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Dear Aby Warburg, What can be done with images?

Dealing with photographic material

The exhibition shows 23 younger positions of contemporary art that handle photographs – usually photographic reproductions or found photos – in a specific fashion.

Lia Perjovschi, Subjective Art History from Modernism till today, 1990–2004, Courtesy the artist

Starting out from an enduring fascination with the Mnemosyne Atlas by Aby Warburg, this reference in the title also payed homage to the artistic art historian.

While two projects refered in a concrete way to the work of Aby Warburg, the references of the other works were more associative in character. Today – from the viewpoint of contemporary art – we value Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas because it displays variable, non-systematic ordering parameters, but also because the combination of divergent picture sources and their carrying materials and fixtures – as an aesthetic unity – appears extremely provisional and haptic. The new availability of reproductions in Warburg’s time suggested the examination of images and their potential for making a statement in conjunction with other images, and the proposal and testing of hypotheses with the aid of such ensembles. Today, the availability of reproduced images is taken for granted more than ever.

An interest in photographic material, in the carriers of this material, or in the spatial staging of such material – temporal sequences in slide projections and film as well – cannot be overlooked in current art practice. Besides collection, accumulation, archiving and ordering processes, the exhibition also showed hybrid combinations of photographic material with painting and sculpture.

In general photographic material in combination with other artistic media makes clear how we can conceive the discursive potentials of photography beyond the constellation of the individual image or the series. Expressive arrangements, interweaving, montages and formations reveal the ways in which photographic images can be made to speak. The meaning of a photographic image does not lie in the image itself; its context and actualization are decisive. The way artists deal with images, as the exhibition showed, is a practice that is both aesthetic and ethical.
 

With contributions byÖzlem Altin
Tobias Buche
Mariana Castillo Deball
Marianna Christofides
Koenraad Dedobbeleer
Katalin Deér
Thea Djordjadze
Hervé Garcia
Cécile Hummel
Franziska Kabisch
Ulrike Kuschel
Alexandra Leykauf
Elke Marhöfer
Katrin Mayer
Lia Perjovschi
Manfred Pernice
​Abigail Reynolds
Paula Roush
Ines Schaber and Stefan Pente
Eske Schlüters

Batia Suter
Simon Wachsmuth
Haegue Yang
Ulrike Kuschel
Alexandra Leykauf
Elke Marhöfer
Katrin Mayer
Lia Perjovschi
Manfred Pernice

Supported by: Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation), the Circle of Friends of the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, and prohelvetia – Swiss Cultural Foundation.

The piece by Elke Marhöfer is supported by the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport of the State of North-Rhine Westfalia.