Georg Petermichl / Claudia Rohrauer / Anja Ronacher
Exhibition run: 16 March − 28 April 2018
C-Print, 50×33 cm, handvergrößert, gerahmt
C-print, 100×80 cm, gerahmt hinter Museumsglas, 2016
Selenium toned Gelatin Silver Print, 31,5×39cm, 2013
Opens: 15 March, 7 pm
Exhibition run: 16 March − 28 April 2018
FOTOHOF / Inge-Morath-Platz 1-3 / 5020 Salzburg / Austria
Georg Petermichl, Claudia Rohrauer and Anja Ronacher are prominent representatives among the younger generation whose many-faceted artistic oeuvre focuses less on the documentary possibilities afforded by the medium in representing the world as an image, preferring instead to explore photography as an imaging apparatus in a self-referential way.
Looking at the contemporary art scene, those who contribute significantly to the way in which an artwork is ultimately showcased are 'secondary' figures, i.e. exhibition photographers and curatorial, artistic and setup assistants. As an artist, one with a second foothold in exhibition and repro-photography, Georg Petermichl is all too familiar with this casting as a supporting role.
The documenting of artworks through photography provides the visual setting for art historical reception within the contemporary art scene and enables global digital dissemination via the internet. Those unable to view an artwork 'in the flesh' have no option other than the photographer's perspective of that work. It is their individual point of view that determines the structure of the work and the way in which it is anchored within the architecture of its space.
Petermichl's colourful and wall-filling wallpapers are produced using the digital photo print process. They are created by first photographing the underlying wall sections in order to document the colour casts present within the space as a result of the Werner Schnelle exhibition that preceded it. In the photographs the walls initially appear white, and yet they have captured the light colour of the artificial exhibition lighting, in much the same way as the rays of natural light streaming in from the outside. In the day-to-day routine of exhibition photography, the enhancement of these colorations helps to identify the individual colour casts in Photoshop and neutralise them in isolation to underscore the conciseness of the artworks. And so the wallpapers offer the visitor a sensory perception of this approach, which would normally compensate side effects of the premises to be depicted such as a specific lighting or incorrect colour tendencies.
The wall works also provide a backdrop in conjunction with two photo series running over many years, which complete Georg Petermichl's participation in the exhibition and explore the diverging poles of amateur and professional photography: After Pirelli refers to a series of nude photographs staged on the bonnets of medium-sized cars, embedded into a moderately attractive landscape. − The nude photographs with alternating subjects represent an approach to amateur photography, whose moment of heightened tension resides in the examination of the often idealised and mannered representations and the limitations of their resources.
The plastic bags depicted in BAGS come from the artist's own collection, which he began as a child. The act of collecting cultural artefacts represents a link between museum work, the photographer's practice, and affective strategies of self-assertion in the middle classes. In the photographs these by-products are treated in the same way as the products they purchased and − presumably − wore. I'd like to mention two things if I may: As an artist I am interested in large-scale social formations of reality. I research their complexity as a matter of principle because, due to their sheer size, they always have to be spotted in snippets, and in sequence, as well as in analogies and metaphors. I find this approach to reality highly photographic; and in its relationship with the art public, highly democratic: After all, the same excessive demand could be characteristic of all of us, at least with regard to the all-too-large constructs of reality. (G. P.)
In Claudia Rohrauer's artistic works created since 2013, photography itself − as concept and field, as medium and material − has become the motif and object of inquiry. And, specifically, it is the versatility and vastness inherent in the medium that prompted this shift in focus, which she has termed as her 'photographic turn', with reference to the terminology of art history.
The works selected for the FOTOHOF exhibition can therefore be seen as several snapshots within an ongoing exploration of the object of inquiry. Alongside photography itself, writing too has become a tool for expressing aspects of the photographic. The recourse to language works as an approach across a (media-based) distance − it creates a productive and poetic distance, thereby opening up space for a broader understanding of the medium, away from classic discourses. In formal terms, her work processes might give rise to individual images, series, or books, or take on the form of an installation, film or object. She draws her ideas from the primary sources of applied practice and its technical principles, resources and materials, historical positions and anecdotes, but also media theory reflections on the photographic gaze and visualisation as an epistemological paradigm of modernism.
Aufnahme I, 13.Okt.1998 (1998/2018) is a technical worksheet that was produced as documentation for an art reproduction during her first year of training at Vienna's HGBLVA [Federal Training and Research Institute of Graphic Arts]. It contains, among other things, the first large-format negative of her career. The decision to put this piece on show represents a deliberate positioning of her artistic oeuvre in relation to her biography. It marks the beginning of her approach to the 'complex of photography' and embodies 'my first image of photography'. In direct contrast, the object MULTIGRADE (2014) and the text-image montage WHAT IF (2017) tend to evoke poetic and humorous imagery of photography, with the former seizing a set of gradation filters as the starting point for imagining the concept of photography as a person while the latter looks at what might happen if photography was an animal.
The exhibition and book project entitled NEULICH IM LABOR [RECENTLY IN THE LAB] is a collaboration with Ruth Horak, with image contributions by other artists. It considers the photo lab as a production facility where photographs achieve their definitive form, but also as a meeting place where like-minded people exchange knowledge in the form of a fictional stage play. Here the laboratory becomes a stage on which artists, photographers and laboratory technicians discuss the significance of this particular place for 20th century photography as well as its transformation and future. The associated series Requisiten [Props] features tools from everyday laboratory work which are gradually becoming less significant as a result of the ongoing digitalisation of photographic work processes. Against this backdrop these implements − like the antistatic cloth for example − seem like antique finds unearthed by archaeologists of the analogue. In keeping with the aesthetic of object photography, the way in which these objects are showcased lets them appear in the image as objects in their own right which, by their very nature and materiality, inform us about the culture of analogue photography.
In the self-published artist's book PHOTO TREKKING (2014), which in formal terms is recreated as a notepad, a nature reserve in northern Finland became an experimental field during a four-week working stay to reflect both visually and linguistically on the act of photographing as an expression of the need to capture what we see. It gives an insight into the intimate process of perception which, through the interplay or text and image, leads to a manifestation of the photographic moment which, in the serial nature of its occurrence, almost calls itself into question. The series afterimages 1-3 (2014/15) was created as an epilogue to PHOTO TREKKING.
At the focal point of the object legitimating a view (slanted perspectives on Berenice Abbott's file # 254) (2014/16) is an unremarkable moment in New York's visual history: Abbott's General View from Penthouse at 56 7th Ave., Manhattan, which was taken in 1937 from Friedrich Kiesler's balcony and was visible in a displaced perspective from the windows of the BKA photo studio on 17th Street. As a personal cartography of an image search, the object reconstructs, in the style of architectural urban models, the physical approximation of Abbott's photography and the building on 7th Avenue from various standpoints and aspects in the immediate vicinity of the two residential buildings using the photographic technique of the shot-reverse shot. Private photos by Steffi Kiesler (from the archives of the Kiesler Foundation), which were also taken from the balcony of the Kiesler penthouse, are incorporated into the object as complementary 'reverse shots'.
Anja Ronacher's oeuvre uses the resources of traditional (and now historical) analogue photography, as an end-to-end process from image capture to hand-made proof produced in the darkroom. For Ronacher, it is not about the documentary reproduction of museum exhibits; rather, it is about a mysterious, sceptical, but also stunning artistic intensification of her gaze at human civilisation. Ronacher photographs artefacts in museums all over the world, for instance a death mask dating from pre-Christian times, Ancient Greek vases, or an Etruscan mirror. In the darkroom, her selected objects are then subjected to a pictorial process: she immerses them into a darkness as it were using the burning-in method, i.e. partial extra-exposure. As a result she brightens what Roland Barthes referred to as the essential quality of the medium of photography, namely its ability to make temporality existentially perceptible.
These analogue photographs may appear almost anachronistic today when we have nearly only digital images about. The process itself is contemplative, where she makes significant dark-room manipulation of the images in order to achieve the desired effect.. (...) The past is here in dark shadows and never to be re-gained. The passing of time is entwined with the appearance of the dead in these photographs, where the association of a form of knowledge such as archaeology to explain all this is, as Foucault states, wiped out like the lines of sand on a beach overcome by waves of the sea. (...)
Instead of trying to find something in common with these forms, a commonness is made by the artist by encasing them within this elegant photographic technique. We might posit that this process is rather a means to say that an ethnographic science or an order of things focused upon this vast cosmos of ours is itself ultimately bathed in darkness. This is not a pessimistic sentiment rather one that, on the one hand, casts doubt upon the non-ending tendency of humankind to categorise and rationalise. On the other hand, the artist is perhaps much more interested in radical thinking which foregoes or even springs out of these kinds of categorical knowledge-production, that which itself is immersed within doubt as a productive engine. (Seamus Kealy, 2016)
In the slim volume entitled Die Aufgaben des Geistes¹, Georges Bataille is asked whether art is an appropriate means of expressing fear and therefore of overcoming it. To that question we would add the following: Is art an appropriate means of expressing death and therefore of overcoming it? In a reversal, human beings have gone from immortality to mortality. Through the creation of tools and objects, animalistic immanence becomes the awareness of our historicity, of our quiddity in the past, present and future. If the future is merely a human category, will it lose its relevance while we are left waiting? The end of history (messianic age) will be marked by humankind's reconciliation with its animalism: a possible return to immanence? ('in the world like water in water'²) 'The only means of freeing the manufactured object from the servility of the tool is art, understood as a true end.'³ This true end, art, is the promise of transcendence, in the knowledge of the depth of human feelings, of human fear, of the anxiety about death. In an art in which the holy can be experienced in Eros and Thanatos, in which the truth of the impossibility of a thinking individual is manifest, the quality of being human is comprised but also suspended. (A. R.)
1. Georges Bataille, Die Aufgaben des Geistes, Gespräche und Interviews 1948 -1961
2. Georges Bataille, Theorie der Religion
Georg Petermichl,born in Linz in 1980, lives and works in Vienna; studied communication science at Vienna University and photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. georgpetermichl.com
Claudia Rohrauer, born in Vienna in 1984, lives and works in Vienna; Höhere Graphische BLVA [Federal Training and Research Institute of Graphic Arts] in Vienna from 1998 to 2003; 2005/2006 School for Artistic Photography in Vienna; 2006-2012 Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. claudiarohrauer.info
Anja Ronacher, born in Abtenau in 1979, lives and works in Vienna; 2006-2008 Royal College of Art, London; 2004 Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn; 1999-2005 University of Applied Arts Vienna. anjaronacher.com
Press Images / High Res Downloads:
Press photos may be reproduced free of charge in conjunction with an exhibition notification or review.
Georg Petermichl − o.T. (After Pirelli: Manfred) 2016 C-Print, 50×33 cm, handvergrößert, gerahmt
Claudia Rohrauer − Requisit 07 − Antistatiktuch (aus: NEULICH IM LABOR) C-print, 100×80 cm, gerahmt hinter Museumsglas, 2016
Anja Ronacher − Right eye from an anthropoid coffin, New Kingdom or later, 1539−30 B.C.E., obsidian, crystalline limestone, blue glass, Egypt: Frame for a left eye, probably late period, 664−332 B.C.E., Bronze, Egypt; Brooklyn Museum
Selenium toned Gelatin Silver Print, 31,5×39cm, 2013