darktaxa-project: exhibition, Photon | Icon, 5-2019

Group Exhibition, Galerie Falko Alexander, Venloer Str. 24, 50672 Cologne, Germany, may 3rd - 31st, 2019


Curated by Falko Alexander and Michael Reisch, start of darktaxa-project


Participating artists: Banz & Bowinkel, Arno Beck, Beate Gütschow, Alex Grein, Florian Kuhlmann, Achim Mohné, Susan Morris, Michael Reisch, Ria Patricia Röder, Roland Schappert






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Photon | Icon


Under contemporary digital conditions, it is currently completely unclear what the term "photography" (in artistic as well as general usage) really means, or how this field should be meaningfully defined.

In Photon | Icon, this question is vehemently raised with regard to the new digital possibilities and applications. In a kind of open experimental dialogue, the exhibition brings together work by artists involved in digital photography, CGI, photogrammetry, scanography, augmented reality, computer graphics, motion capture, 3D / 4D software, 3D scanning, etc. and any conceivable hybrid of these tools.

Significantly, most of these new technological applications adopt visualization methods based on "photographic" principles. This means that the works shown are each inscribed, in varying degrees, with "photographic aspects”, whereby the traditional photographic seeing-models are partly adopted, partly developed, changed, hacked, glitched, simulated or completely abandoned.

As a counterpoint to the above, works are also shown that have not been created directly with the new tools, but that refer to these principles in various ways.

A main focus of the exhibition is on "new images", discoveries and inventions; the "not yet seen" and the future-orientated generative potential of digital working methods - and less on the depiction of existing facts, the use of existing imagery and appropriation, or retrospective photo-historical references, etc.).

In the last few years completely new, independent image worlds and ways of working have developed that address the realm of the digital, virtual, tendentially intangible.

The exhibition tries to follow the latest developments, with the works shown undermining any clear reading or media attribution, which is a positive development. This implies an appropriation of these new tools under the term "photography" because, unlike photography, the new ways of working do not depend on the visibility and physical existence of the depicted. Rather, in the works shown, the relationship between presence and absence; real existence to representation and simulation, "reality" to fiction plays a crucial role. (Are the pictorial objects actually present, or are they fictions, simulations, renderings? Do the presented spaces follow photographic, familiar central-perspective-laws or are these spaces calculated, digitally transformed, etc.?).

The concept "image" is of particular importance here. Most of the works shown initially undergo several transformations, i.e. both material and immaterial stages. At the end of the respective production processes, however, a decision for a physically existent "image-object" with body, mass and extension in the real (exhibition) space, as the final manifestation of the work stands with all involved artists. Thus the "image" is addressed as a substantial, factual and material phenomenon, the digitally virulent theme of dissolution and immersion is confronted with a counter-concept, a clear decision for the the real, experiential, space).

In the triangle of reality - virtuality - digitality, the question is asked to what extent does the “photographic" function as a normative force, not only for the new ways of working and digital tools, but in a wider context, i.e. for our entire perception; for our understanding of reality under digital conditions.

Photon | Icon tries to investigate the superimposition, merging and potential dissolution of the media categories, and the resulting new possibilities against the background of the digital realm. Whether "photography" and its models of understanding continue in parts, or (and this is possible) whether we can depart from these models completely, to, in the longer term constitute new, digitally based models of understanding and seeing.



Michael Reisch, 2-2019







Beate Gütschow: HC#6, C-print, 115x153 cm, 2018, Courtesy: Barbara Gross Galerie, München; Produzentengalerie Hamburg; Sonnabend Gallery, New York. © Beate Gütschow, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019


In her new group of works “HC“, Beate Gütschow employs a combination of several digital tools: using digital photography and photogrammetry she records existing motifs from the current architectural environment. These are then composed on the computer through the use of 3D programs (Cinema 4D) and digital image processing (Photoshop) to make a „photographic“ looking image with a coherent illusionary space. However, Gütschow replaces the usual and expected „photographically“ connoted central perspective by the „unnatural“ parallel perspective of the 3D program. Her title „HC“, which stands for „Hortus Conclusus” (enclosed garden), refers to the pictorial representation of gardens in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance
(immediately before the invention of the centrally-organised system of perspective). The historical quotation is used by Gütschow as a deliberate disruption of perception. The photographic habits of seeing and the associated (supposed) certainties are subjected to a sustained interrogation within the context of the new digital possibilities.








Banz & Bowinkel: Installationview‚ ‚Monitor‘, 2013, Courtesy: Kunst und Denker, Düsseldorf


The work shown in the exhibition by the artist-duo Banz und Bowinkel is a digital reconstruction and visualization of „historical“, pre-digital, early monitors of the 20th century. For this purpose computer-generated imaging (CGI) is used, whereby the „monitors“ are digitally simulated or reproduced on the basis of construction plans and historical illustrations / photos. Finally, the digital renderings are printed out as inkjet prints and framed. The approach of Banz and Bowinkel is, to a certain extent, „photographic“, as it tries to reproduce - at least previously - existent facts true to nature. However, at the moment of „recording“, the 3D reconstruction has no direct contact with the monitors. The „photographic“ effect of the rendered images is not based on traditional-photographic, but exclusively on their iconic character. Thus similarity aspects, reality-virtuality and absence of presence play a central role in Banz and Bowinkel‘s „Monitor“ work.






Susan Morris: Motion Capture Drawing [ERSD]: View From Above, Archival inkjet on Hahnemühle paper, 150x250 cm, 2012, Courtesy Bartha Contemporary, London


Susan Morris has been working with tracking devices worn on her body for well over a decade. For example, she wore an Acti-Watch (which records sleep/wake patterns) continuously for 5 years. The data for Motion Capture Drawing (ERSD): View From Above was recorded in a motion capture studio. Here Morris wore reflectors on various points of her body (such as the hands, head and back) that recorded the movements she made while working on an analogue drawing using pigment on paper over a period of two days. The resulting file tracked coordinates in 3-D, but Morris choose to output three different 2-D aspects of these: a side view, front view and a view from above (the latter is shown in the present exhibition). Each ‘movement diagram’ is printed out, to scale, as large-format ink-jets showing white lines on a black background. Yet only the black is printed here - the line itself remains unprinted negative space. Although at first glance Morris‘s work does not display any ‘photographic’ characteristics such as representationality, she claims that the piece carries distinct indexical aspects under digital conditions. Morris has created and visualized a precise, digital, ‘trace’ which perfectly reproduces all movements executed over the time of the recording in 3D.










Michael Reisch: Ohne Titel (Untitled), 17/021, 75x60cm UV-Direct-Print on Dilite 2018


In a camera-less process, Michael Reisch first generates black and white lines and curves from within a chosen computer software programme. Optical illusions occur so that images become recognisable as things – with a layered, stratified or folded character, for example. These generated „entities“ (which in the true sense are illusions) are then “materialized“ - i.e. recreated using computer-aided design (CAD) programs and 3D-printed as „real objects“. Finally they are photographed in the photo studio. Reisch takes photographs of „motifs“ that in some way do exist - since they are 3D-printed and exist in material form - and that in turn “do not exist“ - since they are based on optical illusion and have no starting point in the „real world“. In doing so, he reverses the conventional direction of „photography“, which normally passes from existing facts to information and data (photos). In Reisch‘s works, immaterial data and algorithms are generated to factual and thus „photographable“ objects and again „transformed“ into data (photos) and images, whereby amongst others questions about the relationship reality-virtuality, presence-absence are posed.







Achim Mohné: 3D-GOOGLE-EARTH-MODEL # 3, Galerie Falko Alexander Köln, 2019, 24x18x10 cm 3D Druck (Farbiger Pulverschichtdruck), Courtesy: Galerie Judith Andrae, Bonn


Achim Mohné‘s work, which was created especially for this exhibition, is location-specific: it shows a 3D-printed model of the specific location and urban environment of Galerie Falko Alexander, Venloer Str. 24, Cologne. The scale model is based on a unique analogue-digital process in which Mohné, instead of photographing the real space, takes pictures directly in the Google Earth App, using virtual „camera drones”. These take numerous „photos“ from all sides of the selected location. Using computer based photogrammetry, a 3-dimensional, virtual, architectural model is rendered from these screenshots. This is then printed in 3D and displayed in the gallery. The 3D model, when viewed from above and because of its photographed and 3D-printed color, strikingly resembles the underlying Google Earth satellite photos and at first glance appears to be a kind of „material photo“ of the place itself. Mohné‘s work, amongst that of others exhibited in Photon | Icon, deals with the relationship of a real place to its virtual representations; its avatars, both of which are brought together in the final work - the 3D-printed architectural model. Mohné‘s reference to the existing place gives the work a digital-referential, representational,“photographic“ aspect, which is addressed not least by the numerous glitches that appear in the transformation of real space through images taken from Google App and by the photogrammetric application, against a media background.










Alex Grein: Falling, Archival Pigment Print,  70x46 cm, 2019


Alex Grein uses either found film footage or material that she has photographed herself with her smart phone. She then places miniature models of everyday objects (such as custom-made model glasses or similar) on the phone’s screen, on top of the images she has created or found. This ensemble is finally photographed in high-resolution and printed out as an inkjet-print. In the final image, the scaled-down objects seem to be actual fragments of the originally photographed space, and appear to hover there, peculiarly. Grein uses this approach to address „augmented reality“ visualisations with mostly simple, analog-digital, low-tech tools. While following a classical-documentary approach that is photographic in nature, her working process raises questions about the digital realm.












Florian Kuhlmann‘s reduced text work is glued directly onto the wall as a black foil. The piece „SPACE TIME COORDINATES RENDERED IN BLACK ARIAL ON WHITE CANVAS SAVED AS RAW.TIF“ refers in its title to digital „photography“ (.raw and .tif are common, photo-specific file extensions), as well as to the metadata stored automatically in every digital photo. This data (geolocation, time, file type, etc.) defines each digitally created photo as a „point in space-time matrix,“ as Kuhlmann says, and plays a crucial role in the current, „visual-photographic“ measuring of the world. Kuhlmann‘s
media-reflexive text work can be regarded as simultaneously text and image, non-image and image.








Ria Patricia Röder: Insert, 55x40 cm, scanogram, archival pigment print on aludibond, 2018


Ria Patricia Röder works with scanography. She uses found objects and custom-made forms of paper or similar, which are placed on the glass surface of the scanner. She combines these „motifs“ with pre-scanned and printed out images of these (or other) objects to produce complex compositions of reality- and image-fragments. These fragments, which exist as the “material” of the image, are very deliberately arranged on the scanner glass. In addition, the images or printouts are sometimes deformed manually, in an analogue process. The chosen „motifs“ can appear in the final picture several times and in different variations, which Röder designates as „declinations“. The artist uses neither image editing software nor renderings, hence the final, single, scan marks the endpoint of the process. The resulting image has a
„photographic-representational“ appearance - indeed the exposure or scanning process can itself be understood as a „photographic“ process. However, in Röder‘s work, the depicted space of traditional „photography“ is defined by the distance between the scanner glass and the furthest point of the scanned motifs, and compressed (in real terms to approx. 30-50 cm), whereby only the motifs immediately in the foreground are in focus. The traditional, centrally organised, perspectival seeing-model and the idea of static projection are partially overridden by the moving „camera“ of the scanner.









Roland Schappert: o. T. (SK5D), 2019, lichtechter Druck auf Aluminium, 112x89 cm, 2019


A basic “photographic” situation marks the beginning for Roland Schappert’s body of work “Sk5D” (1993-2019).  After building simple, three-dimensional geometric wooden forms, he photographs them from different viewpoints, using an analogue camera. These photos are printed out, and Schappert photocopies the prints. Based on the photocopies of the now 2-dimensional images of these forms, Schappert then creates another 3 dimensional geometric object. He continues this process, thus creating several stages of development of geometric bodies and photographs/photocopies. The composition “SK5D“ eventually combines eight 2-dimensional outlines/ground plans of the different stages. From the point of view of “photography”, neither the perspectival illusionary space of the original photos nor any representative aspects remain preserved at the end of the transformation process. Rather, in a „perspective photography“ -negating and simultaneously “image-generating” gesture - Schappert reduces the conventional photographic imagery to a 2-dimensional, black-and-white, graphic-abstract image that only carries traces of multiple copying- and overwriting processes. The final black and white copies are digitised (scanned or digitally photographed) and printed on aluminium.









Arno Beck: Untitled, typewriter-drawing on japanese paper, 45x45 cm


Arno Beck’ creates his pictures with a typewriter. In his his unique images he combines found photos (of landscapes, for example) with coarse pixelated graphic motifs from older computer games to create his own compositions. For this purpose, he has developed a system in which different
grayscale-values are generated by superimposing different letters; the final image is then „typed“ by hand in a time-consuming process.
Although the resulting works are technical images, neither photography nor any other current digital tools and procedures are used directly; rather, they are thematised in a kind of low-tech attitude and retro-tech quotes. The digital calculation work of the computer is mirrored by Beck‘s physical work, the human scale, the stoic copying and „typing“ of every single „pixel“ of the photographically created image-template is set against the digital-machine time of the camera and the computer.





Text: Michael Reisch