4.4. – 16.6.24

Prologue to the 10th f/stop — Festival for Photography Leipzig


Radical Care

Opening  4.4.2024

Exhibition period  4.4. – 16.6.24

Guided tour  7.4.2024

Artists  Ion Grigorescu, Sanja Iveković, Zbigniew Libera, Martha Rosler, Aykan Safoğlu, Jo Spence & Terry Dennett, Gabriele Stötzer & Künstlerinnengruppe Erfurt

Curated by  Magdalena Stöger, Leon Hösl

Flucht in die Öffentlichkeit

The pro­lo­gue exhi­bi­ti­on to the 10th f/stop — Festival for Photography Leipzig at Kunstraum D21 pri­ma­ri­ly brings tog­e­ther his­to­ri­cal artis­tic prac­ti­ces that use the came­ra as a means of sub­li­mi­nal resis­tance and uti­li­se the pho­to­gra­phic and fil­mic image to crea­te com­mu­ni­ties. The works from the 1970s to the pre­sent day crea­te (counter)publics and sub­vert repre­sen­ta­tio­nal norms. They form refe­rence points for the f/stop fes­ti­val cour­se, which opens on 31 May 2024.

The exhi­bi­ti­on title Flucht in die Öffentlichkeit (escape into the public sphe­re) refers to an artis­tic stra­tegy, which both Gabriele Stötzer and the Künstlerinnengruppe Erfurt used to coun­ter the con­ti­nuous decom­po­si­ti­on (Zersetzung) of cri­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ties by the Stasi in the 1980s. Instead of limi­ting them­sel­ves to working in secret, exhi­bi­ti­ons and events were adver­ti­sed and orga­ni­zed in public, so that sta­te repres­si­on was expo­sed just as much as the art its­elf. From a sta­te per­spec­ti­ve, the asso­cia­ti­on of peo­p­le of simi­lar con­vic­tions was per­cei­ved as a threat—which con­firm­ed the fee­ling that a com­mu­ni­ty had more free­dom of action than the sum of its individuals.
Following the group of artists and Gabriele Stötzer’s prac­ti­ce, “Flucht in die Öffentlichkeit—Festival Prologue” rela­tes moments in which artis­tic actions use the came­ra to unfold an eman­ci­pa­to­ry poten­ti­al and deve­lop spe­ci­fic forms of publi­ci­ty. Social inter-actions and forms of soli­da­ri­ty play just as important a part as the artis­tic result its­elf, even if they most­ly take place out­side the images. With a focus on the 1970s and 1980s, the exhi­bi­ti­on focu­ses on a peri­od in which pho­to­gra­phy and film were clo­se­ly inter­wo­ven with action­ist art, which attempt­ed to loca­te the human (and coll­ec­ti­ve) body in its social con­text, to break with body norms and to open up spaces for diver­gence. The exhi­bi­ti­on focu­ses on poli­ti­cal power struc­tures and situa­tions in which the­se beco­me fragile.

How do you demons­tra­te resis­tance during a staged public assem­bly? Ion Grigorescu secret­ly docu­men­ted a strict­ly orchestra­ted elec­tion ral­ly during the Ceaușescu regime in Romania. An invol­un­t­a­ry par­ti­ci­pant in the event, he held his came­ra at waist height to cap­tu­re what could not be seen from the out­side: secret ser­vice agents super­vi­sing the assem­bly, and mini­mal ges­tu­res of pro­test, such as signs held upsi­de-down or par­ti­ci­pan­ts taking a break under some trees. Grigorescu used a hid­den came­ra to look behind the public faça­de of a poli­ti­cal sta­ging and to visua­li­ze its ambivalences.

Sanja Iveković per­forms an almost oppo­si­te move­ment by deli­bera­te­ly dis­rupt­ing a poli­ti­cal sta­ging in her famous work “Triangle”. In her per­for­mance, docu­men­ted in pho­to­gra­phy and wri­ting, she defies a ban on ope­ning win­dows and using bal­co­nies in a block of flats during Tito’s 1979 para­de in Zagreb. By see­mingly mas­tur­ba­ting on the bal­c­o­ny while rea­ding Tom Bottomore’s “Elites and Society”, Iveković not only vio­la­ted the offi­ci­al orders, but also con­fron­ted the pre­scri­bed uni­for­mi­ty with an exer­cise of phy­si­cal and intellec­tu­al self-deter­mi­na­ti­on. A few years later, British pho­to­grapher Jo Spence, tog­e­ther with her part­ner Terry Dennett, began working on her series “Remodelling Photo History,” which breaks with the ways in which the fema­le nude is gene­ral­ly por­tray­ed in pho­to­gra­phy. The sub­jects in this series are staged and yet clo­ser to rea­li­ty than tho­se in many male pho­to­graph­ers’ works. With her “Photo Therapy” series, Spence, in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with Rosy Martin, addres­ses the medi­um of the fami­ly album, who­se role and image types she sub­verts through psy­cho­ana­ly­ti­cal­ly inspi­red stagings.

Martha Rosler also work­ed on gen­de­red role models in her ear­ly video work “Backyard Economy” which por­trays the labor car­ri­ed out behind clo­sed doors. In dis­quie­ting­ly aes­the­ti­ci­zed imagery, fresh­ly laun­de­red sheets wave in the back­yard as a sym­bol of repro­duc­ti­ve work that remains unpaid and invi­si­ble as the basis of our socie­ty. Shooting with silent Super‑8 mm film, the ulti­ma­te home movie for­mat of the era, she pro­du­ces the image of a pri­va­te and every-day sce­ne that was to beco­me a public symbol.

The Künstlerinnengruppe Erfurt also loo­ked for ways to decon­s­truct oppres­si­ve and ste­reo-typi­cal role models—it is no coin­ci­dence that their first joint work is a cine­ma­tic adapt­a­ti­on of their “women’s dreams.” Annual film pro­jects for­med a con­ti­nui­ty in the group’s col­la­bo­ra­ti­on. The artists often staged them­sel­ves in ela­bo­ra­te and allu­si­ve cos­tu­mes and use roof­tops, back­yards and the street as a back­drop and coun­ter­part to their humo­rous and gro­tes­que sce­nes. Gabriele Stötzer was a dri­ving force of the group, which was acti­ve from 1984 to 1994. Her pho­to­graphs also focus on fema­le expres­si­on and phy­si­cal­i­ty. Time and again, peo­p­le from her cir­cle of friends—artists, punks, wri­ters, musi­ci­ans —beca­me her sub­jects during joint acti­vi­ties, par­ties and events and are thus repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of a time when fri­end­ly alli­ances and gathe­rings had a poli­ti­cal dimen­si­on and many times lead to direct consequences.

The clash bet­ween inti­ma­cy and sta­te sur­veil­lan­ce is also explo­red by Zbigniew Libera. In his pho­to­graphs, the artist shows a high­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry moment. Surrounded by enorm­ous walls and fen­ces, a group of half-naked men sit in the sun on a nar­row strip of grass. What is con­fu­sing about this sce­ne is not only the pri­son archi­tec­tu­re and the men’s appar­ent­ly rela­xed mood, but also the natu­re of the shots: slight­ly out of focus and taken from stran­ge per­spec­ti­ves, they look like awk­ward snapshots. Libera, too, had to take the­se pic­tures secret­ly. As a con­se­quence of his leaf­let cam­paigns in sup­port of the Polish Solidarity move­ment (Solidarność), he was arres­ted in 1982 and, after a few months in soli­ta­ry con­fi­ne­ment, was trans­fer­red to a pri­son for poli­ti­cal pri­soners whe­re con­di­ti­ons were com­pa­ra­tively com­for­ta­ble. The pri­son yard ser­ved as a mee­ting place for a num­ber of intellec­tu­als, oppo­si­ti­on acti­vists and artists, whe­re, it seems, sun­bathing beca­me a ges­tu­re of poli­ti­cal resistance.

“ziya­ret, visit” by Aykan Safoğlu is a por­trait of the Old St Matthew’s Churchyard in Berlin and the actions of acti­vist Gülşen Aktaş, who is devo­ting hers­elf to ten­ding the gra­ves of care workers, acti­vists and cul­tu­ral workers who were com­mit­ted to fight­ing sexu­al and racial dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on and advo­ca­ting for migrant, que­er and femi­nist causes.

The artists and sto­ries fea­tured in “Flucht in die Öffentlichkeit—Festival Prologue” share a desi­re to express their view of socie­ty and their artis­tic con­vic­tions at a time when their voices were un- heard or even ban­ned. From dif­fe­rent per­spec­ti­ves, their works descri­be how art has the abili­ty to crea­te dif­fe­rent forms of publi­ci­ty and deve­lop a per­cep­ti­on of which allow groups to main­tain their cri­ti­cal and resistant momentum.

Many thanks to the len­ders of the exhi­bi­ti­on: Kontakt Sammlung, Vienna; Galerie Loock, Berlin; Richard Saltoun, London; Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and to all the artists.

Radical Care


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