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Gute Aussichten – New German Photography 2016/2017
Jan 31, 2017 - Josefine Raab and Stefan Becht
Integrate Yourselves: The Foreign in You and You in the Foreign
Some of them, like Miia Autio from Finland and Holger Jenss from southern Germany, traveled to Africa to learn about foreign places—foreigners among foreigners. Others, like Chris Becher, Julia Steinigeweg, and Andreas Hopfgarten looked right outside their own doors to discover foreign things—plenty of them, we are happy to report. Carmen Catuti, born in Romania and based in Berlin, traveled around Georgia—with a staggering yield of pictures. And although Quoc-Van Ninh, who was born and raised in Germany by a Vietnamese father and a Chinese mother, visited Vietnam, the foreignness that is inside him was as present there as it is in Germany—dark and transfigured. What they all have in common is that they, the foreigners, always find a piece of themselves in foreign lands—their own selves. What seems so foreign, out of context, mystical, or mysterious to them—and us—at first glance or first click, is reversed as we look more carefully—and what better way to do this than with a camera? The only thing that remains foreign is what we close our eyes to.
“Integrate yourselves!” is what the pictures of gute aussichten 2016/2017 seem to be encouraging the viewer, “and discover the foreigner and foreignness inside of you.” Those who only talk about what they consider their OWN, disregarding the FOREIGN, are never really comfortable with themselves, not to mention with others. Philosophically speaking, life is a journey through space and time, and gute aussichten 2016/2017 invites you to take this trip. We need change—a change that unites the “old” with the “foreign” over and over again so that something “new” emerges—to keep ourselves, our society, and our culture alive.
The Award Winners and their Works
Miia Autio – Variation of White
Our Western gaze “instinctively” registers that the dark-skinned women and men in colorful clothing in Miia Autio’s portraits are from Africa. Yet the red dot that appears in the same position in each picture is a source of irritation that we can’t quite figure out. The X-ray-like appearance of the photographs also suggests that perhaps our impression does not corre-spond to the actual subject matter. In fact, not the positive but the negative was used to make the prints, which is why the black people we see are actually white. Due to a genetic defect they are albinos, which in Tanzania are believed to have magical powers, attaching a social stigma that makes the afflicted people into outsiders. “Variation of White” addresses subjective vision and the creation of images in our head that, like the forming of prejudices, follows similar models.
2015/2016, 11 Fine Art prints, mounted, framed in white wooden frames, behind museum glass, 147 × 110 cm (2), 80 × 60 cm (9), 1 Video, 12:02 min
Chris Becher – Boys
Chris Becher’s “Boys” is about preconceived notions and hackneyed opinions. This subject is a particular minefield because people who sell their bodies professionally have a dirty, ambivalent reputation in the minds of “normal” people, who immediately think of shady milieus and dodgy characters. Yet the profession could not be older. Depending on the cultural-historical, political, or religious context, public opinion has ranged from acceptance, rejection, criminalization, or persecution. Chris Becher elegantly avoids all of these things in his photographic field study. By showing us male sex workers at eye level in his sober black-and-white images, he focuses our gaze on the human beings at the core of his investigation. By consciously avoiding any evaluation, he also encourages us to take an unbiased look.
2015/2016, 15 Fine Art prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta, mounted, framed in ramin wood behind Mirogard glass, frames whitewashed, 100 × 125 cm (2), 100 × 80 cm (13)
Carmen Catuti – Marmarilo
Marble, gold, velvet, and silk are materials that are used in religious contexts as a stage for sanctity and spirituality. The preciousness of these materials demonstrates the omnipotence and presence of God. In addition, there is a canon of forms, gestures, and attitudes that have been established in Christian iconography over the centuries. “Marmarilo” (Georgian for marble) is about this trinity of material, gesture, and form. Divided into twelve work groups, Carmen Catuti questions, quotes, and interprets the symbolic language of religious representation. Blue, for example, refers to the divine in the image of a young woman, in drapery, in the impression of an icon, or as decoration for liturgical artifacts. In opposition of that is the color red, which in the Bible is the color of sin and atonement, linked with punishment, war, and death. With red we literally come full circle—as a metaphor of and promise of the eternal.
2013-2016, 25 Color prints on aluminum, framed in varnished maple wood, 146 × 117.5 cm (1), 146 × 100 cm (1), 125 × 100 cm (1), 130 × 80 cm (1), 115 × 92 cm (1), 100 × 80 cm (1), 90 × 72 cm (2), 52.5 × 36 cm (5), 50 × 40 cm (3), 45 × 36 cm (8), 30 × 24 cm (1)
Andreas Hopfgarten – The Worldtree Yggdrasil, or the Search for a lost Memory
Working with letters, documents, stories, photographs, and other found objects, Andreas Hopfgarten constructed “the lost memory” of his family from World War II and the period directly thereafter. Like an archaeologist, he carefully excavated this hybrid puzzle with all of its gaps that he then reassembled piece by piece and filled with his own images and objects. Hopfgarten’s method is exemplary, since our memory is fed from a multitude of fragments and clichés of lived life. Remembering is not about facts, but rather a sort of diving into the sediments of our soul, where we have buried fear, joy, happiness, love, pain, and loss, and stored everything we have experienced in a sort of flight recorder. A smell, a sound, or an image may open this box and bring to mind that memories are deeply planted in our being—like the “World Tree Yggdrasil,” encompassing the past, the present, and the future.
2014-2016, 82 Fine Art prints on Hahnemühle, various sizes, framed in white and black wood, or without frames, 80 Mounted slides in a Kodak slide projector, 4 Videos, 00:28 min., 03:32 min., 12:20 min., 32:49 min., 1 Slide projection with 1 still image, 78 Trees, fretworks, 25.5 × 19.5 cm, 1 Tree, paper, and China ink, 45 × 40 cm, in a Plexiglas case, 50 × 50 × 60 cm
Holger Jenss – Last Chance Junction
A white European travels to Europe—this conjures up images of explorers and conquerors, of colonialists who brought culture to “savages,” of slavery, hunger, and war, of safaris, educational films, and postcolonial African romanticism. Holger Jenss did not bring back any of these things with him from Ghana, yet they are all contained in “Last Chance Junction.” “Critical whiteness” is one of the keywords that Jenss wanted to look into. As the white man who came to Africa with a gaze conditioned by all of the images of a continent that has been visited by foreign powers since antiquity, he was a minority in Ghana. Jenss deals with these sediments of our (visual) collective memory in a self-deprecating way, not only addressing his own cultural appropriation, but also the bizarre internalization of white culture by Africans.
2014-2016, 7 Digital prints, mounted behind acrylic glass, 45 × 45 cm, 1 Dye sublimation print on shower curtain, polyester fabric, 200 × 140 cm, 1 HD video, 21:00 min, 3 Publications: 2 Digital prints, 14 × 10.5 cm, 54 pages & 27 × 20 cm, 62 pages, 1 Risography print, 20 × 14 cm, 36 pages
Quoc-Van Ninh – Tenebrae
The issue that is currently the source of considerable explosiveness in both moral and political terms and that has resulted in an outpouring of bizarre claims and remarks is viewed by Quoc-Van Ninh in “Tenebrae” with a certain amount of composure in spite of his inner turmoil. He is precariously balanced between three cultures: His father is Vietnamese, his mother is from China, and he was born and raised in Germany. He says that he is permanently confronted with his foreignness, and German visitors want to say to him, “me too!”—although not at all sure if they would enjoy giving a running report on their culture that by virtue of their birth and family background is only German. Due to the way he is thrown back and forth, Quoc-Van Ninh is a successful example of why integration always succeeds when there is no pressure to cut all “foreign” cultural roots. Although it is sometimes difficult to position oneself in a culture, it is an integral part of every person’s socialization. It does us good to follow Quoc-Van Ninh into the dark world of his perceived otherness, since it also reveals something about ourselves.
2015/2016, 20 Inkjet prints on Baryta Photographique 310, mounted on aluminum, black shadow gap frames, 105 × 140 cm (1), 90 × 120 cm (3), 60 × 80 cm (6), 30 × 40 cm (10)
Julia Steinigeweg – A Confusing Potential
Dolls have a long tradition—both in children’s rooms and in art. Children playfully try out life on dolls. In art, dolls serve as models, artifacts or objects, surfaces of projection, or lifelike sculptures. Julia Steinigeweg investigates a phenomenon that is somewhere in between: realistic dolls as a substitute for partners or children—although instinctively one might add that this description does not do justice to her concept. There are many reasons for people to spend their lives with a lifelike but not living partner. In any case, the roles are clear cut for people and dolls—on the one hand. But on the other, there is the question about what type of relationship a grown person can have—or wants to have—with an inanimate object. And how do we react to such a phenomenon? At any rate, children love and hate their dolls, see them as their peers, and sometimes treat them very badly. So they definitely have “a confusing potential.”
2012-2015, 20 Fine Art prints on Sihl Masterclass Matt Cotton, framed in black aluminum behind museum glass, 50 × 75 cm (7), 70 × 105 cm (5), 30 × 45 cm (8), 1 Wallpaper, 210 × 315 cm, 1 Book, 24 × 33 cm, 48 pages, 21 images, hardcover, title stamping, ISBN 978-3-941825-92-5, EUR 39.-, edition of 500, peperoni books, Berlin