▲ The entrance of the photo exhibition. Photographed by Kim Ji Won.
Photos are said to capture reality. However, if one views photography in terms of reproduction of actualities, this would be a misunderstanding of photography. Presentation/Representation, subtitled Photography from Germany, illustrates the contemporary photo trends in Germany. The exhibition's title is a play on the word representation, which normally alludes to art-based realism, but here it indicates a re-presentation of reality, one designed to capture a different, hopefully eye-opening, perspective of life as seen in the 21st century.
Presentation/Representation: Photography from Germany is a world touring exhibition of the works of German photographers—Korea is the third country to host this exhibition following Mexico and China. It features the works of ten German contemporary photographers as follows: Laurenz Berges, Albrecht Fuchs, Karin Geiger, Claus Goedicke, Uschi Huber, Matthias Koch, Wibke Lopeer, Nicola Meitzner, Heidi Specker, and Paeter Piller. The photos displayed are from the century’s first decade and thus give a fairly comprehensive overview of contemporary German photography.
Once the viewers take a step into the first display room, the only exhibiting room located on that floor, they will be able to encounter a spacious place filled with photos of Laurenz Berges on its walls. The open structure of this display hall gives a sense of feeling that visitors are invited to a show. Bergez’s photos capture the empty, deserted, and rather squalid coal-mining towns of Germany from different angles. They are mostly viewed through windows, putting the viewer at a historical distance they may or may not choose to close. Alternatively, one can imagine oneself living in such a place and staring out at the bleakness of life there. At the same time, by locating small and large photos in turn, viewers will be able to enjoy a rhythmical display. Along with the utilization of space the arrangement of the photos presents an energetic entertainment.
The way in which Nicola Meitzner’s works are displayed holds a significant meaning just as Berges’ photos. Nicola Meitzner, a German photographer who grew up in Asia, takes a deep interest in the way Asians live in densely populated cities. Through her works, Meitzner grasps the daily lives of the major cities of Asia. Meitzner captures the life of Tokyo through her black and white camera. The way her photos are arranged may remind viewers of the concrete buildings of such cities, with the empty spaces between photos signifying windows and encouraging an urban sensibility.
▲ Photos of Nicola Meitzner displayed on the wall. Photographed by Kim Ji Won.
For people who want to feel Germany through the exhibition, the works of Matthias Koch would be attractive. In his photographs, Koch looks at the present form of Germany’s historical sites. By the changed view from the past, from the time of war and division, Koch’s works leave the viewers to think differently about the perception viewers already had about the subject. One such photo is of the partially built World War II (WWII) submarine Laboe near Kiel. The construction of the deadly vessel was halted because the war ended, and it has remained in a state of suspended animation ever since. In the photo, behind the submarine are people peacefully swimming in the lake possibly intimating how WWII continues to cast a shadow over German life.
Although the works of each photographers were deep in meaning, the exhibition itself leaves much to be desired. Viewers who expected to feel the German emotion through this exhibition, may be disappointed. This exhibition may have felt like nothing more than a collection of works photographed by artists born in Germany, not photos from Germany, as the title of the exhibition implies. The photographers were all German, but their subjects were not. In addition, there appeared no special reason why these photographers should be introduced in one exhibition. Moreover, there was no similarity in the photos— the subject each photographer focused on, the message each artist wanted to convey, and the way the photos were taken were all very different from each other. Overall, the exhibition lacked an overt overall theme, making each display section feel like a private photo exhibition of individual artists instead.
Lacking specific flow and information for the viewers, the overall exhibition seemed convoluted. No brochures were provided, nor were the photographs accompanied by much explanation. The photos stood mostly alone, awaiting viewers to understand and appreciate them without being told how. What is worse, the gallery did not have any guide or directions of where the display room was located or the order people should view the exhibition. This naturally put viewers in a state of confusion, making it even more challenging to seize the message the spatial effects deliver even though the exhibition generally made symbolic use of its space.
Presentation/Representation: Photography from Germany has a lot of room for improvement; nonetheless, the re-presentation that the exhibition gives to its photographic subjects remains open to interpretation, showing how photos can reach beyond a mere copy of the world to an art that identifies new aspects of reality. One must look into the photos, not merely at them, to ascertain what the artists have represented and how truthful to real life—past, present, and future— their photos are. This exhibition gives viewers a glance into how photography stepped out of the boundaries of simply presenting reality, into re-presenting and reflecting new apsects of reality.
Title: Presentation/Representation: Photography from Germany
Artists: Laurenz Berges, Albrecht Fuchs, Karin Geiger, Claus Goedicke, Uschi Huber, Matthias Koch, Wibke Lopeer, Nicola Meitzner, Heidi Specker, Peter Piller
Venue: Sungkok Art Museum
Period: March 17, 2017 to May 28, 2017
10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. (Tuesdays to Sundays)
10:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. on Culture Days (the last Wednesday of each month)