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distURBANces C an f i c t i o n b e a t r e a l i t y ?

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The european month o f p h ot o g r a p h y


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d i s t UR B AN c e s C a n F i c t i o n B e at R e a l i t y ?


T A B L E OF C ON T EN T S 6 –7 T h e E u ro p e a n M o n t h o f P h ot o g r a p h y a r e n dt Awa r d distURBANces V ENUE S

8 –17 C u r at o r s’ Stat e m e n t P au l d i F e l i c e , K at i a R e i c h i n co l l a b o r at i o n w i t h G u n da Ac h l e i t n e r

18 –23 d i s t U R B A N c e s

Away , Away ! Ta l k o f C ata st ro p h e a n d the Desire to Disappear Ko l ja R e i c h e r t

24 –33 Reiner Riedler J u st i n e B l au A n d r e j O st e r m a n P au l H o r n & Lot t e Ly o n Ja s m i n a C i b i c

34 –39 F i ct i o n Is S o m e t h i n g t o B e l i e v e I n Va s ja N agy

40 – 49 P e t e r BIALOB R Z ES K I Frédéric Delangle K aya B e h k a l a m O l ja Tr i a Š k a St e f a n ov i Č Leopold Kessler

50 –53 I n sta n t N at u r e Petra Noll


54 – 63 S e m i co n d u c t o r d i ST RU KTU R A Pétur Thomsen G á b o r Ar i o n Ku dá sz I l kk a H a l s o

64 – 67 P u z z l i n g E n co u n t e rs – O n P h ot o - ba s e d Au t o b i o g r a p h y Gabriella Uhl

68 –79 Dionisio González N i k l a s G o l d bac h V i rg i n i e M a i l l a r d T h o m a s Wr e d e Da n i e l L e i d e n fr o st Co l l e c t i f_ f ac t

80 –81 Models B e r t h o l d Eck e r

82–85 N i g h t a n d Day i n Co m p u t e r G a m e s a n d A rc h i t ect u r a l P h ot o g r a p h y R o l f S ac h s s e

86 –95

R o b e r t f . H a m m e rst i e l T h i bau lt Bru n e t C é d r i c D e l s aux Josh Müller A l d o G i a n n ot t i

96 –99 distURBANces Pa rt n e rs AC KNOWLEDGE M EN T S imprint

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the european m o n t h o f p h ot o g r a p h y a r e n dt awa r d

d i s t U R B A N c

Arendt & Medernach is a leading, independent law firm based in Luxembourg, with offices in Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, London and New York. Seeing art as a unique mode of communication with an impact both inside and outside the firm, Arendt & Medernach is committed to contemporary art, and to photography in particular. True to its passion, Arendt & Medernach wishes to encourage open-mindedness, diversity and the sharing of emotions.

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It is thus a great pleasure for Arendt & Medernach to be affiliated with the European Month of Photography. In presenting the European Month of Photography Arendt Award, Arendt & Medernach supports the art of photography and thereby seeks to awaken curiosity and a willingness to exchange.


7 d i s t UR B AN c e s V ENUE S M a i s o n E u ro p é e n n e d e l a P h ot o g r a p h i e S h ow c a s e Pa r i s 5. sep tember – 4. novembe r 2012 F e st i va l C e n t r e Pa r i s e r P l at z 4a & COm p u t e rs p i e l e m u s e u m Berlin 19. october – 25. november 2012 I n st i t u t F r a n ç a i s B r at i s l ava 30. octobe r – 30. november 2012

EXHI B I T ION PRE S EN T ED T HANK S T O T HE S IGNIFI C AN T PAT RONAGE OF M r X av i e r B e tt e l Mayor of Luxembourg M r B e rt r a n d D e l a n o Ë M ayor of Paris M r M i l a n Ftáč n i k Mayor of Bratislava d

MUSA Vienna 30. october 2012 − 5. january 2013 M u s é e n at i o n a l d ‘ h i st o i r e e t d ‘a rt Lux e mb o u rg 26. april − 31. august 2013 F o n dat i o n d e l’a rc h i t ect u r e 26. April − 30. june 2013 C e rc l e C i t é − R ats k e l l e r 26. april − 30. june 2013 H u n g a r i a n N at i o n a l G a l l e ry B u da p e st 1. − 30. november 2013 P h ot o n C e n t r e f o r Co n t e m p o r a ry P h ot o g r a p h y L j u b l ja n a may − june 2014

M r M i c h a e l H äu p l Mayor and Gove rnor of Vienna

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M r K l au s W ow e r e i t Gove rning Mayor of the city of Be rlin

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C u r at o r s ’   S tat e m e n t

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P a u l d i F e l i c e a n d K at i a R e i c h i n c o l l a b o r at i o n w i t h G u n d a Ac h l e i t n e r


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Brian Holmes, ‘The Philosophy of Finance’, online at: http: // brianholmes.wordpress.com /​ 2011 / 08 / 12 / the-philosophy-of-finance / (last accessed 25 July 2012).

Today economic, ecological and po­ litical crises push the world towards societal changes. In this era of globali­ sation, characterised by the unprece­ dented dominance of the visual expe­ rience, one may at one and the same time witness not only ever increasing complexity, but also the incessant in­ terweaving of worlds that are physi­ cally perceptible from close up yet re­ mote and digital at the same time. The time-space ratio in contempo­ rary society determines our physical reality as much as it is itself subject to increasing, paradoxical change. Phys­ ical time is measured in ever-smaller units according to an internationally recognised system. Originally defined by the Earth’s rotation, since 1967 the second has been calculated on the basis of atomic measurements; today it is possible to measure one billionth of a billionth of a second. Technolog­ ical inventions from the nineteenth century onwards allow places that are geographically thousands of miles apart to be connected in increasing­ ly smaller units of time, and permit the linking and transfer of local expe­ riences around the entire globe. Un­ der the slogan ‘Security through Di­ versity’, the high-security fiberglass cable company Hibernia Atlantic con­ nects global financial markets and banking systems. Art critic, activist and professor of philosophy Brian Holmes remarks on the absurdity of this notion, stating that: ‘High fre­ quency trading marks the rise of ma­ chines. As it moves toward nanosec­ onds, an asymptotic point appears: the speed of light. Imagine a flashcrash that lasts forever; a blinding eternity. By automating human be­ ings out of the picture, interactivity is  finally poised to grasp its elusive object.’1

Digital technologies, economicsdriven globalisation and political up­ heavals all accelerate our present. At the same time, they radically influ­ ence human lifestyles, migratory movements and transnational power relations. Despite our rising efficacy at surmounting distance and time, the world is fragmenting. To the extent that both accelera­ tion and constant changes in digital communication engender mankind’s alienation from material and physical perception, the permanent use of lap­ tops, tablets and smart phones not only allows participation in the unlim­ ited flow of knowledge, but also leads to the incapacitation of the user; the individual is thrown back upon the power of his/her own, sometimes merely apparent, reflective decisionmaking authority. Real-time and ac­ cess to social platforms such as Face­ book, Twitter and YouTube, available to some parts of the world’s popula­ tion via the Internet (1.8 billion peo­ ple in 2011), are not only used for pri­ vate and commercial purposes but have also become the new media of political activism. Individuals, now able to form groups, deploy these new constellations to take a globally visible stand on socio-political up­ heavals and/or traditional power structures (i.e. Tunisia, Egypt and the occupy movements). The use of im­ ages, be it journalistic photos, Inter­ net archives or indeed the artistic ex­ ploration of recent political events such as in Tahrir Square, Cairo or the current situation in Syria, has an actu­ al and real impact on the political up­ heavals of today. In view of these phenomena, the production and distribution of pictures, as well as the artistic development of future models – along with their imag­

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ing methods – play an important role. How will the emerging forms of polit­ ical, social and cultural realities relate to artistic designs and models that range from dealing with ‘reality’ to uto­ pian and dystopian visions? The distURBANces project, coop­ eratively initiated by the partner ­cities Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, Luxem­ bourg, Paris and Vienna, presents ar­ tistic positions that offer new perspec­ tives on urban, technological and po­ litical developments. Initiated as a kind of tribute to the American ­science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose novels situate the theme of simulacra (Jean Baudrillard) into ar­ tificial environments and artefacts, distURBANces was developed to question today’s urban- and land­ scape representation paradigm by fo­ cusing on the distortion and the per­ version of reality in our globalised world. The exhibition shows how art­ ists focus on, analyse and envision current developments, exploring questions such as: how does artistic photography today depict the accel­ eration of time in relation to space? What impact do the aforementioned changes have on people and their real habitat? How are the changes in hu­ man relationships to nature and the city reflected? Which utopias or dys­ topias do artists generate from the present situation? The correlation of the coordinates of time, space and man in accelerated, digitised living environments evokes the invention of new image worlds. At the same time, current ­socio-political developments in urban areas – from surveillance and closed-circuit televi­ sion to political upheavals – all play a role in the production of the artistic image. Visions and fictions are over­ taken by reality. At the same time, cer­

tain representations take place on the virtual plane only. In digital image realms (i.e. cy­ber­space(s) and com­ puter games), worlds are created in which human life appears as merely an increasingly complex simulation. In many instances of digital image­ ry, fiction can hardly be distinguished from reality. Time seems to stop; the present and future become one. The project, which focuses on dif­ ferent curatorial aspects in every city, presents a total of twenty-six inter­ national artists who follow different thematic lines, from an analysis of real life in its socio-political environ­ ment, or mankind’s abuse of nature, from utopian and dystopian visions to the development of model worlds. In dealing with real, virtual, staged or simu­lated worlds, many artists ex­ plore the phenomena of artificial and mediated reality within a semantic context of heightened visualisation. With regard to the increasing reliance upon the virtual in everyday life, these artistic practices of mixed reality – in which the fictional world is depicted as indistinguishable from the real, and the real one as close to surreal – tend to dissolve the membrane between the real and the virtual. In Peter Bialobrzeski’s series ­Paradise Now, for example, the shift from natural to artificial, from real to surreal, is enhanced by fragment­ ed views of ‘urban’ nature, offset by theatrical lighting on the periphery of the artificially illuminated infrastruc­ ture of large Asian cities. Ilkka Halso’s series Museum of Nature uses digitally ­constructed images to examine the topic of res­ cuing nature. What appear to be ­idyllic scenes of untouched natural landscapes are revealed, at second glance, to include architectural struc­


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Milica Milićević and Milan Bosnic, statement available online at: www.distruktura.com (last accessed 26 July 2012).

tures meant to protect the areas from development, degradation and pol­ lu­tion. In these settings, nature is pre­ sented as a commodity and the met­ aphorical vision in Halso’s photo­ graphs poses the urgent question: is the only way to preserve the environ­ ment from destruction today to turn it into an artwork or a piece of mer­ chandise? Robert F. Hammerstiel also ex­ plores notions of the constructed landscape and its relationship to the commodity in his photographic and video works. In his series Trust Me the artist presents crisp images of flo­ ra and fauna – albeit the artificial kind. As Petra Noll has written about the work: ‘the plants “pose” in all their beauty, offering themselves as mer­ chandise promising happiness, and are yet no more than an ersatz nature, a decorative mass product.’ Simi­larly in the series Waste Land, compu­ ter-generated landscapes and scenes are complicated by their unmoored nature, as houses float in the skies and trees are uprooted, suspended in air. Under the name ‘diSTRUKTURA’ Milica Milićević and Milan Bosnić present a series of photographs, Face to Face, replicating the ro­ mantic representation of nature in an unprecedented contemporary social and ecological context. Part of a state­ ment by the artists draws attention to this ambiguity: ‘In our efforts we are trying to build on an extended view of Nature – as sublime, pseudo or syn­ thetic nature in urban constellations – aiming to define the various relation­ ships, both real and virtual, that cre­ ate the realities of modern-day life in which art has the significant function of pointing to and defining, without any utilitarian means, the evolving drama around us.’2

Another artist duo playing with the extension of such views is Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, other­ wise known as ‘Semiconductor’, who have chosen to employ the moving image in order to explore and call into question our relationship to the mate­rial nature of our world. In their ­videos and animated movies, and by means of innovative language, Semi­ conductor proffers images of physi­ cal worlds in flow, of cities in motion and of shifting landscapes so that the spectator is immersed in a hybrid re­ ality, a kind of fictionalised world that becomes an idiosyncratic experience probing the limits of our perception. A similar aspect of disturbing strangeness typifies the work of Virgi­ nie Maillard. In her series of photo­ graphs, Anamnésie Land Maillard recalls both the artificial and the fic­ tional inherent in places that the art­ ist de- and reconstructs with the help of the spectator. By introducing sig­ nificant concepts in the form of words written in neon, which are subtly inte­ grated into the motif of the photo, Maillard creates associations between the designation and presentation of places. In this metaphorical space, the spectator has to choose between items, the thing (in the Foucauldian sense) or the word. The ensuing ten­ sion, in as much as it inter­feres with the temporality and spatia­lity of the narrative, serves to disclose the di­ chotomy of languages and their rela­ tionship to memory. This critical notion of landscape and urban-scape is also present in Justine Blau’s mixed media photo­ graphic work, including the series The Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus. In her sophis­ ticated photo installations, Blau ex­ presses a utopian vision of a contem­

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porary ‘Arcadia’ by assembling differ­ ent images of touristic landscapes, downloaded from the Internet. With a distinct sense of play, the artist not only challenges the shift from the natu­ral to the artificial vis-à-vis our re­ lationship to nature, but equally, in a masterful political and media-critical manner, unsettles our received no­ tions of topography. In the series Fake Holidays, Reiner Riedler depicts scenes from man-made tourist attractions, many of which have been built up to represent ‘wild’ nature (for example, a river fed by water pumps on which vacationers can ride on water tubes). These idyl­ lic landscapes have been arranged for consumption; what is being ‘sold’ here is the idea that modern man should surround himself with natural beauty in order to rejuvenate and re­ cover from the toils of contemporary life. That these spaces are just as ster­ ile and constructed as an air-condi­ tioned office cubicle does not seem to occur to the vacationers. Andrej Osterman’s Grow Up! ­series also engages in formal experi­ mentation with the medium of photo­ graphy and manipulation of the im­ age. He places ambiguous objects, like plastic toys, into certain land­ scapes and therefore comments on the inevitable interlacing of urban and natural environments. Although his view is often very common, it ob­ tains certain surreal connotations thanks to conscious and deliberate traces of imperfection in the manipu­ lated images – therefore his photo­ graphs indicate somewhat utopian or  dystopian interpretations (Miha ­Colner). In a similar vein, and via his in­ vention of novel hybrid landscapes, ­Thomas Wrede also focuses on the

strangeness of places in the series Real Landscapes. Wrede sets up, by means of the enigmatic aura and aesthetics of large-sized photo­ graphs, an opposition between differ­ ent scales, sizes and spaces. What ap­ pear as aerial views are in fact shot from the ground, single houses (and even a drive-in theatre) are situated in the middle of nowhere and dimen­ sions and perspective are toyed with in such a way that microstructures of sand are transformed into vast geo­ logical landscapes. In Lotte Lyon and Paul Horn’s pho­ tographic series Neufundland, the viewer is also presented with im­ ages that seem to resemble land­ scapes – perhaps a vast ochre sand dune or a lush tropical rainforest. However these places are actually ­illusions constructed out of models, sometimes with the help of the sim­ plest of found objects. In some of the images, the constructed nature of the scenes is immediately apparent, but in others, one must undertake a very close inspection to uncover the illusion. Such a suspension of disbe­ lief asks viewers to become com­ plicit  in the conceit, allowing these quite simple ‘sets’ to become impres­ sive nature-scapes. In radical contrast to these exam­ ples of the aesthetics of digital pro­ duction, but articulating similar dis­ placements, the large format photo­ graphs by Pétur Thomsen entitled Imported Landscape denounce the power of Iceland’s energy poli­ cies  by revealing the destruction of nature caused by the construction of three hydroelectric dams. Charting the transformation of the landscape between 2003 and the present, the photographer positions himself in this political debate on the side that


13 opposes the project, who argue that the environmental damage incurred is enormous and that the construction has already destroyed one of the most important nature reserves in Europe. In view of the stream of images that we consume on a daily basis, sitting in front of our screens, these ‘realist’ visions take on an arti­ficial and fiction­ al nature. Have we lost our connec­ tion with nature for good? In the urban sphere, the organisa­ tion of public space is subject to the laws and regulations of the state. An increasingly significant portion of this space is being privatised; it thus be­ comes subject to the laws of proper­ ty. Regulations manifest themselves in house rules and security services; by contrast their commercial back­ ground appears, for example, in the form of advertising media. Leopold Kessler, a German-born artist current­ ly living in Austria, explores the topo­ graphy of cities by examining issues of urban life and their control systems such as parking signs and streetlights in a series of ephemeral interventions and performances (Privatized/ Paris). In Ahmedabad no life last night, Frédéric Delangle focuses his camera on the sheer urbanity of the fourth-largest city in India. His pic­ tures of the city at night – in five to ten-minute time exposures – lay bare what he calls the ‘skeleton’ of Ahmeda­ bad, in which the daily ­chaos, pollu­ tion and crowds are transmogrified into abstract nocturnal structures. In these images, Delangle captures a real contemplative moment of calm, serenity and abstraction before the hustle and bustle of modern life re­ turns at dawn but a few hours later. The work Excursions in the Dark reveals a conceptual approach

to the city of Cairo and settings of the revolution. In it, Kaya Behkalam explores (post)-revolutionary Cairo af­ ter midnight in response to the 2011 revolution. Similar to Ahmedabad, Cairo is a megacity with a population of approximately 16 million  inhabit­ ants. At night it is quiet and the ar­ chitectural structures and the ­graffiti on the walls speak directly to its resi­ dents. In full awareness of the polit­ ical upheavals, the images bear wit­ ness to a language proper: the revo­ lution has inscribed itself in the iconography of the city. Behkalam makes an allusion to unconscious con­ nections between architecture, collec­ tive dream landscapes and political upheavals. In her series Warnings from the Stage Olja Triaška Stefanovič not only employs her own camera as a tool for image creation, but also sets up a game of deception between the actual visual representation of empty spaces on the one hand, and political collective visual memory on the oth­ er. She plays with the imagination of the viewer: are the empty stages just neutral non-ideological spaces, or do the spaces, devoid of actors, never­ theless still serve past political ideol­ ogies? Stages are, after all, places where we exhibit actions and behav­ iours, where reality meets fiction and simulation – platforms for encounters between real and fictional characters and representations. In Busan Project, Spanish art­ ist Dionisio González invents new ­urban structures inspired by his pho­ tographs of the favelas of Rio de Janei­ro and São Paolo. Instead of the oft-seen dramatic depictions of these megacity favela milieus housing mil­ lions of people, González presents al­ ternative survival strategies.

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By means of digital image edit­ ing, he superimposes the usually so densely nested thicket of urban, de­ veloped structures with modern twen­ tieth-century architectural design. Through this creative and de- and re­ constructive approach, González has featured a number of locations in the world including Ha Long Bay in Viet­ nam and Busan in South Korea. The series Waste Union by ­G ábor Arion Kudász shows land­ scapes that are vast still lifes on the edges of populated land and open areas, with all the material things that may well be seen as signs of the neg­ ative effect of humanity on nature. The absurdity of his pictures stems from the subject itself and the manner of representation. Waste ­Union is a document of utopia. It is not an im­ age of the future, but ­rather a pile of ruins – a view of the distorted present (Gabriella Uhl). Can photography, via digital de­ sign, simultaneously document what it envisions? In reality, as viewers we are confronted with images pene­ trated by artistic fictions. If, however, these fictions possess ‘good inten­ tions’, where do they lead us? To ‘dis­ turbance by fiction’? High-Rise, Niklas Goldbach’s video created in collaboration with Paul Plamper, is a play on that very notion. Based on J. G . Ballard’s sci­ ence fiction novel of the same title, the cooperation builds a scenario for Berlin in 2013: a star architect has built Europe’s tallest residential building in the German capital, which is home to the social utopia he plans to cre­ ate: the Neokommune K13. No­thing is wanting in this autarchy, a com­ pletely self-sufficient closed system. But the high-rise becomes a pressure cooker of neighbourhood enmity and

rampant, uninhibited class warfare. In the blink of a camera’s eye, this mod­ ern super-community regresses into a biotope of primitive life forms. In Thibault Brunet’s series Vice City the topic of reality and its imi­ tations is developed through differ­ ent antagonistic photographic prac­ tices oscillating between reportage and painting, cinematographic and plastic art. By taking the role of a pho­ tographer instead of a player in the universe of video games, Brunet’s work becomes an act of resistance to the usual behaviour of the avatars in­ spired by dominant American politi­ cal popular culture, for although the cityscape photographed inside the video game Grand Theft Auto is ontologically a real photo shoot, it is transferred into a virtual world. While Brunet takes out the futuris­ tic elements of his virtual urban-scape, in Dark Lens Cédric ­Delsaux aims to show the science fiction dimen­ sion of megapolis suburbia today. To capture the mixed feeling of anx­ iety and strangeness characteristic of this environment, he introduces a number of characters from the Star Wars movies, thereby conferring upon his photographs, as he writes, ‘a naïve and metaphysical dimension’. ­Delsaux’s postmodern aesthetic relies on  distancing and humour in its ap­ proach to representation, and it de­ activates the real and the virtual as operative categories. While the actu­ al suburban space echoes the emp­ tiness and lifelessness of a futuristic set, the integrated fictional charac­ ters seem to bring it (back) to life. The limits between the real and the mod­ el have dissolved. Also pushing the boundaries of fantasy, imagination and how spaces are depicted, Aldo Giannotti’s work


15 A Rewinding Journey inserts a surprising figure into various scenes, showing the disharmony between the rational logic of contemporary soci­ ety and unbridled visionary thinking and fantasy. As the artist describes it: ‘The protagonist of the video, an as­ tronaut – a fantastic stranger from out­ er space, displaced in a surrounding that works with different logic and speed – starts a journey to search for a place where he is allowed to ex­ ist. . . . In a narrative way the connec­ tion to an inner space of imaginative­ ness starts to function again: in the fulfilment of a child’s dream of being an astronaut.’ In her work, Jasmina Cibic similar­ ly plays with our expectations of the generic appearance of certain typical ‘modern’ spaces in today’s world such as the interiors of airplanes. Her pho­ tographs show site-specific interven­ tions where unexpected elements, fantastical creatures and staged scenes disrupt our expectations and challenge the viewers’ understanding of the ‘non-places’ that pepper our contemporary urban landscape. Be­ hind these images is a consideration of the ideological use of public and urban space, as well as its commer­ cial and representative functions in our globalised world. Life in the 24/7 digital online mode not only changes the relationship of man to nature and the fragmented world, it also affects artistic image ­creations. In addition to digitally cre­ ated images, plastically formed mod­ el realities can also serve as a starting point for generating images. This si­ multaneous questioning of the inter­ play between model and image is a theme in the works of some of the ­exhibited artists. By rebuilding per­ sonal  perceptions and memories,

­ aniel Leidenfrost and Josh Müller D ­reconstruct their own reality, which they then proceed to photograph or film. The resulting photo/video de­ picts a reality which has not, as is of­ ten the case, been ‘manipulated’ by digital processing subsequent to shooting, but indeed one step earli­ er, at the very moment of creation. As a ­fictional representation of a fiction­ al ­reality, the photo or film becomes a non-fictional reality and is therefore quasi ‘more real’ than the depiction. Daniel Leidenfrost uses his me­m­ ory of places and situations that some­ how seem strangely familiar. As a first step, he records these memories by sketching them. He then proceeds to  take photographs of the models, which he himself has assembled from the simplest of existing materials. The makeshift, slightly improvised nature of the models does not come through in the photos, which, more than any­ thing else appear to epitomize per­ fect, flawless settings. In similar vein, Josh Müller’s ­video la construction du ciel con­ veys a scene familiar to many air trav­ ellers: airplanes standing on a foggy airfield. A slow pan reveals that – with the exception of a disturbing sound­ scape – nothing happens here: no take-offs or landings. It is a reality that somehow seems off, which has a dis­ turbing, unsettling effect in these usu­ ally so hectic surroundings. The secret of the model world is not revealed un­ til the closing credits of the video be­ gin to roll. While Müller’s desire for distant lands remains unsatisfied, Blau’s previ­ ously mentioned installations already question them. Hyperreal, seemingly exotic, colourful landscapes present utopian paradise-filled worlds. Upon closer inspection, however, these turn

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3 Augustin Berque, Les raisons du paysage (Paris: Hazan, 1998), P. 160

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IBID., P. 166

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Jennifer Cypher and Eric Higgs, ‘Colonizing the Imagination: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge’, online at: www.ethics.ubc.ca / papers / invited / cypher-higgs.html (last accessed 29 July 2012).

out to be self-made illusions: collag­ es of tear-sheets from glossy maga­ zines, photograph­ed in the studio. All three artists have in common the fact that their models are completely de­ void of people. Similarly, the video datatown by the young artists‘ collective collec­ tif_fact offers a 3-D animated nighttime drive through a Geneva suburb, which has, with the exception of se­ lected signs depicting the urban space (neon signs, road markings, etc.) been deconstructed to appear like a sheet of black ‘carrier foil’. As in a computer game, spectators drift through a world that hides behind a colourful system of characters and gives the im­pression of a futuristic city, despite  the fact that we know it ac­ tually exists. distURBANces challenges accept­ ed perceptions of our relation to ‘the real’ in a world marked by constant transformation, where virtual environ­ ments determine an everyday life that seems closer to science fiction than reality. Contemporary artists con­ tribute to a paradigmatic shift that at the same time frames their work. Ac­ cording to cultural geographer and phi­losopher Augustin Berque’s Les ­raisons du paysage, this change in paradigm causes images of land­ scapes to ‘acquire physical rather than a merely mediated reality’.3 Through aesthetic and artistic research, the ­exhibited artists address the ethical question raised by Berque as to ‘who has the right and the ­power to con­ struct reality’.4 Their investigations should at least allow us to become attuned to the in­ terplay of reason and the sensual in our constructed perceptions of reali­ ty. As denoted by the environmental­ ist Jennifer Cypher and the anthropol­

ogist Eric Higgs, the selected artworks, whether dealing with real, virtual, staged or simulated worlds, embody the concern that, ‘the boundary be­ tween the artificial and the real will become so thin that the artificial will become the centre of moral ­value’.5 Paul di Felice PH.D., *1953, Differdange, Luxembourg, is an art critic, Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts at the University of Luxembourg and Director/­ Curator of the European Month of Photography Luxembourg. He lives in Luxembourg. Katia Reich, *1969, Hamburg, Germany, is an art historian and Curator of the European Month of Photography Berlin. She lives in Berlin. Gunda Achleitner, *1979, Wels, Austria, studied Art History, Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology. She works at the Municipal Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna, and is curator of the European Month of Photography Vienna, where she lives. Translated from French and German by Paul di Felice, Agnès Prum and Joan Barbara Travers Simon


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Semiconductor, Brilliant Noise, 2006, Single channel DVD 5:55 min., made at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, California, USA, film still, © the artists pP. 54 / 55


19 ‘On 13 April of the year 2029 , naturally a Friday, the Apophis asteroid, named for the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos, will come dangerously close to the Earth. The asteroid is around two hundred and seventy metres in size and travels at a speed of thirty kilometres per hour. Upon striking the Earth, an explosive power corresponding to that of an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 would be released. If the asteroid were to strike land, an enormous crater would be created and the material thrown up into the atmosphere would rain down on the surroundings as in the case of a volcanic eruption and obscure the sun for weeks. If it were to hit the water, tsunamis with waves possibly reaching a total height of up to one hundred metres and a height of up to around thirty metres at the coasts could be expected.’1

1

Marcus Jauer, ‘Vom Ende Her’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Feuilleton, 7 April 2012.

2

Jean Baudrillard, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, trans. Chris Turner (London: Seagull Books, 2009), p. 27.

3

Ibid.

4

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).

5

Wolfgang Hagen, ‚Die Entropie der Fotografie: Skizzen zu einer Genealogie der digital-elektronischen Bildaufzeichnung‘, in Herta Wolf, Paradigma Fotografie. Fotokritik am Ende des fotografischen Zeitalters (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2002), p. 235.

We will all die. The world as we know it will disappear. We want it that way. Like Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s portrait of an epoch, we yearn for the impact, and like her counterpole Charlotte Gainsbourg, we nervously cling to our forecasting devices tinkered from pieces of wire, which we tremulously point to the sky in order to still maintain one last illusion of control. But the apocalypse will come, one way or another. We will then, however, already no longer be around anymore. Since ‘the subject as agency of will, of freedom, of representation; the subject of pow­ er, of knowledge, of history, is disappearing. . . .’2 We have already long been in the process of dissolution, ‘(giving) way to a diffuse, floating, insubstantial subjectivity, an ectoplasm that envelops everything and that transforms eve­ rything into an immense sounding board for a disembodied, empty con­ sciousness – all things radiating out from a subjectivity without object’,3 re­ marked Jean Baudrillard in his text Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? before he, the prophet of dissolution, himself disappeared from this world. What awareness? What reality? Haven’t we anyhow long been living in hy­ perreality as simulacra amongst simulacra, copies of copies that no longer refer to anything real?4 That would be great. That would be truly wonderful! Then we wouldn’t have to do anything anymore at all. But do we then still even stand on the Earth? Didn’t we already leave the stable ground of fact with the invention of digital storage media in the 1940s? Haven’t we already surrendered ourselves to the obscure laws of quantum mechanics, whose lan­ guage we do not speak and which is only communicated to us in virtual mod­ els, and which has brought us the computer, the rocket, atomic weapons and the camera-mobile phone? And which by now reduces us to users of an op­ erating system whose decisions elude us more and more? ‘Digital media and their quantum mechanical episteme calculate entropies from their processes, generate images of a self-referential, “constructed re­ ality”, of an “unattainable world”, on this side of which they leave behind the breakdown of structures without any images of them still in existence’, or so writes media theorist Wolfgang Hagen about the state of things technical. ‘If we continue to cling to images in order to see ourselves, we will be wrong.’5 Until the modern era, people read their position from the stars. Photo­ graphy promised to bring their light to the Earth. ‘. . . the photograph of the

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20

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6

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), pp. 80–81.

7

See Hagen, p. 233.

8

Baudrillard, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, p. 33.

9

Ibid., p. 38.

10

Ibid., p. 34.

missing being will touch me like the delayed rays of a star’,6 wrote Roland ­Barthes shortly prior to the apotheosis of analogue photography. At its in­ vention, astronomist and chemist F. W. Herschel hoped to be able to read the chemical composition of light itself on the silver plates. Instead, like with all matter, what they reflected was nothing but the light falling on them while being viewed. But with digital photography, Herschel’s hope was finally fulfilled, Hagen writes. ‘This is the reason why digital photography also forced chemical pho­ tography out of astronomy to a great extent. Quantum mechanically, it is possible to obtain a light yield that surpasses any chemical process for storing light that is possible many times over.’7 Thus telescopes came up that are ­capable of recognising approaching celestial bodies. And thus, with obser­ vation, its subject eluded at the same time. ‘(T)he invention of the technical image in all its forms is our most recent great invention in the unremitting quest for an “objective” reality. . . . It would seem that the mirror has got caught up in the game and has transformed everything into a virtual, digital, com­puterised, numerical “reality”.’8 ‘As digitization advances, soon there will no longer be any film, any light-sensitive surface onto which things inscribed themselves negatively. There will only be an image software package, a dig­ ital effect running to the billionth of a pixel and, at the same time, unprece­ dented ease of picture-taking, of image-playback and of the photo-synthe­ sis of anything whatever.’9 What remains is Baudrillard’s fondest feverish fantasy: the desert. Hori­ zons of serially connected semi-conductors (which consist on their part of quartz sand) in which data circulate endlessly without anyone still question­ ing their meaning. The end of the social, the end of the possibility of history. ‘At the end of this irresistible process, leading to a perfectly objective uni­ verse, which is, as it were, the supreme stage of reality, there is no subject any longer; there is no one there to see it.’10 In the choir invoking the disap­ pearance of reality in the digital, in which many sing along, Baudrillard car­ ries the purest, most erratic, most mercurial solo – the superior distillate of all the technological-deterministic alarm messages: the flood of images! The dissolution! Reality evaporates! Technology takes over! Space and time dis­ integrate! We are globally alienated! We are no longer stuck in bodies at all anymore! What makes the apocalyptic so attractive in general? It offers a closed model. It promises an elevated vantage point of superior awareness while si­ multaneously doing away with practical consequences: it will be really bad, but we can’t do anything. It is from this certainty that arises the cosmic seren­ ity that Kirsten Dunst achieves in Melancholia the closer the end comes. In the past, it was still necessary to repent before the coming of Judgment Day. Today, one can be happy that debts will also have disappeared. The apocalyptic makes the nervous, the hysterical, the melancholic into the wise, who may smile at all the fools who are still running in circles and believe in social change. I am aware that I am mixing things up here quite improperly. Baudrillard is not a simple prophet of doom. But he is a fatalist; in his diagnoses of the


21

d i s Josh Müller, la construction du ciel, 2001, DV, colour, sound, 5:40 min., © and courtesy the artist pP. 92 / 93

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22

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11

Jauer, ‘Vom Ende her’.

12

Baudrillard, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, p. 11.

13

Ludwig Wittgenstein, ‚Die Bedeutung eines Wortes ist sein Gebrauch in der Sprache‘, in Wittgenstein, Philosophische Untersuchungen (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 1997), p. 262.

14

Perhaps this is what will disappear first, the agitated plying of the idea of the ‘virtual’. Then no one will say ‘I was on the Internet’ anymore because the artificial delimitation of a non-networked world will no longer make any sense.

15

See Sigrid Weigel, ‚Bilder als Hauptakteure auf dem Schauplatz der Erkenntnis‘, in Jörg Huber, ed., Ästhetik Erfahrung (Vienna & New York: Springer Verlag, 2004), p. 202.

16

‘This identifying of art and overview is the result of the enclosing of images in the frames of panel pictures and paintings in European art history.’ Weigel, p. 202.

media society, the worst possible case has already arrived, or is in any case inevitable. When Baudrillard says that no practical values (and not even ex­ change values) circulate anymore but instead only wildly proliferating simu­ lacra, and that any attempt to resist this simulated economy only shores it up, then he reclaims an extraterritorial position that evades the demand for ver­ ifiability. Baudrillard contemplates developments – such as digital network­ ing or global terrorism – up to their vanishing points, while the ironic dialec­ tician actually knows that one side of history never ultimately prevails, including the so-called end of history. ‘We want to know as much as possible about our adversary, which might be headed for the Earth,’ says Alan Harris, project leader of the asteroid de­ fence programme NEOShield.11 Harris is developing methods to force the Apo­phis asteroid expected in 2029 from its trajectory or to blow it up before it hits the Earth. The European Commission is providing nearly 5 million euro for this programme. The 100 million euro required for a practice mission have, however, not been budgeted. Actually Apophis will not smash into the Earth in 2029 at all. This was brought to light by journalist Marcus Jauer by means of simple inquiry. Apophis will fly by the Earth at a distance of 30,000 kilo­ metres. It is only if its gravity were to take it off course, as occurs with Saturn in Melancholia, that it might return seven years later. The probability of this is 1 : 250,000. What is more likely is that some other asteroid might sud­ denly appear undetected out of the darkness and smash into the Earth without warning. It is therefore much worse than the doomsayers say: Judgment Day is not coming. Nonetheless, thanks to the suggestive power of the prob­ ability calculation, the NEOShield programme obtained 5 million euro from an open competition initiated by the European Commission. Well, the Euro­ pean Commission, arguably, simply wanted an asteroid defence programme. As if we no longer read any truths about ourselves in the stars but only danger. Perhaps virtuality is therefore less a problem of technology than a prob­ lem of human beings. And which virtuality in any case? People who take the threat of the virtual seriously have to hold a strong idea of reality. Baudrillard himself describes reality as a fantasy of the modern era: it arises to the same extent at which the natural world is put at a distance. ‘We may say, then, that the real world begins, paradoxically, to disappear at the very same time as it begins to exist.’12 Or, as is said in the work of Martin Heidegger: technology provides the being and makes it into an ‘enframing’, whereby human beings lose their understanding of being. Now, that’s really not so bad: every term and every statement (and every image) do represent mere tools13 – they are inputs into the social space.14 Perhaps what actually stands behind the pathos of disappearance is melancholy: mourning the loss of a uniform perspective, a sovereign perspective and the belief in truths that would be independent of medium and speaker. In the name of such a synoptic view, attempts have long been made to exclude photography from art: its faithfulness to detail seemed to endanger the view of the big picture.15 But what big picture? Which sovereign perspective? Literary critic Sigrid Weigel shows that the privileged position of an overview is a very recent idea, as similarly recent as that of the modern museum.16


23

17

Ibid.

18

James Bamford, Wired, 15 March 2012, online at: www.wired.com / threatlevel / 2012 / 03 / ff_nsadatacenter / (last accessed 26 July 2012).

Images have their origin in the cult in which ‘image and person (are) part of one and the same setting’, and the ‘viewer (situated), so to speak, in the picture’.17 Indeed in their role as witnesses to reality, technical images actu­ ally further strengthen the distance between the observer and what is ob­ served. Who knows, perhaps in the case of considered use, the detaching of images from fixed carriers leads the way back to the cult – into a flowing ex­ change of images that is not regulated by the delusive fetish of objectivity but instead makes the motifs, those on the image plane and those of the de­ sire suspended in them, speak for themselves. The talk of the disappearance of the ‘real’ would then be a last insistence on the possibility of the sovereign perspective, and the end of grand narratives would be the last grand narra­ tive, with which metaphysics drops its booster rockets in order to vanish into the realm of fiction, leaving us behind with the real threats that are playing out directly before our eyes. In the salt desert around Salt Lake City, there is something in the making that comes quite close to a realisation of Baudrillard’s scenarios: ‘Under con­ struction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Centre is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of im­ mense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyse, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, in­ cluding the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Goog­ le searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, trav­ el itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter”. . . . “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a ­target.“’18 Kolja Reichert, *1982, Starnberg, Germany, is a writer and art critic who studied philosophy and literature. He lives in Berlin. Translated from German by Amy Klement

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24

Reiner Riedler F a k e H o l i days

d i s

Azure skies over the South Seas, architectural attrac­ tions and spectacular natural scenery slide past us in Reiner Riedler’s photographs, which are no less splendid, colourful and serene than the scenes they depict. For Fake Holidays, Riedler has gone to places where man creates vacation paradises from scratch rather than relying on capricious nature for them: the ‘Tropical Islands’ under a bell jar forty miles south of Berlin; the hot springs resort complex ‘Wow Kremlin Palace’ on the Turkish Riviera; and an artifi­ cial ’Wild River’ fed by water pumps. The scenes are beautiful and appealing at first glance, but Riedler opens them up by revealing and parodying the blem­

ishes that mar these fake arrangements: here we see a gap that – as in the film The Truman Show – exposes the sky as a giant tent; there, a Superman dressed in a sweat-soaked costume and rubber boots has just checked in at the Red Square Pool. Er­ satz worlds spread out before us, which promise to fulfil dreams – and they are, it is true, more real than virtual worlds. We turn up our noses at them, feeling above such ridiculous fakes, and yet we all secretly hanker for a flawless idyll, and are willing to let our­ selves be hoodwinked every once in a while. Ru t h H o ra k

t U R B A N

1

c e s

1

Reiner Riedler, Host, Topkapi Palace Hotel, Antalya, Turkey, 2006, from the series Fake Holidays, C-print, 65  ×  80 CM, © and courtesy the artist

2

Reiner Riedler, Superman above Red Square, Topkapi Palace Hotel, Antalya, Turkey, 2006, from the series Fake Holidays, C-print, 65  ×  80 CM, © and courtesy the artist

3

Reiner Riedler, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Orlando, Florida, USA, 2005, from the series Fake Holidays, C-print, 65  ×  80 CM, © and courtesy the artist


25 2

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3

c e s

*1968, Gmunden, Austria, lives in Vienna www.photography.at


26

J u st i n e B l a u SOMEWHE R E ELSE   /  THE C I R C UM F E R EN C E O F THE C UMANÁN C AC TUS

d i s

fronts us with the question of representation – a con­ tinuous im­balance between an existing thing and a constructed whole, between the original and its translation, between the familiar and the unknown. ­Somewhere Else also evokes the vain search for the exotic and an elsewhere in a globalised world now shrinking as it is explored via Google Earth from a laptop – somewhere and here, a ubiquity in which the moment seems to constantly escape the place and vice-versa.

Justine Blau‘s approach is multidisciplinary, creating works inspired by the photographic medium. Her practice deals with everyday life observations and research, exploring ideas related to identity, cultural traditions, social interactions and childhood memo­ ries. In her landscape series, Blau speaks of voyag­ ing and the imaginary of Arcadian representations in critical conceptual terms. Her landscape models, meti­culously put together from images gleaned off the Web, invite us to discover a fictive space. While by definition the model sketches what exists or will exist, in this series it materialises the concentrat­ ed illusions generated by the Web. The series con­

E xc erp t fro m ‘E c oto n e – Cna‘, 2 0 0 9 – 2 0 10, c urat e d by M i c h èl e Wal er i c h

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1


27 2

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Justine Blau, The Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus, no. 2, 2010, Aluminium light box / Lambda mat print on 3mm Dibond, 90  ×  120 cm, © and courtesy the artist

2

Justine Blau, The Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus, no. 5, 2010, Aluminium light box / Lambda mat print on 3mm Dibond, 90  ×  120 cm, © and courtesy the artist

*1977, Pétange, LuxembOurg, lives in Luxembourg and Berlin, Germany www.justineblau.com

e s


28

A n d r e j Ost e r m a n G r ow Up !

d i

By constructing specific visual compositions Andrej Osterman is mostly represented by big-format imag­ es with very precise formal solutions based on mani­ pulation in post-production. His conceptual premis­ es are oriented towards the questioning of modern social interrelations, rising mass consumption and the impact of mass media on broader society. There­ fore he compares the relations between artificial and automatised urban world and almost untouched na­ ture. The Grow Up! series directly alludes to formal experimentation with the medium and manipulation of the image. Thus the artist influences its perception.

Osterman places ambiguous objects, like plastic toys as simulations of reality, into certain landscapes and therefore comments on the inevitable interlacing of urban and natural environments. Although his view is often very common, it obtains certain surreal con­ notations thanks to conscious and deliberate traces of imperfection in the manipulated images – there­ fore his photographs indicate somewhat utopian or dystopian interpretations.

M i ha C o ln er

s t U R

1

B A N c e s

1

Andrej Osterman, Emergency Landing, 2008 from the Grow Up! series, Digital print, 120  ×  150 cm, © and courtesy the artist

2

Andrej Osterman, Mountains, 2008 from the Grow Up! series, Digital print, 150  ×  120 CM, © and courtesy the artist


29 2

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*1980, Brou-sur-Chantereine, France, lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia www.photon.si


30

Paul Horn & L o tt e Ly o n The No-Man’s-Land of Deceptions . . . ‘You might have believed’: that is the sort of il­ lusion that enchants. If we didn’t see through it, it would remain a misconception; without affectionate intimacy, it would be merely trivial and silly . . .

d i s t U R

beholder must instead be ‘in cahoots with’ the artists, as the psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni has put it. If, for example, we were to take a murder committed in a crime movie to be an actual violent crime, it would cease to give us pleasure. So the illusion must be ren­ Lotte Lyon and Paul Horn’s photographic series dered an ‘anonymous’ illusion. ‘You might have be­ ­N eufundland (’Newfoundland’) presents the lieved’ is its formula. And in the case of Neufund­audience with something resembling a landscape – land, we may add: . . . even though the means are a virgin territory made up of models, most of which so simple. Sophisticated model-making might elicit consist of simple found objects. In some works the il­ our admiration; found objects, by contrast, impart a lusion is utterly manifest; with others it takes very mischievous delight. close inspection to detect it. The series serves in this instance as instructions about how to read the indi­ vidual picture. As with all deception in art, it is crucial that Neufundland not deceive the audience – the Ro b ert P faller

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1


31 2

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1

Paul Horn + Lotte Lyon, Neufundland, Sea 1 (from a series of photographs and postcards of the same title), 2001, Lambda print on PVC, 90  ×  115 cm, © and courtesy the artists

2

Paul Horn + Lotte Lyon, Neufundland, City 2 (from a series of photographs and postcards of the same title), 2001, Lambda print on PVC, 90  ×  115 cm, © and courtesy the artists

3

Paul Horn + Lotte Lyon, Neufundland, Moon 2 (from a series of photographs and postcards of the same title), 2001, Lambda print on PVC, 90  ×  115 cm, © and courtesy the artists

*1966, Amstetten, Austria, lives in Vienna; *1970, Graz, Austria, lives in Vienna www.paulhorn.at; www.lottelyon.com

s


32

Jasmina Cibic

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The works of Jasmina Cibic posit themselves as sitespecific interventions where myths are fabricated in order to disrupt the normal flow of events; space hy­ bridisation takes place through the use of personal poetics, which are inserted directly into the existing bureaucratic apparatus or institutions and thus the visual field of the casual passer-by. She is interested in the contingencies of geopolitical identity chasing the expanding fiction of certain places and position­ ing the viewer as a tourist and the art object as a sou­ venir in a shared negotiation of site. By depicting it, Cibic questions the phenomena of non-places in con­ temporary society – those sacred, unavailable or tran­

sitional spaces between static territorial coordinates. For their formally purified and unusual appearance, photographs of aircraft interiors, stuffed animals or shaman look-alikes create a surreal visual sensation of the world that functions outside rational human perception. These are spaces where expectations, desires and imagination begin and end. In the imag­ es of so-called non-places the anticipation of the fu­ ture world, marked by its iconography and design, is subtly reflected through their emptiness, purity and sterility. Jas mi na C ib i c & M i ha Co lne r

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1

A N c e s 1

Jasmina Cibic, Boutique Airports II, 2006, C-type print, 30  ×  30 cm, © and courtesy the artist

2

Jasmina Cibic, The Greenhouse Effect (52° 51' 07,68" N, 1° 06' 28,04" E), 2006, Lambda print, 120  ×  120 cm, © and courtesy the artist

3

Jasmina Cibic, Untitled (Unrealised Locations I), 2007, Lambda print, 120  ×  120 cm, © and courtesy the artist


33 2

d i s 3

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*1979, Ljubljana, Slovenia, lives in Ljubljana and London, Great Britain www.jasminacibic.org


34

F i ct i o n Is S o m e t h i n g to Believe In Va s ja N agy

d i s t U R B A N c e s

Justine Blau, The Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus, no. 6, 2010, Aluminium light box / Lambda mat print on 3mm Dibond, 90  ×  120 cm, © and courtesy the artist pP. 26 / 27


35 When reflecting on photography, we always deal with things from reality and the reality itself. In times when people didn’t know photography, they saw the world with the same eyes as we do today. Their time passed in the same way, they were shocked by the same sensations and overwhelmed by the same emotions. But those were different times. Social power and control were enforced by the use of different technologies. Memory was housed in stories passed down from mouth to mouth the same as kisses and bites. These stories were told through presence and were narrated in a slightly different way each time. Things differed from one another – they were somewhat unique even when they represented the same notions and symbolised the same phenomena. All of this changed with the invention of photography. It seems rather miracu­ lous how events, inventions and thoughts coincide when observed backwards and from a distance. Indeed, the origin of photography coincides with indus­ trialisation, and is there anything that would anticipate the latter any better? What else reaches the same extent of mass production and demolishes the world of diversity with the same strength, all in order to establish a world of equality? Equality was one of the maxims directly preceding industrialisation that has extended into our time. But let us go back to the early nineteenth century and the era before that, when even mass products were manufactured with at least minimal differenc­ es. At the time, artists and particularly scientists – if we may refer to them as such today – often used the device called the camera obscura. This darkened space was an optical device that allowed observation and, in particular, ra­ tionalisation of the real world. It gave people a chance to take a physical dis­ tance from the world observed, thus no longer feeling a part of it. They were only involved in the view through the use of their minds. Standing behind the hole made them feel safe, yet they still preserved their contact with reality and the real; indeed, by observing, they did not deny the projected scene its temporal or spatial dimensions. They were only trying to establish (apparent­ ly) objective conditions in order to study a section of reality. As a result, the camera obscura became a tool that acclaimed eyesight as a truth signifier par excellence and its spirit – which was prevalent at least from the Renaissance onward – in the seventeenth and eighteenth century finally enthroned its op­ tics through the paintings of Antonio Canaletto, Bernadro Bellotto and simi­ lar painters and that’s just among the vedutisti. Histories of photography are very fond of beginning the story with this device that has accompanied photography since its emergence. Considered practically inseparable from this visual technology, the camera obscura is believed to be a key element in the origin of the photographic image. This is usually rather quickly, and as if obvious, followed by the ‘photogenic drawings’ by William Henry Fox Talbot as a form of a photogram and only rarely by the analogue use of laying ob­ jects on light-sensitive surfaces. It is even more bizarre that the core of pho­ tography is positioned in the centre of images produced with the help of an optic device, whereas more direct processes of light drawing are considered closer to the art of painting. Although it is true that the photographic imag­

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36

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es of the first type outnumber those of the second, this fact actually testifies to the then-obsolete painting rather than to photography itself. Fox Talbot himself admitted that his research in photographic materials could be main­ ly attributed to the practical reasons of technical drawing. Further on as well, the photograph – in the form of a portrait and landscape – was for a long time similar to painting predominant in the century prior to the emergence of photography. Therefore, the belief that painting based on the optical effect of the camera obscura led to photography is er­ roneous. Indeed, photography developed as a technical tool to facilitate tra­ ditional image making and relieve rationalist topographies of places, living beings and still nature. It was printing and distribution that established the first truly photographic thought, whereas painting, starting at least with J.M.W. Turner, found its own solutions that radically differed from both photography as well as optical perspective. Photography is not about verism. It was proven already upon photogra­ phy’s invention that eyesight is a very – possibly even the most – deceptive sense. Indeed, photography as an image of optical origin bears little if no truth. In photography, things become what they are not and reveal negligi­ bly little of what they are. But the realism in photography is so convincing that it is a lot sweeter to believe in it than to doubt in it. As an observation tool, the camera obscura has stronger contact with reality; it is aimed at ob­ serving reality from a distance. It is aimed at creating a distance. The moment when this device is used to record the view in a fixed image, it is transformed into a photographic camera and thereby its purpose changes. The same as image and body, photography also wants to operate through presence and nearness. It is the deceptiveness of visual perception and the persuasiveness of realism in photography that make the photographic medium invisible. What becomes important is what the observer believes the camera has seen. The observer perceives a distant reality in front of a small hole as presence and thus believes in it as if it were reality, while simultaneously neglecting that reality is a question of presence. The photographic image is alienated from its referent but not from its observer. It is directly related to them as a phenomenon, as an object and as a carrier of signifiers. In its function, it does not substitute the eye like the camera obscura does, but rather provides the observer an autonomous view in time and space that the two of them share. The signary carried by the photographic image and that which is attributed to it through the context is an inseparable element and signifier of the ob­ server’s perception. But due to the fact that it does not show the reality, what the observer sees is a fiction. The only thing which is real is what the fiction and its context evoke in the observer. Therefore taking pictures is not observ­ ing. It contains as much voyeurism as any other image-making technique, but it can be so convincing in its deceptiveness that the spectator believes the gaze it has captured more than the photographer does. Indeed, a distinction has to be made between a person who records and a person who observes. The medium is attractive as well as a manipulation of the spectator’s per­ ception, enabled by its apparent characteristics and its deceptiveness. The photographers, or better yet, their customers, are fully aware what a photo­


37

Andrej Osterman, Dump, 2008, from the Grow Up! series, Digital print, 120  ×  150 cm, courtesy the artist pP. 28 / 29

graphic image should look like and what its place in society is in order to communicate to the spectator its message. We may look way back to the por­ traits produced in the studios of the first photographers, Timothy Sullivan’s reportage and Henry Peach Robinson’s pictorial photography and realise that photographs evoke stories in a spectator. The testimonies on the origin and purposes of these photographs reveal that all photographic images were pro­ duced and presented so that they, in society or an individual, created from fictitious reality some sort of knowledge that assumes the role of truth. Now­ adays it is no different. Despite their omnipresence, photographic images have not lost their strength and it seems that every new photograph taken only reinforces the belief in the verism of the medium. Not even the unveil­ ing of post-production manipulations used in the fashion, advertising and photojournalism helps. In the event of a rough documentary shot, a person still tends to succumb to a romantic experience of absence and craving for things. Like the industries mentioned above, art is also a world of wilful produc­ tion of the artificial. It invents stories, places and things in order to evoke genuine sensations, thoughts and emotions in people. Although it directly cuts into reality, its origin lies in a fictitious world, the home of ‘what if’. Neverthe­ less, photographic and similar images are somewhat special due to the fact that their realism allows them to create an impression of a credible witness. There has been a huge development in technologies over the last decade. Ar­ chitects and engineers manage to construct buildings that often seem unreal in the reproductions, while computer tools allow the creation of images that look like shots of contemporary urban structures. The dichotomy of the pho­ tographic image is established in a similar way when somebody makes a fixed image of a scene from a computer game, which brings about further ques­ tions about the perception of reality and the place of one own’s body in it. Photography can go even further. By staging a scene shown by an image from a well-considered and precise point, it generates a fake memory.

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38

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39 Such a constructed theatre, which we witness in artist Aldo Giannotti’s work A Rewinding Journey series, for example, conceals the context of the event and catapults it into the future as an ultimately aestheticised interpre­ tation that in confrontation with the spectator constantly blurs the division between subject and object. In the series Grow Up! Andrej Osterman con­ structs a photographic image by infiltrating into a shot of a place objects, which by Euclidean laws, belong to another time and place. In some cases, this could also be called fake memory, but it is the generation of the image that only exploits the characteristics of the medium by manipulating the spec­ tator’s position in their physical presence with fictitious or even absurd com­ binations. In her photographic works, Jasmina Cibic generates an event and forces the fictitious into the reality of an actual temporal and spatial relation where they meet with the audience. Manipulated reality is only preserved as a document that traverses the boundary between the interpretation of the story about myth and testimony on the event. Romanticist compositions of people gazing at the traces of human interventions in nature, as created by the duo diSTRUKTURA in their Face to Face series, exploit the realistic document of time of a particular place. In the spectator, these photos estab­ lish a secondary alienation from the scene – alienation from the absent real­ ity – and are therefore perceived as if originating from the imagination. In each of these cases, the fictitious statements evoke in the spectator experi­ ences of their own presence. The spectator walks the paths of the imaginary world with their own body and in actual time. They experience every sensa­ tion, every thought and emotion on their own skin a lot stronger than they experience the banality of everyday life that only rarely disrupts them from their habits and apathy. Vasja Nagy, *1972, Postojna, Slovenia, is an art historian who works as freelance curator and art critic in Vienna, Austria. Translated from Slovenian by Melita Silič

Robert F . Hammerstiel, Trust Me 04, 2012, C-Print on aluminium, cassette frames, acrylic glass, 198  ×  155 cm, © and courtesy the artist pP. 86 / 87

d i s t U R B A N c e s


40

P e t e r B i a lo b r z e s k i P a r a d i s e N ow

Paradise Now presents fragments of nature – some of them mise en scène, others untouched by urban growth – on the periphery of the artificially il­ luminated infrastructure of large Asian cities. Unlike natural light, the lights of the big city do not follow any direction: the artificial suns comprised of sodium lamps, automobile headlights and illuminated sky­ scrapers form a kind of ‘vernacular light’ that makes

d i s t U R B A N c e s

the urban super-green alternate between the hyper­ real and the surreal. Taken between October 2007 and March 2008 in Hanoi, Jakarta, Singapore, Bang­ kok and Kuala Lumpur, these photos remind us how attractive decadence and senselessness can be, in a context of predicted climatic catastrophe. P et er B ialobr z e s k i

1


41 2

d i s t U R B A N 3

c e s

1

Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, no. 2, 2009, Archival inkjet print, 60  ×  76 cm / C-print, 126  ×  158 cm, © the artist, courtesy L.A. Galerie-Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

2

Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, no. 18, 2009, Archival inkjet print, 60  ×  76 cm / C-print, 126  ×  158 cm, © the artist, courtesy L.A. Galerie-Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

3

Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, no. 22, 2009, Archival inkjet print, 60  ×  76 cm / C-print, 126  ×  158 cm, © the artist, courtesy L.A. Galerie-Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

*1961, Wolfsburg, Germany, lives in Hamburg www.peter-bialobrzeski.de


42

Frédéric Delangle A h m e da ba d n o l i f e l a st n i g h t

d

Too crowded, too much traffic, too much pollution, too much of everything: how did the Indian people invent the zero? Perhaps because the notion of zero also suggests the notion of infinity. The multitude, ex­ cess and profusion define Ahmedabad. For the first time, I entered a city like entering a scene – a curious atmosphere where modernity has not completely erased the past. I travelled through the labyrinth as if through a history book, a journey through time where epochs overlap and intertwine. But during the night, I could really go back in time, when the chaos

of modernity stopped. I explored the bowels and the skeleton of the deserted city . . . This series was done in an extremely slow process of realisation in stifling heat, with temperatures that reached 40°C at night. The photographs show a privileged moment of se­ renity in Ahmedabad, when the modern world pro­ vides few hours off before starting another day of madness.

Fré d ér i c D e langle

i s t U

1

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1–3

Frédéric Delangle, Ahmedabad no life last night, 2005, LAMBDA PRINT, 100  ×  80 CM, 80  ×  100 CM © the artist


43 2

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*1965, Suresnes, France, lives in Rueil-Malmaison near Paris www.fredericdelangle.com


44

K aya B e h k a l a m E x c u r s i o n s i n t h e Da rk

d

the city as a manifestation of the desires and projec­ tions of previous epochs. Excursions in the Dark traces – in the words of philosopher Walter Benjamin – the ‘moment that the historian takes upon himself the task of dream interpretation’, the vanishing point connect­ ing the city’s architecture, collective dreamscapes and political agency.

Cairo, February 2011. Dictator Hosni Mubarak has been deposed and calm has returned to the streets. But the dark alleyways and city squares seem strange­ ly empty. The nightly curfew has turned the place of revolutionary action into a space outside of chrono­ logical time, a stage waiting to be filled, in a ‘stand­ by’ status, after the curtain fell and before it rises again. What is it waiting to be filled with? Fragments of conversations with women and men recalling their dreams speak of unconscious fears and formless im­ ages, contrasted by a motionless camera looking at

Kaya B e h kalam

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1


45 2

d i s t U

3

R B A 1–4

Kaya Behkalam, Excursions in the Dark, 2011, HD video, 20 min., video stills, © the artist

4

*1978, Berlin, Germany, lives in Cairo, Egypt www.kayabehkalam.net

N c e s


46

Olj a T r i a š k a Stefanovič Wa r n i n g s fr o m t h e Stag e

d

as a simulation of social phenomena in reality? The research within this work presents a visual analysis of the relationship between the stage and the auditori­ um, and does so mainly through a consideration of philosophical questions regarding the power of the individual, the manipulation of the spectator and so­ ciety or even the impact of the contents of the stage on the viewers in the space.

The photo cycle Warnings from the Stage is a visual and sociological analysis of stages in cul­ tural centres, TV studios and zoo gardens. It defines the stage as a means of spreading political ideology and considers the question of whether it is possible to feel the pull of the previous regime on an empty stage or in an empty auditorium. The work under­ stands the stage as a space for simulation of social phenomena and reality. To what extent can the stage manipulate a particular society, or serve this space

O l ja T r i a š k a St e fa n ov i č

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d i s t U R B A N c e 3

1–3

Olja Triaška Stefanovič, Warnings from the Stage, 2011, Digital colour pigment prints on canvas, each 130  ×  200 cm, © and courtesy the artist

*1978, Novi Sad, Serbia, lives in Bratislava, Slovakia www.artdispecing.sk

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48

L e o p o l d K e ssl e r P r i vat i z e d / P a r i s

d i s t

Devoting his attention to the small gaps that open up in the frequently overregulated systems of ur­ ban order, Leopold Kessler performs (usually unan­ nounced) interventions that subtly alter familiar city­ scapes. He sometimes even ‘camouflages’ himself by wearing workman’s overalls, and so his actions may appear to be performed at the behest of the public authorities and escape their attention for quite some time. Little wonder, given that the primary targets of his ‘attacks’ are harmless street signs and streetlights, fountains and loudspeakers. In Privatisiert/­ Paris (Privatized/Paris, 2003), he manipulates eight streetlights on Rue Louis Weiss, Paris, during the day so that he can turn them on and off with a

remote control while taking a nocturnal stroll down the street. As more and more restrictive ordinance regimes control urban space by means of video sur­ veillance, ostensibly improving public safety, Kessler creates humorous disruptions in the state’s power structure and at once lodges a claim of ownership of his own. Operating in the interface between private and public, the artist prompts us to keep testing the limits of personal responsibility and critically exam­ ine the prevailing conditions, especially also with a view to the question: ‘who owns the city?’

1

2

G un da Ac hl e i tn er

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1–2

Leopold Kessler, Privatized / Paris, 2003, Intervention (Eight remote-controlled streetlamps on Rue Louis Weiss, Paris), object, video 3:29 min., PAL 4:3, © the artist, courtesy Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna


49 3

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Leopold Kessler, Skater Pool Dumping, 2011, Intervention, Blu-Ray video 8:47 min., © the artist, photo courtesy Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna

4

*1976, Munich, Germany, lives in Vienna, Austria www.leopoldkessler.net

c e s


50

I n sta n t N at u r e Petra Noll

d i s t U R B A N c e s

Ilkka Halso, Museum of Nature, Theatre II (triptych), 2008, C-print, Diasec on Dibond, 125  ×  190 CM / 60  ×  80 cm, © and courtesy the artist pP. 62 / 63


51

1

Rafael Capurro, On Artificiality, online at: www.capurro.de / artif.htm (last accessed 24 July 2012).

2

See Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).

Nature, being an element of our theatrical society, is subject to our creative will. We civilise ‘real’ nature to conform it to our needs and activities, making it low-maintenance, neat and safe. We create artificial ‘paradises’ dedicated to ‘natural’ entertainment and seek out idylls in exotic countries and our lov­ ingly decorated private gardens. We immerse ourselves in prefabricated and readily available virtual picture-postcard landscapes, or simulate and con­ struct them – as virtual ‘gods’ on our computers – to make them as ‘natural’ as possible. We use computer-generated visual and textual information to supplement photographs captured on our smartphones, ‘expanding’ our per­ ception of reality. We enhance our vacation pictures through digital postprocessing. Nature may be quickly and arbitrarily (re)produced and manipulated ad infinitum, and thus becomes a second-hand mass product. We destroy and substitute ‘real’ nature, and yet we also yearn, and search for, vestiges of un­ fettered and untouched landscapes. This ambivalent relation to nature is root­ ed in man’s increasing sense of having lost his way, of wandering, confused, through a rapidly changing world that is hard to grasp; looking for meaning, identity and a place of his own in the world, he retreats into less complex en­ vironments such as an (artificial) nature that promises safety, an idyllic mood, peace and happiness. In this precarious situation, time and space have lost their traditional de­ terminations as well. Not only has our conception of nature changed as a re­ sult – so has our perception of reality. ‘What is reality, and where does artifi­ ciality begin?’: the question aims quite directly at man’s position in the world. It has traditionally been regarded as an incontrovertible law of nature that everything ‘natural’ is considered to be ‘normal’ and, hence, more ‘real’ than what is termed artificial. This conceptual schema, the philosopher Rafael Capurro has noted, has shifted in the modern era, ‘because the artificial (the machine) is being used mainly to dominate nature’. The ability of the machine, of the computer, to simulate all kinds of beings, Capurro goes on to argue, ‘contributes more and more to a new sense of artificiality in its relationship to nature. . . . We consider more and more the virtuality of computer simulations to be the real thing. In fact, reality becomes a possible actualization of computational ar­ tificiality . . . The computational form has a higher ontological degree than so-called reality since it can change it and reproduce it in another way. Re­ ality is but an expression of computational virtuality. The artificial is the real.’1 As early as the 1970s, Jean Baudrillard2 noted that what we view as reality was being supplanted by hyperreality (the reality of simulations), or in oth­ er words, that the duplication of the world brought about by the rise of dig­ ital media was making reality appear increasingly unreal. ‘Natural’ reality, or nature, can no longer be understood as the only ‘true’ (‘real’) reality. Instead, multiple realities exist side by side, or blend into one another so that the dis­ tinction between reality and imagination becomes ever more blurry. That en­ tails problems such as a loss of orientation, confusion and alienation, but also an opportunity to overcome time and space and attain a new kind of perception.

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52

d i s t U R B A N c e s

Photo and video artists who engage with nature focus primarily on ques­ tions surrounding dislocations of reality and perception, also with regard to their media themselves. Strikingly, they do not elaborate utopian visions of a better world, nor do they create bleak scenarios of an apocalyptic future in which human life seems impossible. Only artist Ilkka Halso has developed the visionary idea of protecting and preserving large swaths of nature in a museum. For his photo series Museum of Nature, he constructed gigan­ tic buildings with his computer that are designed to house rivers, mountains, forests and other objects. Yet there is an ironic refraction to this intellectual game: he has neither found a solution that would be ideal for nature, nor vis­ ualised nature in a state of devastation. Engaging questions of reality and perception, some artists working in the conceptual register choose the strategy of building model landscapes on which they base their photographic works. The play between two and three dimensions and the amalgamation of multiple realities and perspectives bring out new aspects of the interrogation of reality. These works often make use of the aesthetic and mechanisms of the advertising industry, the culture of the­ atrical staging and the Internet, and quote collective ideas about idyllic life – but not without revealing such images to be mere constructs that pose the danger of further confusion. That is true of Paul Horn and Lotte Lyon’s series of model-based photographs and postcards of cities and landscapes bearing the ambiguous title Neufundland. Given the often surreal palette and the mundane materials the artists use for their models – cotton wool, salad and socks among them – we quite quickly see through the fake, recognising the beautiful landscapes to be mere façades. The photographic works in Thomas Wrede’s series Real Landscapes present highly idyllic or dramatically beautiful landscapes; set into them are houses in which we can see ourselves seeking shelter from the world. Yet everything here is constructed, with mul­ tiple displacements of reality: the artist has placed model houses or toy cars into real nature, but what we see as an ocean is just a puddle, and that mon­ umental mountain range is at best a single rock. Justine Blau’s landscapes, too, are pure façades. Working with photographs from the Internet – i. e. from trav­ el blogs – she creates three-dimensional installations, fictional idyllic minia­ ture landscapes, in order to investigate our yearning for distant and exotic lo­ cales as well as the manipulation of our dreams by the advertising and entertainment industries (Somewhere Else). Robert F. Hammerstiel likewise avails himself of a ‘reality’ that is already a quotation. In his series of photographs Trust Me, lifelike synthetic plant imitations pose in the suggestive aesthetic of an advertising poster, but are in fact no more than mass-produced decorative articles. In the series Waste Land, the artist employs direct quotes from the online reality of the game Second Life, where the user can order or construct his own ideal land­ scapes – a world full of new possibilities and dimensions, but also a sort of imprisonment in isolated paradises that may lead to a loss of orientation in one’s ‘first life’. Some artists resort to digital alterations of their photographs or films. The artists’ duo Semiconductor built the video installation and photo series


53 Earth moves out of post-processed photographs, animating them by set­ ting elements of the natural sceneries in motion. This is a poetic response to natural disasters and an unstable nature, but also a reference to the limita­ tions of our perception, which is incapable of grasping the invisibly opera­ tive forces of nature. For his series Paradise Now, Peter Bialobrzeski used his large-format camera to capture nocturnal images of vestiges of nature on the margins of Asian metropolises and then digitally enhanced some of the pictures. If nature appears unreal or surreal enough when the artificial lights of the megalopolis flood it from all sides, the digital manipulation heightens this effect to the level of a fantastic hyperreality in order to draw our atten­ tion to the close proximity between beauty (luxuriant vegetation) and ­danger (posed by the wasteful use of energy). Reiner Riedler’s series Fake Holi­days likewise grew out of a critical engagement with the different planes of reality. He took pictures in artificial­ ly created amusement parks where reality and simulation, ‘authentic’ and ‘ar­ tificial’ nature blend to form hyperreal natural-theatrical sceneries, providing an objective look at make-believe worlds people visit to compensate for un­ requited longings. These artists deliberately avoid confrontational postures, which have been rendered obsolete by a society in which theatricality and artificiality already determine large parts of our everyday lives and a nature unaffected by hu­ man intervention is no longer to be found. They take a subtler approach, re­ lying on irritation, poetry and irony to take a nuanced stance regarding this existential issue. They see the rise of artificiality as both a threat and an op­ portunity – to take man seriously, with his yearnings and fears and the escap­ ism they lead to; and to sense reality in everything we live, conceive and con­ struct. Petra Noll, *1955, Gelsenkirchen, Germany, is an art historian, independent curator and author who lives in Vienna, austria. Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson

Paul Horn + Lotte Lyon, Neufundland, Jungle 3 (from a series of photographs and postcards of the same title), 2001, Lambda print on PVC, 90  ×  115 cm, © and courtesy the artists pP. 30 / 31

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54

S e m i c o n d u ct o r Ru t h Ja r m a n & J o e G e r h a r dt

E a r t h m ov e s / Br i l l i a n t N o i s e

d i s t

Earth Moves is a continuation of Semiconduc­ tor’s exploration into how unseen forces affect the fabric of our world. The limits of human perception are exposed, revealing a world which is unstable and in a constant state of animation as the forces of acoustic waves come into play on our surroundings. Here the south-east of England is explored through a series of five audio-controlled photographic pano­ ramas. For this work, Semiconductor collected sound recordings and photographs on location at the A23 at Pease Pottage; Witterings NT reserve; Findon Val­ ley; John St Brighton and Adur Valley cement facto­ ry. The sounds were used to re-animate the land­

scape at each location. Another work, Brilliant Noise, takes us into the data vaults of solar astron­ omy. After sifting through hundreds of thousands of computer files, made accessible via open access ar­ chives, Semiconductor have brought together some of the sun‘s finest unseen moments. The soundtrack highlights the hidden forces at play upon the solar surface, by directly translating areas of intensity with­ in the image brightness into layers of audio manipu­ lation and radio frequencies.

S e mi c on du c to r

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1

e s

1

Semiconductor, Brilliant Noise, 2006, Single channel DVD 5:55 min., made at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, California, USA, film still, © the artists

2–4

Semiconductor, Earth moves, 2006, SD video, 4.30 min., © the artists, commissioned by Arts Council England


55

2

3

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FOUNDED IN 1997 BY RUTH JARMAN, *1973, FAREHAM, GREAT BRITAIN; AND JOE GERHARDT, *1972, OXFORD, GREAT BRITAIN; BOTH LIVE IN BRIGHTON WWW.SEMICONDUCTORFILMS.COM


56

d i S T RUK T URA F ac e t o F ac e

d i s

In its efforts artistic group diSTRUKTURA tries to build on an extended view of nature – as sublime, pseudo or synthetic nature in urban constellations – aiming to define the various relationships, both real and virtual, that create the realities of modern-day life in which art has the significant function of point­ ing to and defining, without any utilitarian means, the evolving drama around the individual and the ­society. The main question artists are trying to ask is how long it takes for the changes in the environment to impact the way people think. The Face to Face photographic series (on-going) literally replicates ­romanticised topographies of the spectator who is

directly confronted with sublime and amazing scenes of post-industrial landscapes. This spectator is, in fact, an example of what could be termed a new social and mental ecology. In such a way, motifs of land­ scapes and cities become the objects of the artists‘ isolated contemplation, inviting the observer to join. By acting on this and calling for others to participate in their representations of nature and landscape, ­diSTRUKTURA attempts to point out and re-establish the torn bonds between humankind and nature.

M i ha C o ln er & DISTRU KTU R A

t U R B A N c e s

1

1

diSTRUKTURA, NBGD 3, 2007 from the Face to Face series, Lambda print, 80  ×  120 cm, © AND the courtesy the artists

2

diSTRUKTURA, Missing Hill 1, 2005 from the Face to Face series, Lambda print, 91  ×  127 cm, © AND the courtesy the artists

3

diSTRUKTURA, Not so Far Away 4, 2010 from the Face to Face series, Lambda print, 80  ×  120 cm, © AND the courtesy the artists


57 2

d i s t U 3

R B A N c e s

Founded in 2005 by Milica Milićević, *1979, Belgrade, Serbia and Milan Bosnić, *1969, Belgrade; BOTH live in Brussels, Belgium and Belgrade www.distruktura.com


58

Pétur Thomsen Imported Landscape

d i s

In 2003 The National Power Company of Iceland started to build the 700 MW Kárahnjúkar Hydroelec­ tric Project in eastern Iceland. The project consists of three dams — one of them being the highest in Eu­ rope — and a hydroelectric power plant. The dams block among others the large glacial river Jökulá á Dal, creating the 57 km² artificial lake Hálslón. The power plant is primarily being constructed to supply electricity to a new aluminium smelter in the fjord of Reyðarfjörður on the east coast of Iceland. The artifi­ cial lake and the construction have spoiled the big­ gest area of untouched wilderness in Europe making the Kárahnjúkar project not only the largest in Icelan­

dic history, but also the most controversial. Environ­ mentalists are fighting for the preservation of the area, while those supporting the project talk about the need to use the energy the nature has to offer. The best way for me to participate in this debate was to follow the land in its transformation. Since the be­ ginning of the project in 2003, I have been going regularly to the construction sites, taking landscape photographs, and documenting the contemporary landscape of Iceland.

P étur T h o ms e n

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1

Pétur Thomsen, Imported Landscape, AL3_9a, Kárahnjúkar, Iceland, 2003, Colour pigment print, Alu Dibond, 110  ×  140 cm, © the artist

2

Pétur Thomsen, Imported Landscape, AL12_23c, Kárahnjúkar, Iceland, 2006, Colour pigment print, Alu Dibond, 140  ×  110 cm, © the artist


59 2

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*1973, Reykjav铆k, Iceland, lives in S贸lheimar www.peturthomsen.is


60

Gábor Arion Ku dá sz Wa st e U n i o n

d i s t

The idea for Waste Union is derived from Kudász’s former landscape series. The artist’s landscapes are vast still lifes on the edges of populated land and open areas, with all the material things that may well be seen as signs of the negative effect of humanity on nature. The absurdity of his pictures stems from the subject itself and the manner of representation. Waste Union is a document of utopia. It is not an image of the future, but rather a pile of ruins – a view of the distorted present. It seems anachronistic and immoral to separate inhabited land from nature. Cul­ tivated landscapes are not different from lands left intact, for the boundaries between the two have

been dissolved. The influence of urbanisation is present in open lands more vividly than in carefully levelled inner cities. Open space is excessively wast­ ed, yet it could become the ultimate resource of ur­ ban existence, a natural source. The inflation of space is the most visible at the front lines of the expanding city, where different populated areas collide. The memory of garbage heaps are presented every­ where, unifying our contemporary landscape. The time for a hopeful utopia is gone. Gabri ella U h l bas e d on a t e x t by Gabri ella C s i z e k

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1

Gábor Arion Kudász, Waste Union, Cemetery, Latvia, 2008, Pigment print on Alu Dibond, 84  ×  100 cm, © the artist, courtesy Faur Zsófi Gallery, Budapest and the artist

2

Gábor Arion Kudász, Waste Union, Dump, Romania, 2007, Pigment print on Alu Dibond, 84  ×  100 cm, © the artist, courtesy Faur Zsófi Gallery, Budapest and the artist

3

Gábor Arion Kudász, Waste Union, Cable Burner, Hungary, 2007, Pigment print on Alu Dibond, 84  ×  100 cm, © the artist, courtesy Faur Zsófi Gallery, Budapest and the artist


61 2

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*1978, Budapest, Hungary, lives in Budapest www.arionkudasz.com


62

Il k k a H a ls o M u s e u m o f N at u r e

d i s t

Forests, rivers, untouched nature. Yet only at first glance does Ilkka Halso’s series Museum of ­Nature suggest idyllic scenes. For as the title al­ ready indicates, nature turns out in this work to be a commodity on display, set under a museum-style bell jar in order to give future human beings an idea of what untouched nature was like. Halso builds archi­ tectonic structures meant to protect the landscapes they enclose – protect them against the environmen­ tal degradation caused, and promoted, by man, against industrialisation and forest clearing. His buildings, that is to say, are protective covers of a sort against their own builder. In a commercialised world, however, attracting visitors is part of the raison d’être

of museums, and so the (digitally) engineered pro­ tective shield must be pierced, and roller coasters or theatrical settings added so that audiences will be entertained and have ‘fun’ despite the serious impli­ cations of the scenarios presented to them. Even though the artist would rather not see his construc­ tion plans implemented, the pessimistic vision of the future they render is perfectly realistic. Today’s urban zoos with their glasshouses, theme walks and promi­ nently advertised wildlife feeding times demonstrate that the first steps in that direction have already been taken. G un da Ac hl e i tn er

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1

Ilkka Halso, Museum of Nature, Museum II (detail), 2005, C-print, Diasec on Dibond, 300  ×  140 cm / 150  ×  70 Cm, © and courtesy the artist

2

Ilkka Halso, Museum of Nature, Kitka-river (triptych), 2004, C-print, Diasec on Dibond, 183  ×  300 cm / 91  ×  150 cm © and courtesy the artist

3

Ilkka Halso, Museum of Nature, Roller-coaster, 2004, C-print, Diasec on Dibond, 100  ×  134 cm / 50  ×  67 cm, © and courtesy the artist

*1965, Orimattila, Finland, lives in Orimattila http://ilkka.halso.net

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Puzzling Encounters – O n P h ot o - b a s e d Autobiography Gabriella Uhl

d i s t U R B A N c e s

Aldo Giannotti, from A Rewinding Journey series, 2007, Lambda print, 50  ×  70 cm, courtesy the artist, photo: Gianmaria Gava, PP. 94 / 95

It is a commonplace that communication increasingly relies on, and takes place in, an ever-growing mass of images (photos), yet the very simplicity and availability of this practice justify a critical examination of this visual torrent. Photography and the photographer occupy a special position and make use of a special tool; in this text, I analyse pictures and the way artists employ such images to perform a critique. I want to point to possible methods of this critical attitude by taking a look at a specific genre – that of autobiography constructed with the help of photography.


65

1

Linda Haverty Rugg, Picturing Ourselves. Photography and Autobiography (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997).

2

Ibid., p. 4.

3

Paul Jay, ‘Posing: Autobiography and the Subject of Photography’, in Autobiography and Postmodernism, Kathleen Ashley, Leigh Gilmore and Gerald Peters, eds. (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), p. 150.

As a genre of historiography and literature, autobiography has a tradition of thousands of years, which, when seen from the angle of the author’s and the recipient’s attitudes, has always balanced on the line between reality and fiction. How it was interpreted has always been related to the discourse about the construction of identity and memory. With photography, a new tool was introduced with which to shape identity, and people have made heavy use of it ever since its beginnings, whether the image be a staged studio photo of a family or a society, snapshots of private occasions or the official photos of events distributed by news agencies.1 In the world of virtual communica­ tion, one is free to construct a self for oneself; our imaginations now possess endless possibilities, and we have gained access to a means of creating our­ selves with images we make or download, a way to fashion the (visual) auto­ biography we long for. We live a double life in this world, both revealing and hiding ourselves, and we are puzzled (psychologically), because we live among images that are meant to puzzle. In recent years, the theoretical considerations of photography and auto­ biography have also concentrated on referentiality and the relationship to re­ ality; the question, in other words, of to what extent the two genres can be considered objective representations of reality. In the 1970s, Roland Barthes still argued for a coherent, authentic self-image that can be grasped. As for autobiography, the insistence on a stable self-image with a solid core, as in­ herited from the age of the Enlightenment, made the genre a subcategory of biography, i.e. historiography. In the 1990s, critical studies (cultural studies, post-colonialism, feminism, psychoanalysis) showed a heightened interest in the autobiography as something that provided marginal groups with a means of self-articulation. Though their perspectives differed, all these approaches underlined the constructed nature of both autobiography and photography, shifting the focus from the faithful documentation of reality to the control ex­ ercised over the representation, and the fear and anxiety felt over the possi­ bility of losing this control. ‘Autobiography is itself an exertion of control over self-image, for in writ­ ing an account of one’s own life, one authorizes the life, claiming a kind of privilege for one’s own account.’2 This shift of focus pushed the illusion of a trustworthy representation of reality into the background, and highlighted those desires that motivate self-definition. It would already be problematic today to talk about innocent reflection apropos of photography, just as auto­ biography can no longer be approached with a view to finding merely an ac­ count and consideration of facts. ‘Posing involves a dramatic struggle for control and authenticity, a strug­ gle between intentionality and convention, the essential and the objectified.’3 What the mode of expression represents is the intersection of desires and possibilities, the ceaseless crossing of the line between culturally prescribed and forbidden territories that goes on for the sake of discovering and appro­ priating new positions. This vantage point assumes a fluid self-image, which is constantly changed and repositioned, and consequently the analysis con­ cerns the self that emerges from the images, i.e. the desired view that the photographer (namely the person who picks up a camera) wants to see and

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convey of herself. It is a virtual mapping of the area she wants to cover. This occupancy does not take place in a cultural vacuum, but is in fact deeply em­ bedded in the given social, geographical and political conditions. It is in­ formed by the ‘dual consciousness’ that is at work between the excluded and the desired territory. Seen from the perspective of image-making, the crea­ tion of identity is an active procedure for everyone, which activates cultural tradition, creativity and imagination and provides a limitless and joyful sense of selection; the ‘subject’ of photography, in other words, no longer simply suffers the activity of the machine–institution–ideology. But as one is carried away by the joy of ‘self-creation’, so the gap widens between the starting ­position and the position constructed. Rather than being restricted to personal life, the problem is to be inter­ preted in the context provided by the spaces, traditions and histories that globalisation produces and expands. It is difficult to align oneself with differ­ ent ideas that are deposited by different cultures, and which may equally con­ verge and confront in the contemporary global world. A ‘peaceful’ resolution of the problem is in fact provided by the fictional autobiography, which of­ fers a chance to model situations in which to try ourselves conceptually/​ ­visually. We can create artificial inner lands, or can fly in space and time. (Take, for instance, Reiner Riedler’s series in this catalogue, Fake Holidays.) ­Further, autobiographical images are characterised by a strong intentionali­ ty, actively and elaborately constructed concepts that go against convention­ al notions of the snapshot as a product of chance. On the contrary, deliber­ ateness and calculation are emphasised over momentariness, trying to blur the line between art and not-art. This is what encourages photographers to reverse the device and make imitation chance images, delving deeper and deeper in their own intimate sphere. The tension of the images derives from the clash of the desire for self-control and the tradition that is handed down, and from the rejection of being defined by others. Self-interpretation may oc­ cupy a position in a matrix defined by myriad points of reference. The inter­ pretation often hinges on our interests as viewers, whether we want social cli­ chés to live on or to collapse. The images of the contemporary autobiographies that photos construct are mobile and changeable, attesting to the fragility and sensitiveness of our identity and memory. They are not inflexible positions in a choice between identification and resistance, but continuous, critical reinterpretations of the volitional movement between the two. Gabriella Uhl, *1970, Budapest, Hungary, is an art historian, critic and curator of Photomonth 20 12. she lives in Budapest. Translated from Hungarian by Miriam McIlfatrick

Aldo Giannotti, from A Rewinding Journey series, 2007, Lambda print, 70  ×  50 CM, courtesy the artist, photo: Gianmaria Gava PP. 94 / 95


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68

Dionisio González Busan Project

d i

The authorities of the city of Busan proposed that I make an intervention-study about the degraded hills that surround the metropolis, whose shabbi­ ness has been caused by a process of dysfunction­ al and ­urban-residential encampment. Such settle­ ments arose during the migratory years of the war and afterwards, in the peak industrial period. It was on the basis of this experience that in 2008 the Bu­ san Metropolitan City, the Busan Museum of Art and the director of the Busan Biennale institutions came up with a constructive idea to actually put these im­ ages into practice; in short, to take them to a physi­

cal, functional level in the form of student residences, viewing platforms and/or museums. Thus the struc­ tures coexist amidst the illicit forms of the provision­ al neighbourhoods – and this not as the result of displacement or suppression, but on the basis of con­ sent and a commingling of elements. Any invalida­ tion, demolition, excavation or destruction through violence is no more than a sterile exercise in urban fumigation, which only implies violent constructive, identitarian and social disruption. D i on i s i o G on z ál e z

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1

Dionisio González, Busan Project IV, 2011, C-print, Diasec mounted, 100  ×  228 cm, © the artist, courtesy Gal. Ivoryprees

2

Dionisio González, San Giustinian Lolin, 2011, C-print, Diasec mounted, 70  ×  140 cm, © the artist, courtesy Gal. Ivoryprees

3

Dionisio González, NovaHeliópolis IV, 2006, C-print, Diasec mounted, 180  ×  405 cm, © the artist, courtesy Gal. Ivoryprees

*1965, Gijon, Spain, lives in Seville www.dionisiogonzalez.es


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Niklas Goldbach High-Rise

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ty and fiction High-Rise focuses on the role of the individual in an ever increasingly homogenised world and questions how the subjective experience is processed and characterised by feelings of disori­ entation, melancholy and rising a-sociality. This printseries is based on video material filmed for Gold­ bach’s work HOCHHAUS (2006) and refers to a building in the Ernst-Thälmann-Park, a park in former East Berlin.

In his video, sculpture and photographic works, ­ iklas Goldbach focuses on the dystopian aspects N of the postmodern urban experience. Highlighting the politically charged tensions between the public and private spheres, Goldbach’s locations range from disquieting rural landscapes to the sleek glass facades of contemporary architecture to the ruins of a bombed discotheque. In the triptych High-Rise Goldbach creates a gigantic building alluding to J. G. Ballard’s novel of the same title, a study of the trans­ formation of a society. Blurring the borders of reali­

N i klas G o l d bac h

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1–3

Niklas Goldbach, High-Rise 1, 2008, Digital pigment prints on baryt paper, 42  ×  34 cm, © the artist, courtesy Galleria Bianconi, Milan


71 2

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*1973, Witten, Germany, lives in Berlin www.niklasgoldbach.de


72

V i r g i n i e M a i ll a r d Anamnésie Land

d i

Anamnésie Land does not exist but comes from real spaces that have an old story. Brought back arti­ ficially, the neon signs convey in every image a reac­ tivation of the memory of places, which are today in the process of reconversion or lost in the landscape. This creates a kind of dialogue between the word and the building. The signs – symbols of a society of spec­ tacle and consumption – enhance the gaps between the original function of the building and what we could refer to as their second chance to exist in col­ lective memory. According to the depicted spaces, there are different shifts in meaning, and these are

s t U R B A N c e s

1

carried out by a close relationship between several elements: the shape of the building (what it conjures), and its anchoring in history and journalistic current events. This ‘compilation’, due to emotional aspects and more objective ones, determines the interpre­ tation of the neon sign. As for Anamnésie, it is a medical term, which refers to the history of a disease. Evoked in a metaphoric way, Anamnésie Land brings together spaces of an evolving past in the context of current crises and wars. V irg i n i e Ma illard


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Virginie Maillard, Anamnésie Land, Justice, 2009, Colour pigment print, aluminium, variable dimensions, © the artist

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Virginie Maillard, Anamnésie Land, Dentist, 2009, Colour pigment print, aluminium, variable dimensions, © the artist

3

Virginie Maillard, Anamnésie Land, School, 2009, Colour pigment print, aluminium, variable dimensions, © the artist

*1970, Landerneau, France, lives in Boulogne-sur-Mer www.virginiemaillard-photographie.com

s


74

Thomas Wrede Real Landscapes: B e t w e e n I dy l l a n d D i s a st e r The images look as though they have been shot from the sky, but in fact they are taken a few centimetres from the ground. Cars, houses and plastic trees in model railway format are placed on the beach by the North Sea or in a pile of rubbish or ashes. The micro­ structures of the sand are transformed in the eyes of the beholder into macrostructures of the earth’s sur­ face. Only at second glance do the discrepancies of the proportions become recognisable. The photo­ graphs are made with an analogue large format cam­

era and are slightly digitally optimised. Thus the ­observer is left with no sense of dimension; that is the photographic illusion. I am inspired by landscape and its different lighting. I create worlds that can only exist in photography. In my photos the world is shown as a stage with grand gestures in small meas­ ure, as a picture and a replica of idyll and disaster.

T h o mas Wr e d e

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Thomas Wrede, Real Landscapes, Hochhaussiedlung im Gegenlicht, 2008, C-print, 95  ×  180 cm, © the artist, courtesy Wagner + Partner, Berlin

2

Thomas Wrede, Real Landscapes, Drive-in-Theatre, 2009, C-print, 95  ×  130 cm / 140  ×  190 cm, © the artist, courtesy Wagner + Partner, Berlin

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Thomas Wrede, Real Landscapes, Green Settlement, 2012, C-print, 170  ×  240 cm, © the artist, courtesy Wagner + Partner, Berlin

*1963, Letmathe/Westfalen, Germany, lives in Münster www.thomas-wrede.de


76

D a n i e l L e i d e n f r o st And it’s hard to hold a candle

d i s t

In its original composition, the series of works ­Daniel Leidenfrost titled November contains both repre­ sentation and its objects, both elements that show and elements to be shown. Leidenfrost builds mod­ el architectures and landscapes that serve as motifs for his photographs and yet, in being depicted, turn into works in their own right. The model itself re­ mains an integral part of the whole, though it is diffi­ cult to access and comprehend. The setting radically reveals the structures and conditions of production, reflecting both their genesis with the underlying as­ piration to veracity and the materiality and function­ ality of the media involved. The remarkable feature of this process of production is an atmospheric trans­

fer; if the models deliberately rely on the charm of hobbyesque handcrafted objects, suggesting lone­ ly evenings spent over a model railroad in a base­ ment room, the photographs engender sensations and impressions that recall other places we uncon­ sciously recognise. The effect is intimately familiar and strange at once – places that are dense with sen­ sations (Peter Assmann, K wie Kunst [Salzburg: Müry Salzmann, 2011], p. 37) and obscure recollec­ tions of perceptions, like a dream. The works raise urgent and fundamental questions concerning truth, construction and cognition. Man f r e d Wi pl ing e r

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Daniel Leidenfrost, November, 2010, model (various materials), 180  ×  240  ×  140 cm, photographs, each 30  ×  40 cm, drawing, 30  ×  40 cm, © and courtesy the artist

*1979, Oberndorf near Salzburg, Austria, lives in Vienna http://leidenfrost.pipelinevienna.org


78

c o ll e ct i f_ f a ct datat ow n

ing the areas without signage give the illusion of an unlimited, virtual space. The amalgam of these urban texts and the black background resemble the con­ temporary computer environment. These images re­ flect a landscape generated by a society, one which only functions thanks to codified information.

The series of nine photographs, as well as the video datatown (2002) tackle the issues linked to place recognition amidst the countless signs and markers invading our everyday life. Road networks, adver­ tising posters, designations for places, buildings, streets, etc. are some of the many indicators that so­ ciety puts at our disposal. Yet, by isolating these graphic markers of the urban landscape, we propose a new, reconstructed space. The black spaces cover­

c o lle c t i f _ fac t

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collectif_fact, datatown #1, 2002, Lambda print between Plexiglass 2 mm and black PVC 4 mm, 70  ×  120 cm

2

collectif_fact, datatown #9, 2002, Lambda print between Plexiglass 2 mm and black PVC 4 mm, 60  ×  150 cm

3

collectif_fact, datatown #7, 2002, Lambda print between Plexiglass 2 mm and black PVC 4 mm, 60  ×  120 cm Established in 2002 by Annelore Schneider, *1979, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Claude Piguet, *1977, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and Swann Thommen, *1979, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland; since 2009 collectif_fact consists of Annelore Schneider and Claude Piguet; both live in GENEVA, SWITZERLAND AND LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN www.collectif-fact.ch


80

M o d e ls B e r t h o l d Eck e r

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Paul Horn + Lotte Lyon, Neufundland, Desert 3 (from a series of photographs and postcards of the same title), 2001, Lambda print on PVC, 90  ×  115 cm, © and courtesy the artists pP. 30 / 31


81

1

Helmut Eisendle, Krampus’ Talk to Adult Humans, Vienna, 2009, p. 39.

What else is a model but a simplified, often scaled-down attempt to under­ stand a problem, correlations or even the whole world? In that regard, doesn’t every work of art bear resemblance to a model? This heuristic path can be trodden with plastic replicas, diagrams, maps, charts, etc. Basically, models are also an expression of the human instinct for play, simu­lations of reality and utopias that often even surpass reality, born out of a childish or creative impulse, or out of scientific or artistic curiosity. Diverse global problems have reached the general consciousness, and everyday life is permeated by an attitude that could be described by the sim­ ple sentence: ‘This cannot continue’. People are struggling to understand, and the path that lies before us is by no means clear, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that contemporary art uses the concept of models to invent precau­ tionary dystopias that may seem like paradoxes, thus opening up new per­ spectives. ‘When life becomes hard to bear, we think of change. But the idea of changing our own behaviour or the way we think doesn’t cross our minds. No, they undertake artificial rescue attempts. In space. In the cities.’1 Berthold Ecker, *1961, Linz, Austria, is an art historian and since 20 03 the Head of the Division of Fine Arts of the Municipal Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of VIENNA; since 20 07 director of MUSA, Vienna. He lives in Vienna. Translated from German by Wilhelm Nöldeke

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N i g h t a n d D ay i n Computer Games and A r c h i t e ct u r a l P h o t o g r a p h y Rolf Sachsse

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Kaya Behkalam, Excursions in the Dark, 2011, HD video, 20 min., video still, © the artist pP. 44 / 45

A day in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Second Life lasts three hours and the span of one night is just a single hour. If any player finds that is still too long, he can immediately cause daylight to return, as if by magic, by clicking Shift+Ctrl+Y. The opposite is also possible. If you search for SL-URL 1920s Berlin and enter the site, you’ll only want to do so at night, as this particular gamer’s environment – with its gay bars and Charleston dance floors – is at its best when the sun is down and the lights are on. Even the virtual consumption of drugs is best done in the shadows. A ‘metropolis’ defines itself above all – and not only since the times of the well-known epony­mous movie – as a city that lives by electricity through a night that can no longer be called dark.


83 The architects of modern times were well aware of this fact when creating buildings. Take for example Erich Mendelsohn’s Schocken department stores from the 1920s, which looked impressive by day as well as at night; when the white facades looked dark at night, the white window frames (which appeared dark during the day) looked even whiter by contrast. And it would be easy to document the difference between old and new ‘metropolises’ through magazine photography, postcards and books: before WW II London and Paris were shown almost exclusively by day – often at dawn and with some fog; Berlin, Chicago and New York were pictured by night and with great precision. This all happened on an analogue level: electricity flowed like water, albeit invisibly, and the photographs captured mechanically and chemically all that was visible. On a digital level these worlds can no longer be distinguished; obviously the night will be offset from the day only if you consider it as a kind of serv­ ice offered to the human body and its analogous biological functions. As far as images are concerned, the distinction between daylight pictures and those taken at night is no longer relevant, and nor is the definition of the me­ dium used to make them: photography, photomontage and photorealism (painting included) are categories from the analogue world that point to the image as being referential, which is obviously no longer the case. It may come as a kind of relief to convince oneself that Peter Bialobrze­ ski’s pictures from the Paradise Now series are as real as those by Frédéric Delangle when he depicts Ahmedabad at night (Ahmedabad no life last night). Dionisio González’s new architectural constructions (Busan Project) are most probably not made to live in and are no more (or less) real than the neon signs attached to the buildings photographed by Virginie Maillard in Anamnesie Land. When looking at Justine Blau’s pictures of the series THE Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus, the ex­ perienced viewer will have to recall Edmund Kuppel’s photo-wall paintings in Paris bars – which he used to trick us into a false reality – whereas Real Landscapes by Thomas Wrede evokes the games with size and scale that are part of the trompe l’oeil tradition, thus affording photography the noble touch in making one may find associated with artists like Michael Schuster. Using media such as painting, installation and also photography, Daniel Lei­ denfrost plays with reality shifting between symbolism and representation, as was typical in the early Renaissance. Reality is so radically changed in the works of Gábor Arion Kudász und Olja Triaška Stefanovič that its registration can only be met with astonishment, whilst Reiner Riedler concentrates on the miniaturisation of a world which, emptied of meaning, exists as a theme park only good for strolling around in. All this falsehood set against real life is ob­ viously beyond any hope, as Theodor W. Adorno would say. But hold on: in the meantime, another reality – literally – has gotten in our way: the game or, to be more precise, the computer game, brings it into ex­ istence. Thibault Brunet leaves it open to the viewer to guess whether the foggy views in his Vice City series are taken out of games like Grand Theft Auto or are real pictures of real places. The game in particular has inspired architectural photography again and again: in 2009 Szymon Necki was given one of the European architectural photography awards for views

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Thomas Wrede, Real Landscapes, House over the Dunes, 2007, C-print, 120  ×  150 cm, © the artist, courtesy Wagner + Partner, Berlin pP. 74 / 75

of the border of the game environment – a simple horizon above the endless waters of the sea. The gigantic architectural structures of Niklas Goldbach are easily recognisable, by day and night, as a set-up, but they are so close to reality that any computer-game rendering program could without any doubt generate it as a real environment for a possible game. As far as the re­ construction of the world through pictures is concerned, it may be of some interest to consider that a possible symbolic inclusion of the image within the fine arts is apparently only obtained when the picture is taken at dawn. This leads us to the pictures taken by Bialobrzeski or Michael Wesely, both of whom are able to transform any night into day by extreme over-exposure, an age-old practice in art photography spreading from Alfred Stieglitz and his contemporaries to Renate Heyne and beyond to the architectural adver­ tising of the 1980s. Since Friedrich Schiller’s letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man in 1795, the game is part of the raison d‘état, the founding ground of political action settling between economy and society. Claus Pias has not only pointed to this in his book Computer Spiel Welten (The World of Computer Games) but he has also drawn some conclusions on their relation­ ship to reality. The ‘Ultima ratio’ of all computer games is the immersion of the players, thus the complete dissolution of one’s body into a gaming envi­ ronment with its technical and cultural coding whose final aim is to set up a new narrative. Photography and the game enter thus into a fusion. What is more, the whole history of photography has to be reconsidered as another game with reality, a true heterotopia of great precision, of which the work of Andreas Gursky stands out as the illustrative paradigm. Even the title of this exhibition – distURBANces – is a play on words where the elements of reali­ ty, in so far as they have any presence in the pictures exhibited, become in some way a self-referential Moebius strip and part of a new game. The ques­ tion that remains is: which game? Programmers have an answer at the ready: WYSIWIG – what you see is what you get. The fact is that the aesthetics of the Enlightenment have taught us that we are only able to see what we have come to know. What now? Pho­ tography on the whole has become a game, voluptuous, sensual and horri­ ble. The pathos of reality that used to define photography may have been handed over to the doorkeeper of the White Cube game casino, but the pleasure to tell stories will remain. Whosoever has to deal, as a media histo­ ry expert, with the old warriors of the trade will have collected numerous ­stories about every picture, but never an analysis of image composition or declaration of intent. This has now changed. Whatever is shown or collected under the label ‘photography’ is witness to the desire to tell a story, even founding the strategy of picture making. Photography has finally managed to enter the fine arts, the very domain where the old masters, through col­ ours and surface, carried witness of pleasure and distress. It is always possi­ ble to consider that photography’s greatest achievement was to have freed the rest of the arts from the constraint of reproducing reality, but it did this only for a very short time – as a game. The pleasure of the Venetian stone carvers while working on window masonry was documented by John Ruskin


85

Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 03-01-2012, 19h10, 2012, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 cm, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris pP. 88 / 89

via Daguerreotypie and these refinements are mirrored in the writings of the author when he pleases himself with stylish formulations, and then settles on the same level as the very precise but probably unreal arrangements of dig­ ital artists when working on similar architectural details. The artists in distURBANces carry on these playful traditions, in particular when one considers that the aesthetics of their artistic production are as con­ ventional as the works of, say, Surrealism. Whereas the very precise drawings and paintings of the Surrealist artists referred to the anxieties present be­ tween the two World Wars, the games found in this exhibition’s works refer to a level beyond: the very complex activities of today’s financial markets, which can only be grasped if you understand strategic game theory (which happens to be described with great precision by Hermut Rosa as a result of a continuous acceleration quite similar to the levels of First Person Shooter games). In these games, space becomes the key element for success and de­ feat, something suggested the very title of distURBANces. The ground is even most of the time, making it difficult to move around because of the missing depth of field; rooms are confined, making escape difficult; the night (or dawn) is always ever-present, which makes it equally difficult to be precise about your position and place because it can be the exact opposite when the sun blazes brightly . . . but this seems to be the rule for this kind of game. The game not only crosses the borders of artistic media but those of social or eco­ nomic realities as well, and confirms one of Paul Virilio’s claims that the bor­ ders of the city of the future will no longer be defined by horizontal but rath­ er vertical limits. What’s more, according to Virilio, they won’t have walls either and will be constantly overlit. Even if every artist’s work in this exhibition has its own character, they all fit into this common scheme: they all are expres­ sions in the artist’s mind of a greater economic crisis and even came to exist­ ence under its immediate effect. Every game is a model of harsher realities, from chess, which was invent­ ed in India, to the military simulations of John Horton Conway’s Game of Life as a basis for cell multiplication. And since Johan Huizinga’s 1938 book Homo Ludens (Playing Man) the game is even part of (post)modern phi­ losophy. Playfulness has always had its part in art, at the very latest since Mar­ cel Duchamp’s symbolic action of shifting levels of perception and reality with his ready-mades. None of the artists in distURBANces can do without playing with the concept of perception; this is true of Delangle’s strict analogue pic­ tures taken at an otherwise indefinable moment in the night; it is also true for González and his architectural constructions shot by daylight. In similar fash­ ion as has become common in the finance industry, both artists play with com­ puters that do all or half of the work; they aspire to be physically present when the work is shown and are, in the end, the producers who try to find happi­ ness by re-introducing the game into their own lives and realities. What bet­ ter place than the country and city of Luxembourg to exhibit these pictures! Rolf Sachsse, *1949, Bonn, Germany, is an author, curator and art historian who is Professor in Design History and Media Theory at the University of Fine Arts, Saarbrücken. He lives in Saarbrücken and Bonn. Translated from German by Pierre Stiwer & Joan Barbara Travers Simon

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Robert F. H a m m e r st i e l

d i s t

Robert F. Hammerstiel’s photographic and video works explore the surrogate worlds people create to compensate for unfulfilled longings. The online video game Second Life simulates real life – the user can even order or construct landscapes. The art­ ist’s photo series Waste Land (2011) shows artifi­ cially constructed natural sceneries gradually emerg­ ing as the computer performs its calculations, with building blocks for landscapes and architectures floating through space; the sense of idyllic peace that pervades the finished landscapes is fractured by these surreal constellations. For the photographic ­series Trust Me (2011–12), Hammerstiel set faithful reproductions of plants made of synthetic materials

before a neutral white backdrop, photographed them, and then made life-sized prints. Like many of his works, the pictures quote as well as undermine the aesthetics of advertising visuals with their ingen­ ious symbiosis of allure and manipulation: the plants ‘pose’ in all their beauty, offering themselves as mer­ chandise promising happiness, and are yet no more than an ersatz nature, a decorative mass product. Here reality is subjected to a double shift – the trans­ lation into photography transfers the plants, manu­ factured to look deceptively ‘real’, into a realm of the hyperreal.

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P etra N o ll

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Robert F . Hammerstiel, Waste Land 06, 2011, C-Print on acrylic glass, acrylic glass box, 45  ×  70  ×  4 cm, © and courtesy the artist

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Robert F . Hammerstiel, Waste Land 02, 2011, C-Print on acrylic glass, acrylic glass box, 45  ×  70  ×  4 cm, © and courtesy the artist


87 3

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Robert F . Hammerstiel, Trust Me 05, 2012, C-Print on aluminium, cassette frames, acrylic glass, 178  ×  140 cm, © and courtesy the artist *1957 in Pottschach, Austria, lives in Vienna www.hammerstiel.net


88

T h i b a u lt B r u n e t Vice City

d i

My artwork is a photographic research fuelled by the topic of reality and its imitations. I am more precisely focusing on virtual universes, especially video games. These games are inspired by American popular, his­ torical and political culture. They are programmed in such a way that the player has to fulfil its tasks: mur­ der, blackmail, robbery or escape . . . I decided to ex­ plore these games against the natural will of my av­ atars, like the one that the usual player would use; I choose to do it as a photographer. These pictures were taken over the course of my walks in these vir­ tual universes. This particular collection deals with

landscape and the urban-scape. Set as a simple back­ ground for the plot, the landscape generally holds a secondary role in the video games. The slow motion of my walks leads me to explore the spaces that are usually forgotten by players. The pictures show side spaces, barren and industrialized ­areas. The aesthetic, which reminds us of contemporary photo shoots as well as Japanese engraving and painting, provokes confusion about the nature and the origins of these floating pictures. T h ibault Brunet

s t U R B A N c

1

e s

1

Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 04-01-2012, 20h01, 2012, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 cm, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris


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d i s t U R B A N c e s

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Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 29-08-2010, 20h51, 2010, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 cm, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris

4

Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 04-01-2012, 20h00, 2012, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 CM, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris

3

Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 29-09-2010, 16h33, 2010, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 cm, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris

5

Thibault Brunet, Vice City, 29-08-2010, 20h38, 2010, Colour print, passe-partout, 20  ×  20 CM, © the artist, courtesy galerie binôme, Paris

*1982, Montélimar, France, lives in Lille www.thibaultbrunet.fr


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C é d r i c D e ls a u x Da rk l e n s

d i

Cédric Delsaux invites us to take a step sideways, into an anterior future or a counterfeit present where hu­ manity has been quite simply erased from the map; it seems to be an attempt to counter enslavement by speed and technology. In the series entitled Dark Lens, familiar yet disturbing characters from Star Wars, transplanted into contemporary settings, have been socialised into our banal, hyper-urbanised dai­ ly lives or set in grim post-industrial wastelands. They lose their aura, but acquire an unsettling strangeness; they seem to be running on empty, driven by a vio­ lence that has no purpose. Whereas Star Wars is

a flamboyant epic story of an intergalactic democracy gone wrong, Dark Lens causes a contextual shift that sounds very much like a warning. This already ob­ solete dictatorial technological power provides a chill­ ing adumbration of a future that is fictional, yet pos­ sible: an archaeological worst-case scenario. Dark Lens stands midway between cine­matographic mem­ ory, static photographic images and dystopian projec­ tions that the development of mega-cities imprints on our minds, synchronised as they are by globalisation. Je an- Lu c S o r et

s t U R B A N c e s

1


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Cédric Delsaux, Dark Lens, At-AT in fog, Dubai, 2009, Archival pigment print, 75  ×  100 CM / 100  ×  133 CM, © the artist, courtesy Acte 2 Galerie, Paris

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Cédric Delsaux, Dark Lens, Two speeder bikes, Dubai, 2009, Archival pigment print, 75  ×  100 CM / 100  ×  133 CM © the artist, courtesy Acte 2 Galerie, Paris

3

Cédric Delsaux, Dark Lens, Battle Droids on their round, Dubai, 2009, Archival pigment print, 75  ×  100 CM / 100  ×  133 CM, © the artist, courtesy Acte 2 Galerie, Paris

*1974, Châtenay-Malabry, France, lives in Paris www.cedricdelsaux.com


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J o s h M ü ll e r l a co n st ru c t i o n d u c i e l

d i s

la construction du ciel is a video composed of still images and minimal tracking shots. It shows a dysfunctional airport lying idle beneath a blanket of snow; the microscopically slow camera captures ice­ bound runways and parking lots shrouded in fog. The giant airplanes and terminals – symbols of a global culture defined by mobility and networking – are stripped of their function; in the meantime, the sky and fields blur into a spectrum of shades of grey. Now and then, the movie-like image of ’la construc­ tion du ciel’ comes close to a white surface, the zero point of unexposed grainy film stock. The video re­ veals itself to be the construction of a crisis embrac­

ing the coordinates of time, place and visibility, which profoundly affects us, entering our bodies and neural pathways via the booming, low-frequency soundtrack (by Oliver Grimm). Later even the noise suddenly breaks off, and a new zero point, that of ‘non-sound’, starts. With the credits that subsequent­ ly scroll across the screen, la construction du ciel suggests that a zero point may always also be an acknowledgement of the vacuity of that which has already occurred, and therefore of the irreality of the present. L ina M oraw et z

t U R B A

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N c e Concept, Realisation Josh Müller

s

Director of Photography Martin Ruhe Editor Thomas Kühne / tomk

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Sound Design Oliver Grimm Additional Sound Design Daniel Bemberger Additional Model Constructing Thomas Osterwinter


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Josh Müller, la construction du ciel, 2001, DV, colour, sound, 5:40 min., © and courtesy the artist

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*1973, Mainz, Germany, lives in Vienna, Austria


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Al d o G i a n n o tt i A Rewinding Journey

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The video A Rewinding Journey explores the dynamics between a genuine and creative imagina­ tion and its loss. The work creates an explicit situa­ tion that shows out the disharmony between the log­ ic of contemporary society and unspoiled ability of visionary thinking and fantasy. The protagonist of the video, an astronaut – a fantastic stranger from outer space, displaced in a surrounding that works with different logic and speed – starts a journey to search for a place where he is allowed to exist. Not only is he disconnected from the reality around him,

but also the different and contrary dimensions of time he moves in underline his being out of his ele­ ment. This makes any involvement and interaction impossible. In this way his journey becomes an ex­ plicit method towards the redefinition of a genuine centre – a place where imagination finds way back to its very roots. In a narrative way the connection to an inner space of imaginativeness starts to function again: in the fulfilment of a child’s dream of being an astronaut. A ld o G i annot t i

i s t

1

U R B A N c e s

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Aldo Giannotti, A Rewinding Journey, 2007, video (Aldo Giannotti & Viktor Schaider), mini DV transferred onto DVD, 10:40 min., video stills, courtesy the artist


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Aldo Giannotti, from A Rewinding Journey series, 2007, Lambda print, 70  ×  50 CM, courtesy the artist, photo: Gianmaria Gava *1977, Genoa, Italy, lives in Vienna, Austria www.aldogiannotti.com


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imprint P UBLISHE R Kulturpro jekte Ber lin fo r E ur o pean Month o f Photo gr ap hy w w w.e u r o p eanmontho fp hoto gr ap hy.com M a n ag i n g E d i t o r Mar t e Kräher Assistan ce C h a rlott e Finke · Ga brie le Zö llner LAN G UAG E EDITIN G Ji ll W inder G R A P HI C DESI G N St ephanie Pfänder

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o f t h e a r t i st t e x t s

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Mar t yn Back, P. 90

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C a roline Desc har le s, P. 72 Ge r r it Jacks on, PP. 24, 30, 48, 62, 76, 86, 92 M i riam McIl fatri ck, P. 60 N icola Walters, P. 68 P h ot o gr a p h s ©   T h e a r t i st s T e x t s ©   T h e au t h o rs

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. pr i n t e d i n v i e n n a 2012 ISBN 978-3-940231-06-2


In the era of globalisation and the unprecedented dominance of visual experience, one not only witnesses increasing complexity but also, on one hand, the continuous interweaving of the world that is actually physically perceptible from close-up and remote, and digital worlds on the other. Economic, ecological and political crises are pushing the world towards societal changes. The distURBANces project, cooperatively initiated by the partner cities of the European Month of Photography network – Berlin, Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Paris and Vienna – presents artistic positions that offer new perspectives on urban, technological and political developments. This catalogue accompanies different variations of the exhibition on view in each of the seven cities.

K aya  B e h kalam · P eter  B ialo br z e s ki · J u s tine  B lau T h ibault  B runet · J a s mina  C ibic · co llecti f_ fact Fr é d é ric Delan g le · C é d ric Del s au x · d iS T R U K T U R A A l d o  Giann otti · N ikla s  G o l d bac h · Di o ni s i o  G o n z á le z I lkka Hal s o · R o bert  F . Hammer s tiel · Paul H o rn &  Lotte  Lyo n L e o p o l d   K e s s ler · G á b o r  A ri o n  K u d á s z · Daniel  L ei d en f r o s t V ir g inie  M aillar d · J o s h   M ü ller · A n d rej O s terman R einer  R ie d ler · Semico n d ucto r · Olja T ria š ka Ste fan o vi č P é tur T h o m s en · T h o ma s  W re d e

Cover image ©  I lk k a H also w w w.europeanmonthofphotography.com I SBN: 978-3-940231-06-2

Disturbances Exhibition catalogue  

Catalogue of the exibition "DistUrbances" by the European Month of Photography.

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