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Group show: Beyond the Compound (over)

15 March 2013 until 20 April 2013
  Beyond the Compound
Martin Zellerhoff
  Galerie Jette Rudolph

Galerie Jette Rudolph
Strausberger Platz 4
10243 Berlin
Germany (city map)

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tel +49 (0)30 - 613 03 887

"Is photography to be defined with (its own) nature or with the culture that surrounds it?"[1]
- Geoffrey Batchen

To deal artistically with the medium of photography opens up a far-flung, expansive network of references that is to be understood as equivalent to the multiple positioning of the medium, or the discourses which link it to other media and genres, or to the way photography is used and practiced (in everyday life), as well as to the parameters inherent in this type of medium. Our focus here is on those analytical processes that tend to decode photography's cultural and medial network systems by means of various artistic strategies, such as citation, adaptation, assembly, or construction, and that critically comment on this medium's compulsion towards authenticity, which has inherently defined it from the start.
As such, the break with established viewing habits becomes the central artistic motive: What starts out with the appropriation and declension of available visual models and their modes of representation - either as immediate, easily manageable material or, for the purpose of critical scrutiny, as elevated to a higher contextual level - leads to the projection of a seemingly infinite medial elasticity that characterizes contemporary photography. Instead of preserving medial boundaries, postmodern photography defies and supersedes them: It stages, manipulates and invents.[2] And it expands our perception of the authentic, technological image until it displaces and substitutes for the latter's habitual framework a complex reference system.

The various artworks assembled for the exhibition "Beyond the Compound" focus our attention, on the one hand, on the possibility of interconnecting the multi-layered levels of information that invest the photographic image (Bonvie, Reid, Kühne, Sauer, Zellerhoff) and, on the other, on a perceptual openness that stimulates the viewer to differentiate between a supposedly real, actual perception and the linguistic-conceptual significance of the imaged objects (Henne, HBO).

There is always more to discover and to see: New contexts are created beyond the photographic image; actual conditions are revealed or, conversely, our parameters of perception are freshly re-adjusted. Recipients' prior experience and knowledge in the field of photographic concepts are simultaneously called upon and unsettled by their aesthetic perception of the image, by its experimental encroachment on other genres as well as by medial self-reflection. What ensues is a game taking place between the presence and the absence of the imaged object, between the social interaction and the constitution of reality within the photographic image - a game originating in mutual seeing and being-seen, leading all the way up to the morphological action imposed on the motif and which finally produces the abstract composite.[3]

Between appropriation and autonomy, Rudolf Bonvie generates in his works various mutually overlapping levels of image and reality that glorify and transfigure the seemingly unambiguous, real codes of information: In his early piece from the 1982 series "La chasse photographique est ouverte..." ("Hunting season is open..."), the artist has mounted, as a sort of commentary, the video recordings of paparazzi shooting photographs onto a monumental pedestal composed of stacks of mass-medial print-magazines. The medial and authorial displacements still allow us to recognize the artist's original material, if in a lyrically condensed format - that is, the material keeps on transmitting its original reference; but it has been critically transported to a new substantial and medial level. The image medium has become a media image and thus provokes, simultaneously, a reversal of the - up to this point - usual and habitual hierarchical relationship of image and spectator; this reversal prompts us to ask questions about the implications of such a mass-medial production, when picture-making suddenly starts to assert its power to determine the imaged objects.

By using references intrinsic to art, the series of works produced through the collaboration of Adam Harrison, Johannes Bendzulla and Dominic Osterried (aka HBO) comments on the mechanisms of communication used by the art industry. This comment comes about through a spontaneous and energetic process that, without further ado, declares graphic reproduction materials to function as canvas. Commercial information channels such as advertising posters, exhibition broadsides and museum placards are thus robbed of their effective representational function and, simultaneously, repurposed to create a space for thoughtful or 'pure' viewing - a seeing that liberates itself from the ability to synthesize objects. On the surface of large-format, unframed and therefore potentially 'infinite' prints, there unfolds, due to manifold exposure processes, a free spectacle of things. Through the process of multiple morphological actions imposed on the image, these things transform and change their original identity in favor of an abstract composite.

Oscillating between photographic image and object, Samuel Henne liberates photography from its role as an auxiliary medium tasked to disseminate sculptural works. His piece "something specific about everything" projects surreal sculptures composed of freely sampled everyday objects against a background of changing colors. By making the abstract object appear as something analytically represented all the while - due to a lack of data barring us from being able to conceive of its original derivation - it is finally approached only as charged up with associations, the artist ensnares us in a fictional game of the photographic gaze within the multi-layered process of medial transfer. By creating a structure that has successive levels of significance and information nested within one another, by staging and arranging his motif until the reference system linked to the imaged object of every one of his works becomes fragile and breaks, the artist provokes a photographically mediated sphere located between three-dimensional space and the flat world of the image.

David Kühne launches his photographic images in the context of Düsseldorf based publisher Rhein-Verlag, a distribution project initiated by a cooperation of artists, highlighting both the temporal dimensions of reception as well as the "fusion of the work's aesthetics and its event quality"[4] regarding to the book as a medium.

Consequently, David Kühne's works undermine the putative chronology and causal procedures in the reading of his image series. He consistently calls into question not only the structural composition but also the narrative content of communication, re-purposing them or leading them ad absurdum. The artist's seemingly stereotypical image sequences impress us with their explicitly analytical surveys as well as their stringent re-codings; and they provoke the viewer, engaged in interaction with familiar objects, to try out ever new specific as well as (co-)creative processes of perception.

Taking adaptive recourse to the freely available visual, medial flood of images, British artist Clunie Reid makes collages out of photographic templates culled from newspapers, magazines and the Internet. Using a black marker, the artist intervenes repeatedly into these picture templates in the form of a commentary, thereby expanding and putting to the test the apparently obvious structural qualities of these mostly multi-part picture sequences. Reflecting the picture's construction and contents, this communicative schema transfers itself, along with the photographic singular image, into a dialogic relationship to the symbolic system of writing. The artist's appropriational practice thus reflects the diffuse flood of images of everyday life and analyzes the modes of representation used to visualize pivotal subjects such as beauty, alienation, humor and abominations.

Heinz Sauer's long-lived book project was conceived as continuous and by now comprises some 362 pages. It autobiographically probes and reflects his own person in participatory as well as observant interaction with his environment, people and objects. Animated by mono- and dialogical text passages (which he partly found and partly invented), Sauer's excessive work projects photographic thought and identity games in ever-new constellations that are episodically dedicated to the themes of sexuality, money, love and society. To achieve this effect, Sauer brings the text passages into dialogue with the staged commercial photographs so that they combine to produce thought constructs full of narrative content.

Martin Zellerhoff's works combine the main features of Conceptualism with an explicitly motivic graphic quality, while the narrative content of the technological and sociological contexts inserted into them by the artist in the form of quotes is mixed in with autobiographical reminiscences. Presented as picture series, his photographs visualize the specifics of documentary representation as well as the codes of commercial and product photography. In that liminal domain between reproductive visual representation and media-reflective moments, the artist always arrives at the point of obvious contradictions that, in analogy to the contested issue of the medium as such, splendidly tell us about the history of photography.

Events in conjunction with the exhibition:

Saturday, March 16, 2013, 3 p.m.: Book presentation and discussion with David Kühne
Friday, April 12, 2013, 7:30 p.m.: Book presentation and discussion between Heinz Sauer and Martin Zellerhoff

[1] Batchen, Geoffrey: Burning With Desire: The Conception of Photography, published by the MIT Press, 1997, p. 17.
[2] Please see Köhler, Michael: Das konstruierte Bild. Fotografie - arrangiert und inszeniert, in Ausst.Kat., Kunstverein München e.V., 1995, p. 18ff.
[3] Please see Huber, Hans Dieter: Überkreuzte Blicke. Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, Beckett,
Spencer- Brown, in Kunst. Bild. Wahrnehmung. Blick, edited by A. Kapust and B. Waldenfels,
p. 135 ff.
[4] Rhein-Verlag (Publisher)

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