Lisa Oppenheim (*1974, New York) reflects in her works on the media of photography and film and their meaning for individual and collective memory. For this purpose she has recourse to the structuralist procedures of the 1960s and 70s. By analysing the relationship between word, text and image she penetrates the deeper layers of specific social and historical meanings.
“Comoving Observers” is the first exhibition in Switzerland of works by this artist, who lives in New York. On show will be three series of photographs and a 16 mm film.
The work "100 photographs that changed the world (2007)" makes reference to the book 100 Photographs that Changed the World published in 2003 by Time/Life magazine. The ambiguous title can be understood as an allusion to media images which have long since become freely circulating icons. However, Stars is also about returning complexity to those images by removing them from our gaze. Reference to the concrete place and time of the events is made here by means of celestial charts. These correspond to the respective moment when the photographic was taken, while the legends describe something that cannot be seen in this way. The relationship between text and image remains open, offering the possibility of reconsidering the events.
Each photograph in "Damaged: Photographs from the Chicago Daily News 1902-1933 (2004)" shows a detail from a negative, partially destroyed while being archived, plus the respective legend. Whereas the text mentions a moment in history, the picture detail has lost its indexical function and has now become a – media-specific – image of time.
For "Killed Negatives, New York (2001)" Oppenheim worked with formerly censored material from the photographic archive of the Farm Security Administration. The images once protected from publication by a perforation are combined here with the artist's own photographs of the original scenes, of which in turn she only shows a detail in the shape and position of the original perforation. This visual reference to censorship – exemplified in these images of the Depression era in America – raises the topical questions of the power of images, of control over images, and of their representational function.
The 16 mm film "Story, Study, Print (2005" is a double projection. The materials the artist uses are the “Black ABC” and the “Alternative Alphabet Poster for Little and Big People”, which politically active groups favoured in the 1970s by. The two projections are not synchronised and therefore do not show the corresponding letter. What is more, the artist also integrates some topical images. The resulting multiple shift enables new ways of reading the images and draws attention to the preconditions that determine perception and understanding.