An exhibition produced by 8. Festival für Fotografie f/stop Leipzig
How can economic processes be conveyed in images? In the 1920s Sergei Tretyakov, one of the most influential authors of the Soviet avant-garde, wrote that the modern world was becoming possible to describe not from the point of view of each human being, but taking economic processes as the starting point. Instead of considering the biographies of people, it was the biographies of things that had to be taken into account. If things were traced on their path towards the world, from their status as raw material to their incarnation as goods, human relationships, points of contact, contradictions and conflicts would be far more intelligible.
In “Wege einer Ware (Les chemins d’une marchandise)” [Paths of a product], the story in pictures by Paula Bulling and Anne König, we are shown how a tree that grew in the forests of southern Finland is transformed into planks and sent to Egypt to become a fishing boat, then founders in the cemetery of refugees' boats at Lampedusa. The Berlin association Cucula, which offers refugees opportunities for professional training, makes designer chairs with material sourced from those boats; so it is that the wood from Finland finally lands up in the official headquarters of Facebook in California.
In the exhibition “Zerrissene Gesellschaft. Ereignisse von langer Dauer / Une société déchirée. Des événements de longue durée” [A Disrupted Society. Long-enduring events] the curators, Anne König and Jan Wenzel, adapt Sergei Tretyakov's idea: to represent the 21st century, perhaps it is not enough to follow the goods, but rather it is necessary to retrace the crises and disruptions in the economic processes.
The exhibition starts in 1990, a year marking a turning point in recent history. The “Luxus Arbeit (Luxe Travail)” [Luxury Work] series by Christine Eisler and Silke Geister shows women's work places in East Germany shortly before the Wall came down which disappeared shortly after the photographs were taken. At the same period the photographer Harald Kirschner photographed a factory producing cranes that had just been closed down, but where traces of production are still visible everywhere. Matthias Hoch records a similar situation twenty years later in Frankfurt: he shows the Dresdner Bank tower block completely emptied just after it had been bought up by Commerzbank. “La Vallée, une archéologie photographique” [The Valley, a photographic archaeology] by Nicolas Giraud and Bertrand Stofleth (the CPG presented their “Rhodanie” series in 2015) is devoted to the economic changes in one of the oldest industrial regions in France, between Firminy, Saint-Étienne and Lyon. Here, economic processes have themselves been inscribed in the landscape. Likewise, in Susanne Kriemann's photographs documenting the consequences on the landscape resulting from the extraction of uranium in the Erzgebirge [Ore Mountains] in Germany, or again in Jürgen Nefzger's images of Spanish housing projects that have remained unoccupied.
The exhibition will present some works shown in June 2018 at the f/stop Festival for Photography in Leipzig in a new context. One of the intentions of the curators, Anne König and Jan Wenzel, is to make the public aware of long-enduring events through photography. They write in the publication that accompanied the festival: “News gives an assessment of current affairs in terms of days. But this is a delusion, for events have a life after being an event. The 20th century gave birth to technical media that speeded up images and allowed them to be disseminated as news, a kind of compressed contemporaneousness: magazines, television, and in its last decade the Internet. What we need most at this start of the 21st century is forms, or in other words receptacles, in order to keep events going back twenty or thirty years as present as possible in order to understand that they, as much as the news, shape our contemporaneous world. Our perception requires a wider radius, the news of the day no longer suffices, because history, comprising all earlier times, impinges on every day: this is the little basic principle of the Anthropocene Age. We have to learn in order to understand properly.”