Galerie Anita Beckers
Frankehallee 74
+49 06973900967 FAX +49 06973900968
Two exhibitions
dal 14/2/2008 al 4/4/2008

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Galerie Anita Beckers


Vee Speers
Aurelia Mihai

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Two exhibitions

Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt

When Vee Speers places children in front of the same white wall to photograph them in their costumes for the Birthday Party series, one might at first wonder about this visual concept. In her video and photo works, Aurelia Mihai examines the disappearing boundaries between documentation and fiction in the area of media images.

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You Aren’t Happy At All!
“Birthday Party” Series

The list of photo artists who have taken the theme of childhood for themselves is long. That’s understandable, for it is a rewarding photographic subject. What’s fascinating is the position of in-between, the ambiguity of being a child: The child’s ego is fragile, there are plenty of options. Is this only at the beginning: in a paradisiacal state, as has often been written?

When Vee Speers places children in front of the same white wall to photograph them in their costumes for the “Birthday Party” series, one might at first wonder about this visual concept. We tend to associate childhood with spontaneous movement rather than immobility. This is different with Vee Speers: Her models act within a strictly laid-out frame.

Lisette Model was one of the first female photo artists to take pictures of young people not only in their freedom of movement but also in regard to their future roles. Childhood is a period of time in which one practices taking on roles – something which Vee Speers’ “Birthday Party” series also explores. It’s not that their role corsets are already threatening to overpower them, since the children depicted here are anything but free and innocent. They stand in their fantastic costumes, but don’t look very cheerful. “Aren’t you happy at all?“, you want to ask them. And although some of them are even smiling or singing, they don’t appear to be truly happy.

They open themselves to the camera with gazes that say to us grown-ups: Look at us. We know much more than you think. Are they representatives of the much-cited “lost childhood” that photographers such as Achim Lippoth have portrayed in such a captivating way? The Cologne artist photographed children with expressions full of hate, children much too grown-up for their age, for example, such as the Chinese gymnasts he portrayed in his series titled “L´homme Machine“ – machine people. They are mutants of the adult world, premature ones, but still in the bodies of children. The guests of the imaginary birthday party have not yet entirely detached themselves from their childhood. It is not childlike happiness that is revealed in their regard, but pressing openness.

Carefree childhood, purity, naturalness…it’s all a cliché – that’s what these image impart. Irritation is programmatic here; Vee Speers’ art is meant to confuse: Be it the small child soldier – does he have a real machine gun? – or the girl opening her palms as if to say: All I have in this world is myself. As openly as they look at the camera, the children reveal very little of themselves. Standing in front of a white background, they are symbols of…they won’t say of what.

And this is precisely what makes these portraits so magnetic: The children do not divulge their secret, the reason for their forlornness. “I’m interested in the psychology of human nature – what we really are beneath the surface,” Speers once said. Yet she creates her art in the certainty of never being able to expose what lies beneath.

“I wanted to capture the last moments of childhood by means of an imaginary party,” says Speers. What she has cast in strange, pale colour photos is an ambivalent state between freedom and role play, between spontaneity and premonition (later on I will be a sad old witch!), between the world of children and the world of adults. The childlike game of dressing up, of putting on costumes, reinforces the surreal tone of the series. Boxing gloves alone don’t make a boxer, a helmet doesn’t make a Roman legionnaire. That’s what Vee Speers tells us. But we should indeed think more frequently about the dreams we have.

Marc Peschke
(Art historian and culture journalist, Wiesbaden & Hamburg.


Aurelia Mihai

In her video and photo works, Aurelia Mihai (*1968 Bucharest) examines the disappearing boundaries between documentation and fiction in the area of media images. Historical references merge with legends and personal memories, forming suggestive images in which the reflection on the conditions of media perception always resonates.

"The video work of the Romanian artist Aurelia Mihai, in which she reflects on the periodic migration of herds of sheep ("Transhumanta"), a practice now banned by new EU laws on animal transport. However this is a traditional method of sheep rearing that is a normal ethnic act and part of the cultural identity of many European peoples. Aurelia Mihai portrays and transfers these old traditions to the modern era.
Equally, she examines the medium of film and the production process itself. Caught between fiction, daydream and (pseudo-)documentary, the viewer is entranced by the ostensible, almost scientific plausibility and the authentic fascination of the camera view as well as by the imagination of this suggestive portrayal." (Stephan Mann, Museum Goch)

In our SATELLIT project room, we will additionally show, along with a selection of further works by the artist, the work "Von Herzen (From the Heart)":
"A pretty, young woman in a well-kept Mediterranean garden: With concise words, she gives an account of the all but unbelievable events of her young life, from cancer as a child to her heart transplant at the age of 19. (...)

In Aurelia Mihai's video film, which in just five minutes creates a suspense curve that surpasses many feature films, the most various levels of representation overlap. By aesthetically shaping the authentic and real, the limits of representational conventions (from embarrassment to candour) are touched. The narrator, actress and subject of the story are all same - equally authentic and seemingly composed - person. Word and image, on the other hand, diverge. The rationality of her manner of speaking, the soberness of the text and the use of medical terms such as "immune suppressors" or "high urgency list" strongly contrast her colourful costume and the idyllic location. Yet the picture is deceptive: It is not a fairy tale that is being told here but a chain of tragic misfortunes: Cancer and chemotherapy during childhood are followed in her teenage years by heart disorders, diabetes, asthma, a stroke, and finally the life-saving heart transplant. As opposed to the drama of the narrated events, the account itself is pointedly calm and soft. The camera doesn't move either, it is fixed to one angle." (Doris Krystof)

Image: Vee Speers, Untitled

Opening reception: February 15th, 2008 at 7.30 pm

Galerie Anita Beckers
Frankenallee 74 - 60327 Frankfurt Germany
Opening Hours:
Tue - Fri: 11am - 6pm
Sat: 11am - 2pm
and by special appointment

Peter Weibel
dal 4/6/2013 al 23/8/2013

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