harry Gordon, they represent the new and fast-paced fashion world showing the growing impact of pop art and pop culture. All-over prints range from everyday motifs to poems by leftist writer Allen Ginsberg, and even the portrait of Bob Dylan – the voice of a young critically thinking generation. The fashion avant-garde is interested in the social function of fashion and its normative effects. Designs such as the business pants suit for women by Yves Saint Laurent and Rudi Gernreich’s unisex bathing suit reflect a changing society, question gender norms, and propagate a free approach to body and sexuality.

 

Paper Dress "Campaign Dress" 1966-68

 

Paper Dress “Campaign Dress”
1966-68
Cellulose/Nylon non-woven
Acquired with funds of the Campe’schen Historischen Stiftung
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Paper Dress "Big Ones for 68" 1966-68

 

Paper Dress “Big Ones for 68”
1966-68
Cellulose/Nylon non-woven
Acquired with funds of the Campe’schen Historischen Stiftung
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Paper Dress 1966-68

 

Paper Dress
1966-68
Cellulose/Nylon non-woven
Acquired with funds of the Campe’schen Historischen Stiftung
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Art: Up against the Wall!

Global mass protests also mobilise visual artists. Andy Warhol, Wolf Vostell, Jasper Johns and others use posters, the artistic mass medium of the time, to criticise world events. Their poster aesthetics reflect contemporary artistic trends such as pop art and Fluxus, drawing on an unlimited repertoire of forms of expression: They use montages, collages, photography and xylography; a multifacetedness that matches their diverse voices and their political agendas.

 

Wolf Vostell (German, 1932-1998) 'Umfunktionierungen' (Reinterpretations) 1969

 

Wolf Vostell (German, 1932-1998)
Umfunktionierungen (Reinterpretations)
1969
Offset printing
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

 

Art: up against the wall!

The political trouble spots find global resonance and motivate prominent artists to political opinions. Posters, the artistic mass medium of the time, articulate a critical attitude. The aesthetics includes different expressions: from montages and collages via photographic cut-up to woodcut techniques. This multifariousness, artistic practice corresponds to the polyphony of the actors and their political concerns.

 

Wolf Vostell

Wolf Vostell (14 October 1932 – 3 April 1998) was a German painter and sculptor, considered one of the early adopters of video art and installation art and pioneer of Happening and Fluxus. Techniques such as blurring and Dé-coll/age are characteristic of his work, as is embedding objects in concrete and the use of television sets in his works.

Wolf Vostell was born in Leverkusen, Germany, and put his artistic ideas into practice from 1950 onwards. In 1953, he began an apprenticeship as a lithographer and studied at the Academy of Applied Art in Wuppertal. Vostell created his first Dé-collage in 1954. In 1955-1956, he studied at the École Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris and in 1957 he attended the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts. Vostell’s philosophy was built around the idea that destruction is all around us and it runs through all of the twentieth century. He used the term Dé-coll/age, (in connection with a plane crash) in 1954 to refer to the process of tearing down posters, and for the use of mobile fragments of reality. Vostell’s working concept of décollage is as a visual force that breaks down outworn values and replaces them with thinking as a function distanced from media.

His first Happening, Theater is in the Street, took place in Paris in 1958, and incorporated auto parts and a TV. In 1958, he took part in the first European Happening in Paris and he produced his first objects with television sets and car parts. He was impressed by the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which he encountered in 1964 in the electronic studios of the German radio station WDR, and in 1959 he created his electronic TV Dé-coll/age. It marked the beginning of his dedication to the Fluxus Movement, which he co-founded in the early 1960s. Vostell was behind many Happenings in New York, Berlin, Cologne, Wuppertal and Ulm among others. In 1962, he participated in the Festum Fluxorum, an international event in Wiesbaden together with Nam June Paik, George Maciunas. In 1963 Wolf Vostell became a pioneer of Video art and Installation with his work 6 TV Dé-coll/age shown at the Smolin Gallery in New York, and now in the collection of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. The Smolin Gallery sponsored two innovative Wolf Vostell events on TV; the first, Wolf Vostell and Television Decollage, featured visitors to the gallery who were encouraged to create poster art on the walls. In 1967 his Happening Miss Vietnam dealt with the subject of the Vietnam war. In 1968, he founded Labor e.V., a group that was to investigate acoustic and visual events, together with Mauricio Kagel, and others.

Wolf Vostell was the first artist in art history to integrate a television set into a work of art. This installation was created in 1958 under the title The black room is now part of the collection of the art museum Berlinische Galerie in Berlin. Early works with television sets are Transmigracion I-III from 1958 and Elektronischer Dé-coll/age Happening Raum (Electronic Dé-coll/age Happening Room) an Installation from 1968.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Wes Wilson (b. 1937) 'Jefferson Airplane... at the Fillmore' 1966

 

Wes Wilson (American, b. 1937)
Jefferson Airplane… at the Fillmore
1966
Offset Print
56 x 35.5 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Wes Wilson

 

 

Wes Wilson (born July 15, 1937) is an American artist and one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters. Best known for designing posters for Bill Graham of The Fillmore in San Francisco, he invented a style that is now synonymous with the peace movement, psychedelic era and the 1960s. In particular, he is known for inventing and popularising a “psychedelic” font around 1966 that made the letters look like they were moving or melting. His style was heavily influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. Wilson is considered to be one of “The Big Five” San Francisco poster artists, along with Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, and Stanley Mouse. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Günter Beltzig (German designer, b. 1941) Brüder Beltzig, Wuppertal (manufacturer) 'Floris' 1967

 

Günter Beltzig (German designer, b. 1941)
Brüder Beltzig, Wuppertal (manufacturer)
Floris
1967
Polyester
Photo: Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

The international design avant-garde aspires to revolutionise the established Bauhaus guiding principle “form follows function”. The spirit of departure and the desire for creative innovation characterise the new generation of designers, often in artistic collective works. Nothing is more wrong than a standstill. Some seating furniture almost appears as socio-political statement and proverbially shows a new attitude. Form now follows the idea.

 

 

Form follows idea

In the 1960s, the international design avant-garde strives towards an opposition to the so far prevalent Bauhaus dogma “form follows function”. This new generation oftentimes works in artistic collectives with passion for creative innovation. Objects to sit on should no longer mean that people are forced into an unnatural posture, it is rather the furniture such as the slack beanbag chair Sacco by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro, or the unconventional chair Floris by Günter Beltzig that should adapt to forms and needs of people. These new approaches in product design show ideas and a new attitude towards life of a nonconformist, dynamic and critical generation. Some seating furniture seems to be a downright socio-political statement that proverbially presents a new stance. Now, form follows idea. In 1968, the publishing house Spiegel entrusts Danish architect and designer Verner Panton with the design of the interior of their new building in Hamburg. For every story, he uses a different colour of the rainbow, consistently designing everything in one tone – from the colour of the wall to the ashtray – and creates a pop art icon. In the course of the years, the colours of the offices get whitewashed. Only the red-orange-purple Spiegel canteen has survived unaltered, since 2011 it is located in the MKG as a Period Room.

 

Joe Colombo (designer) (Italian, 1930-1971) 'Elda' 1963/64

 

Joe Colombo (designer) (Italian, 1930-1971)
Elda
1963/64
Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg

 

Günter F. Ris (designer) (German, 1928-2005) and Herbert Selldorf (designer) (1929-2012) Rosenthal Möbel (manufacturer) 'Armchair "Sunball"' 1969-1971

 

Günter F. Ris (designer) (German, 1928-2005) and Herbert Selldorf (designer) (1929-2012)
Rosenthal Möbel (manufacturer)
Armchair “Sunball”
1969-1971
Polyester, Aluminium, polyurethane foam, cotton cord, synthetics
Property of the Stiftung Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
Photo: Hersteller

 

Gaetano Pesce (designer) (Italian, b. 1939) Fa. Cassina and Busnelli (manufacturer) 'Armchair Donna UP5 with Bambino UP6' 1969

 

Gaetano Pesce (designer) (Italian, b. 1939)
Fa. Cassina and Busnelli (manufacturer)
Armchair Donna UP5 with Bambino UP6
1969
Polyurethane foam and Nylon-jersey
Photo: Hersteller

 

Piero Gatti (designer) (Italian, b. 1940) Cesare Paolini (Italian, b. 1937) and Franco Teodoro (Italian, b. 1939) Fa. Zanotta, Milan (manufacturer) 'Italien Sacco' 1968

 

Piero Gatti (designer) (Italian, b. 1940) Cesare Paolini (Italian, b. 1937) and Franco Teodoro (Italian, b. 1939)
Fa. Zanotta, Milan (manufacturer)
Italien Sacco
1968
PVC and Polystyrene
Photo: Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Between Consumption Binge and Space Age

While in the 1950s in the beginning of the Miracle on the Rhine, it was most important for the population to cover the basic needs, the following decades are characterised by a consumption binge. Growing prosperity and a rapidly expanding choice of goods increases the desire for more and more consumer items and luxuries. Changing life styles challenge the commodity producing and the advertising industry. Zeitgeist aspects such as mobility, belief in progress, emancipation, individualism, and cult of the body gain in importance, also in terms of consumer behaviour. Desires are pre-formulated by an advertising industry which has a broad audience across all media with its TV ads, press advertising, and poster campaigns. They draw a picture of a hedonistic society between materialism and alleged expansion of consciousness that ultimately combines lifestyle aspects of youth culture with contemporary product design. Advertisements for items such as Afri-Cola or the Astro-Lavalampe (Astro lava lamp) by Edward Craven-Walker promise ecstatic sensory impressions without the use of drugs. The lava lamp, inspired by the science fiction movie Barbarella, becomes a popular accessory in clubs and living rooms; and to this day, it is representative for the psychedelic look of the time.

The 1960s are characterised by technophilia and optimistic belief in progress. The “Race to the Moon” is a battle between the political system of the United States of America and communist Russia. The era of space travel influences futuristic aesthetics, produces innovative materials, thus, inspiring new consumerist ideas. Furniture, electronic devices, everyday objects and fashion use the Space Age look, and define a creative Zeitgeist. Paco Rabanne is the futuristic designer of the 1960s. The trained architect frees himself of the traditions of haute couture and uses unusual materials. His martial mini dress (1966) has no threads at all: metal rings link aluminium plates and only allow minimal flexibility for the wearer. André Courrèges’ space collection from 1964 to 1965 shows girls from the moon in angular clothes with helmet-like hats and glasses made out of plastic with curved eye-slits as a stylish protection against space radiation.

In 1968 on Christmas Eve, NASA’s snapshot of the earth forever changes the way we see her. For the first time, a world audience views an “Earthrise” over the horizon of the moon through the eyes of the Apollo 8 astronauts. The iconic picture is henceforth symbolic of the preciousness of planet earth and the uniqueness of earthly life; and it makes people think about how to responsibly treat this world that seems to be so small and fragile from a distance.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg Cited 11/02/2019

 

Paco Rabanne (Spanish, b. 1934) 'Minidress' 1966

 

Paco Rabanne (Spanish, b. 1934)
Minidress
1966
Aluminium, metal rings, metal studs
L 74 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
Photo: Maria Thrun/MKG

 

Verner Panton (Danish, 1926-1998) 'Spiegel-Canteen, Snackbar' 1969

 

Verner Panton (Danish, 1926-1998)
Spiegel-Canteen, Snackbar
1969
Photo: Michael Bernhardi/Spiegel Verlag, 2011

 

Verner Panton (Danish, 1926-1998) 'Spiegel-Canteen, Orange Dining Room' 1969

 

Verner Panton (Danish, 1926-1998)
Spiegel-Canteen, Orange Dining Room
1969
Photo: Michael Bernhardi/Spiegel Verlag, 2011

 

 

Von “Rauschhülle” bis Filmkulisse – From “noise cover” to film set

In 1968, Spiegel-Verlag commissioned the Danish architect and designer Verner Panton with the interior design of the new publishing house in Hamburg. He declines the colour gamut of the rainbow – consistently he designs everything uniformly in one tone. But taste changes and the rooms are painted white. The canteen alone remains spared and is now a listed building. Since the move the publisher is in the Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg.

 

Verner Panton (13 February 1926 – 5 September 1998) is considered one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century furniture and interior designers. During his career, he created innovative and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, especially plastics, and in vibrant and exotic colours. His style was very “1960s” but regained popularity at the end of the 20th century; as of 2004, Panton’s most well-known furniture models are still in production (at Vitra, among others).

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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01
Mar
19

Exhibition: ‘Berlin in the revolution 1918/19’ at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2018 – 3rd March 2019

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942) 'Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße' November 1918

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942)
Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße
November 1918
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Gebrüder Haeckel

 

 

Today, revolution is in the air around the world, just like it was in 1968 (a posting on this year to follow soon) and in 1918. I hope this wonderful posting of photographs, posters, films, murders, bombings, funerals, detailed close ups of the barricades and the people manning them gives you some of the flavour of the times. This was the order of the day in Berlin in 1918/19. Revolution.

What we must not forget is out of this revolution, out of this ferment of creativity, uncertainty, “liberal” democracy and militaristic society emerged the seeds of its downfall: the beginnings of the National Socialist Party (the Nazis).

“In July 1919 Hitler was appointed Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr, assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the German Workers’ Party (DAP). At a DAP meeting on 12 September 1919, Party Chairman Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler’s oratorical skills. He gave him a copy of his pamphlet My Political Awakening, which contained anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party, and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party). …

At the DAP, Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the party’s founders and a member of the occult Thule Society. Eckart became Hitler’s mentor, exchanging ideas with him and introducing him to a wide range of Munich society. To increase its appeal, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party; NSDAP). Hitler designed the party’s banner of a swastika in a white circle on a red background.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Rising to prominence through his demagogic beer hall speeches on populist themes, Hitler would attempt a coup known as the “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923, a stepping stone on his rise to becoming the dictator of Nazi Germany.

The flowering of German Expressionism (modern art labelled by Hitler Entartete Kunst or “Degenerate Art” in the 1920s) and a society which proposed the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights, were both positives of the interwar period. A prominent advocate for sexual minorities was the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld.

“In 1920, Hirschfeld was very badly beaten up by a group of völkisch activists who attacked him on the street; he was initially declared dead when the police arrived. In 1921, Hirschfeld organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Congresses were held in Copenhagen (1928), London (1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932)… Hirschfeld co-wrote and acted in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”) [see below], in which Conrad Veidt played one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema. The film had a specific gay rights law reform agenda; after Veidt’s character is blackmailed by a male prostitute, he eventually comes out rather than continuing to make the blackmail payments. His career is destroyed and he is driven to suicide.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Of course these small, hard won freedoms, this cabaret of life, and the more liberal atmosphere of the newly founded Weimar Republic were all swept away by the Nazis in the 1930s.

How quickly it can turn. Today, as then, we must be ever vigilant to guard our freedom against the power of conservative forces that seek to do us harm. Brothers, never again!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Photography, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All the photographs have been digitally cleaned. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In November 1918, exactly 100 years ago, the old regime of Kaiser Wilhelm II was swept away by a revolution. It ended the First World War and led to the establishment of democracy in Germany. The Weimar Republic was born out of the struggle for a new social order and political system. The upheavals that occurred in 1918/19 were captured on camera, sometimes by renowned press photographers such as Willy Römer; their works are crucial for historians today. For the first time ever, this book investigates the role of film and entertainment in the Weimar Republic and includes it in the historical analysis. What do the street fights in the first months following the First World War have in common with the people’s recreational pleasures? How did photographers record the political turmoil, the demonstrations, strikes, shootings, and fights for control of the palace and the newspaper district? And, at the same time, what distractions were offered in Berlin’s cinemas and revue shows? How did the entertainment industry react to the revolution? Examining photos, films, and poster art, this book presents a dense and previously unseen portrait of German history.

Text from the catalogue

 

 

“So ends this first day of the revolution, which in just a few hours has witnessed the downfall of the House of Hohenzollern, the dissolution of the German army, and the demise of the old German social order. One of the most memorable and dreadful days in German history.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler, diary entry from November 9, 1918

 

“The Christmas fair carries on blithely throughout all of these bloody events. Hurdy-gurdies play on Friedrichstraße, street vendors peddle in-door fireworks, gingerbread, and silver tinsel, the jewellery shops on Unter den Linden remain unheedingly open, their brightly-lit display windows glittering. On Leipziger Strasse, the usual Christmas crowds throng to-ward Wertheim, Kayser, and the other big stores. It is safe to say that in thousands of homes, Christmas trees are lit and children are playing around them with presents from Daddy, Mummy and dear Aunty. The dead lie in the royal stables, and on Holy Night, the wounds freshly inflict-ed on the palace and on Germany gape wide.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler, diary entry, December 24, 1918

 

“I cannot get out of head the execution of 24 sailors on Französische Strasse, where during all of these days, there has been no trouble. It is one of the most abominable civil war crimes I know of in history. This evening I tried to watch Reinhardt’s production of ‘As You Like It’, but was not in the mood. I cannot stop thinking about these murders and shootings, which are the order of the day in Berlin.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler: diary entry, March 14, 1919

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942) 'Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße' November 1918 (detail)

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942)
Soldiers with weapons, Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße (detail)
November 1918
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Gebrüder Haeckel

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) '"The Guards Ranger Battalion marching past General Lequis"; on the left, next to the Brandenburg Gate, the photographer Walter Gircke with camera' 10/11 December 1918

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
“The Guards Ranger Battalion marching past General Lequis”; on the left, next to the Brandenburg Gate, the photographer Walter Gircke with camera
10/11 December 1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery (detail)
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery (detail)
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

The revolution in winter and spring 1918/19 was decided in the streets of the imperial capital, Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the German Emperor with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the palace on November 9th, 1918, in the newspaper quarter in January 1919 rolls of printing paper were used by the Spartacists to erect barricades against approaching government troops, after fighting had ceased, a large funeral procession crossed Frankfurter Allee to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde. Press photographers were omnipresent with their big plate cameras, taking shots of orators in the crowd, soldiers behind machine-guns, vehicles carrying party posters in the National Assembly election campaign, and destroyed buildings and ravaged squares. At the same time, everyday life in the city went on. People went to the numerous cinemas with their expanding repertoire of films, enjoyed themselves at revues and cabarets, and danced the two-step and the foxtrot. The exhibition in the Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic visual history of the revolution in Berlin and a panorama of the entertainment culture of those months.

The brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers during the first days of the revolution. As experienced war reporters, they reacted quickly to cover the spontaneous rallies on Unter den Linden and in front of the palace. The photographers worked without assignment and offered their images to publishers like Mosse or Ullstein. There are few visual records of the fighting itself. Rather, photographers took advantage of breaks in the fighting to recreate scenes on the barricades or with soldiers with readied weapons. The largest group of photos of the revolution of which the original contact prints survive is by Willy Römer. One of his photographs was even taken immediately before his own arrest by a troop of Spartacists.

Weekly newsreels in cinemas across Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, showed film portraits of the ministers of the new imperial government, and confirmed the restoration of order by showing scenes from everyday life in the streets of the capital. At the same time, they solicited votes for the National Assembly. Given lengthy production times, the feature films of winter 1918/19 do not yet reflect the revolution in any way. But the suspension of censorship enabled the production of new, more daring films, which, for example, opposed the criminal persecution of homosexuals.

As a reaction to the end of the war and without as yet reckoning with the dangers of the revolution and its fighting, an unprecedented desire for pleasure-seeking reigned in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918/19. Besides opera houses and straight theatres, Berliners frequented the popular operetta and revue theatres, as well as cinemas; they also went to ballrooms and drinking holes to dance. Some revues reacted to current issues like the housing shortage and the strikes. The poverty of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. The song ‘Bein ist Trumpf’ from 1919 alludes to the fate of four men maimed in the war: the dance with a wooden leg or prosthesis amid the workings of a world-apparatus that turns and turns without end.

Text from the Museum of Photography, Berlin website [Online] Cited 08/02/2019

 

Josef Steiner. 'Senta Söneland in her sketch "Pst! Pst!"'

 

Josef Steiner
Senta Söneland in her sketch “Pst! Pst!”
Poster for the performance in the Metropolitan Cabaret
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Demonstration of the soldiers for immediate demobilisation: Karl Liebknecht speaks in front of the Ministry of the Interior on Unter den Linden' 4.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Demonstration of the soldiers for immediate demobilisation: Karl Liebknecht speaks in front of the Ministry of the Interior on Unter den Linden
4.1.1919
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

Karl Liebknecht

Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (German 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democrat (SPD) and later a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany which split way from the SPD. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919. The uprising was crushed by the Social Democrat government and the Freikorps (paramilitary units formed of World War I veterans). Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.

After their deaths, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg became martyrs for Socialists. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, commemoration of Liebknecht and Luxemburg continues to play an important role among the German left, including Die Linke (The Left). …

 

Revolution and death

Liebknecht was released again in October 1918, when Prince Maximilian of Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners. Upon his return to Berlin on 23 October he was escorted to the Soviet embassy by a crowd of workers. Following the outbreak of the German Revolution, Liebknecht carried on his activities in the Spartacist League. He resumed leadership of the group together with Luxemburg and published its party organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).

On 9 November, Liebknecht declared the formation of a Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss, two hours after Philipp Scheidemann’s declaration of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag. On 31 December 1918/1 January 1919, Liebknecht was involved in the founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Together with Luxemburg, Jogiches and Zetkin, Liebknecht was also instrumental in the January 1919 Spartacist uprising in Berlin. Initially he and Luxemburg opposed the revolt, but they joined it after it had begun. The uprising was brutally opposed by the new German government under Friedrich Ebert with the help of the remnants of the Imperial German Army and militias called the Freikorps. By 13 January, the uprising had been extinguished. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops on 15 January 1919 and brought to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, where they were tortured and interrogated for several hours. Following this, Luxemburg was beaten with rifle butts and afterwards shot, and her corpse thrown into the Landwehr Canal, while Liebknecht was forced to step out of the car in which he was being transported, and he was then shot in the back. Official declarations said he had been shot in an attempt to escape. Although the circumstances were disputed by the perpetrators at the time, the Freikorps commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst, later claimed, “I had them executed”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Election propaganda with car, flags and posters "Vote List 4"' [Election propaganda automobile of the German National Party on the streets of Berlin] January 1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Election propaganda with car, flags [red] and posters “Vote List 4” [Election propaganda automobile of the German National Party on the streets of Berlin]
January 1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Paul Telemann. 'Mariposa. Fox-trot (Fuchs Dance)' 1919

 

Paul Telemann
Mariposa. Fox-trot (Fuchs Dance)
Music by Ernest Tompa
Berlin 1919
Sheet music, private collection
© Drei Masken-Verlag, Berlin-Munich

 

 

Fox Trot

“The new flu is here – and it is not Spanish, but English in origin, and it is known as “the new popular dance” […]. In Berlin, “Fox Trot steps” are applied to any old melody […]. Outside, they are banging away at the Palace […]. Machine-gun fire rattles around the advertising pillars, whose colourful posters bear invitations to Fox Trot teas.”

F.W. Koebner, in: Der Roland von Berlin, 1919

 

Film

In the years 1918 and 1919, the German film industry experienced pronounced growth tendencies. Among the most successful production firms of the era alongside Universum Film AG (Ufa), established in 1917 as a propaganda establishment by the Supreme Army Command, were the Projektions-AG Union (PAGU), the Decla-Film-Gesellschaft-Holz & Co. (later Decla-Bioskop), and the Deutsche Lichtspiel-Gesellschaft (Deulig, DLG). Alongside new, advantageous financing possibilities, it was the announcement of the abolition of film censorship in November of 1918 that inaugurated rising production figures. At the same time, lowered admission prices allowed cinema to become a leisure activity for broad social strata.

More than in any other German city, these developments were observable in Berlin: the greater part of the film industry was headquartered here, and accordingly, this continuously growing metropolis, with approximately 200 cinemas, became a centre of attraction for representatives of all cinematic branches.

Immediately after November 9, 1918, the revolution played virtually no role in the city’s multifarious cinematic program – primarily responsible for this was production scheduling for most films, which usually entailed intervals of many months. In the course of 1919, the film industry responded emphatically to current political events, releasing a series of feature films that either thematised the revolutionary goings-on explicitly or at least alluded to them.

 

Newsreel 1918/19

With their compilations of up-to-date documentary film footage, the Wochenschauen (weekly newsreels) were able to convey impressions of revolutionary events in Berlin to a contemporary public more quickly than other film genres. Launched during World War I, this format – which was screened in cinemas before main features – soon became the most important medium of information for large segments of the population.

Only a portion of the newsreel editions produced by German firms and pertaining to the revolutionary events of 1918-19 in Berlin have survived, and in many instances only as fragments. Among them are numbered editions of the Messter-Woche, named for their initiator, the film pioneer Oskar Messter. With the aid of these 5-15-minute short films, produced under time pressure and with minimal technical expenditures or design features, it becomes possible to reconstruct central stages of the revolution – and the perspectives of contemporary film journalists of these events.

 

Joe May

Among the most productive directors in Berlin at the time was the Austrian Joe May, who – like the majority of participants in Berlin’s film world – observed the revolutionary events in the city only from a distance. In his monumental films, his wife Mia May played the main role. Veritas vincit, premiered in April of 1919, is an elaborately outfitted historical film whose episodic plot revolves around the transmigration of souls. During 1919, Joe May intensified his cinematic approach, oriented toward spectacular entertainments, with the production of an eight-part adventure film entitled The Mistress of the World, outfitted with an exotic flair.

Wall texts

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Spartacists behind barricades made from rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building (Berliner Tageblatt) on Schützenstraße at the corner of Jerusalemerstraße' 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Spartacists behind barricades made from rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building (Berliner Tageblatt) on Schützenstraße at the corner of Jerusalemerstraße
11.1.1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

The Spartacists

A member of a group of German radical socialists formed in 1916 and in 1919 becoming the German Communist Party, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. In December 1918, some of the Spartacists – including Luxemburg and Liebknecht – founded the German Communist Party. Luxemburg had written numerous pamphlets about Lenin and how his leadership of theRussian Revolution would be of such great value to Russia.

While her political philosophy may well have merited such pamphlets, many Germans (and Europeans in general) were terrified of the ‘Red Plague’ in Russia and the adoption of the name ‘communist’ was fraught with danger. Many soldiers had returned from the war fronts massively disillusioned with the German government and hugely suspicious of anything that smacked of left-wing political beliefs. Many who had quit the German Army joined the right wing Free Corps (Freikorps). These would have been battle-hardened men who had been subjected to military discipline.

In January 1919, the Communists rose up in revolt in Berlin. In every sense it was a futile gesture against the government. Ebert withdrew his government to the safety of Weimar and allowed the Freikorps and what remained of the regular army to bring peace and stability back to Berlin once again. No mercy was shown to the Spartacists / Communists whose leaders were murdered after being arrested. The Freikorps was better organised and armed – they also had a military background. The majority of the Spartacists were civilians. No-one doubted who would win.

C. N. Trueman. “The Spartacists,” on The History Learning Site, 22 May 2015 [Online] Cited 09/02/2019

 

Spartacist uprising

The Spartacist uprising (German: Spartakusaufstand), also known as the January uprising (Januaraufstand), was a general strike (and the armed battles accompanying it) in Germany from 5 to 12 January 1919. Germany was in the middle of a post-war revolution, and two of the perceived paths forward were either social democracy or a council republic similar to the one which had been established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. The uprising was primarily a power struggle between the moderate Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) led by Friedrich Ebert, and the radical communists of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who had previously founded and led the Spartacist League (Spartakusbund). This power struggle was the result of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the resignation of Chancellor Max von Baden, who had passed power to Ebert, as the leader of the largest party in the German parliament. Similar uprisings occurred and were suppressed in Bremen, the Ruhr, Rhineland, Saxony, Hamburg, Thuringia and Bavaria, and another round of even bloodier street battles occurred in Berlin in March, which led to popular disillusionment with the Weimar Government.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße' 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
13 x 18 cm
Ullstein picture
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße' 11.1.1919 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße (detail)
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
13 x 18 cm
Ullstein picture
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Wolfgang Ortmann (1885-1967) 'Song from the Strike from Halloh! Halloh!' Berlin 1919

 

Wolfgang Ortmann (1885-1967)
Song from the Strike from Halloh! Halloh!
Berlin 1919
Cabaret pieces by Fritz Grünbaum. Music by Rudolf Nelson
Sheet Music with Portrait of Käthe
Erlholz, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Music Department
© Wolfgang Ortmann / Kollo-Verlag GmbH, Berlin

 

 

With more than 300 photographs, postcards, posters, sheet music, newspapers and magazines, film clips, newsreels and audio stations, the exhibition at the Museum of Photography shows a photographic picture of the 1918-19 revolution in Berlin as a panorama of the entertainment culture of these troubled months.

The revolution in the winter and spring of 1918-19 and thus the struggle for the construction of the first German republic decided in the streets of the capital Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the Emperor on November 9, 2018 with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the castle. In January 1919, in the newspaper district, barricades of the Spartacists were erected from printing paper rolls against the advancing government troops. After the end of the fighting, the great funeral procession moved to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde via Frankfurter Allee.

There were always press photographers recording the speakers in the crowd, the soldiers behind the machine guns, the parties’ party wagons for the National Assembly elections and the ruined houses and devastated squares. But at the same time, everyday life in the city continued, people visited the many cinemas with their expanding film offering, amused themselves in revues and cabarets, danced One-Step, Two-Step and Foxtrot.

The photographers did not provide an objective picture of the story. They could not work all focal points, so their cameras judged the events according to subjective criteria and they determined with the image what should be handed down. And yet their recordings bring the events back to life. For example, the photographs help with the reconstruction of dramatic episodes such as the Christmas battles for the castle and the stables between the Volksmarine Division and government troops.

They show the huge number of mourners around Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and exemplify the involvement of actress Senta Söneland as election campaign speaker for the National Assembly. The press photos also allow critical inquiries into the history of the revolution: the clothes of the demonstrators and the fighters suggest that by no means only workers and soldiers, but also employees and commoners engaged politically.

In the first days of the revolution, the brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers. As experienced war reporters, they were quick to accompany the spontaneous rallies at Unter den Linden and in front of the castle. They worked without a commission and offered publishers such as Mosse or Ullstein their photographs as contact prints in the format 13 x 18 cm for the weekly picture supplements of the daily newspapers (eg for the “Zeitbilder” of the “Vossische Zeitung”) or magazines (eg the “Berliner Illustrirte Newspaper”).

There are few photographs as evidence of the fighting itself. Rather, the photographers used the breaks in fighting to recreate scenes of soldiers with shot-guns or at the barricades. From Willy Römer most of the images of the revolution in original contact prints are handed down. One of his photographs was even made immediately before his own arrest by a squad of Spartacists. Romans had a keen eye for the special situations of everyday life, when he photographed the unusual means of transportation of the Berliners during the general strike in January.

In the cinemas, the newsreels throughout Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, produced film portraits of the ministers of the new Reich government and, as proof of the restored order, showed everyday scenes from the streets of the capital. At the same time, they campaigned for the National Assembly. The humorous short film “Anna Müller-Lincke kandidiert” (“Anna Müller-Lincke is a candidate”) presented the colourful range of candidates and challenged the population to make their own electoral decision. Due to the longer production processes, the feature films offered no reflection on the revolution in the winter of 1918-19. However, the lifting of censorship enabled the production of new, daring films that were directed against the criminal prosecution of homosexuals. Immediately after the revolutionary event in Berlin, Richard Oswald‘s work “Anders als die Andern” (“Different from the Others”) began, the first film explicitly referring to Paragraph 175.

One of the most significant feature films on the revolution and at the same time a representative example of the socio-democratic values supported by the film industry is “Die entfesselte Menschheit” (“Unleashed humanity”) by Joseph Delmont, which was released in cinemas in 1920. Willy Römer was a press photographer during filming of barricades in Kreuzberg in autumn. His photographs are more dramatic than many photographs of the revolution the year before.

In response to the end of the war and without first taking into account the dangers of the revolutionary struggles, an unprecedented desire for pleasure prevailed in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918-19. In addition to opera houses and straight theatres, the Berliners frequented the more popular operetta and revue theatres, the cinemas, as well as ballrooms and Kaschemmen (bars) to dance there. Operettas like “Schwarzwaldmädel” (“Black forest girl”) in the Komische Oper (Comic Opera) were supposed to transport the audience into an ideal world and distract them from the everyday life of war and revolution.

But there were also revues that responded daily to topics such as the housing problem and the strikes like “Halloh! Halloh!” by Rudolf Nelson (music) and Fritz Grünbaum (text). The misery of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. In the song “Bein ist Trumpf” from the year 1919, the fate of many war-injured men is addressed: the dance with the wooden leg or the prosthesis in the transmission of an ever-rotating world structure. At the same time, the footage of the press photographers showed them with crutches and tied to wheelchairs and their protests against the insufficient supply.

The exhibition in the Museum of Photography is essentially based on the archive of Willy Römers, which is preserved in the Photography Collection of the Art Library – National Museums in Berlin. The comprehensive holdings of the bpk-Bildagentur and ullstein bild offer valuable additions. For the field of film and entertainment culture, exhibits from the graphic design collection of the Art Library have be used. Important loans come from the Music Department of the National Museums in Berlin, from the Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation, the Falkensee Museum and Gallery, and from private collections.

Press release from the Museum of Photography, Berlin translated from the German by Google Translate Cited 08/02/2019

 

With more than 300 photographs, postcards, posters, sheet music, newspapers and magazines, film clips, newsreels and audio stations, the exhibition at Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic history of the 1918-19 revolution in Berlin as a panorama of the entertainment culture of these troubled months.

The revolution in winter and spring 1918/19 was decided in the streets of the imperial capital, Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the German Emperor with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the palace on November 9th, 1918, in the newspaper quarter in January 1919 rolls of printing paper were used by the Spartacists to erect barricades against approaching government troops, after fighting had ceased, a large funeral procession crossed Frankfurter Allee to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde. Press photographers were omnipresent with their big plate cameras, taking shots of orators in the crowd, soldiers behind machine-guns, vehicles carrying party posters in the National Assembly election campaign, and destroyed buildings and ravaged squares. At the same time, everyday life in the city went on. People went to the numerous cinemas with their expanding repertoire of films, enjoyed themselves at revues and cabarets, and danced the two-step and the foxtrot. The exhibition in the Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic visual history of the revolution in Berlin and a panorama of the entertainment culture of those months.

The brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers during the first days of the revolution. As experienced war reporters, they reacted quickly to cover the spontaneous rallies on Unter den Linden and in front of the palace. The photographers worked without assignment and offered their images to publishers like Mosse or Ullstein. There are few visual records of the fighting itself. Rather, photographers took advantage of breaks in the fighting to recreate scenes on the barricades or with soldiers with readied weapons. The largest group of photos of the revolution of which the original contact prints survive is by Willy Römer. One of his photographs was even taken immediately before his own arrest by a troop of Spartacists.

Weekly newsreels in cinemas across Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, showed film portraits of the ministers of the new imperial government, and confirmed the restoration of order by showing scenes from everyday life in the streets of the capital. At the same time, they solicited votes for the National Assembly. Given lengthy production times, the feature films of winter 1918/19 do not yet reflect the revolution in any way. But the suspension of censorship enabled the production of new, more daring films, which, for example, opposed the criminal persecution of homosexuals.

As a reaction to the end of the war and without as yet reckoning with the dangers of the revolution and its fighting, an unprecedented desire for pleasure-seeking reigned in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918/19. Besides opera houses and straight theatres, Berliners frequent-ed the popular operetta and revue theatres, as well as cinemas; they also went to ballrooms and drinking holes to dance. Some revues reacted to current issues like the housing shortage and the strikes. The poverty of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. The song ‘Bein ist Trumpf’ from 1919 alludes to the fate of four men maimed in the war: the dance with a wooden leg or prosthesis amid the workings of a world-apparatus that turns and turns without end.

Press release from the Museum of Photography, Berlin in English [Online] Cited 08/02/2019

 

Walter Gircke. 'Elections to the National Assembly in Berlin. Agitation by the actress Senta Söneland in front of the Zoologischer Garten station' [National Assembly in Berlin: agitation by the actress Senta Söneland] January 1919

 

Walter Gircke
Elections to the National Assembly in Berlin. Agitation by the actress Senta Söneland in front of the Zoologischer Garten station [National Assembly in Berlin: agitation by the actress Senta Söneland]
January 1919
Postcard
© bpk / Walter Gircke

 

 

Senta Söneland

Senta Söneland (née Werder) was born in 1882 the daughter of a Prussian officer. She attended a higher girls’ school and then a teacher seminar, but also took additional training courses at the Berlin Schiller Theater.

In 1910 she received her first engagement at the Hoftheater Meiningen. In 1912 she returned to Berlin and in the following years appeared on various stages such as the Komödienhaus, the Theater am Kurfürstendamm and the Metropol-Theater. As at the beginning of the war in 1914, when theatre life was severely impaired, she sought like many other actors of the time their chance in film.

Söneland was known primarily as a comedian in film comedies. After a long absence from the screen in the 1920s, she had many performances as a supporting actress at the beginning of the sound film era after 1930. She also participated in entertainment evenings on the radio. So she was heard in the program Kunterbunt with the Berlin Radio Chapel.

The artist was politically involved in women’s suffrage, and her fiery speech on 19 January 1919 at the Berlin Zoo Station on the occasion of the election to the National Assembly (see photograph above) is remembered above all.

After the sudden death of her husband, Söneland said goodbye in 1934 and took her own life a little later. She was buried in the cemetery Wilmersdorf in Berlin.

Text from the Wikipedia website translated from the German

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hoardings with SPD election posters' before 19.1.1919

 

Unknown photographer
Hoardings with SPD election posters
before 19.1.1919
Old contact print
Gelatin silver print
bpk

 

 

 

 

Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) 1919 Homosexuality Advocacy Film

Different from the Others (German: Anders als die Andern, literally ‘Other than the Others’) is a German film produced during the Weimar Republic. It was first released in 1919 and stars Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel. The story was co-written by Richard Oswald and Magnus Hirschfeld, who also had a small part in the film and partially funded the production through his Institute for Sexual Science. The film was intended as a polemic against the then-current laws under Germany’s Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality a criminal offense. It is believed to be the first pro-gay film in the world.

The cinematography was by Max Fassbender, who two years previously had worked on Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, one of the earliest cinematic treatments of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Director Richard Oswald later became a director of more mainstream films, as did his son Gerd. Veidt became a major film star the year after Anders was released, in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Anders als die Andern is one of the first sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals in the cinema. The film’s basic plot was used again in the 1961 UK film, Victim, starring Dirk Bogarde. Censorship laws enacted in reaction to films like Anders als die Andern eventually restricted viewing of this movie to doctors and medical researchers, and prints of the film were among the many “decadent” works burned by the Nazis after they came to power in 1933.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 (known formally as §175 StGB; also known as Section 175 in English) was a provision of the German Criminal Code from 15 May 1871 to 10 March 1994. It made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalised bestiality as well as forms of prostitution and underage sexual abuse. All in all, around 140,000 men were convicted under the law.

The statute drew legal influence from previous measures, including those undertaken by the Holy Roman Empire and Prussian states. It was amended several times. The Nazis broadened the law in 1935; in the prosecutions that followed, thousands died in concentration camps as a widespread social persecution of homosexuals took place.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Different from the Others

The director and producer Richard Oswald (1880-1863) is regarded as the founder of the so-called Sitten- or Aufklärungsfilm (i.e. a film concerned with public morals or sex education) – a genre that took up socially taboo themes such as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, drug consumption, or topics such as abortion and homosexuality, activities still subject to criminal prosecution at that time. The production of such films, propelled by an educational impetus, was intimately bound up with the abolition of censor-ship in Germany, announced in November of 1918. For Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others), the first film to take an explicit stand against Paragraph 175, which made homosexual acts between males a crime, Oswald called upon the expertise of the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld as his advisor.

The film narrates the story of the violinist Paul Körner, who is blackmailed by a male prostitute who threatens to reveal his homosexuality, and is finally charged with violating Paragraph 175. In a central scene of the film, Magnus Hirschfeld – who plays himself – delivers a plea for tolerance of homosexuals. To be sure, the blackmailer is condemned, but so too is Körner, found guilty of infringing Paragraph 175. In despair over the social ruin brought about by the verdict, he commits suicide.

 

Folkets Ven, Die entfesselte Menschheit, and Irrwahn (Mania)

The Danish film Folkets Ven arrived in German cinemas in December of 1918 under the distribution title Söhne des Volkes (Sons of the People). In Berlin, the production of films about the political upheavals had just be-gun, necessitating a recourse to import films in order to entertain – and to influence – Berlin cinema-goers. In the magazine Der Kinematograph, the film was promoted as “a new film for a new time” with the message: “For the unification of the socialist groups, against Bolshevism.”

One of the most important feature films dating from around the time of the revolution, and at the same time a typical document of the (social) democratic values reinforced by the film industry, is Die entfesselte Menschheit (Humanity Unchained). Narrated in this “key work of anti-Bolshevist film” is the story of a group of German prisoners of war who return to a Berlin that has been convulsed by Spartacist battles, and are steered toward participation in a bloody civil war by the Bolshevist fanatic Karenow. Approximately 17,000 extras took part in this ambitious undertaking, part of it filmed on Am Tempelhofer Berg, a street in Kreuzberg.

Along with their anti-Bolshevist tendencies, the principal characteristic of the “political problem films” produced around 1919 and 1922, with their references to the revolution, was a deliberate renunciation of any explicit identification of the location of the events. In Irrwahn (Mania), filmed in Berlin in 1919 and heralded in the press as a “socialist-revolutionary drama,” the director Hans Werckmeister maintains a certain ambiguity about whether the events are taking place in Germany, Russia, or in some imaginary fantasy land.

 

Nerven (Nerves)

Robert Reinert’s influential silent film drama Nerven (Nerves) had only a brief reception among the contemporary cinema public: after its premiere in December of 1919, a number of spectators are said to have developed symptoms of madness. As a consequence, the censors resolved upon radical interventions which left the film in an utterly mutilated state. The story of Roloff, a wealthy factory owner who loses his faith in technological progress during the revolutionary turmoil occurring at the end of World War I, his sister Marja, who is committed to armed struggle against the ruling powers, and the teacher Johannes, who calls for social reforms at the people’s assembly, offers a multifaceted description of the traumatic impact of war and revolution on the psychological states of human individuals. Observable in Nerven are design elements that are immediately reminiscent of Expressionism: close-up shots of faces registering intense emotion, gloomy, oversized buildings, dissolves suggestive of menace, as well as striking effects of light and shadow. This fateful historic document has now been successfully reconstructed from fragments.

Wall texts

 

 

 

Nerves (Germany, 1919)

The films tells the political disputes of an ultraconservative factory owner Herr Roloff and Teacher John, who feels a compulsive but secret love for Roloff’s sister, a left-wing radical. They are all driven psychologically and morally to the borderline, tormented souls living their lives in a tormented country.

Duration: 110 Minutes
Director, Producer, Screenplay: Robert Reinert
Starring: Eduard von Winterstein, Lia Borré, Erna Morena, Paul Bender, Lili Dominici, Rio Ellbon, Margarete Tondeur, Paul Burgen Reconstruction
Producer: Stefan Drössler
Cinematography: Helmar Lerski

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Fighting in the Berlin newspaper district. The Vorwärts building after being bombarded by government troops' [The Spartacist had barricaded themselves inside the Vorwärts building. The photo shows the Vorwärts building after an artillery assault by government troops] 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Fighting in the Berlin newspaper district. The Vorwärts building after being bombarded by government troops [The Spartacist had barricaded themselves inside the Vorwärts building. The photo shows the Vorwärts building after an artillery assault by government troops]
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'General strike in Berlin. Moving van as barricade on Prenzlauer Straße' 7.3.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
General strike in Berlin. Moving van as barricade on Prenzlauer Straße
7.3.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles in Berlin. Battleplace Alexanderplatz with the downed lines of the tram' 8.3.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles in Berlin. Battleplace Alexanderplatz with the downed lines of the tram
8.3.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'View of the funeral procession in the Frankfurter Allee on the occasion of the funeral of Rosa Luxemburg' [Funeral of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Funeral procession on Große Frankfurter Strasse] 13.6.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
View of the funeral procession in the Frankfurter Allee on the occasion of the funeral of Rosa Luxemburg [Funeral of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Funeral procession on Große Frankfurter Strasse]
13.6.1919
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

Artistic Dance

During the revolutionary period of 1918-19, artistic or expressive dance – whose best-known exponent, Mary Wigman, was accorded considerable acclaim even before World War I – was characterised by heightened variety and intensity. The aim of the tendency was to generate a new conception of humanity through the unity of music, movement, costume, and stage design. Expressive rhythm and a natural approach to bodily experience harmonised well with the expressive forms of the artistic avant-gardes, in particular Expressionist painting. The search for modern expressive resources that were remote from classical balletic conventions was spearheaded by renowned dance reformers. Among them were Valeska Gert, with her grotesque caricature dances, Anita Berber, with her eccentric and erotic performances, and Gret Palucca, with her powerful leaps. But Hannelore Ziegler – no longer a familiar figure today – too numbered among the representatives of these new, contemporary dance forms.

 

Erna Offeney

Erna Offeney (1888-1977), one of the less-known erotic dancers and ballet mistresses, who is presented here in a larger context for the first time, headed her own touring ballet company, with up to 150 ensemble members, which made acclaimed guest performances throughout Germany and Switzerland, as well as Vienna. In a way that is characteristic of the pre-revolutionary era, she wrote in her diary: “It was 1918, the final year of the war, the theatre was full of soldiers on leave who wanted to forget the miseries of war during this brief intermezzo, and were delighted with every diversion and pleasure. Most were invalids, cripples who had been obliged to sacrifice arms or legs for the Fatherland. They were scattered throughout every town, and nearly every family lamented the presence of a member in such a state, and depending upon temperament, those affected – or those who were more foreseeing – were suffused with hate or gloomy resignation […] And then came the applause, which never seemed to end. In the orchestra area, I saw two soldiers, each one-armed, slapping their single hands together in order to applaud. Seeing this, I nearly wept.”

 

‘Nude’ and Erotic Dance

During the revolutionary period of 1918/1919, ‘nude’ dance, erotic ballet, and erotic dance enjoyed a decided popularity. At the same time, the war wounded and war cripples filled the streets of Berlin. “The sheer profusion of erotic dance performances – appearing in every cabaret, in every better dance club, in every bar that offered the public music and entertainment, were nude dancers or groups of dancers – this mass phenomenon only became possible after the war,” wrote Hans Ostwald in 1931. “Favouring the movement was a lust for life that sprang from sheer misery, and the greater general freedom.” But the abolition of censorship also promoted the proliferation of such offerings. Although the dancers were for the most part clad in gossamer fabrics, with breasts and privates veiled, they appeared to be naked. Performances by dancers such as Olga Desmond and Celly de Rheydt belonged in the context of the movement toward naturism and nudism.

 

Ballroom Dancing

The great dance wave, the dance frenzy, the dance craze – all referred to the mass phenomenon of dance as a form of participatory entertainment among the populace of Berlin after World War I. This form of enjoyment was ubiquitous, with each dancer dancing for a different reason: for one, dancing compensated for the general misery. Another enjoyed the license to dance when and where it pleased – a freedom that accompanied the demise of the Wilhelminian moral codex. Depending upon the financial resources available, people met in the elegant dance clubs in the city centre, or instead shook a leg in dives found in the northern and eastern districts of Berlin. The new popular dances – ragtime, jazz, the Boston waltz, the shimmy, but first and foremost the foxtrot – found their ways into dance clubs, dance halls and ballrooms, dance floors, and hotel lobbies, and were an essential component of the amusement and entertainment industry that expanded explosively after the war. The rapidly growing number of performances of operettas and revues meant that a public hungry for diversion was continuously exposed to new hit tunes. Thus primed, they spread out onto the dance floor, with dance bands providing the requisite atmosphere of exuberance.

 

Sheet Music Cover Pages

Originally, sheet music cover pages were little more than decorative ‘accessories’ accompanying printed music. At the same time, they mirror contemporary social and political life. Observable around 1918/19 are topical foci such as emancipation and the pleasures of dance, eroticism, fashion, beauty, and film. In some instances, sheet music cover pages were furnished with portraits of interpreters whose names were familiar through the advertisements that appeared in the daily press. Like the artist’s postcards so widely disseminated at the time, these images allowed the public to see the stars at least in picture form – not everyone could afford tickets to live operetta or revue appearances.

Domestic music-making, including light music, was widespread. Inseparable from such activities were the countless popular dance forms. And all of this required accessible sheet music. With the growing vogue for revues, operettas, film operettas, and burlesques after the end of World War I, the circulation figures of printed music rose quickly. After the recent horrors, there title motifs satisfied a yearning for togetherness, harmony, happiness, and a peaceful life.

 

Places of Entertainment and Amusement

In 1918/19, entertainment was of paramount importance. As much can be gathered from numerous travel guides intended for visitors to Berlin, such as those by Grieben. These supplied tips for performances of operettas, burlesques, revues, promoted information on which cabarets and coffee-houses provide live music, recommended dance halls, and offered general information on other entertainment options. Providing guidance is well were the advertising pages of daily newspapers such as the Vossische Zeitung, the Berliner Tageblatt, and the Berliner Volkszeitung. Found in particular on Friedrichstraße, Behrensstraße, and Jägerstraße alongside theatres and operetta stages were ballrooms, dance clubs, dance cafés, concert houses, cabarets, and coffeehouses. Advertised as well were summer theatre performances and garden concerts where military bands supplied the music. With seating for up to 3000 people, they were frequented by numerous visitors. In the working class district of Prenzlauer Berg, there was the Prater Summer Garden; in Treptow, the Zenner Beer Garden – every urban district had its entertainment establishments featuring concert and dance. And all promoted themselves through specially printed postcards, so that today, we have a detailed picture of the sheer variety that prevailed at the time.

Wall texts

 

Robert L. Leonard. '"Strindberg's intoxication" with Asta Nielsen' 1.8.1919

 

Robert L. Leonard
“Strindberg’s intoxication” with Asta Nielsen
1.8.1919
Alfred Abel, Carl Meinhard
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Poster for the premiere of the film in UT Kurfürstendamm
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Dismissed soldiers and unemployed. The gaming tables in front of the employment office in Gormannstraße' [Gambling den in front of the employment agency on Gormannstraße. For strengthening during the game, there is coffee and cake at the next table] 24.11.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Dismissed soldiers and unemployed. The gaming tables in front of the employment office in Gormannstraße [Gambling den in front of the employment agency on Gormannstraße. For strengthening during the game, there is coffee and cake at the next table]
24.11.1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

'Berlin in the revolution 1918/19' catalogue cover

 

Berlin in the revolution 1918/19 catalogue cover

 

 

Museum für Fotografie
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
T: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
Tues – Sunday 11am – 7pm

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13
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘August Sander – Masterpieces: Photographs from “People of the 20th century”‘ at Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne

Exhibition dates: 7th September 2018 – 27th January 2019

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Three Generations of the Family' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Three Generations of the Family
1912
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Dauerleihgabe / Permanent Loan, Stadt Herdorf

 

 

A wonderful posting of photographs by this master photographer, including numerous images (Young Mother, Middle-class; Middle-class Children; Peddler; Girl in Fairground Caravan; “Test your Strength” Showman; Workmen in the Ruhr Region) I have never seen before.

What can you say about the work of this legend of photography that has not been said before, by so many people, in so many words. Therefore I will not be verbose but just note a few impressions.

How did Sander get these people to pose for him in this direct, open way? There is no affectation, no histrionics, the sitters (whether outside en plein air or inside against a ubiquitous plain wall / blank canvas) gaze directly, steadfastly, into his camera lens – quite pre/posed, quietly proposed and confident of their own identity and image. The peddler with his box of wares, the café waitress with her tray of tea and milk, the pastry chef with his bowl, or the showman whose gnarled and dirty hand clasps a cigar.

The “presence” and aura of these people is incredible. You can ascribe this presence to modernism and New Objectivity (a sharply focused, documentary quality to the photographic art) that sought to portray the reality of a life but to do so holy to the exclusion of the poetic in Sander’s work would be a mistake. While not self-consciously poetic, Sander’s work still contains elements of the pictorial – for example the painterly quality in his use of depth of field in portrait’s such as that of Painter [Heinrich Hoerle] (where we notice the very small depth of field from the front of the shirt to the back), or the framing of Girl in Fairground Caravan with its notably impressionistic melancholy and longing.

What I am really looking forward to is the book that is being published from this exhibition. As the text on Amazon notes, “A novel feature of this book is that all the reproductions are based on vintage prints produced and authorised by August Sander himself. The croppings and the desired tonal values are authentically rendered here for the first time in the long publication history of Sander’s brilliant portrait work.”

This is as close as you will get in book form to the original printing and tonality of Sander’s work. I am sure the book will become a classic and sell out quickly so get your orders in now for a June 2019 release.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

The portrait photographs by August Sander count among the masterworks of their kind. Ever since acquiring the photographer’s estate, Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur has been busy cataloguing the Sander archive and has already presented these photographs in several theme-based shows. With “People of the 20th Century,” his most famous photographic compendium, Sander aspired to nothing less than to document the society of his day, based on examples of people pursuing different occupations and from various walks of life. The conceptually planned body of work testifies to the photographer’s acuity of perception and consummate skill at the use of the photographic medium. Over the decades, pictures such as “Young Farmers” (1914) and “Pastry Cook” (1928) have become photographic icons. But August Sander’s portraiture in fact harbours a large number of motifs of remarkable quality. These images provide insights, for example, into the population of the rural Westerwald region, the artist communities in Cologne and Berlin, and city life in general during his era.

In the current exhibition, Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur is displaying a representative selection of more then 150 original prints from “People of the 20th Century.” The majority come from the collection’s own holdings, joined by works on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; the Museum Ludwig Cologne/Photography Collection, the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin and private collections. Based on many years of research, the accompanying catalogue traces the genesis of these works in great depth and detail.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Young Mother, Middle-class' 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Young Mother, Middle-class
1926
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Middle-class Children' 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Middle-class Children
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Farm Children' 1913

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Farm Children
1913
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

The current exhibition with over 150 original photographs and numerous showcase material shows a representative cross-section of the project “People of the 20th Century”.

Sanders’ extensive portraiture was aimed at showing a cross-section of the population in which the different occupational and social types, spread over different generations, are reflected – a mirror of the times. In the title Sanders first published book in 1929, Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), this intention finds its echo. Both the indirectly expressed face of time and the individual physiognomies were the subject of the photographer’s unbroken attention for decades.

In order to give shape and form to his growing compendium, Sander created a concept in the mid-1920s in which he extensively named the image groups and folders that he had focused on. The groups are called “The Farmer”, “The Craftsman”, “The Woman”, “The Estates”, “The Artists”, “The Big City” and “The Last Man”. The latter perhaps misleading name stands for a series of pictures that very respectfully shows people on the margins of society. Sander’s concept of that time, which proposes a sequence of groups and folders, is also followed by the current exhibition with the inclusion of individual or several representative portfolio prints from the corresponding picture folders.

For the most part, the photographs are taken from the inventory of the August Sander Archive, which was acquired in 1992, which forms the foundation for the further development of the Photographic Collection / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne. Exclusive loans from originals will be consulted, such as the Berlinische Galerie, Museum of Modern Art, Berlin, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Museum Ludwig Köln, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Pinakothek der Moderne. Munich as well as from important private collections.

At Schirmer / Mosel Verlag, the book “August Sander – Masterpieces” was created at the same time as the exhibition in German and English editions. For the first time in the publication history of the photographer, the original prints are reproduced in authentic tonality, as well as in original cut-out reproduction.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Compère' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Compère
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann [with Hedwig Mankiewitz and Vera Broïdo]' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann [with Hedwig Mankiewitz and Vera Broïdo]
1929
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Peddler' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Peddler
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

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

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Young Farmers
1914
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Café Waitress' 1928/29

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Café Waitress
1928/29
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

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

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Pastry Cook
1928
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

The current exhibition, featuring over 150 original photographs and numerous documents shown in display cases, presents a representative cross-section of the “People of the 20th Century” project.

The portraits from August Sander’s epochal work are not only of fundamental importance for the history of photography; they are also highly exciting objects of study – masterpieces for anyone who has an unsentimental, unbiased love of people and life; who likes to ask questions about the past and gather experiences for the future; who has a passion for looking, discovering, fantasising, and analysing:

  • How do the people portrayed appear to us today?
  • How did they spend their lives?
  • What delighted or shocked them?
  • What experiences left a mark on their faces, their hands, their physiognomy?
  • What can they share with us from their own bygone world and times?
  • How did Sander manage to meet and talk to so many different people, and to entice them into posing for a picture?
  • What does the photographic material convey to us today – at a time when hardly any photographs are developed in the darkroom and a kind of magic has thus been lost?
  • What does time and manual craft mean for artistic engagement?

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Viewed together, the people August Sander (1876-1964) depicted in such an objective yet dignified and personal manner unfold a whole cosmos that brings history to life. Looking at Sander’s photographs challenges us to search for similarities, differences, and comparable qualities. They summon memories of accounts from the past, render tangible transformations in people’s living conditions and way of life; we see occupations that have changed, which no longer exist or have been replaced; developments or events in society are made more vivid to us, as are changing pictorial styles and artistic aesthetics.

And yet apart from the referential character of Sander’s photographs, their historical relevance and inspirational force, qualities that have been highlighted by renowned authors such as Walter Benjamin, Alfred Döblin, Golo Mann, and Kurt Tucholsky, the pictures depict very concrete moments and display individually a remarkable degree of aesthetic quality. They compellingly demonstrate Sander’s knack at capturing reality and his eye for composing specific details into lifelike documentary photographs. Being able to experience this quality up close based on August Sander’s original handmade prints is a real privilege and something that can only be made possible on this scale in rare cases due to the conservation requirements of these so-called vintage prints.

August Sander first presented his project “People of the 20th Century” in 1927 at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. He had selected more than 110 prints, a group that, as far as can be reconstructed, largely diverges from the current presentation, let alone the fact that several different prints of individual motifs were and are in circulation. Since Sander developed the project or – as he called it – his cultural work “People of the 20th Century” between circa 1925 and 1955, i.e., over the course of three decades, also incorporating motifs he had produced from 1892 onwards, his stock of original prints and portfolios had grown immensely by the end of his life. Within his archive, this group of works forms a kind of cache from which the photographer drew freely for exhibitions and publications. This was a uniquely innovative approach in his day. Sander’s awareness of the exponential effect of image series as opposed to individual images made him a pioneer of conceptual photography, as did his resolute use of an unmanipulated, factual reproduction of his chosen motifs. His portraits were meant to underline his documentary approach and to do without any artistic embellishments while nonetheless manifesting a fine-tuned and restrained design.

Text from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]
1928-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018, Courtesy: Privatsammlung / Private Collection, München / Munich

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928-1932 (detail)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle] (detail)
1928-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018, Courtesy: Privatsammlung / Private Collection, München / Munich

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Girl in Fairground Caravan' 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Girl in Fairground Caravan
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Police Officer' 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Police Officer
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) '"Test your Strength" Showman' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
“Test your Strength” Showman
1930
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Workmen in the Ruhr Region' c. 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Workmen in the Ruhr Region
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018; Courtesy: Bayerische Staatgemäldesammlungen: Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne, München /nMunich, Sammlung / Collection Lothar Schirmer

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusartisten' (Circus Artists) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusartisten (Circus Artists)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2014

 

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

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Circus Worker
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, 2018

 

 

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur
Im Mediapark 7
50670 Cologne
Phone: 0049-(0)221-88895 300

Opening hours:
Open daily 14-19hrs
Closed Wednesdays

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur website

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02
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Raoul Hausmann. Vision in Action’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 20th May 2018

Curator: Cécile Bargues

 

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Vera Broïdo)' c. 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Vera Broïdo)
c. 1931
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Spirit of his time?

Surrealism, solarisation, mobiles, photomontage, geometric repetition and simplification of form, directional lighting, distortion, female allusions, strong use of diagonals, romanticism, poetics. All the usual tropes of the photographic art of the day are present, but somehow the images never move me, or impinge lastingly on my consciousness.

Hausmann’s work sits at the intersection of New Vision (the development of photography as a medium of untold expressive power and as a primary vehicle of modern consciousness) and New Objectivity (a sharply focused, objective documentary quality; a movement in German art that arose during the 1920s as a reaction against expressionism) photographic movements. The interstices of freedom and wonder, which he referred to as ‘beauty without beauty’, both experimental and ‘classical’ at the same time.

I’m not convinced. “His images of plants, sea spray, changing light and materials, are images of disorder, stripped of all authoritarian vision.” Really? To me his work seems very authoritarian… very male, very objective but subjected to the photographers’ will. Triumph of the Will.

I’d rather look at the infinitely more interesting female artists of the era, for example Eva BesnyöClaude CahunGermaine Krull or Florence Henri to name but a few. Now they were cooking with gas!

Marcus

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

 

To this day, Raoul Hausmann’s photography has not had a dedicated museum exhibition in France. As a photographer, Hausmann has long remained underrated and unheralded. However his key position in 20th century avant-garde photography has continually been re-evaluated and his importance is widely acknowledged these days.

We know Hausmann as the prominent artist of Dada Berlin, as the author of assemblages, collages, lautgedichte, etc, yet the vicissitudes of history caused the obliteration of his photography, an essential facet of his œuvre. From 1927 onwards Hausmann became an avid and restless photographer. His photographic practice quickly became a cornerstone of his multi-faceted reflections and activities, pushing him in a new direction which culminated in his forced departure from Ibiza in 1936.

Considering Hausmann’s clandestine crossing of the century, it is no surprise that his photographic œuvre was forgotten. Labelled a ‘degenerate’ artist by the Nazis, he hastily left Germany in 1933. As an exile, Hausmann suffered the dispersion, and sometimes the destruction, of his work. His photography was seldom displayed and survived unnoticed until the late seventies. It was long supposed to be lost, until an archive (now at the Berlinische Galerie) was almost miraculously discovered at his daughter’s home after her death.

 

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Dune Landscape)' Between 1927 and 1933

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Dune Landscape)
Between 1927 and 1933
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Enfants de la Frise [Children of Friesland]' Between 1927 and 1933

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Enfants de la Frise [Children of Friesland]
Between 1927 and 1933
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Nu sur la plage [Nude on the beach]' Between 1927 and 1933

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Nu sur la plage [Nude on the beach]
Between 1927 and 1933
© Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole
© ADAGP, Paris, 2017

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Chrysanthemum flower)' Between 1927 and 1933

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Chrysanthemum flower)
Between 1927 and 1933
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Highlights of the exhibition

  • Raoul Hausmann was a central figure of the Berlin Dada movement, a pioneer of sound poetry, who spearheaded collage and photomontage. He was also a writer, editor, and experimenter across all genres. Franz Jung referred to him as a ‘cultural agitator of 1920s’ Berlin’. In the late 1930s, Hausmann was also a passionate, prolific, sensitive and lyrical photographer. Bringing together over 130 vintage prints, all produced by Hausmann himself, this exhibition presents a photographic oeuvre that has remained unrecognised and unheralded for too long.
    .
  • This is the first time that Hausmann’s photographic work has been the subject of such an extensive retrospective in France. The exhibition opens at the Point du Jour in Cherbourg, before coming to the Jeu de Paume. ‘Raoul Hausmann. Vision in Action’ benefits from a number of exceptional loans, from institutions boasting collections of work by the artist, primarily the Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart and the Berlinische Galerie; collections that continued to grow until relatively recently. Other first-rate public and private collections, both in France and Germany, have contributed to the exhibition, with some work being displayed for the first time.
    .
  • In 1931, Hausmann considered himself a photographer. His practice was honed far from Berlin, in the dunes of the Baltic and the North Sea. An emotive photographer, capturing remarkable moments or sights on his numerous walks, he never sought the perfection of an overly immaculate image, seamlessly constructed and arranged, but rather the interstices of freedom and wonder, which he referred to as ‘beauty without beauty’. This sense of calm or tranquillity can be seen in the way his work has resisted and maintained its dignity, against the ravages of time.
    .
  • Within the space of an intense decade – from 1927 until his forced departure in 1936, from the island of Ibiza, where he had sought refuge in 1933, shortly after the Nazis’ rise to power – Raoul Hausmann produced over a thousand prints, many of which were published or exhibited in their day, before taking up residence in the archives of memory. These images and their diffusion situated him in a specific milieu – Germany, Paris (where he spent time in 1935), and later in Czechoslovakia (the only retrospective devoted to the artist’s work during his lifetime was held in Prague, in 1937). Hausmann’s work incites the public to reflect upon a network and history of photography, inhabited by figures such as August Sander, Raoul Ubac, László Moholy-Nagy, etc.
    .
  • At the crossroads of the New Vision and New Objectivity photographic movements, Raoul Hausmann’s work is constructed within a poetics of distance or difference with regard to normality. Both experimental and ‘classical’ at the same time, he liked nothing better than resolving and surpassing oppositions. His sublime sculptural and mineral nudes contrast with the monstrosity of the Nazi body. His images of plants, sea spray, changing light and materials, are images of disorder, stripped of all authoritarian vision. In all respects, this photography, produced using a bare minimum of equipment, serves a project of a heightened existence.
    .
  • Hausmann reflected about the social and political uses of images, particularly in Ibiza, in his work on vernacular architecture, an inventory of buildings that aimed to invalidate the idea of ‘origin’ and ‘race’. This project around the notion of habitat, in the philosophical sense of the term, responds ultimately, like the ensemble of his work, to the maxim that underlines his oeuvre: ‘you alone should construct the limits of your universe’.

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Foot in the sand)' c. 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Foot in the sand)
c. 1931
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Dune grass)' c. 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Dune grass)
c. 1931
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Petite Fleur en Herbe [Small flower in grass]' 1932

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Petite Fleur en Herbe [Small flower in grass]
1932
Photomontage
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled (Thistle)' 1932

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled (Thistle)
1932
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Dune mobile' September 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Dune mobile
September 1931
© ADAGP, Paris, 2018
© Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Deux nus féminins allongés sur une plage [Two naked women lying on a beach]' c. 1931-1934

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Deux nus féminins allongés sur une plage [Two naked women lying on a beach]
c. 1931-1934
© ADAGP, Paris, 2017
Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI. Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Guy Carrard

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled' 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled
1931
© Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Regard dans le miroir' 1930

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Regard dans le miroir
1930
© Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Untitled' 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Untitled
1931
© Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'The Triangle (Vera Broïdo)' c. 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
The Triangle (Vera Broïdo)
c. 1931
Coll. Marc Smirnow
© ADAGP, Paris, 2017

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'The Triangle (Vera Broïdo)' c. 1931

 

Alternate version

 

 

To this day, Raoul Hausmann’s photography has not had a dedicated museum exhibition in France. As a photographer, Hausmann has long remained underrated and unheralded. However his key position in 20th century avant-garde photography has continually been re-evaluated and his importance is widely acknowledged these days.

We know Hausmann as the prominent artist of Dada Berlin, as the author of assemblages, collages, lautgedichte, etc, yet the vicissitudes of history caused the obliteration of his photography, an essential facet of his oeuvre. From 1927 onwards Hausmann became an avid and restless photographer. His photographic practice quickly became a cornerstone of his multi-faceted reflections and activities, pushing him in a new direction which culminated in his forced departure from Ibiza in 1936.

Between 1927 and 1936, Hausmann engaged in a discussion about the nature and the role of photography with August Sander. He published a body of theoretical texts and was part of a group that included such notorious figures as Raoul Ubac, Man Ray, Elfriede Stegemeyer, and Lázló Moholy-Nagy. The latter once stated: ‘All that I know, I’ve learnt it from Raoul’.

Considering Hausmann’s clandestine crossing of the century, it is no surprise that his photographic oeuvre was forgotten. Labelled a ‘degenerate‘ artist by the Nazis, he hastily left Germany in 1933. As an exile, Hausmann suffered the dispersion, and sometimes the destruction, of his work. His photography was seldom displayed and survived unnoticed until the late seventies. It was long supposed to be lost, until an archive (now at the Berlinische Galerie) was almost miraculously discovered at his daughter’s home after her death.

The French photographic archive of Hausmann’s work, kept mainly at the Musée de Rochechouart and opened in 1985, continued to grow up until 2010. This institutionalisation of his work has generated an on-going re-appraisal. Hausmann the photographer is astonishing. In contrast to the sarcastic and biting tone generally associated with his Dada period, his photographs are a means to pacification. They convey a sense of reconciliation, a serenity that did not prevail before. In the late twenties Hausmann felt more and more oppressed in Berlin. He took long vacations in small villages by the North Sea and the Baltic, villages described by his partner Vera Broïdo as ‘shelters’ and ‘hide-outs for artists’. There, he took photographs of the sand, the foam, the bogs, trees, naked bodies, curvy dunes, wheat, weeds, insignificant things that dazzled him. His attention also focused on humble objects, cheese graters, cane woven chairs, wicker baskets, which he transformed through the use of light and shadow. Hausmann calls these experimentations ‘melanography’. They strikingly exemplify his definition of what an image is: ‘the dynamics of a living process’.

Hausmann’s arrival in Ibiza in 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, opened a new perspective. Fascinated by the peasant houses built in the shape of white cubes, he began a photographic inventory of this ‘architecture without architects’. Photography became partly a study dedicated to vernacular architecture from an anthropological point of view. Hausmann also discussed notions such as ‘origin’ or ‘race’ that emerged in contemporary architectural circles. Fully integrated in the island’s life, he lived in a ‘state of dream’, as if outside time. Hausmann also pursued a project begun in Germany that revolved around two broad categories, portraits and the vegetational or organic forms. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in which he briefly took part as a Republican (Ibiza being the first territory abandoned to the Francoists as early as 1936), marks the beginning of his wandering across Europe. During his exile, Hausmann no longer had the possibility of dedicating himself so passionately to photography.

Text from Jeu de Paume press kit

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Monsieur Mariano Ribas' 1933

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Monsieur Mariano Ribas
1933
@ Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Peasant house (Can Rafal)' 1934

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Peasant house (Can Rafal)
1934
© Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) 'Three chairs' 1934

 

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)
Three chairs
1934
© Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

 

Marthe Prévôt
Raoul Hausmann tenant sa sculpture-assemblage L’Esprit de notre temps
Raoul Hausmann holding his sculpture-assembly The Spirit of our time

1967
© Documentation du Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Raoul Hausmann en danseur' 1929

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Raoul Hausmann en danseur
1929
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Inventor and Dadaist [Raoul Hausmann]' 1929, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Inventor and Dadaist [Raoul Hausmann]
1929, printed 1990
Silver gelatin print
258 x 193 mm
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay

 

 

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10
Jan
18

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

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

Curator: Sérgio Mah, Universidade NOVA, Lisboa

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Experiencing the image

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

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A mind dancing with nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcus

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

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

 

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

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

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

Sérgio Mah

 

 

 

The Design of Nature

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The vision of things

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Highlights of the exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Focus on the Ruhr

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Focus on architecture

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Focus on series

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

 

 

The Destiny of Nature

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Focus on vertical landscape

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Focus on geology

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

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

 

 

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75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

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12
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Struth: Figure Ground’ at Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 17th September 2017

Curator: Thomas Weski

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Crosby Street, Soho, New York' 1978

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Crosby Street, Soho, New York
1978
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris' 1979

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris
1979
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

 

I have always liked this man’s work. His understanding of space, colour, form and photograph as aesthetic experience is sublime. His muscular compositions show evidence of clear thinking and seeing… an investigation into sachlichkeit, that is objectivity: the boundaries between human, animal and machine (the aesthetics of innovation).

And yet Struth’s “unheroic” images also show evidence of subjective forces at work: impulsion, chaos, and serendipity to name a few, capturing a ‘razzmatazz of sensations’ that challenge the existential nature of the human, ‘being’.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Most of the images are very unheroic. I have a strong relationship to clarity. That’s why my compositions and choices are very meticulous.”

.
Thomas Struth

 

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 1, London' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 1, London
1989
Chromogenic print
180.0 x 196.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Louvre 4 Paris (1989) centre left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Louvre 4 Paris' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Louvre 4, Paris
1989
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo
1991
Chromogenic print
105.5 x 126.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Paradise 26 (Bougainville), Palpa, Peru (2003) to the right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Bright sunflower - No. 1, Winterthur' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Bright sunflower – No. 1, Winterthur
1991
Chromogenic print
84.0 x 66.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

 

This major exhibition by the pioneering German photographer Thomas Struth (born 1954) presents the most comprehensive survey of his genre-defining oeuvre. Covering four decades of work and every phase of his illustrious artistic career, the exhibition focuses especially on the aspect of Struth’s social interests which represent the important forces of his internationally influential artistic development. Starting with his first series Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places) published in 1987 through his current works that deal with the field of research and technology in the globalised world, Struth’s work develops its own specific analytical nature through his choice of subject matter, the manner of its photographic realisation and its modes of presentation. These aspirations are manifested in questioning the relevance of public space and transformation of cities, the cohesive factor of family solidarity, the importance of the relationship between nature and culture, and exploring the limits and possibilities of new technologies. The momentum of participation further characterises these aspirations, as Struth’s extensive pictorial inventions and strategies allow individual interpretation based on collective knowledge.

In this exhibition, early works and research materials related to the artist’s subject matter, and collected over several decades, are shown for the first time in the context of an exhibition, offering access and insight into Struth’s working methods. Together with the photographs, these materials elucidate his longstanding interests behind the different series, demonstrating the process of artistic translation before the perfection of the image.

Featuring around 130 works, two multichannel video installations, and a selection of archival material, the exhibition in Haus der Kunst is the largest survey of Struth’s artistic career to date. The survey links his early ideas to well-known series such as Straßen (Streets), Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places), Portraits, Museumsbilder (Museum Pictures), Paradise, and Audiences which are placed in dialogue with site-specific works like Löwenzahnzimmer (Dandelion Room), the landscape- and flower photographs that were made for the patients’ rooms at the Hospital on the Lindberg in Winterthur, Switzerland. It also includes photographs recently shown in the exhibition Nature & Politics. Within this interplay, the exciting ability of the artist to combine analysis and individual pictorial invention in multifaceted works and techniques builds an overarching idea on how to deal with the elementary matters of our times.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication from Schirmer / Mosel Publishers, Munich, designed by Fernando Gutierrez, with texts by Thomas Weski, Ulrich Wilmes, Jana-Maria Hartmann, and an interview with the artist by Okwui Enwezor. The exhibition is organised by Haus der Kunst and curated by Thomas Weski.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai' 1997

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai
1997
Chromogenic print
117.5 x 143.6 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China
1999
Chromogenic print
182.0 x 227.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Self-Portrait, Munich' 2000

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Self-Portrait, Munich
2000
© Thomas Struth

 

“Albrecht Durer painted his self-portrait in 1500, so Struth’s Self-Portrait, Munich 2000 feels like a conversation between artists across 500 years.”

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 2, London' 2001

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 2, London
2001
Chromogenic print
148.0 x 170.4 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 7, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 7, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 11, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 11, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island (2007) at centre
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island' 2007

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island
2007
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching (2009) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2009
Chromogenic print
109.3 x 85.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Har Homa, East Jerusalem' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Har Homa, East Jerusalem
2009
Inkjet print
148.6 x 184.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with The Faez Family, Rehovot (2009) second left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'The Faez Family, Rehovot' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
The Faez Family, Rehovot
2009
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

 

Take, for instance, Struth’s photograph “Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh” (2010). Ostensibly a photograph of a chemistry fume cabinet at the University of Edinburgh, photographed through a clear, glass window, the work is also a study in colour and form. Within a white background space, the back wall has black horizontal lines running along it, while the side walls have one vertical line each. These opposing lines create what appear to be a haphazard grid. A wide red horizontal structure runs across the front of the room, creating one more line that both breaks up and contributes to the grid. Various machines within the room, two square red panels on the left and right sides of the window, and six coloured balloons provide a series of objects that fit within the finely structured container of the photograph’s frame.

What struck me immediately upon seeing this image was how the various lines and objects interact with one another. Struth presents the viewer with a kind of interactive field in which she can either read the image “as is” – photograph documenting a chemistry fume cabinet – or as a purely aesthetic experience. Or, of course, she can do both, which is what makes Struth’s work so rich and gratifying. It is in the way his mastery of colour and other formal elements coincides with his documentation of the world.

Cynthia Cruz. “Seeing the Deterioration of Technology in Thomas Struth’s Photographs,” on the Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 05/08/2017

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle (2010) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia (2013) at right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia' 2013

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia
2013
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Schaltwerk 1 Berlin' 2016

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Schaltwerk 1, Berlin
2016
© Thomas Struth

 

 

Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstraße 1
80538 Munich
Germany
Tel: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
Monday - Sunday 10 am - 8 pm
Thursday 10 am - 10 pm

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13
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th April to 13th August 2017

Curator: Dr Martin Engler, Head of the Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum
Co-curator: Dr Jana Baumann, Städel Museum

Artists: Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich

 

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet' 1963

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet
1963
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
75.3 x 91.4 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

The Bechers depict the half-timbered houses from the Siegerland in a sober and restrained fashion. The picture removes the buildings from their original context. One view follows the next. Thus the form of the single building becomes more important than its function. In the photographs the half-timbered houses become aesthetic objects with a sculptural character. Bernd and Hilla Becher do not present their images individually, but in a grid. Not the single photo is the work, but the total of the typology is.

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

 

“What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.” (Press release)

WHAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH – the second sentence, that is!

Just look at the photographs as pictures.

The Bechers and their students’ photographs might invoke a new concept of the pictorial but that does not mean the death of photography far from it. In fact, this conceptualisation opens up an expanded terrain of becoming for photography (continuing the theme of the last post on the work of Walker Evans). In this sense, the work of these artists is vital to an understanding of the place of photography within the observation, construction and taxonomy of contemporary culture and its pictorial representation.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For more information please see the interactive website.

 

One of the most radical changes in art’s relation to its aesthetic, media, and economic contexts is closely associated with the students of the first Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy – but even more so with the names of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher. The exhibition brings together 200 major works, some in large format, by these important artists, as well as a selection of their early works.

 

 

Candida Höfer (*1944) 'Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977' 1977 (2013)

 

Candida Höfer (*1944)
Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977
1977 (2013)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
42.6 x 36.7 cm
Loan from the artist
© Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Volker Döhne (*1953) 'Untitled (Colourful)' 1979 (2014)

 

Volker Döhne (*1953)
Untitled (Colourful)
1979 (2014)
Colour print from colour transparency
37 x 47 cm
Private collection
© Volker Döhne, Krefeld 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958) 'Interior 1 D' 1982

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Interior 1 D
1982
Chromogenic colour print
47 x 57 cm
Loan from the artist
© Thomas Ruff; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955) 'Doorman, Passport Control' 1982 (2007)

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Doorman, Passport Control
1982 (2007)
Inkjet print
43.2 x 52.5 cm
Loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers
© Andreas Gursky / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 / Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Moedling House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Moedling House
1982-1984
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan from the artist
© Axel Hütte

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954) 'Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy' 1989

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954)
Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy
1989
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
61 x 75,2 cm
Private collection
© Petra Wunderlich; VG Bild-Kunst 2017

 

 

From 27 April to 13 August 2017, the Städel Museum is staging a comprehensive survey on the Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy and the major paradigm shift in the medium of artistic photography with which the Bechers and their students are associated. With the aid of some 200 photographs by Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich – a group of whom some enjoy international renown and others are due for rediscovery – the exhibition will examine the influence exerted by Bernd and Hilla Becher on their students at the Düsseldorf school. What unites the students’ works with those of their teachers? How do they differ? Is there really such a thing as the “Becher School” or is it ‘merely’ a matter of several highly successful photographers who happened to be studying at the ‘right place’ at an especially propitious moment in history? And how have those artists influenced our present conception of what a picture is? Taking the artist duo’s work as a point of departure, the exhibition “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class” will acquaint viewers with the radical changes in the medium of artistic photography that became manifest in the works of the Becher pupils in the eighties and above all the nineties, and investigate the art-historical impact of this development up to the very present. It will feature major large-scale works as well as key early endeavours by the members of what is presumably the most influential generation of German photographers in the field of fine art.

The students of the first in a long line of Becher Classes at the Düsseldorfer art academy introduced elementary changes to contemporary art’s aesthetic, media and economic contexts. They not only contributed decisively to shaping international photography in the 1990s, but also fundamentally redefined the status and perception of artistic photography in general. Their works can be considered as one of the most self-confident emancipations of photography as art in the mediums history, while at the same time reflecting the (not merely digital) moment when the boundaries between the media dissolve.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher’s first – meanwhile world-famous – students played a tremendously important role in establishing photography as an expressive medium on a par with other art forms. The nine artists featured in our show occupy a realm where the distinction between painting and photography is no longer clear. The permeability of the boundary between the media is deliberate in their work, and in that respect they mirror one of the key focuses of the Städel Museum’s collection of contemporary art,” observes Städel director Dr Philipp Demandt. And exhibition curator Dr Martin Engler adds: “What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.”

The founding of a chair for artistic photography at the Düsseldorf art academy in 1976 provided perhaps the single most important impulse for a change in how the medium of photography was perceived. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla Becher, Bernd Becher held that chair until 1996. Even before their appointment to the Düsseldorf school, the Bechers had been taking pictures of historical industrial architecture, subscribing to a work concept that exceeded the scope of a common documentary approach in photography. They portrayed mining headframes, blast furnaces, gas tanks, water towers and other testimonies to a vanishing industrial culture – frontally, in central perspective, with fascinating depth of field, and where possible before the backdrop of a uniformly grey sky. They arranged the individual shots in grids to form large-scale tableaus they called typologies. The concern here was no longer merely the illustration of reality, but its perception. Reality could no longer be depicted singly, but only in a multiplicity of simultaneous images. From the formal aesthetic point of view, the staging of the pictorial subjects was now far more than documentary in nature. The affinity to minimal and concept art – evident in the rigour of the pictorial vocabulary, the industrial aesthetic and the new perception of a work in stages – is unmistakable.

Especially in their early work, the students of the first Becher Class explored their teachers’ artistic strategy with great intensity. Yet as they continued to pursue it in the nineties, they did so ever more independently, and in their own highly individual styles. With the aid of various strategies in terms of scale, presentation and motif, and not least of all with abstract pictorial inventions provoked by digital image techniques, they took the interpenetration of the mediums of painting and photography to an extreme. The result was a new concept of the picture that blurs aesthetic and media distinctions. “The dissolution of media boundaries, but also the use of technical innovations, are characteristic of the works of the first Becher Class. It is here that the impact of a changing media culture is felt,” explains Dr Jana Baumann, the co-curator of the exhibition.

A show devoted to such a complex phenomenon on the one hand, and such productive teaching activities on the other, must inevitably be limited in scope. “Photographs Become Pictures” concentrates deliberately on the students of the early years of the Becher Class, beginning with Höfer, Döhne, Hütte and Struth in 1976 and ending with the completion of Gursky’s and Sasse’s studies in 1987/1988. In retrospect, it is precisely in the heterogeneity of the first Becher Class – with its wide range of approaches that have influenced our present-day understanding of the pictorial image – that the success of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s teachings is evident.

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) is known above all for her pictures of public interiors such as libraries, universities, museums and waiting rooms. Nevertheless, the purely documentary aspect is ultimately of secondary importance to her, as is also true of her teachers. Particularly when she turned to colour photography, she began producing iconically clear shots of meaning-charged interiors extremely striking in their rigorous aesthetic. In composition, repetition and rhythm as well as the sculptural emphasis, Höfer’s formal staging of her interiors is reminiscent of the Becher typologies.

A distinct affinity to the typologies is also evident in early street shots by Thomas Struth (b. 1954), such as West Broadway, Tribeca, New York (1978) or Sommerstrasse, Düsseldorf (1980). He proceeded in a manner similar to his teachers, but broadened his spectrum of motifs. He is concerned in his work with cultural structures; in addition to streets he also depicts museums or religious cult sites and portrays families. With the aid of social and ethnological allusions he reveals orders and interrelationships, thus achieving a universal survey of human and their lifeworld in imagery.

Petra Wunderlich‘s (b. 1954) black-and-white series depict details of churches or quarries that the artist has introduced to a new, abstract compositional framework. By this method she reduces architecture visually to its stereometric tectonics in such a way that elementary architectonic forms unexpectedly emerge from the “broken” surfaces of nature. Wunderlich’s photographs, like those by the Bechers, can be read as sociological and historical testimonies.

The workgroups of Volker Döhne (b. 1953) closely resemble Bernd and Hilla Bechers’ typologies with regard to concept and motif alike. He developed series such as Small- Scale Iron Industry (1977/78) or Small Railway Bridges and Underpasses in the Bergisches and Märkisches Land (1979). With his experimental Colour (1979) series, he then emancipated himself from his teachers.

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) was interested primarily in factory gates, shop windows, beverage kiosks and snack bars, which she photographed in the even light of grey days. Many aspects of these works are strongly reminiscent of the Becher photographs: the consistent placement of the subject at the pictorial centre, the unchanging size of the prints, but also the serial, typologically comparative approach.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is likewise deeply indebted to his teachers’ serial method, which we encounter in his work in ever-different formulations. His portraits as well as the strongly enlarged nocturnal shots of, in part, found material, convey his fundamentally sceptical attitude towards photography’s claim to truth and documentation. His persistent investigations of new pictorial sources and technologies are perhaps the most impressive demonstrations of the manner in which Ruff continues the approach of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Axel Hütte‘s (b. 1951) early architectural details investigate social situations using a mode of photographic expression distinguished by distance and anonymity. Within this context, he devotes himself as much to spoiled landscapes as to supposedly untouched nature which nevertheless has always been formed by human intervention. A conspicuous aspect of his work is the strong reference to historical landscape painting, whose formal compositional principles he both copies and deconstructs. Whereas the Bechers directed their attention to the sculptural or conceptual potential of their pictures, Hütte focusses on painting as the leading medium of modern art.

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) initially devoted himself to highly artificial and at the same time prosaic arrangements of petit-bourgeois domestic culture. His later “tableaus” represent a virtual antithesis to the reductive rigour of these early works. Using digital and analogue techniques alike, he began processing found pictures as well as images of his own making, in which context he blurred the distinction between painting and photograph beyond recognition.

Andreas Gursky‘s (b. 1955) early photographs are likewise characterised by a keen interest in everyday surroundings – the private as well as the public sphere, the context of work as well as leisure time. Like Sasse, he investigates the aesthetic boundary between photographic and painterly image production. By means of digital manipulations he uses to duplicate and mount the pictorial motif to the point of abstraction, he creates perplexing pictorial architectures that merge construction and reality in large-scale colour prints.

The development of the Becher Class shows how concept art’s expanding notion of the artwork led to a new concept of the pictorial including photography. What the teachers introduced in rudiments was taken by their students and the following generation of artists to a momentous change in the picturing of reality. The realisation that photography cannot reproduce reality impartially does not detract from the medium. On the contrary, it means an enhancement in terms of artistic potential. What is more, the lack of focus in the portrayal of reality – in the literal and figurative sense alike – enriches photography’s complexity. It is not least of digital changes that enables innovative pictorial invention. Yet the boundaries of the photographic image also became fluid in the development from individual work to typology and series, and from detail to overall image. The answer to all questions about the significance, classification, doctrine and conception of what we refer to as the “Becher School” can thus be found in an insight as simple as it is surprising: in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

At left, Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail) 1988 (2003)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Candida Höfer (left) and Thomas Struth (*1954) Louvre 3, Paris 1989 1989 (2012) (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) Paradiese 09 Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Paradiese 09' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Paradiese 09
Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) with House No. 1 I 1987 (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Axel Hütte (*1951)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Castellina' 1992 (2015)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Castellina
1992 (2015)
Chromogenic colour print
98.4 x 120.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung © Axel Hütte

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) The Consolandi Family, Mailand, 1996 (2014) (left)

 

Exhibition views “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

 

The Bechers

For their photographs Bernd and Hilla Becher are awarded the “Golden Lion” in the category of “sculpture” at the Venice Biennale in 1990. How is that possible? Surprisingly at the time there was no separate category for photography at the Biennale. But this is not the real reason. Already in 1969 the first larger exhibition of the Bechers is called “Anonymous Sculptures”, just like their first volume of photographs. The artists very consciously link the genres of photography and sculpture. This idea informs their entire oeuvre.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Wobeser begin to collaborate in 1959. At the time both study at the art academy Düsseldorf. Two years later they marry. During the following five decades the artist couple produces mostly tableaus of several parts – consisting of three, nine, twelve or more photos; they call them typologies. Their subjects are disused headstocks, furnaces, oil refineries, water reservoir towers, grain silos, gasometres or even half-timbered houses in former workers’ settlements – all of them testimonies of a declining industrial culture.

 

An Overall Concept

When Hilla and Bernd Becher presented their works at the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1969, this coincided with an exhibition on US-American minimal art – a juxtaposition that was to prove programmatic. In 1972 the American sculptor Carl Andre mentioned the insightful connection of the Bechers’ works and the movements of minimal and conceptual art. This prominent, art-theoretical connection significantly contributed to the great international success of the Bechers. This is also why – especially in the USA – the two are considered concept artists more than photographers.

The Bechers’ method of working – ostensibly – is concerned with sobriety and anonymity, rigidity and objectivity. They work in series, where the whole and a part of this whole, total view and detail are balanced. Setting their photographs into the context of sculpture, they test the boundaries of the genres of photography and sculpture. Working and presenting their works in series, they move the photograph beyond the individual work: the viewer can never see everything at once; instead the eye oscillates between detail and general context.

The artist couple directs the attention to formal, creative aspects of the photographed edifices at the same time allowing them to disappear in the typology’s grid. The rigidity of their pictorial vocabulary and the interest in an industrial aesthetic evidences the close proximity of the Bechers’ creative work to minimal and concept art.

 

Photography in Germany

“In principle it [photography] was a fallow field, where nothing ‘noteworthy’ had taken place in the past fifty years. We saw us in the tradition of objective photography of the 1920s; Bernd and Hilla Becher were the first to reconnect to this. There was absolutely nothing that we could fight or needed to disengage with. We could start from scratch.” ~ Thomas Ruff

 

“New Objectivity” this was the motto of the 1920s – also in photography. It was no longer the pictorial language of painting, but precision, focus and truth to detail, characteristics of photography that had garnered the artists’ interest.

The photographer August Sander focused on the society of the Weimar Republic and created a typology: in 1925 his pictorial atlas People of the 20th Century, where he systematically assembled hundreds of portraits of stereotypes of people of the most diverse social backgrounds and occupations. All of his sitters are portrayed frontally, which makes the photographs comparable. Sander also engaged in the photography of landscapes, industrial sites and cities.

Two more representatives of the photography of New Objectivity are also worth mentioning here: Albert Renger-Patzsch recorded industrial buildings and machinery in a sober directness. Karl Blossfeldt adopted scientific standards and photographed plants – always before a neutral background, removed from their natural setting.

Bernd and Hilla Becher draw on these approaches and develop them in their works. With a few exemptions, photography was not considered an autonomous artistic medium in Germany. Still in the 1960s, photography in art predominantly served as a means of documentation of actions, happenings and performances. Yet painting and photography interact. The painter Gerhard Richter for example, used photos as templates for his paintings since the early 1960s. The Bechers in turn greatly contributed to the recognition of photography as autonomous artistic medium with their photographs.

 

The Becher Class: Adoption, Distinction

DÖHNE GURSKY HÖFER HÜTTE RONKHOLZ RUFF SASSE STRUTH WUNDERLICH

These are the students of the first Becher class. In 1976 Bernd Becher is appointed first professor for photography at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla he teaches there for twenty years. Their first students become artists, who will have a formative influence on photography in the 1980s and the 1990s internationally. The Becher students intensely study their teachers’ work. Especially in their early works comparable approaches develop: a distanced perspective, an interest in architecture and striving for technical precision.

The Bechers are preoccupied with an industrial architecture in decline, representative also of the social changes affecting the respective region. Taking this as a starting point, their students consider their direct surroundings and social contexts. They seek to identify systems of classification and in their photographs investigate the relationship of individual work and series. In the process the Becher students adopt their own positions. They discover new themes, techniques and creative strategies. Regardless of the distinctions they are indebted to the conceptual approach of their teachers, which they then developed in their individual ways.

In their teaching and their work Bernd and Hilla Becher explore a concept of the image, where medial and aesthetic distinctions of sculpture, painting and photography dissolve. Their students continue this work in very different ways. In the 1980s and 1990s their enquiries lead to a critical reflexion of the possibilities of representing reality. The lack of focus in the depiction of reality – literally and figuratively – represent an increase in artistic complexity. Innovative pictorial creations were now possible by way of digital intervention.

The borders of the photographic image blur at the stage between single work and typology and series. The alternation of perception, oscillating between detail and total image extend the possibilities of photography. The meaning of what is called “Becher school” can be summarised in a simple and surprising statement: at the historic moment, when photography becomes an independent medium, it also realises its potential and explores its limits. Photography reaches its limits, transgresses it and thus ultimately questions its existence.

 

Kiosks and Streets

The developments in American photography are also important to the Becher-students: Ed Ruscha, whose photos show everyday subjects, is one of their role models. In 1966 he creates Every Building on the Sunset Strip. With a simple handheld camera Ruscha photographs every building on the Los Angeles boulevard of that name; he presents his pictures in a fanfold or an artist’s book. This quickly reveals the serial principle behind the work. Volker Döhne’s approach in Reconstruction II is similar. He, too, documents the commercial architecture, largely determining the surrounding.

Ice cream parlour, garage, drug store, stationers, dwelling house, shoe shop – nicely aligned. Volker Döhne focuses on the urban space dominated by nondescript post war architecture and empty sites. Other than his American colleague Ed Ruscha, Döhne always positions his camera head-on in the same angle. Surprisingly this emphasises the buildings’ volume. Like his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher he emphasises the three-dimensional, sculptural aspect of buildings and pursues a concept that he determined before he began to photograph.

The Bechers assemble identical, yet different photographs to a static tableau. Döhne on the other hand, required the viewer to move along the strip and proceed down the row of photographs. Above all the viewer must add together the photos of the Krefelder Straße by himself: the work forms as a result of the viewer’s active viewing and perception.

 

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31
1978
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
41.2 x 51.2 cm
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln/Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn
© Tata Ronkholz, Nachlassverwaltung Van Ham Art Estate 2017

 

 

Cigarette and gumball machines are fixed to exterior walls. Advertising posters overlap. Beverages, magazines and sweets are visibly lined up behind glass. It is Tata Ronkholz’ serial presentation that enables the comparison of the kiosks and their study as a social phenomenon in urban contexts.

Kiosks are everyday meeting points and the setting for social life. At the same time their role fundamentally changed in the past decades. Ronkholz photographs kiosks as socially grown places. She positions them centrally in their architectural environment – people are absent. This is what the photos have in common with Becher-photographs. Like her teachers, Ronkholz is committed to the conservation and archiving of a changing urban culture.

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107' 1977

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107
1977
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Without title' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Without title
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Foundation Culture, Cologne / Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

 

PICTURE PARALLELS

Bernd and Hilla Bechers students are linked to the work of their teachers in many ways. And yet they devote themselves, in part, to new motifs, subjects, and picture formats during their studies. In addition to architecture, they also photograph interiors, simple everyday objects or people.

In the early 1980s the Becher-students Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff turn to portrait photography practically at the same time. They capture their models with neutral facial expressions, generally head-on before a monochrome background. The extreme setting makes the individual recede while the surface of the background dominates. In the series the single faces turn into an interchangeable motif somewhere between person and typology.

 

From Near and Far

The directions of the persons’ gazes differs. Nothing distracts from their faces. The neutral background and the close details are reminiscent of giant passport photographs. One almost overlooks that some of the sitters are famous artists today.

Axel Hütte’s portraits with their conscious play with blurring and sharpness are irritating: some areas in the photo show up the slightest detail, while others are slightly blurred – a conscious reference to the Bechers’ works, characterised by their extreme depth of focus. When observing Hütte’s works from close-up the face becomes a surface of structures. If one wants to see it in focus, one needs to distance oneself. Thus the viewer is kept at bay and always in motion.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' (detail) 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

PICTURES GENERATION

Thomas Ruff explores the gap between reality and image. This is something he shares with the American artists of the so-called “Pictures Generation” from the 1970s and 1980s. This informal group of artists, among them Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Richard Prince, grew up with a flood of pictures in cinema, television and the print media. Their works show distrust for the media, as well as a fascination with it. The artists make use of existing images from film, advertising and art. They copy, quote and redesign this material – more subtly than the artists from American Pop Art in the 1960s. Instead of working with found images in print, collage or painting, the artists of the “Pictures Generation” make small interventions. By introducing minor changes or by producing a practically identical copy of an image they very consciously play with conventional ways of perception. In their works they draw attention to mechanisms of picture production and the methods of artificial construction of reality through pictures.

 

Photos of Faces

Like Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff does not believe in an image of human character. He is convinced that only the exterior reality – the appearance – can be represented. In this sense Ruff’s portraits are photos of faces that resemble expressionless surfaces. The monochrome background hides any hint at a recognisable location.

The face becomes a surface and thus resembles a projection screen for an advertising message. The serial juxtaposition turns the individual in Ruff’s photographs into a type that also represents a particular generation. The stereotypes communicated by mass media and the influence of images on individual and collective opinion-forming are being questioned.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (G. Benzenberg)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Portrait (G. Benzenberg)
1985
Chromogenic colour print
41 × 33 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

“Looks good. Continue in colour.”

The bed, bath and living rooms, the kitchen unit and the furniture of the 1950s and 1970s, Thomas Ruff finds at the homes of relatives and friends in the Black Forest, where he comes from. Bernd and Hilla Becher preferably work in black and white. Ruff on the other hand starts experimenting with colour photography early on during his studies:

“At some point I started, making use of the colour practice, which I […] had developed, in my interiors, and I thought this looked better than in black and white photos. The colleagues said, you cannot do this. Then I also asked Bernd Becher and he said: “Looks good. Continue in colour.”

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Interior 3 A' 1979

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Interior 3 A
1979
Chromogenic paint removal
45.7 x 39.4 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

A Question of Mise-en-Scène

The two clips on yellow ground look like two flies. The bright background emphasises the form of the represented objects. Their original function becomes secondary. The simple stationary objects become worthy of the photographer’s meticulous attention. Jörg Sasse uses and parodies the strategies of advertising photography, ever concerned with presenting an object as something special.

From the start, Sasse’s work shows a painterly tendency as well as a penchant for abstraction. This is also apparent in a sequence of still lives with reduced colour and shapes. In his early work Sasse is interested in his immediate environment. He seeks to capture the unusual in the everyday. This links his work with the typologies of his teachers. Other than they do, Sasse does not give titles to his works; instead he gives them random numbers. This allows him to remove the represented object even further from its original context without offering a new interpretation.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'ST-84-12-06' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
ST-84-12-06
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
18 × 24 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Kitchen, Bath Room and Living Room

Almost in symmetry Jörg Sasse’s photo shows a light blue jug and a glass jug on two hobs. It belongs to a series, which Sasse dedicated to modest interiors between the post war years and the economic miracle. Sometimes the photos show individual objects, sometimes a combination of two or three objects. They capture details of tiles, furniture or floors.

They give the impression as if the objects were arranged by coincident or as if the inhabitants had left them behind like this. At the same time the scenes appear to be very artificial. Sasse transforms colour, shape and structure of the interior settings into individual, abstract compositions. He focuses on formal contrasts, sequences and similarities. According to the artist it is “not the preoccupation with interiors but with the picture.” The photographer is more interested in the painterly composition than in the representation of reality.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
57.2 × 67.6 cm
Courtesy Gallery Wilma Tolksdorf

 

 

Courtyards and Street Canyons

The artists Axel Hütte and Thomas Struth share an interest in urban non-spaces, indistinct streets or architectures.

In the 1980s modernist residential dwellings like the brutalist, square James Hammett House in London, become increasingly less popular and are turned into social housing. The raw concrete façade of the London block of flats spreads across almost the entire picture. The empty square in front of it is abandoned. There is no sign of inhabitants: a forbidding place.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher in their pictures of industrial buildings, Axel Hütte emphasises the angular and unwieldy shapes of the architecture in his London series. From a distance the sad, functional façade appears to be an abstract pattern of rhythmically changing shades of grey, behind which the architecture recedes.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'James Hammett House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
James Hammett House
1982-1984
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan of the artist

 

 

In the Street

The row of houses on New York’s 21st Street seems never ending. Old houses and modern high rises alternate and form a sequence of textures and geometric forms rich in contrast. Thomas Struth was struck by the deep street canyons of the metropolis. He took his photos from the middle of the street, positioning the camera at eye-level – a method that resembles that of his teachers. It is an unusual perspective unfamiliar to both pedestrians and drivers.

Struth begins capturing urban spaces already when in Cologne and Düsseldorf. A stipend takes him to New York in 1978. His photographic approach offers a completely new view of the city’s urbanity and structure.

“I may very well stem from the legacy of documentary photography and do use its means and perspective, but my true concern exceeds this. […] To me the street is a space, where manifold influences and historical events convene and become apparent. The public space has a subconscious language, addressing us continuously.”

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York' 1978 (1987)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York
1978 (1987)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 84 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Thomas Struth

 

 

VARIETY

Landscapes, families, places of leisure, libraries, museums – the subjects of the Becher-students are equally as varied as their approach to photography. Their own positions develop more and more, while shared characteristics with their teachers’ oeuvre become apparent.

“Not the subject, but the representation of a landscape is what matters to me.” ~Axel Hütte

Almost two thirds of the picture are concealed by thick fog. The rocks in the foreground, however, are razor sharp. In Furka Axel Hütte plays with the contrast of diffusion and focussed parts of the picture. He explores landscape photography and thus consciously enters into competition with the genre of painting.

Foggy landscape is of great importance in the paintings of German Romanticism. This art movement, which began in the late 19th century, is characterised by mystic nature, where religious ideas are intertwined with subjective sentiment. Caspar David Friedrich is recognised as one of the most important representatives of Romanticist landscape painting. To him nature mirrored the human soul. In his painting Mountains in the Rising Fog, which he painted around 1835, the hills are veiled and only the outlines can be made out. In his photographs, Hütte refers to this tradition and employs similar techniques to guide the viewer’s gaze and to compose the picture. The landscape can be sensually grasped. The atmosphere and the subjective experience come to the fore. While his teachers sought the proximity to sculpture, Hütte’s work reflects the strategies of painting.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'Furka' 1994 (2012)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
Furka
1994 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
56.7 × 65.7 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung

 

 

The Silence Beside the Storm

Andreas Gursky’s works are dedicated to traffic hubs, mass events, economic centres, transit zones or places of leisure. Gursky’s focus is always on the common denominator and questions the relationship of man with nature and society. The photograph Teneriffa, Swimming Pool shows a holiday resort from a bird’s eye perspective that makes the tiny holidaymakers almost disappear. The force of nature represented by the foaming sea is in stark contrast with the artificial silence of the adjacent pool.

Like his teachers, Gursky keeps a distance to his subject. But unlike them he does not work in series and concentrates on single works. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s compositions are always about one centrally positioned object. Gursky’s images on the other hand are rich in detail and the motives are spread across the picture plane in captivating sharpness – he plays with visual challenge.

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Teneriffa, Swimming Pool' 1987

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Teneriffa, Swimming Pool
1987
Chromogenic colour print
104.5 × 127 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Own Vantage Points

Candida Höfer too, photographs public spaces. Her photographs follow the architecture of the buildings she finds. At the same time she chooses unusual positions for her camera and thus resists the symmetries or views prescribed by the spaces. Her photos defy architectural hierarchies and structures and thus communicate the spatial experience in a particular way.

Waiting Room Cologne III 1981 is an early example of Höfer’s artistic method. The furniture reaches diagonally into the space, a dynamic underscored by the pattern of the parquet flooring. The row of tables and chairs in the bottom corner is cut off by the edge. Instead of creating a balanced symmetrical composition, she works with alternative vantage points.

This allows Höfer to emphasize her personal view of the interior architecture. Concurrently she is enquiring how the architectural space is influenced by the way people use it in the course of time. The Waiting Room with Neo-Baroque décor dating from the second half of the 19th century forms a stark contrast to the simple furniture that is easily 100 years less old.

“By means of the print I then create my own space once again. It is not my intention to show the space in a manner as realistic as possible.”

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Waiting Room Cologne III 1981' 1981

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Waiting Room Cologne III 1981
1981
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 155 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Libraries as Brand

Above all Candida Höfer is famous for her large-scale interior views of libraries devoid of people. The workspaces in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris are lined up like books in libraries. The artist frequently focuses on places that preserve and order knowledge and culture. Apart from libraries she also worked on museums or operas. She is interested in how humans influence architecture through their culture. Her photos are always determined by a cool sobriety. This is what they have in common with the photographs of the Bechers. However, Höfer always works with the light and the space present in each situation. She strives to capture the atmosphere and aura of a space.

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998' 1998

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998
1998
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 215 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

The Picture in the Picture

In his series Museum Photographs Thomas Struth focuses on imposing interior spaces such as the gallery at the Louvre in Paris – unlike Höfer, he always shows the visitors, too. They become a multifaceted continuation of the figures in the paintings on the wall. Through the photograph Struth establishes a connection of pictorial space and real space, the painterly and photographic space. Here, the formerly competing media painting and photography enter into a dialogue as equals.

Simultaneously the viewer is confronted with different levels of viewing: those who contemplate Struth’s photos inevitably also observe the visitors at the Louvre contemplating the art works there. Thus the artist prompts a reflection on how we deal with art and its history, with seeing and being seen. Struth does not influence the positions of the visitors in his Museum Photographs. He waits for situations that can serve as the basis of his compositions. Struth merely decides on the space and the visual angle he takes.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Louvre 3, Paris 1989' 1989 (2012)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Louvre 3, Paris 1989
1989 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
152.2 × 168.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

 

 

Family Relations

The photo The Consolandi Family, Milano by Thomas Struth belongs to the series Family Portraits, which shows relationships that are complex and full of tension. The viewer is challenged to explore the connections of the family, reflected in subtle looks, mimics or posture.

The Family Portraits evolved from an unpublished project, which Struth and a friend of his, a psychoanalyst, pursued in the early 1980s. Patients were asked to submit a couple of photographs that were typical of their families, which Struth then combined in a portfolio. Drawing on this project, the photographer began to work with family portraits he took. He photographed people he knew in their homes. The individuals were asked to choose their position in a space that the artist had selected. Struth’s psychological interest in the family as a social fabric is evident. The order resembles a sociagram after all.

Like the Bechers’ works, Struth’s photographs are determined by an intrinsic dynamic full of tension. While his teachers work with industrial fields of force, he balances psychological energies. This results in an alternation of perception – the eye sways between single pictorial elements and the total composition.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996' 1996 (2014)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996
1996 (2014)
Chromogenic colour print
178 × 214.2 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

PICTURE EDITING

In February 1982 the first great scandal about a digitally edited press picture occurs: for the title of the periodical National Geographic – actually indebted to scientific exactitude – the pyramids at Gizeh have been pushed closer together so they would fit the portrait format. This represents a fundamental shift in photo and media culture that also affects the work of the Becher students.

Ruff, Sasse and Gursky especially, develop their works digitally. This inevitably distances them from their teachers’ documentary approach more and more. The artists do not depict reality they create their own reality. This results in photographs that cannot be explained through analogue camera technology. The truth in the pictures is questioned, just like the viewer’s perception. In nascent form this approach is already present in the typologies created by the Bechers.

 

Digital interventions

This photo of an average residential block from 1987 marks a turning point in Thomas Ruff’s oeuvre. Things – namely a tree and a street sign – are missing. Ruff decided to have these details erased. He also retouched an opened skylight. This is one of the first digitally edited pictures in the circle of the Becher students. Ruff’s idea is to emphasise the symmetrical appearance and the hermetic quality of the building. Still, he is not really meddling with the picture’s structure of reality.

Ruff’s photos of the House Series confront the viewer with urban banality. The enormous scale of the works, measuring nearly 2 x 3 metres exaggerates the uneventfulness as a crucial characteristic of this architecture. From the 1980s the Becher students increasingly use large formats. They become a trademark of the group. Mostly presented with a wooden frame the artists elevate the photos to the level of paintings. Like the Bechers, Ruff worked in series, but no longer arranged his works in typologies. His series preserve the suspicion of a single image that might represent the world.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'House No. 1 I' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
House No. 1 I
1987
Chromogenic colour print
179 × 278 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

Giant Grid

In photos like Paris, Montparnasse Andreas Gursky enlarges the image to a monumental scale of over four metres in width. He, too, relies on digital editing. The frontal view of the residential block is presented in strictly right-angular lines. The building is so wide that it would be impossible to capture it in a single photo. Hence, Gursky used two photos and joined them on the computer.

From a distance, the geometrical grid of the building looks abstract. The skeleton structure of the block also means that the windows offer hundreds of single images. However, it is impossible to simultaneously perceive the detail as well as the overall structure. Gursky requires the viewer to constantly alternate his focus between close-up and distance.

“My pictures are always composed for two aspects […]. The smallest detail can be read from close up. From afar they are mega-signs.”

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

 

Exhibition view “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Paris, Montparnasse' 1993 (before 2003)

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Paris, Montparnasse
1993 (before 2003)
Chromogenic colour print
207 × 422 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Pixel and Pixel and Pixel

Sasse’s work 1546 (1993) also plays with perception at the border of abstraction. The single pixels as a trace of the digital reworking are immediately visible. The realistic representation of a curtain is ruptured. Instead pixel and square colour fields become the focus, while the original sense of space is lost. The photo appears two-dimensional.

Sasse takes up a basic issue with the illusion of space that has a long art historic tradition. Already in early Renaissance the artist and scholar Leon Battista Alberti considers painting as a window to the world. He considered it important for an illusionist way of painting to conceal the two-dimensionality of the canvas. In his oeuvre Sasses draws on this issue. He questions photography and painting’s claim to realism and questions the possibility of pictorially representing reality at all.

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 1546, 1993 (centre) and Jörg Sasse (*1962) 7341, 1996 (right)

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) '1546' 1993

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
1546
1993
Chromogenic colour print
137 × 200 cm
Private collection

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962) '7341' 1996

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962)
7341
1996
Chromogenic colour print
93 x 150 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Jörg Sasse; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

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Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Becher Class at the Städel Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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