Joachim Brohm. Charles Fréger. Jitka Hanzlová. Hans-Christian Schink. Alfred Seiland.
EXHIBITIONMay 2 — Aug 29, 2014
On the occasion of the tenth annual Gallery Weekend, Kicken Berlin will present Structures and Surfaces, an overview exhibition of contemporary photography in which Joachim Brohm, Charles Fréger, Jitka Hanzlová, Hans-Christian Schink, and Alfred Seiland explore cultural phenomena.
The photographers share an objective, documentary view of the world and its objects, but the artists’ perspectives hone in on the subjective sense of places, landscapes, and beings, which reside in a complex system of relationships with culturally shaped nature. Their images visually manifest exemplary structures through the photographic representation.
Joachim Brohm captures the details of the Ruhr region’s architecture and the urban landscape, condensing them to a “cultural landscape of the everyday” (Gabriele Conrath-Scholl). The selection from Ruhrstadt (1988–1992) confronts the viewer with surfaces: facades, display windows, foliage. They bear traces both of human activities and the passage of time and the elements, like holes, fractures and scars. The often complete lack of depth of the edge-to-edge motifs lends the images their special pictorial character. They convey a subjective perspective through their mix of graphic and painterly aspects; despite always being rooted in documentary and in tangibility, their specific form also lends them an enigmatic air.
Alfred Seiland’s study Imperium Romanum portrays the cultural traces of a completely different origin and history. He visited the physical remnants of the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean and north of the Alps, from Hadrian’s wall in Scotland to Asia Minor. The palimpsest of historical and modern relics tell the story of caesura in history; architectural structures and surfaces permeate one another while the leisure industry blankets the historical sites with masses of visitors. Seiland formulates his own precisely staged form of antiquity studies. His subject is how people today approach antique heritage; by contrasting antiquity with the modern day, he augments numerous well-known motifs with new aspects such as their reception in form of contemporary architecture or movie sets, for example.
Hans-Christian Schink shows the immediate, destructive confrontation between nature and culture in his series of the Japanese region of Tohoku, which bears the deep scars of the devastating 2011 tsunami. Schink visited northeastern Japan in 2012 and found extremes: only seemingly untouched lowlands and stripped surfaces, monstrously deformed architectural structures piled atop themselves or stripped to their skeletons, left bare by the thirty meters waves. The respectful distance with which he approaches his subjects is characteristic of Schink’s visual language. Like a detective, he documents destruction and rebirth, simultaneously dealing with the metaphysical dimensions of creation and decline as manifested in cycles of nature and the work of men.
The power and beauty of nature is expressed in Jitka Hanzlová’s series Horses. She visualizes her understanding of the creaturely in a combination of proximity and distance, from close-ups and details to the bodies and individual faces of the animal. She thus expands on the concept of the portrait she honed in her images of people and landscapes. Alienation through the close-up brings tactile feeling to the fore. The coat, mane, and tail are almost tangible with their opulent surfaces, and the undulating contours suggest dynamism and vitality. In these images, Hanzlová also formulates her own intense experience of an elementary state, shaped by personal memories.
Charles Fréger’s strictly uniform portrayals of Indian elephants provide a contrast and represent a particular cultural history. The elephant festival in Jaipur, India centers around the colorfully painted, joyfully decorated animals. On the one hand the elephants are venerated, while on the other they serve as quotidian workers. Fréger’s attention focuses on the animal itself as its own being, highlighting both its strength (in both sense of the word) and its playful personality. In doing so, he contrasts the bold colors of the all-encompassing decorative structure with our traditional image of an elephant. With his inquiring gaze, Fréger recalls of the loss of the natural relationship between man and animal, which John Berger claims can be reinstated through aesthetics. He also brings new aspects to his conceptual studies of social and cultural groups, which had focused until now on people in the European context.