Ambivalence between what is real, and constructed
“Distance and Proximity is dedicated to the legendary artistic vision of Bernd and Hilla Becher, and their former students of photography at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art. Also known as the ‘Becher School’, this group was where internationally renowned and critically acclaimed photographers, such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth, have emerged from. Curated by Wulf Herzogenrath and ifa, the exhibition featuring 76 works of nine artists, presents not just an important chapter in the exciting history of German photography, but very much a major aesthetic breakthrough in the history of art itself.”
The theme of these stunning photographs is probably the antithesis at the heart of photography – what is real and what is arranged, selected, consequentially framed and constructed. Within Becher School, lies a consistency of questioning the image. The image is never what it appears to be. This is done through a juxtaposition of two contradicting ideas within the frame of the photograph, such as the old and new – Candida Hofer’s DHFK Leipzig 1 (1991) a copy of a roman statue, which itself is a greek copy in a large hall with modernist furniture; or the interrogation of the image by scrutinising a large print of it. The resolution of these prints are everything. Sharpness of the grain, the single human desire to conquer image making, makes an incision into our peripheral vision, secondary to the incredibly ordinary objects that are photographed. The sharpness and contrast, enabled by large format photography in many of the works on exhibit, perhaps synonymous with German camera lenses made by Leitz Wetzlar or Carl Zeiss.
There is an element of scientific enquiry in the works of Bernd and Hilla Becher, that had taken a profound rootedness in the the works of others. That scientific enquiry persists, evident in the series. The relentless documents of these super-structures, related to post-world war II Germany are landmarks to human triumph over adversity, but in a cold way. These Steel structures diminish the human scale, and the photographs devoid of human presence. Picking on the theme, one might say there is both distance (to view these structures) and proximity, when they are rescaled as an image, and flattened on a 2 dimensional surface.