Langlands & Bell
Thomson & Craighead
Christian Philipp Muller
'Image Counter Image' presents artistic positions that focus on the critical analysis of violent conflicts in the media, beginning with the First Gulf War and ending with the Arab Spring. Works by bureau d'etudes, Nin Brudermann, Harun Farocki and many more. 'Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955' celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Haus with Swiss conceptual artist Christian Philipp Muller.
Image Counter Image
Exhibition 10.06 – 16.09.12
The exhibition presents artistic positions that focus on the critical analysis of violent conflicts in the media, beginning with the First Gulf War of 1991 to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and ending with the events of the Arab Spring of 2011. Because pictures are never perceived in isolation but rather in the context of other, existing ones, the selected works also explore the pictorial tradition in which such images exist and the content they address beyond that of the individual image. The title Image Counter Image refers to the phenomenon of visual arms races, i.e. to the fact that media images compete with each other, simultaneously supplant each other, and "battle" other images.
Framework, Agenda, Selection
According to Susan Sontag, the "framing" of an event as an image has a "determining influence in shaping what catastrophes and crises we pay attention to, what we care about, and ultimately what evaluations are attached to these conflicts."
The fact that not every conflict is recorded in images is demonstrated by the collection of Newsweek covers from April to August 1994 compiled by Alfredo Jaar (Untitled [Newsweek], 1994). The magazine first dedicated a cover to the Hutu's massacre of the Tutsis in early August, after a million people had already been killed and nearly two million had fled from Rwanda. This series of covers demonstrates the hierarchy of news and indirectly questions the agendas and responsibilities of journalists.
Jasmila Žbanic poses the same question with her film "Images from the Corner" (2003), intensifying it into a thesis. The filmmaker regards foreign journalists in war zones as one of the wounds that war inflicts on the civilian population. They come and go with the conflicts: "The war goes to other places, to other people. With it travel the cameras, the journalists, the photo reporters, and they make their news and their new images. We stay here with ours." Her film focuses on an event that took place in Sarajevo in 1992: A French photojournalist photographed a young woman who had been wounded by a grenade and who was lying in the street, crying for help. Žbanic filmed the place where the wounded woman had lain and superimposed the footage with the sound of a camera whose shutter is being pressed and the film changed twice. The shot lasts as long as it took the journalist to shoot three rolls of film.
Image Production and the Sovereignty of Interpretation Media coverage has changed significantly in the last two decades. Important milestones were the First Gulf War of 1990/91, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, and images of the Arab Spring of 2011.
The First Gulf War was triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. United States military attacks against Iraq began in January 1991. In order to channel the flow of information so it would promote the political aims of the military operation, a memorandum ("Annex Foxtrot") had already been sent to units of the United States military in August 1990. According to the information it contained, reporters had to be constantly escorted ("News media representatives will be escorted at all times. Repeat, at all times") and all reports were subject to the approval of the military ("Reports reviewed by military censors").
Because reporters were unable to gain an independent picture of the events, the media conveyed the image of a "clean" war whose actions and attacks were shown but not their consequences. The official image production consisted primarily of nocturnal views shot from a distance, monitor and crosshair images.
In "Waiting for War" (1998), Nin Brudermann uses video footage of the kind of live broadcasts as those created in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. The monochromatic green night images show Iraqi targets from various perspectives, which were provided by four major news agencies. As an analogy for the simultaneity of the images, Brudermann presents the events on four projections. The camera pans over the Iraqi targets, foretelling an attack and fraught with tension. Mediagenic staged explosions accompanied by corresponding sounds and quiet passages between the attacks alternate. Brudermann refers to this work as a "war work" that "is based on the same speculative spectacle effect of fireworks."
In contrast to the "clean" image of the First Gulf War, the pictures of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were broadcast on numerous channels around the world. The events were thus immediately available for the whole world to see and demonstrated the vulnerability of the United States and the capitalist system. Hans-Peter Feldmann created a series out of 151 front pages of international newspapers published the day after the attacks. The work serves as a pertinent example of the worldwide network of news agencies, all of which make use of a similar pool of images. Variations result from the size of reproductions, the wording of the headlines and the assessment of the events, from a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions to a declaration of war against the United States or an attack on the economic structures represented by the United States.
Two days after the United States and Great Britain began bombing Afghanistan in 2001, John Smith saw the image on the television in his hotel room frozen for several minutes; the bombing of Afghanistan that the news reporter was describing was not visible. Smith came to regard the frozen image as a metaphor for the uncertainty triggered by the events at that time. "Half the world's a swanky hotel, the other half's a bomb site," is how he described the concept of his eight videos entitled "Hotel Diaries" (2001-07). Each film was shot in a hotel room. Based on found objects and situations, Smith developed his assertions on world affairs. The films give expression to the belief that each place is political and related to "outside" events.
The Lebanese artist Roy Samaha, who was once a reporter for ABC, processed his impressions in a personal narrative. In 2011, as part of the Leica competition "In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers", he explored the revolution in Egypt through photographs. Before going to the country, he followed the events there on YouTube and Twitter. When he arrived, there was no telephone or Internet connection. His photographs show the lives of the people living in this exceptional situation and tell a background story beyond those of news images.
Warfare on the Monitor
The artist duo Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell travelled to Afghanistan in 2002 to conduct investigations and photograph Osama bin Laden's former home near Jalalabad, where bin Laden lived in 1996-97 and allegedly planned the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The film "The House of Osama Bin Laden" (2003) was designed to be interactive, without fulfilling the expectations placed on a computer game: The rooms of the simple country house remain deserted - nowhere is there a potential victim of a virtual attack. The animation lacks the typical stereotypes of the enemy and provides a counter-image to the ideologically overloaded representations that were common in the media at the time.
With his series "Serious Games" Harun Farocki demonstrates how much warfare itself is virtualized today. He documents the training of soldiers on military bases and combines this material with computer simulations. Based on satellite images of Afghanistan and Iraq, these simulations are used to prepare attacks and to help treat post-traumatic stress disorders. Faith in the technique remains obviously intact for both the producers and users of this software, as if the simulations really could help in planning and processing such experiences.
The Limits of Military Technology
The general assumption is that the American military possesses the most advanced techniques for enemy surveillance and is therefore superior. Whoever observes the observer, however, reverses the balance of power. In the photo series "Limit Telephotography" (begun in 2005) Trevor Paglen documents secret U.S. military installations. The photographs in this series were taken using techniques originally developed for astronomy and astrophotography. Yet even they do not allow precise images when taken from a distance of up to 60 miles and the subject matter remains blurry.
Paglen thus formulates a paradox: Those who wish to make information accessible to a public, which is entitled to such from a democratic standpoint, fail due to limitations in technology.
Other artists presented in the exhibition approach the subject by way of systematic research. Sean Snyder explores the production and processing of images using technical equipment. In a space-within-a-space installation created expressly for the exhibition, the artist duo bureau d'études show how non-Iranian press organizations and political authorities depicted Iran in 2011.
Monika Huber, Wilhelm Sasnal and Radenko Milak use painting to express their ideas. All three employ popular media images as the basis of their works presented here (from news images photographed from television, to the image of a laid out Muammar al-Gaddafi published on the Internet and the photographed documentation of an attack on civilians in the former Yugoslavia).
The show exhibits works by bureau d'études, Nin Brudermann, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Téo Hernandez, Monika Huber, Alfredo Jaar, Adela Jušić, Radenko Milak, Langlands & Bell, Trevor Paglen, Thomas Ruff, Roy Samaha, Wilhelm Sasnal, Ahlam Shibli, John Smith, Sean Snyder, Thomson & Craighead and Jasmila Žbanic. It was curated by Patrizia Dander, León Krempel, Julienne Lorz and Ulrich Wilmes. A catalogue published by Walther König includes texts by Georges Didi-Huberman, Tom Holert, David Levi Strauss, and Marion G. Müller, as well as short descriptions of all the artists in the exhibition.
As part of the programs marking its 75th anniversary, Haus der Kunst simultaneously opens on June 9, 2012 the exhibition "Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955".
Occupying the vectors where global media industries, artistic reflexivity, and ideological power intersect, the two exhibitions undertake to explore the complex zones of mediatized image regimes and artistic propaganda in organizing public opinion. A two-day symposium will be dedicated to the historical and theoretical issues surrounding the exhibitions. Among the speakers are Harald Bodenschatz, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Klaus Bußmann, Chris Dercon, Georges Didi-Huberman, Karen Fiss, Monika Flacke, Walter Grasskamp, Hans Haacke, Tom Holert, Alfredo Jaar, W.J.T. Mitchell, Marion G. Müller, Trevor Paglen, Roy Samaha, Mark Wigley and Ulrich Wilmes.
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Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955
Exhibition 10.06.12 – 13.01.13
2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Haus der Kunst. At the same time Haus der Kunst looks back on 20 years as a non-profit limited liability company (Stiftung Haus der Kunst München, gemeinnützige Betriebsgesellschaft mbH). In recognition of these two milestones, Haus der Kunst is pleased to announce "Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955".
This comprehensive exhibition, spanning the pre-war and post-war periods explores the historical legacy of the museum both in German and international contexts. The exhibition proposes an encounter with two competing perspectives: On the one hand the National Socialist promotion of a pure German art through the annual exhibitions "Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung" ("Great German Art Exhibition") from 1937-1944, and the denigration of the artistic avant-gardes in the "Entartete Kunst" ("Degenerate Art" exhibition) of 1937 on the other.
As a prelude to this exhibition, Haus der Kunst began dealing with its past early on. Since 1995 it has been systematically investigating this past and has presented its research results to visitors not only on a temporary basis, but permanently - as historic documentation in the building's hallways (since 1996), through publications (in 1997, 2000 and 2007), with the opening of its Historical Archives (2005) and most recently in the establishment of the Internet database www.gdk-research.de (2011).
Until now this research primarily focused on the period before and during the Second World War. Haus der Kunst will now turn its attention to the period between 1937 and 1955. In the first 18 years of its history, decisive political and social changes took place in Germany, and the groundwork was laid for the present orientation of Haus der Kunst. The contrasting conceptions of art during this period were both represented in major international shows: a model of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" was exhibited in the German pavilion at the World's Fair in Paris in 1937, and at documenta 1 in 1955 Arnold Bode established the connection to international Modernism by showing artists whose works had been presented in the exhibition "Degenerate Art". The exhibition traces this development in its international context, conveying in exemplary form what Okwui Enwezor means by a "reflexive museum": dedicated to the exploration of contemporary art, it is simultaneously investigating the historical dimension of contemporaneity.
Since its earliest planning stages starting in 1933, "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" was a symbol for the assertion of National Socialist art policy, and the annual "Great German Art Exhibition", were held in its exhibition halls from 1937 to 1944. What was considered exemplary German art in these years, is presented in "Histories in Conflict" through a series of representational selection of art works, documents, architectural plans, photographs, films, and audio recordings. Included in the exhibition are the seascape "Battle Area Atlantic" by Claus Bergen, the allegorical representation "Nightfall" by Rudolf Hermann Eisenmenger, and the genre painting "Farmers in a Storm" by Hans Schmitz-Wiedenbrück. For a broader public it might be surprising that these works were selected not only for the "Great German Art Exhibitions", but were also presented to an international public from 1936 to 1942 at the Venice Biennales as official artworks of National Socialist Germany.
One important criteria for the selected works presented in "Histories in Conflict" is that the paintings and sculptures had been exhibited between 1937 and 1955 in Haus der Kunst or in the 1937 exhibition "Degenerate Art", organized by Joseph Goebbels, and presented in the nearby gallery building in Munich's Hofgarten. Exhibited, and for this purpose confiscated from public museums, were works by Max Beckmann, Rudolf Belling, Otto Dix, Karl Hofer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and others. The denunciation of these names, which at the time were already among the most important artists in modern art in the international context, led "The New York Times" to comment, on July 25, 1937: "Modernism is now verboten."
In the same year, the German, Soviet, Spanish pavilions stood in immediate proximity at the Paris World's Fair. In the German pavilion, a model of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" which was installed as part of the exhibit, served as an advertising vehicle of the National Socialist regime. It was situated as a brilliant focal point and earned Gerdy Troost, the widow of architect Paul Ludwig Troost, the Grand Prix. Next door, Picasso's "Guernica" made its debut in the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic, a marked contrast. The painting was regarded as an anti-war icon and a sign of protest against the destruction of the eponymous Basque town by German aerial bombs.
After the war, between 1949 and 1955, attempts were made to reinstate the art and artists that were excluded and dismissed by the National Socialist, thus reengaging the interrupted presence of the historical avant-garde in the exhibition program of Haus der Kunst. During this period Haus der Kunst served as a counter-reflection, one opposed to its previous hostility to the historical avant-garde. The return of Modernism to the very place where the denigration of artists had begun served as part of a larger post-war and historical contemplation. Some of the most important exhibitions during this period were "The Blue Rider" (1949), "Painters at the Bauhaus" (1950), Max Beckmann (1951), Frank Lloyd Wright (1952), Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee (1954), and the Pablo Picasso retrospective in 1955, in which "Guernica" was a centrepiece.
The exhibition program from this period is represented with exemplary works by Max Beckmann, Edgar Ende, Rupprecht Geiger, Karl Hofer, Paul Klee, Gabriele Münter, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Toni Stadler, Fritz Winter, and Mac Zimmermann. Following their presentation in Haus der Kunst, some of these works were on view either at the Venice Biennales after 1948 or at the first documenta in 1955, with which Arnold Bode sought to establish a new intellectual and moral beginning.
Works such as "Kneeling Woman" by Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1911), "Bathing Cabin (Green)" by Max Beckmann (1928), "Wild Pigs (Boar and Sow)" by Franz Marc (1913) and the graphic "Figure Design K 1" by Oskar Schlemmer (1922), all of which were branded as "degenerate" in the 1937 exhibition, were presented to a post-war public in Haus der Kunst as representatives of Modernism. They will return a second time to Haus der Kunst for the exhibition "Histories in Conflict".
Surprise footnotes to the well-known histories will be present in the exhibition, too: Probably due to an oversight, two abstract sculptures by Rudolf Belling were presented in the "Degenerate Art" show, while his realistic representation of the boxer Max Schmeling was simultaneously exhibited in the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst". The three have now been united in Haus der Kunst.
For the exhibition "Histories in Conflict", Haus der Kunst invited the Swiss conceptual artist Christian Philipp Müller to develop a dramaturgy which traces the building's history. This dramaturgy consists of six parts and starts immediately on the façade of the architecture, guides then into the central hall of the museum, and in the staircase leading to the North Gallery of the museum. For the National Socialist propaganda machine the building was a precious commodity that was to be protected from war damages. It was defended against bomb attacks by placing dark green camouflage nets and artificial treetops on its roof, and thus managed to survive the war virtually unscathed. In response to this, Christian Philipp Müller devised a series of strategically installed nets like those used during the war to camouflage the building. However, the bold colours of the nets are intended to heighten perception of the architectural object rather than render the structure invisible.
Another chapter of Christian Philipp Müller's intervention is a model of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst", made of white chocolate and created expressly for this show. The tempting material establishes a connection to the seductive powers that unfolded in the ideology of the 1930s. By this time, the model of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" was used as a fetish object on occasions like the "Glanzzeiten deutscher Kultur" (Glory Days of German Culture) pageant on the day its foundation stone was laid in 1933, and at performances on the annual "Day of German Art". A new model was constructed for each of these occasions, and Hermann Göring gave a gold version to Adolf Hitler on his fiftieth birthday. The model made of chocolate thus alludes to the "Beautiful Appearance of the Third Reich" (by Peter Reichel, political scientist and historian).
The catalogue will include contributions from the accompanying symposium on June 10 and will be published in early 2013. During this time a permanent Archive Gallery will be unveiled as an exhibition and research centre devoted to study of archives, architecture, and exhibitions.
"Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955", is curated by Sabine Brantl and Ulrich Wilmes. The architecture design was developed by Efe Erenler in collaboration with Christian Philipp Müller.
Image: Trevor Paglen, KEYHOLE/ADVANCED CRYSTAL in Hercules (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 116), 2008. C-Print 60 x 48 (152 x 121,9 cm) Ed. 4/5. Trevor Paglen, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln / Altman Siegel Gallery, San Francisco
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Press Viewing Friday, 8.06.12, 10 am and 4.30 pm
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