Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality

14
May
19

Exhibition: ‘The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day’ at ONE Gallery, West Hollywood, California

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 17th May 2019

Curator: David J. Getsy

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“Varble’s total irreverence is no more evident than in his willingness to “cross party lines,” as he did when he wore his Suit of Armor, constructed with gold VO labels from Seagram’s boxes, to both the 1975 Easter Parade and to West Village leather bars! He was an equal opportunity offender, rubbing up against conformity in all forms.”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Confusing queen reigns, on parade

In an era of reactionary religious and right wing hypocrisy – Christian sleaze and paedophilia anyone, anti-Muslim and gay Facebook posts in the Australian election, murderous right wing rampage in New Zealand – now more than ever, we need artists like Stephen Varble.

I love doing these posts on artists that certainly I, and I suspect a lot of the readers of this website, would have never have heard of. Artists full of spunk, full of daring-do, artists who rise to challenge the patrons of patriarchy, and the colluders of capitalism (Varble became ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism). Artists who declaim the value of the individual, who shine a light on the plight of the downtrodden and discriminated against. Can you not once bring yourself to utter the word “AIDS” you bigoted president?

“Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances… [He] sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both.” Australian artists such as Leigh Bowery and Brenton Heath-Kerr have a lot to thank Varble for.

He might have risen from the gutter, but his intentions were full of stars.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Varble’s work wasn’t drag in the conventional cross-dressing sense, or “gay art,” which was often defined from a predominantly masculine perspective in the immediate post-Stonewall years. His intention was to stretch and break down the very idea of binary identities, confuse the concept of gender, leave it optional. And this goal puts him well in the framework of queer and transgender thinking now. …

For a series of mid-1970s performances he called “Gutter Art,” he would arrive, elaborately dressed, by limousine (paid for by a Japanese patron, Miyazaki Morihiro) in front of luxury stores on the Upper East Side. Once parked, he unloaded old kitchen utensils from the trunk and started washing them with black ink, as if referring to the domestic life of sweatshop labor. He soon gained notoriety as a kind of cultural terrorist. (Tiffany’s hired guards to keep him out.) He turned up, uninvited, at red carpet events – film premieres, the Met’s Costume Institute gala – to dazzle and deride the guests.

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Holland Cotter. “Stephen Varble: The Street Was His Stage, the Dress Was His Weapon,” on The New York Times website January 10, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)' 22 March 1976, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)
22 March 1976, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“A chauffeured Rolls Royce glides glacially to the curb in front of the Chemical Bank at New York’s Sheridan Square. The uniformed driver, out in an instant, holds open the passenger door. Rather than a well-heeled person to which such a car would belong, a more hallucinatory sight will emerge, equally glamorous and ridiculous. Two legs appear, only one of which has a shoe. The full length of the body gradually appears, improbably covered in netting and not much else, the entwined nets adorned with crumpled bills. What seem to be bare breasts droop from the chest of a figure of otherwise unidentifiable gender, further confused by a toy fighter jet, poised for takeoff, at crotch level. While no words are spoken, a cartoon speech bubble overhead proclaims, cheerily but with a disgruntled undertow: Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

The Chemical Bank Protest was Varble’s most notorious and widely reported disruption, and it encapsulated his disdain for commerce, capitalism, and propriety. To contest a forgery against him, Varble went to the Sheridan Square bank to demand his money returned. He created his Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe from Christmas tree packaging, gold leaf wrappers, and fake money. His costumes often combined different signs of gender, and here he wore tow condoms filled with cow’s blood for breasts and a toy jet fighter as a codpiece. The toy referenced the plane ticket the forger purchase with the money, and one shoe was missing to “symbolise his economic loss.” Hovering over his head, a speech bubble touted, “Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Varble’s performances often affected an ironic enthusiasms for his targets (be it a bank, a boutique, a gallery, or a presidential candidate), and his insincere flattery was meant to provide cover for his disruption of business as usual.

Arriving in a borrowed limousine, Varble boldly entered to make his demands as the line of customers at the teller window gawked. On being told by the manager that he could not be helped, Varble punctured the blood-filled condoms and dipped a pen in the spilled blood to write checks (for “none-million dollars”) in his dramatic, mime-like movements before sweeping out to the sound of applause from the customers.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

“Varble began to truly set himself apart from other gender-focused 1970s performance artists with his outré 1976 performance at Chemical Bank in Sheridan Square. After hearing that someone had forged his signature and emptied out his bank account, Varble walked into the bank dressed in fake money, with breasts made out of condoms and filled with cow’s blood. He demanded his money back. When the bank teller could not comply, Varble punctured his condom-breasts, spilling blood all over the floor, and wrote checks in blood for “none-million dollars,” which he addressed to his companion at the bank, Peter Hujar. The exhibition includes a photograph Hujar took that day, evoking a time when the lax security in banks allowed artists to perform and express themselves, however outrageously (although Varble was then escorted out of the cow’s blood-filled bank by security).”

Extract from Michael Valinsky. “A Forgotten Precursor of Genderqueer Performance Art,” in Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 14/05/219

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left top, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble with the Enormous Pink Satin and baby Doll (1975); left below Stephen Varble Performing in a Garbage Can at his Loft on Franklin Street (1975); and at centre, Closing Party with Varble’s Enormous Pink Satin Skirt (1975)

 

 

Franklin Street Exhibition and Party Performance

in 1976, Varble organised an exhibition of his own work in the loft her share with Jim McWilliams on Franklin Street. He painted the interiors pink, built large decorations, and displayed all his costumes on cut-out mannequins mounted on the walls. The largest piece in the exhibition was a new work the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, some fifteen feet in length. The object played a central role in the “Gala Ending” party that closed the exhibition, as can be seen in the photograph (main above). For this major event Varble enlisted the help of established gender non-conforming performers such as Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, and Taylor Mead to act as living mannequins for his most iconic costumes. Modelling Varble’s art they paraded with his satin silhouette dolls through the crowd and did impromptu performances – such as when Agusta Machado enacted a campy drama of claustrophobia in Varble’s refrigerator. Day was there to capture the wild party, managing to take individual portraits of some of the major performers in attendance…

In the midst of the playful chaos, Varble gathered these Warhol stars and others (such as Paul Ambrose and New York drag personality Ruth Truth) inside the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, and at a designated time they al burst forth dancing. As the exhibition gave attendees a retrospective view of his output the performance provided a testament to Varble’s place in the queer performance culture of New York. As the art critic Gregory Battock remarked, “It was the kind of event only Stephen Varble could have planned: chaotic, meandering, spurious and very New York […] Even though invitations were hard to come by, everybody was there.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery with, from left, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble Destroying his Blue and Green Corrugated Paper Dress from the Camera (October 1975); Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale; and Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

'Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer' [recto] 1975

 

Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer [recto]
1975
Xerographic print on paper
Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum
Photo: Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day, 2019

 

 

In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (1946-1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art.” With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (b. 1944) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble builds upon the 2018 retrospective exhibition of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019. The new ONE Gallery exhibition, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerrilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s photographs by Greg Day is curated by David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the  School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble is organised by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. Generous support is provided by the City of West Hollywood.

About the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc.

The ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) dedicated to telling the accurate and authentic stories of LGBTQ people, history and culture through public exhibitions, educational projects and trainings, and community outreach programs. Our exhibitions, school programs, and community outreach programs are free. We depend entirely on members of the public and private foundations for support.

Press release from the ONE Gallery [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left, a still from Stephen Varble’s video Journey to the Sun (1978-1983); and at right Greg Day’s Stephen Varble in the Piggy Bank Dress (1975)

 

Stephen Varble (American, 1946-1984)
Journey to the Sun
1978-1983
U-matic video transferred to digital, 2018
Courtesy David J. Getsy

 

 

Varble receded from the art world and from street performance around 1977, becoming ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism. As he told an interviewer that year, “This is the age of pornography and contempt. The dollar is good. […] The end of capitalism is coming.” Varble instead began to develop private performances and videos about his private mythologies and messianic dreams. His last five years were consumed with working on an epic, operatic work of video art: Journey to the Sun. It started in 1978 as a performance about the mythology of Greta Garbo, and Varble invited friends to his Riverside Drive apartment to view his monologues accompanied by project slides. His ambitions soon outgrew this format, and he turned to video for its ability to combine text, image and performance. He considered these videos to be revivals of illuminated Medieval manuscripts with their rich visual play between words and pictures, and he called his group of collaborators in the video the “Happy Arts School of Manuscript Illumination.” The aim of the “school” was to promote Varble’s vision of societal transformation through the making of modern fables in the form of videos, books, and prints. His “video books,” as he called the tapes, offered an “antidote to nature’s ruin on this heavenly globe.”

Journey to the Sun tells the story of a musician, the Grey Crowned Warbler, who undergoes tribulation and metamorphosis on a journey to transcendence. The tale is a loosely autobiographical fable of an artist who encounters a stern mystical teacher, Sage Purple Pythagoras (played by his partner, Daniel Cahill) who tests the Warbler. Many of Varble’s iconic costumes feature in the video, and he combined elements of his own history with references to literature, religion, and popular culture (notably, Garbo). Combining heavily scripted monologues with improvised performances. Journey to the Sun does not offer a tidy or easily understood narrative. Rather, it sketches a fantastic and surreal visual world in which dreams are realised through the transformations of everyday objects, popular imagery, and rubbish.

To make this “rodeo-paced” video, Varble filled his apartment with drawings and writings on the walls, blacked out the windows, and began filming scenes both scripted and improvised with collaborators. Journey to the Sun is remarkable for its time due to the complexity and density of the video editing – all of which was done by Varble in his apartment. He only completed about thirty percent of his planned work before his death from AIDS-related complications in January 1984. This screening copy presents a continuous segment of around 80 minutes that has been selected from the three surviving U-matic master tapes, but no changes have been made other than the choice of where to begin and end this combined excerpt. This is but a fragment of the much longer video epic Varble hoped would be his major contribution.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing Stephen Varble’s Blue Boy

 

 

“One afternoon, Stephen invited me to accompany him to a performance in midtown Manhattan. He bought Blue Boy with him. We took the F train uptown from Washington Square. Sitting on the subway car bench and wearing his Chemical Bank Protest attire. Stephen hugged, kissed, fondled and poked Blue Boy. He spoke to him in an affectionate and sometimes argumentative language of moans, “ohs” and clicks. I sat across from him and watched as people entered the car. They stared, laughed, gasped, and made disparaging remarks about his sanity before moving to another part of the subway car. Even riding the train was an opportunity for Stephen to shock.”

Greg Day
Wall text from the exhibition

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy from Leslie-Lohman Museum on Vimeo.

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival' 1975

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival
1975
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

ONE Gallery, West Hollywood
626 N. Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Opening hours:
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Closed Monday – Wednesday

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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

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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

 

 

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27
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs’ at the Portland Art Museum Phase 1, Part 2

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2017 – 6th May 2018

Curated by Julia Dolan PhD, the Minor White Curator of Photography

 

Over two postings, Phase 1 of this exhibition which features one of the greatest collections of early photographs by Minor White!

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Dock)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Dock)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

Catching fire

It is a memorable experience to be able to observe a great artist experimenting with his craft, which is exactly what MW is doing in the photographs in these two postings. Here is an artist at the start of the path, honing his skills as a “creative photographer”: for these are creative, public photographs not expressive, private ones.

The photographs are a strange mix… part modernism, part romanticism, with a large dose of Pictorialism (dare I mention the word!) thrown in for good measure. I can see influences of the night work of Brassaï; the architectural photographs of Charles Sheeler; the photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch and the German New Objectivity; the urban and urbane photographs of Walker Evans (The Customer, c. 1939 and Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery) c. 1940 below); the spatiality, surrealism and detail of Eugene Atget’s Paris photographs; and the landscape work of Ansel Adams. Overlay these influences with feelings of spirituality, sexuality and the atmosphere of place and you have a heady mix. And yet these photographs are purely his own.

What a time MW was having when he made these photographs. There were no limits to where he could point his camera.

As I talk to my friend and mentor about photography, we have brave conversations about artists, vision, looking, previsualition, representation, the print, and more generally life, words, spirit. He observed of this group of photographs:

.
“There were things that looked like photographs that other people had made.
There were things that were naively interesting to him for what they were.
There were things that allowed him to experiment with ideas of metaphor.
There was a combination of subject matter and light that enabled him to touch upon a world of symbol and ritual without him ever really being confident
in that world (at this time).

There were also affirmations of how he could organise the world through his camera. He knew he was really accomplished with organising the edges of his image (particularly the right hand edge) and how this segued into the centre of his images where he hoped he could also organise subject matter – but he was not as skilled with this. He was still learning his craft.

He also knew that he could escape reality by changing scale, changing the lightness of his subject matter, changing the mood of his images with print colour (cold events printed warm) and then affirming the mood of his images with print colour. He knew there must be more with how he printed – was he beginning to understand that there his knowledge of printing chemistry could also be applied to film chemistry? Maybe there was an inkling of this but he was never extremely skilful with this. And he was not trying to expose and change film development techniques according to the subject matter – but there were emerging confused questions about this that would be exceptionally refined later.

I don’t think he applied labels like modernist or romantic to himself – but he was burningly aware of his authorship – and it excited him to the bone. Sometimes he was aware that he was walking an edge between various worlds and this was starting to take a form where he was both teacher and student – he could sense it starting to appear in his images and this made him secretly full of delight.”

.
My friend has such a tremendous knowledge of the work of MW and of photography and life in general. I most appreciate the passing on of these observations to me. You really can feel that the artist is walking an edge between various worlds and that the photographs embody a critical shift in consciousness, from “truth in appearances” to a longing for transcendence. The work is full of symbolic and metaphorical allusions/illusions.

That MW’s photographs still offer these affirmations to the viewer nigh on 80 years later show’s the intensity of their visualisation. They are a gift from the cosmos to one human being and back to the cosmos (in the form of an ensō, or Zen circle), and should be accepted as such.

Marcus

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

 

“A banquet of frustration”: Minor White penned the phrase in 1939, after reading T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land. “I perceived that if one could put out the energy to produce a banquet of frustration, then frustration had power,” White commented. “It was worth pursuing.”(1)

(1) Minor White, “Memorable Fancies,” 1932-37; quoted in Peter C. Bunnell, Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (Princeton and Boston: The Art Museum, Princeton University; Bulfinch/Little, Brown, 1989), 19.

“The duplicity one senses in White’s career, in both his writing and his images, stems certainly from this frustration about sexuality (as Peter Bunnell has written,”White’s sexuality underlies the whole of the autobiographical statement contained in his work”),(6) but it also mirrors a much larger countertradition found within modernism itself, a romantic tradition that draws from Romanticism, Symbolism, Dada, and Surrealism. More specifically, White’s frustration coincides with the collapse of modernist ideals during the postwar era. This passage in the history of photography, if examined at all, is normally pinned to the arid vision of Robert Frank.(7) Aesthetically, White’s vision was less dark than Frank’s, and in no sense nihilistic. Yet White’s work embodies a critical shift in consciousness, from the heroic modernist notion of “truth in appearances” toward the acknowledgment – and even the cultivation – of illusion, deception, and buried meanings. White’s banquet of frustration would look like a tea setting compared to the theoretical abattoirs of generations of later artists; nevertheless, the historical narrative of photographic modernism’s dissolution owes an early chapter to White and his longing for transcendence, which he seems not to have attained.”

Extracts from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Propeller)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Propeller)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Freight Depot' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Freight Depot
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Girder)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Girder)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Portland Lumber Mills)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Portland Lumber Mills)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Log Boom' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Log Boom
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Boats at Dock' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Boats at Dock
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'East Side of Willamette' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
East Side of Willamette
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Boards' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Boards
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Lily Pads and Pike' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Lily Pads and Pike
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Patch' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Patch
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Horsetail and Skunk Cabbage' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Horsetail and Skunk Cabbage
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Tree Root' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tree Root
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Detail (California Foundry)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Detail (California Foundry)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Detail (227 Southeast Front Street)' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Detail (227 Southeast Front Street)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Front and Burnside' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Front and Burnside
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Ladd and Tilton Bank (1868 Southwest First and Stark Streets)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976
Ladd and Tilton Bank (1868 Southwest First and Stark Streets)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Pioneer Post Office and Portland Hotel Gate' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Pioneer Post Office and Portland Hotel Gate
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Southwest Fourth and Salmon Streets, Courthouse' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Southwest Fourth and Salmon Streets, Courthouse
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Kamm Building (Southwest Pine near First Avenue)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Kamm Building (Southwest Pine near First Avenue)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Fifth at Yamhill (Public Service Building)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Fifth at Yamhill (Public Service Building)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'New on Old (Southeast Corner, First and Burnside)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
New on Old (Southeast Corner, First and Burnside)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Iron Fronts' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Iron Fronts
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Front Street' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Front Street
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Arches of the Dodd Building (Southwest Front Avenue and Ankeny Street)' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Arches of the Dodd Building (Southwest Front Avenue and Ankeny Street)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, no known copyright restrictions

 

 

In 1939 White was living at the Portland YMCA, where he had organised a camera club and had built a darkroom and modest gallery for exhibiting pictures. White’s photographs from this period concentrate on the environs of Portland, particularly the area of the commercial waterfront, which was undergoing demolition for redevelopment. Hired by the Oregon Art Project, an arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), White trawled the city’s Front Avenue neighbourhood, documenting the nineteenth-century buildings with cast-iron façades that were about to be torn down.(8) White’s photographs are anything but clinical. His street views, many taken at night, have a ghostlike quality, with the occasional lone figure haunting the wet pavement; boarded-up doorways are cast in deep shadow; and mercantile objects, heaped onto the sidewalk before emptied warehouses, take on a forlorn anthropological character.(9)

Among these pictures is a group of five depicting a handsome young man leaning in a doorway on Front Avenue. He is dressed like a labourer in jeans, work shirt, and boots, but there is something of the dandy in the raffish positioning of the man’s newsie cap, the tight cut of his trousers, pulled high and cinched at the waist, and the studied nonchalance of his pose. In one image, his hand is shoved into a pocket, leaving the index finger exposed and pointing downward toward a prominent bulge. Most importantly, he gazes – not at the photographer but down the street – intently and expectantly, as if anticipating something that has not yet come into view. A second photograph shows the man from behind, revealing the nape of his neck, a pair of rounded buttocks, and white stains splashed down the right thigh of his trousers. The pose suggests that he is urinating in this abject doorway with its peeling paint and debris underfoot; he could be taken for a plasterer relieving himself during a break. Another image, taken in a different boarded-up doorway, shows the man leaning with one arm raised and smiling coyly (again, not at the photographer), with his thumbs slipped under his belt and his fingers cupped, calling attention once again to his bulge. An “Air Circus” poster behind him advertises “Tex Rankin and other famous flyers” as well as “stunts” and “thrills.”

The scene is both explicit and coded, even to contemporary eyes. This handsome loitering man might have been taken by certain passersby for an ordinary labourer, on break or looking for work. Others might have recognised him as a man looking for sex (or for another kind of work) with other men. White’s sexual interest in men and his approach to looking at things “for what else they are” stratify the two narratives, establishing layers of meaning on parallel planes. This man is both a labourer and a cruising homosexual. He is, then, just what the photographic image in general would come to signify for White: a common trace from the visible world, transformed into another set of charged meanings.(10)

.
Extract from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Doorway, Dodd Building' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Doorway, Dodd Building
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

White’s earlier Portland series, by contrast, is the darker product of a romantic turn of mind and conveys not the affirmative, civic-minded Whitman of poems such as “A Broadway Pageant” but the melancholy, searching Whitman of the “Calamus” poems.(13) In Portland, we see White engaging Front Avenue for its sense of mystery and possibility, an investigation among darkened doorways and in the silhouettes of passing strangers for moments of revelation. More than simply a celebration of the manifold aspects of the city, the desired charge might be specified as the possibility of an erotic connection, however ephemeral, as proposed by Whitman in “City of Orgies”:

City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one
   day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
   spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships
   at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows
   with goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in
   the soiree or feast;
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and
   swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own—these repay me, 
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.(14)

.
Extract from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Pilaster and Hood Molding, Dodd Building (Southwest Front and Ankeny)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Pilaster and Hood Molding, Dodd Building (Southwest Front and Ankeny)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Door of Iron - First Brick Building in Portland, 1852 (Ladd and Tilton Building)' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Door of Iron – First Brick Building in Portland, 1852 (Ladd and Tilton Building)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'China Town' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
China Town
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Morrison Bridge - Winter' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Morrison Bridge – Winter
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'St. Johns Bridge' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
St. Johns Bridge
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Catherine Creek' c. 1941

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Catherine Creek
c. 1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery)' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Hurricane Creek (Trees and Rock)' 1941

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Hurricane Creek (Trees and Rock)
1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Ice Lake' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Ice Lake
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Customer' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Customer
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) '1323-29 Southwest First Avenue' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
1323-29 Southwest First Avenue
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Young Man)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Young Man)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Shipmates Visit the Photographer' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Shipmates Visit the Photographer
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Woman Sitting)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Woman Sitting)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Man Praying)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Man Praying)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

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1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205

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Thurs – Fri 10am – 8pm
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29
Sep
17

Photographs: Lionel Wendt’s Ceylon

September 2017

 

More photographs from the artist Lionel Wendt.

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (Still life with mask and statue)' 1942

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Still life with mask and statue)
1942
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled' c. 1933-38

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
c. 1933-38
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled' c. 1933-38

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
c. 1933-38
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (Sea landscape)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Sea landscape)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'I Heard A Voice Wailing Where The Ships Went Sailing' c. 1935-40

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
I Heard A Voice Wailing Where The Ships Went Sailing
c. 1935-40
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (At the well)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (At the well)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (At the well)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (At the well)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (At the well)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (At the well)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (At the pottery)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (At the pottery)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel-Wendt. 'Untitled (Architecture surréaliste)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Architecture surréaliste)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (Buddha head and wine goblet)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Buddha head and wine goblet)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Gunaya Yakdessa Costume' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Gunaya Yakdessa Costume
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled' c. 1933-38

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Solarised woman)
c. 1933-38
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled' c. 1934-37

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Solarised nude)
c. 1934-37
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Solarised man in ocean)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'The Misery of Balanced Perplexities' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
The Misery of Balanced Perplexities
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Untitled (Canes)' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled (Canes)
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Lionel Wendt. 'Narayanan' Nd

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
Narayanan
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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27
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Lionel Wendt: Ceylon’ at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 10th June 2017 – 3rd September 2017

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

 

Glorious modernist photographs with avant-garde and surrealist overtones: the use of photomontage, double printing and solarisation is particularly effective.

The sensitive figure studies of males in classical pose carry an over current of barely surpressed desire evidencing a sexualised (post-colonial?) gaze falling on the exotic Other – even as Wendt was part of an emerging generation of artists documenting Sri Lanka’s culture and history from the inside.

More interesting than desire hiding through artistic ethnographic study are the landscapes, abstracts of coils of rope and the voluptuous female nudes. Stunning.

The media images were in such poor condition when I received them that I have spent a long time digitally cleaning and balancing them for your pleasure.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Lionel Wendt was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon.”

.
Pablo Neruda, Memoirs

 

“The proposition that confronted Wendt was that Sri Lanka had a way of life that was very old but which remained, in spite of poverty, squalor and apathy, a vital sense of life. He recognised that here man, living in traditional ways, had not become alienated from his environment… Evidence of his deep regard for Sri Lanka and its traditions are illustrated in the images he chose to capture with his camera, each being a tiny microcosm of a vast and magnificent tapestry. It was recognised by all those who knew him that Wendt had an endless capacity for work. He focussed on the country and the people with unerring judgement and relentless dedication, and in doing this, he stimulated a new consciousness among them and (just as pertinent) in some high places.”

.
Neville Weeraratne

 

“He never spoke much about his photography. I expect he wanted his images to speak for themselves and he never spoke of them or about himself. I suppose he was so critical of everybody else that he did not want to expose himself to the same treatment. He did not reveal himself. He was a very interior person. He showed no emotion though he expressed a great passion for things. Perhaps he was hypocritical.”

.
Lester James Peiris

 

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title (Self-portrait)
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

 

There is something special going on with regard to the oeuvre of Ceylonese photographer Lionel Wendt (1900-1944). After a period of relative obscurity, Wendt was rediscovered – or discovered, in fact – worldwide as a unique, individualistic photographer who availed himself of experimental techniques and modern compositions. Wendt’s choice of subjects was eclectic: from sensual and homo-erotic portraits to tropical images of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and from picturesque scenes to compositions for which he used modernist stylistic devices and experimental techniques. After Wendt’s premature death in 1944 his negatives were destroyed, but the work he left behind lives on. This consists of a collection of beautiful experimental prints, of which several are included in the renowned collections of such museums as Tate Modern in London and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This year, Wendt’s work is being exhibited at Documenta 14 in Athens and, from 10 June till 3 September 2017, in a large-scale retrospective exhibit at Huis Marseille, which shines a spotlight on the fascinating work of this photographer in all its facets.

 

Who was Lionel Wendt?

Lionel Wendt was a concert pianist, author, patron of the arts, teacher and, above all, a first-class photographer. After having studied law and musical training as a concert pianist in Great Britain, Wendt returned to the city of his birth, Colombo in Ceylon, at the age of 24. It did not take long for him to dedicate himself fully to the arts after his return: piano, literature and the visual arts. It was particularly in photography that he found an ideal vehicle for expression. In 1934, he established the Photographic Society of Ceylon jointly with Bernard G. Thornley and P.J.C. Durrant, and started running Chitrafoto, the photographic studio of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon and in which he also published a photographic column, in 1938. Wendt developed into a prominent avant-gardist – the ‘Oscar Wilde’ of the Ceylonese arts scene. His first solo exhibition took place in 1938 at the Camera Club in London, at the invitation of Ernst Leitz, the inventor and manufacturer of the Leica. Two years later, a solo exhibition followed in Colombo entitled Camera Work, probably in reference to Alfred Stieglitz’s avantgardist photography magazine of the same name.

 

Tropical modernism, masterful prints

Initially, Wendt used a Rolleiflex for his photography, which he quickly replaced by a Leica. From approximately 1933 onwards, he started to print his film in his own darkroom, where he soon showed himself to be a master. He made refined bromide and gelatine silver prints with subtle shades of grey and gradations of black, which gave his nudes and landscapes a velvet-like quality. Wendt allowed himself to be inspired by the ‘straight photography’ of Paul Strand and Edward Weston and the surrealistic experiments of Man Ray, and experimented with techniques such as photogram, photomontage, double printing and solarisation.

 

Homosexuality, hiding in plain sight

Wendt’s work includes spectacular images of Ceylon: its landscapes, cultural heritage and local population, photographed during everyday activities or traditional rituals. However, his sensual homoerotic nudes are particularly astounding. In a time and at a place where homosexuality was not accepted, Wendt had his male subjects (men and boys) pose in the landscape or in his studio. Through the traditional Ceylonese loincloths worn by his subjects, which leave little to the imagination, and the academic poses he asked them to take, he was able to express his homosexuality under the guise of art and ethnography. He also created portraits of the members of the island’s avant-garde movement. Wendt played a significant role in the development of modernist painting on Ceylon; he acted as a patron of the arts and his house was a meeting place for the ’43 Group, the artistic movement that was a predecessor of Ceylonese modernism.

 

A dormant legacy reawakens

Following Wendt’s early death in 1944 his work sank into oblivion. In the course of time the hundreds of prints that comprise his legacy came into the possession of several collectors, galleries and museums. After having led a dormant existence for several decades, Wendt’s work was once again brought to the attention of the public in 1994.

 

Large-scale museum retrospective in the Netherlands

From 10 June through 3 September 2017, Huis Marseille is presenting the first museum solo exhibition of Lionel Wendt in the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Ton Peek Gallery (Utrecht) and Jhaveri Contemporary Gallery (London/Mumbai). Over 140 prints from various international private and museum collections have been brought together. Concurrent to the exhibition, the publishing house Fw:Books will be presenting the book Lionel Wendt. Ceylon featuring an overview of Wendt’s work (hardcover, 200 pages, design by Hans Gremmen). This is the first monograph since Lionel Wendt. A Centennial Tribute (2000), an extensive and revised version of the very first catalogue of Wendt’s oeuvre: Lionel Wendt’s Ceylon (1950).

Text from Huis Marseille

 

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam,

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lionel Wendt: Ceylon at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

 

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book cover

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

 

Lionel Wendt: Ceylon book

 

 

Huis Marseille
Keizersgracht 401
1016 EK Amsterdam
T +31 20 531 89 89

Opening hours
Tue – Sun, 11 – 18 h

Huis Marseille website

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09
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 11th June 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The State We're In, A' 2015

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The State We’re In, A (Room 14)
2015
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Cock (Kiss)' 2002

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Cock (Kiss)
2002
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

If one thing matters, everything matters
(A love letter to Wolfgang Tillmans)

I believe that Wolfgang Tillmans is the number one photo-media artist working today. I know it’s a big call, but that’s how I see it.

His whole body of work is akin to a working archive – of memories, places, contexts, identities, landscapes (both physical and imagined) and people. He experiments, engages, and imagines all different possibilities in and through art. As Adrian Searle observes, “Tillmans’ work is all a kind of evidence – a sifting through material to find meaning.” And that meaning varies depending on the point of view one comes from, or adopts, in relation to the art. The viewer is allowed to make their own mind up, to dis/assemble or deepen relationships between things as they would like, or require, or not as the case may be. Tillmans is not didactic, but guides the viewer on that journey through intersections and nodal points of existence. The nexus of life.

Much as I admire the writing of art critic John McDonald, I disagree with his assessment of the work of Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern (see quotation below). Personally, I find that there are many memorable photographs in this exhibition … as valuable and as valid a way of seeing the world in a contemporary sense, as Eggleston’s photographs are in a historic visualisation. I can recall Tillmans’ images just an intimately as I can Eggleston’s. But they are of a different nature, and this is where McDonald’s analysis is like comparing apples and pears. Eggleston’s classical modernist photographs depend on the centrality of composition where his images are perfectly self-contained, whether he is photographing a woman in a blue dress sitting on a kerb or an all green bathroom. They are of their time. Times have changed, and how we view the world has changed.

For Tillmans no subject matter is trivial (If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters – the title of a 2003 exhibition at Tate Britain), and how he approaches the subject is totally different from Eggleston. As he says of his work, his images are “calls to attentiveness.” What does he mean by this? Influenced by the work of the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti whom I have also studied, a call to attentiveness is a way of being open and responsive to the world around you, to its infinite inflections, and to not walk around as if in a dream, letting the world pass you by. To be open and receptive to the energies and connections of the world spirit by seeing clearly.

Krishnamurti insightfully observed that we do not need to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. We must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – and then we might become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more.1 Then there would be less need for the absenting of self into the technological ether or the day dreams of foreign lands or the desire for a better life. But being aware is not enough, we must be attentive of that awareness and not make images just because we can or must. This is a very contemporary way of looking at the world. As Krishnamurti says,

“Now with that same attention I’m going to see that when you flatter me, or insult me, there is no image, because I’m tremendously attentive … I listen because the mind wants to find out if it is creating an image out of every word, out of every contact. I’m tremendously awake, therefore I find in myself a person who is inattentive, asleep, dull, who makes images and gets hurt – not an intelligent man. Have you understood it at least verbally? Now apply it. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. And if anybody says something to you, you are tremendously attentive, not to any prejudices, but you are attentive to your conditioning. Therefore you have established a relationship with him, which is entirely different from his relationship with you. Because if he is prejudiced, you are not; if he is unaware, you are aware. Therefore you will never create an image about him. You see the difference?”2

.
Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. You are attentive and tremendously awake.

This is the essence of Tillmans work. He is tremendously attentive to the images he is making (“a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view” as he puts it) and to the associations that are possible between images, that we make as human beings. He is open and receptive to his conditioning and offers that gift to us through his art, if we recognise it and accept it for what it is. If you really look and understand what the artist is doing, these images are music, poetry and beauty – are time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. They are archaic and shapeless and fluid and joy and magic and love…

They are the air between everything.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Krishnamurti. Beginnings of Learning. London: Penguin, 1975, p. 131
  2. Ibid., pp. 130-131

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

 

 

“To look at Eggleston alongside those he has inspire [Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller for example] is to see a surprisingly old-fashioned artist. No matter how instinctive his approach or how trivial his subjects, Eggleston believes in the centrality of composition. His images are perfectly self-contained. They don’t depend on a splashy, messy installation or a political stance. …

In the current survey of Tillmans’s work at Tate Modern photos of every description are plastered across the walls in the most anarchic manner, with hardly a memorable composition. Yet this shapeless stuff is no longer reviled by the critics – it’s the height of fashion.”

.
John McDonald “William Eggleston: Portraits”

 

“For a long time in Britain, there was a deep suspicion of my work. People saw me as a commercial artist trying to get into the art world, and the work was dismissed as shallow or somehow lightweight. There are still many misconceptions about what I do – that my images are random and everyday, when they are actually neither. They are, in fact, the opposite. They are calls to attentiveness.”

.
Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017', which includes the latest iteration of the 'truth study centre' project

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail), which includes the latest iteration of the truth study centre project, with
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

 

The Tate show includes a room full of his “truth study centres”, which comprise often contradictory newspaper cuttings as well as photographs and pamphlets that aim to show how news is manipulated according to the political loyalties of those who produce it. As activists go, though, Tillmans is defiantly centre ground. “This is about strengthening the centre. I can understand left-wing politics from a passionate, idealistic point of view, but I do not think it is the solution to where we are now. The solution is good governance, moderation, agreement. Post-Brexit, post-Trump, the voices of reason need to be heard more than ever.”

Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on The Guardian website

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail), which focuses in on Tillmans’ portraiture with Eleanor / Lutz, a (2016) at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Eleanor / Lutz, a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Eleanor / Lutz, a
2016
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Portrait of Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern Boiler House, Level 3, 14/02/2017 in front of his works, Transient 2, 2015 and Tag/Nacht II, 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tag/Nacht II' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tag/Nacht II
2010
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

The State We’re In, A, is part of Neue Welt [New World], the loose family of pictures I began at the end of the last decade. These had two points of departure: “What does the outside world look like to me 20 years after I began photographing?” and “What does it look like in particular with a new photographic medium?”

.
Wolfgang Tillmans

 

“This exhibition is not about politics, it’s about poetry, it’s about installation art. It’s about thinking about the world. I’ve never felt that l can be separated, because the political is only the accumulation of many people’s private lives, which constitute the body politics…”

“My work has always been motivated by talking about society, by talking about how we live together, by how we feel in our bodies. Sexuality, like beauty, is never un-political, because they relate to what’s accepted in society. Two men kissing, is that acceptable? These are all questions to do with beauty.”

.
Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on the Art News website

 

“There is music. There is dancing. Bewilderment is part of the pleasure, as we move between images and photographic abstractions. Tillmans’ asks us to make connections of all kinds – formal, thematic, spatial, political. He asks what the limits of photography are. There are questions here about time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. After a while it all starts to tumble through me.”

.
Adrian Searle review on the Guardian website

 

 

What are we to make of the world in which we find ourselves today? Contemporary artist Wolfgang Tillmans offers plenty of food for thought.

This is Wolfgang Tillmans’s first ever exhibition at Tate Modern and brings together works in an exciting variety of media – photographs, of course, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in characteristically innovative style. Alongside portraiture, landscape and intimate still lifes, Tillmans pushes the boundaries of the photographic form in abstract artworks that range from the sculptural to the immersive.

The year 2003 is the exhibition’s point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist’s work. German-born, international in outlook and exhibited around the world, Tillmans spent many years in the UK and is currently based in Berlin. In 2000, he was the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize.

 

Room one

Static interference typically appears on a television screen when an analogue signal is switched off. This can occur when a station’s official programme finishes for the night or if a broadcast is censored. In Tillmans’s Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast 2014 it represents the coexistence of two different generations of technology. The chaotic analogue static was displayed on a digital television, which allowed Tillmans’s high-resolution digital camera to record the pattern as it really appeared, something that would not have been possible with a traditional cathode ray tube television. This work shows Tillmans’s interest in questioning what we believe to be true: the seemingly black-and-white image turns out to be extremely colourful when viewed very close up.

Other works in this room reflect on digital printmaking and photography today. For example, the technical ability to photograph a nightscape from a moving vehicle without blurring, as in these images of Sunset Boulevard, is unprecedented. Itself the subject of many famous art photographs, this iconic roadway appears here littered with large format inkjet prints in the form of advertising billboards. In Double Exposure 2012-13 Tillmans juxtaposes images of two trade fairs – one for digital printers, the other for fruit and vegetables. Encounter 2014 shows a different photo-sensitive process. A pot had been left on top of a planter preventing light from reaching the sprouts underneath and leaving them white, while the surrounding growths that caught the daylight turned green.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
107 1/2 × 161 1/2″ (273.1 × 410.2 cm)
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Television white noise that the artist photographed while in Russia. For Tillmans, the image signifies resistance on his part to making clear images, but without the text its ostensibly radical nature would not be known.

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014, at left

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I, 2014, at left

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Double Exposure' 2012-13

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Double Exposure
2012-13
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room two

Tillmans spends much of his time in the studio, yet he only occasionally uses it as a set for taking portraits. Instead, it is where prints are made and exhibitions are planned in architectural models, and where he collects materials and generates ideas. Over the years this environment has become a subject for his photographs, presenting a radically different view of the artist’s studio to the more traditional depictions seen in paintings over the centuries.

These works made around the studio demonstrate Tillmans’s concern with the physical process of making photographs, from chemical darkroom processes and their potential to create abstract pictures without the camera, to digital technology that is vital to the production of contemporary images, and the paper onto which they are printed. Tillmans’s understanding of the material qualities of paper is fundamental to his work, and photographs can take on a sculptural quality in series such as Lighter, 2005-ongoing and paper drop, 2001-ongoing, seen later in the exhibition.

In CLC 800, dismantled 2011 Tillmans uses photography to record a temporary installation, the result of unfastening every single screw in his defunct colour photocopier. He prefers to photograph his three-dimensional staged scenarios rather than actually displaying them as sculptures. He has often described the core of his work as ‘translating the three dimensional world into two dimensional pictures’.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'paper drop' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
paper drop Prinzessinnenstrasse
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Perhaps as a continuation of his more textural photographs – depicting fabrics and still lifes so close up they become difficult to read – experiments in abstraction followed suit, many of them featuring what is perhaps his favourite motif: the fold, which, as the exhibition’s curator Chris Dercon kindly reminded us, was considered by the philosopher Leibniz as one of the most accurate ways to depict the complexities of the human soul.

Text from the Art News website

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'CLC 800, dismantled' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
CLC 800, dismantled
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room three

Having spent the preceding decade working largely on conceptual and abstract photographs, in 2009 Tillmans embarked on the four-year project Neue Welt. Looking at the world with fresh eyes, he aimed to depict how it has changed since he first took up the camera in 1988. He travelled to five continents to find places unknown to him and visited familiar places as if experiencing them for the first time. Interested in the surface of things as they appeared in those lucid first days of being in a new environment, he immersed himself in each location for just a brief period. Now using a high resolution digital camera, Tillmans captured images in a depth of detail that is immediately compelling, but also suggests the excess of information that is often described as a condition of contemporary life.

Communal spaces, people, animals, and still-life studies of nature or food are just some of the subjects that feature in Neue Welt. Seen together, these images offer a deliberately fragmented view. Rather than making an overarching statement about the changing character of modern life, Tillmans sought only to record, and to create a more empathetic understanding of the world. Over the course of the project, however, some shrewd observations about contemporary worldviews did emerge. One related to the changing shape of car headlights, which he noted are now very angular in shape, giving them a predatory appearance that might reflect a more competitive climate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'astro crusto, a' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
astro crusto, a
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation shot of room 3 from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 3 (detail), with Headlight (f) 2012, at left; and Munuwata sky, 2011 at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Headlight (f)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Headlight (f)
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Munuwata sky' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Munuwata sky
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room four

In the mid-2000s, prompted by global events, such as the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Tillmans became interested in the assertions made by individuals, groups or organisations around the world that their viewpoint represented the absolute truth about a number of political and ethical questions.

He began his wryly-named truth study center project in 2005. Photographs, clippings from newspapers and magazines, objects, drawings, and copies of his own images are laid out in deliberate – and often provocative – juxtapositions. These arrangements reflect the presentation of information by news outlets in print and online. They also draw attention to gaps in knowledge, or areas where there is room for doubt. For each installation, the material presented in the truth study centers is selected according to its topical and geographic context. In 2017, the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse across the world. This iteration of the project focuses in particular on how constructions of truth work on a psychological and physiological level.

The Silver 1998-ongoing prints connect to reality in a different way. Made by passing monochromatically exposed photographic paper through a dirty photo-developing machine, they collect particles and residue from the rollers and liquids. This makes them, in effect, a record of the chemical and mechanical process from which they originate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'truth study center' 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
truth study center
2017
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room five

Tillmans has described how, as a photographer, he feels increasingly less obligated to reflect solely on the outside world through documentary images. In his abstract works, he looks inwards: exploring the rudiments of photographic processes and their potential to be used as a form of self-expression.

Like the Silver works in the previous room, the abstract Greifbar 2014-15 images are made without a camera. Working in the darkroom, Tillmans traces light directly onto photographic paper. The vast swathes of colour are a record of the physical gestures involved in their construction, but also suggest aspects of the body such as hair, or pigmentation of the skin. This reference to the figurative is reflected in the title, which translates as ‘tangible’.

Tillmans has observed that even though these works are made by the artist’s hand, they look as though they could be ‘scientific’ evidence of natural processes. For him, this interpretation is important, because it disassociates the works from the traditional gestural technique of painting. That the image is read as a photographic record, and not the result of the artist’s brushstroke, is essential to its conceptual meaning.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Greifbar 29' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Greifbar 29
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room six

Tillmans is interested in social life in its broadest sense, encompassing our participation in society. His photographs of individuals and groups are underpinned by his conviction that we are all vulnerable, and that our well-being depends upon knowing that we are not alone in the world.

Tillmans has observed that although cultural attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality have become more open over the three decades since he began his artistic practice, there is also greater policing of nightlife, and urban social spaces are closing down. His photographs taken in clubs, for example, testify to the importance of places where people can go today to feel safe, included, and free.

This concern with freedom also extends to the ways in which people organise themselves to make their voices heard. Images of political marches and protests draw attention to the cause for which they are fighting. They also form part of a wider study of what Tillmans describes as the recent ‘re-emergence’ of activism.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE' 2006

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE
2006
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room seven

Playback Room is a space designed for listening to recorded music. The project first ran at Between Bridges, the non-profit exhibition space Tillmans opened in London in 2006 and has since transferred to Berlin. In three exhibition (‘Colourbox’, ‘American Producers’ ‘Bring Your Own’) that took place between September 2014 and February 2015, he invited visitors to come and listen to music at almost the same quality at which it was originally mastered.

Whereas live music can be enjoyed in concert halls and stadiums, and visual art can be enjoyed in museums, no comparable space exists for appreciating studio music. Musicians and producers spend months recording tracks at optimal quality, yet we often listen to the results through audio equipment and personal devices that are not fit for perfect sound reproduction. Playback Room is a response to this. An example of Tillmans’s curatorial practice, he has chosen to include it here to encourage others to think about how recorded music can be given prominence within the museum setting.

The three tracks you hear in this room are by Colourbox, an English band who were active between 1982 and 1987. Tillmans, a long-term fan of the band, chose their music for Playback Room because they never performed live, thus emphasising the importance of the studio recordings.

 

Room eight

Tillmans began experimenting with abstraction while in high school, using the powerful enlargement function of an early digital photocopier to copy and degrade his own photographs as well as those cut from newspapers. He describes the coexistence of chance and control involved in this process as an essential ingredient in most of his work.

Ever since then, he has found ways to resist the idea that the photograph is solely a direct record of reality. In 2011, this area of his practice was compiled for the first time in his book Abstract Pictures. For a special edition of 176 copies Tillmans manipulated the printing press, for example by running it without plates or pouring ink into the wrong compartments, to create random effects and overprinted pages.

Some of his abstract photographs are made with a camera and others without, through the manipulation of chemicals, light, or the paper itself. Importantly, however, Tillmans does not distinguish between the abstract and the representational. He is more interested in what they have in common. The relationship between photography, sculpture and the body, for example, is expressed in abstract photographs made by crumpling a sheet of photographic paper, but also in close-ups of draped and wrinkled clothing such as Faltenwurf (Pines) a, 2016 in Room 9.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Concorde L433-11' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Concorde L433-11
1997
Ink-jet print
Tate
© Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

 

 

Room nine

Artist books, exhibition catalogues, newspaper supplements and magazine spreads, posters and leaflets are an integral part of Tillmans’s output. These various formats and the ways in which they are distributed or made visible in the public space allow him to present work and engage audiences in a completely different manner to exhibitions. For him the printed page is as valid a venue for artistic creation as the walls of a museum. Many such projects are vital platforms on which he can speak out about a political topic, or express his continued interest in subjects such as musicians, or portraiture in general.

Recently, the print layout has enabled Tillmans to share a more personal aspect of his visual archive. Originally designed as a sixty-six page spread for the Winter 2015/Spring 2016 edition of Arena Homme +, this grid of images looks back at Fragile, the name he gave as a teenager to his creative alter-ego. Spanning 1983 to 1989 – the year before he moved to England to study – the photographs and illustrations provide a sensitive insight into a formative period in Tillmans’s life, predating the time when he chose photography as his main medium of expression.

The layout is also an example of the intricate collaging technique that he has employed in printed matter since 2011, deliberately obscuring some images by overlapping others on top of them

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Faltenwurf (Pines), a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Faltenwurf (Pines), a
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tukan' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tukan
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room ten

An acute awareness of fragility endures across Tillmans’s practice in all of its different forms. Often this is expressed in his attentiveness to textures and surfaces. Collum 2011 is taken from Central Nervous System 2008-13, a group of portraits featuring only one subject, where the focus on intimate details, such as the nape of the neck or the soft skin of the outer ear, both emphasises and celebrates the frailty of the human body.

Weed 2014, a four-metre tall photograph taken in the garden of the artist’s London home, invites us to consider the beauty and complexity of a plant usually seen as a nuisance. The dead leaf of a nearby fig tree appears as both a sculptural form and a memento mori. Dusty Vehicle 2012, photographed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is highly specific in its depiction of texture, yet the reasons leading to this roadside arrangement remain a mystery.

The focus on a very few works in this room serves as an example of Tillmans’s varied approaches to exhibiting his prints. Though best known for installations comprising many pictures, he always places emphasis on the strength of the individual image. By pinning and taping work to the wall, as well as using frames, Tillmans draws attention to the edges of the print, encouraging the viewer to interact with the photograph as an object, rather than a conduit for an image.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Dusty Vehicle' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Dusty Vehicle
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Collum' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Collum
2011
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Weed' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Weed
2014
Photograph, inkjet print on paper
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room eleven

In this room Tillmans highlights the coexistence of the personal, private, public, and political spheres in our lives. The simultaneity of a life lived as a sexual being as well as a political being, or in Tillmans’s case as a conceptual artist as well as a visually curious individual, plays out through the installation.

The entirely white view taken from the inside of a cloud, a word charged with multiple meanings, is presented alongside the close-up and matter-of-fact view of male buttocks and testicles. Like nackt, 2 2014, the small photograph The Air Between 2016 is the result of a lifelong interest in visually describing what it feels like to live in our bodies. Here the attention lies in photographing the air, the empty space between our skin and our clothes.

In still life, Calle Real II 2013, a severed agave chunk is placed on a German newspaper article describing the online depiction of atrocities by Islamic State. The image is as startling in its depiction of the finest green hues as it is in capturing how, simultaneously, we take in world events alongside details of our personal environment.

This room, which Tillmans considers as one work or installation in its entirety, is an example of his innovative use of different photographic prints and formats to reflect upon how we experience vastly different aspects of the world at the same time.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Air Between' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Air Between
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Still life, Calle Real II' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Still life, Calle Real II
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room twelve

Tillmans has always been sensitive to the public side of his role as an artist, acknowledging that putting images out in the public world unavoidably places himself in the picture as well. His participation in activities such as lectures and interviews has been a platform for his voice from the beginning of his career.

Since 2014 he has also allowed performance to become a more prominent strand of his practice. Filmed in a hotel room in Los Angeles and an apartment in Tehran, Instrument 2015 is the first time that Tillmans has put himself in front of the camera for a video piece. Across a split screen, we see two separate occasions on which he has filmed himself dancing. The accompanying soundtrack was created by distorting the sound of his feet hitting the floor. In the absence of any other music, his body becomes an instrument.

On one side of the screen we see his body, on the other only his shadow. Referring to the shadow, New York Times critic Roberta Smith commented that:

“Disconcertingly, this insubstantial body is slightly out of sync with the fleshly one. It is a ghost, a shade, the specter that drives us all. The ease with which we want to believe that the two images are connected, even though they were filmed separately, might also act as a reminder to question what we assume to be true.”

 

Room thirteen

Portraiture has been central to Tillmans’s practice for three decades. For him, it is a collaborative act that he has described as ‘a good levelling instrument’. No matter who the sitter – a stranger or someone close to him, a public figure, an unknown individual, or even the artist himself – the process is characterised by the same dynamics: of vulnerability, exposure, honesty and always, to some extent, self-consciousness. Tillmans sees every portrait as resulting from the expectations and hopes of both sitter and photographer.

The portrait’s ability to highlight the relationship between appearance and identity is a recurring point of interest. In 2016, at HM Prison Reading, Tillmans took a distorted self-portrait in a damaged mirror once used by inmates. The disfigured result is the artist’s expression of the effects on the soul wrought by physical and psychological confinement and also censorship. Whoever looked into the reflective surface would gain a completely inaccurate impression of what they looked like, and how they are perceived by others.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Separate System, Reading Prison' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Separate System, Reading Prison
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Anders pulling splinter from his foot' 2004

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Anders pulling splinter from his foot
2004
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“The image’s reference to both Dorian Gray and Francis Bacon is evident. This catapults a new association: perhaps Bacon was painting Gray all along. Insistently, fearlessly, longingly.

As with much of Bacon’s oeuvre, and the very particular picture of Dorian Gray, a distorted, forward-facing male figure intimidates the viewer with his unmade face. However, Tillsman’s piece is not a picture, it is a photograph. Here, the artist (as was the case with Bacon/Wilde) is not the one dissembling what’s inside the frame, subjecting it with his brush. No. In Tillsman’s image, a piece of thick glass distorts the artist. Here, the artist is no longer the lens that is able to affect his surroundings. Here, the surroundings distort the artist.

The message Tillsman delivers is clear: things have changed. The world disfigures the subject while the artist is trapped, forced to stand there and watch.”

Text by Ana Maria Caballero on The Drugstore Notebook website

 

Room fourteen

Symbol and allegory are artistic strategies Tillmans is usually keen to avoid. The State We’re In, A 2015 is a departure from this stance: the work’s title is a direct reference to current global political tensions. Depicting the Atlantic Ocean, a vast area that crosses time zones and national frontiers, it records the sea energised by opposing forces, but not yet breaking into waves. Differing energies collide, about to erupt into conflict.

The photographs in this room deal with borders and how they seem clear-cut but are actually fluid. In these images, borders are made tangible in the vapour between clouds, the horizon itself or the folds in the two Lighter photo-objects. The shipwreck left behind by refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa, depicted in this photograph from 2008, is a reminder that borders, represented elsewhere in more poetic delineations, can mean a question of life and death.

The text and tables sculpture Time Mirrored 3 2017 represents Tillmans’s interest in connecting the time in which we live to a broader historical context. He always understands the ‘Now’ as the history of the future. Events perceived as having happened over a vast gulf of time between us and the past, become tangible when ‘mathematically mirrored’ and connected to more recent periods of time in our living memory.

In contrast to the epic themes of sea and time, the pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door, a subject he has photographed since 2002, suggest a day-to-day positive outlook.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail)

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail), featuring at left, pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door and at right, La Palma 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'La Palma' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
La Palma
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' 2007

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
2007
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' Various dates

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
Various dates
Ink-jet prints
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Book for Architects

Book for Architects 2014 is the culmination of Tillmans’s longstanding fascination with architecture. First presented at Rem Koolhaas’s 14th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, 2013, it explores the contrast between the rationality and utopianism that inform design and the reality of how buildings and streets come to be constructed and inhabited.

In 450 images taken in 37 countries, across 5 continents, Tillmans hones in on the resourceful and ingenious ways in which people adapt their surroundings to fit their needs. These are individual and uncoordinated decisions that were not anticipated in architects’ plans, but still impact the contemporary built environment.

Across the double projection, we see examples of how buildings come to sit within a city plan, the ad-hoc ways in which they are modified, and the supposed ‘weaknesses’ of a space such as the corners where there are service doors, fire escapes, or alarm systems.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Shit buildings going up left, right and centre' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Shit buildings going up left, right and centre
2014
Book for Architects Plate 083 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Untitled' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Untitled
2012
Book for Architects 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“He has said of his photographs that “they are a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view … In photography I like to assume exactly the unprivileged position, the position that everybody can take, that chooses to sit at an airplane window or chooses to climb a tower.”

.
Wolfgang Tillmans quoted in Peter Halley, Midori Matsui, Jan Verwoert, Wolfgang Tillmans, London 2002, p. 136

 

 

Wolfgang Tillmans has earned recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today. Tate Modern presents an exhibition concentrating on his production across different media since 2003. First rising to prominence in the 1990s for his photographs of everyday life and contemporary culture, Tillmans has gone on to work in an ever greater variety of media and has taken an increasingly innovative approach to staging exhibitions. Tate Modern brings this variety to the fore, offering a new focus on his photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music.

Social and political themes form a rich vein throughout Tillmans’s work. The destabilisation of the world has arisen as a recurring concern for the artist since 2003, an important year when he felt the world changed with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. In 2017, at a moment when the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse, Tillmans presents a new configuration of his tabletop installation truth study center 2005-ongoing. This ongoing project uses an assembly of printed matter from pamphlets to newspaper cuttings to his own works on paper to highlight Tillmans’s continued interest in word events and how they are communicated in the media.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 will particularly highlight the artist’s deeper engagement with abstraction, beginning with the important work Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I 2014. Based on images the artist took of an analogue TV losing signal, this work combines two opposing technologies – the digital and the analogue. Other works such as the series Blushes 2000-ongoing, made without a camera by manipulating the effects of light directly on photographic paper, show how the artist’s work with abstraction continues to push the boundaries and definitions of the photographic form.

The exhibition includes portraiture, landscape and still lives. A nightclub scene might record the joy of a safe social space for people to be themselves, while large-scale images of the sea such as La Palma 2014 or The State We’re In, A 2015 document places where borders intersect and margins are ever shifting. At the same time, intimate portraits like Collum 2011 focus on the delicacy, fragility and beauty of the human body. In 2009, Tillmans began using digital photography and was struck by the expanded opportunities the technology offered him. He began to travel more extensively to capture images of the commonplace and the extraordinary, photographing people and places across the world for the series Neue Welt 2009 – 2012.

The importance of Tillmans’s interdisciplinary practice is showcased throughout the exhibition. His Playback Room project, first shown at his Berlin exhibition space Between Bridges, provides a space within the museum for visitors to experience popular music by Colourbox at the best possible quality. The video installation Instrument 2015 shows Tillmans dancing to a soundtrack made by manipulating the sound of his own footsteps, while in the Tanks Studio his slide projection Book for Architects 2014 is being shown for the first time in the UK. Featuring thirty-seven countries and five continents, it reveals the tension between architectural form and function. In March, Tillmans will also take over Tate Modern’s south Tank for ten days with a specially-commissioned installation featuring live music events.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 is co-curated by Chris Dercon and Helen Sainsbury, Head of Programme Realisation, Tate Modern with Emma Lewis, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing designed by Wolfgang Tillmans and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Images from the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern 15 February - 11 June

 

Installation view of the exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 with at left, Sunset night drive (2014) and at centre right, Young Man, Jeddah (2012)

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sunset night drive' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sunset night drive
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah (B)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah (B)
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) '17 Years Supply' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
17 Years Supply
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“Now the camera is staring into a big cardboard box, half-filled with pharmacist’s tubs and packages, 17 years’ supply of antiretroviral and other medications to treat HIV/Aids. I imagine the sound that box would make if you shook it, what that sound might say about a human life, its vulnerability and value.” ~ Adrian Searle

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Market I' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Market I
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Studio still life, c' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Studio still life, c
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Iguazu' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Iguazu
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Oscar Niemeyer' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Oscar Niemeyer
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tube escalator joint' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tube escalator joint
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'JAL' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
JAL
1997
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Port-au-Prince' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Port-au-Prince
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'London Olympics' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
London Olympics
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Fespa Car' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Fespa Car
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Spectrum Dagger' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Spectrum Dagger
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Gaza Wall' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Gaza Wall
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Simon, Sebastian Street' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Simon, Sebastian Street
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Arms and Legs' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Arms and Legs
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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