After the first two exhibitions “Chapter 1 – The Hierarchy of Images” and “Chapter 2 – The Conflict of Images”, we will end this trilogy with “Chapter 3 – The Control of Images”. We have set ourselves the goal with this series of exhibitions of grappling with current forms of documentary photography by presenting positions that address important subjects in our contemporary, globalised society in a critical and reflective way. Both emerging and established exponents of documentary photographic work have been invited and presented for each edition of this series.
For this third edition, we are dealing with the topic of control and surveillance, as well as with the critical observation of problematic social processes. In so doing, we are taking a critical look at to how great an extent we are monitored by surveillance cameras, via Internet, Google, etc. as we go about our day-to-day lives. Socially engaged photography can also make processes visible that significantly affect our social, economic and ecological actions, exposing injustices, mismanagement and secret machinations. The exhibition illustrates in this respect how photography can be both a surveillance instrument and a tool to reveal and challenge its negative potential impact.
The Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof, who lives in New York, Amsterdam and Mexico City, deconstructs digital Instagram images of the TSA (Transportation Security Agency) in her works, which in the “Concealed Matters” project show not only confiscated weapons, but also passport photos of the persons from whom these weapons were confiscated. The portraits were blurred and rendered unrecognisable so that the faces dissolve into pixeled colour fields. The artist presents them as installation by scaling these up and printing them on thin latex sheets that are hung over surveillance cameras. Julian Röder, a German photo artist living in Berlin, directs his gaze on a squad of Frontex guards. Frontex is a much-discussed organisation that guards the European borders against human traffickers and illegal immigrants using satellite technology, high-resolution cameras and drones. The works from the “Mission and Task” photo series can be understood literally as counter-images since the artist does not direct his gaze on the refugees who have time and again been degraded to objects in photographic images, but rather towards those who stand guard over these migrational movements. The Swiss photo artist Jules Spinatsch, in contrast, uses computer-controlled cameras installed in two buildings whose architectural structures are strikingly similar: the company headquarters in Walldorf of SAP, which develops software for surveillance processes, and the penal facility in Mannheim. In this way, the artist makes analogies between these two sites of control evident in a frightening way.
All three positions demonstrate to what extent culture blurs the boundaries between the private and public spheres. In this way, they pose important and provocative questions about the role of privacy in safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms.
A catalogue series, published by Rorhof, accompanies the exhibitions, adding a new volume for each project, in which well-known authors are invited to write texts about the individual photographers. After the project concludes, all three volumes will be published in one joint book.