Michael Stabb, curator of Appearance/Disappearance — A German Album, Photography from the Federal State of North-Rhine-Westphalia, asked seven photographers born in the 1960s and 1970s to participate in the exhibition. This generation has been highly influenced by the photographic studies of Bernd and Hilla Becher, icons of German photography famous for documenting the disappearance of German industrial architecture.
The Bechers were fascinated by the similar design of trade buildings and tried to illustrate this special ambiance. In Bunkier Sztuki, their works are shown as a prologue to the exposition.
On their surface, the photos of the artists taking part in this presentation, like those of the Bechers, are not spectacular. Their form is simplistic and their stories seem irrelevant or antiquated. But this is misleading. The photos actually refer to important problems associated with the changing appearance of the North-Rhine-Westphalia landscape. For example, the Etzweiler series by Laurenz Berges shows the village before its evacuation and subsequent destruction to build an opencast mine.
The urban themes visible in the “utopian city” projects shot by Thomas Neumann expose the limits of human imagination.
While in Neumann’s photos we observe the inner-city from the perspective of its citizens, Natalie Czech?s aerial pictures present fragmentary maps (Blattschnitte) highlighting changes in the region’s landscape.
The exposition also displays monumental relics of the East German Democratic Republic’s national-socialist architecture — buildings designed to serve political purposes and not the functionality of everyday life — as documented by Anja Bohnhof.
Untamed nature is also a theme. In the works of Simone Nieweg, primitive vegetable gardens are immortalized. The photographer tries to recapture the memory of days when people could live uninfluenced by industrial society. Daniel Gustav Cramer?s deep forest photographs surprise and confuse observers with the images of extremely wild nature. These are especially disorienting due to our more usual involvement with domesticated environments.
Although the exhibition is focused on the history of North-Rhine-Westphalia, the issues presented can be interpreted in a more universal context. Each person will experience this exposition in their own way.
Appearance/Disappearance — A German Album. Photography from the Federal State of North-Rhine-Westphalia. From May 5-June 3 at the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Bunkier Sztuki, Rynek Szczepanski 3a