Galerie Judith Andreae
May 5, 2020 12:48PM

Achim Mohné THE_VEGAN_SCANNING_PRINTING_COOKING_PROJECT Performance at Galerie Judith Andreae, Bonn

Judith Andreae – Concurrently with the climate conference, Bonn in May 2018, you transformed the gallery into an experimental lab for the period of two months, where scanning, cooking, eating, and discussions took place. The photographic image is often the pivotal element in your projects, but it never assumes a singular position within your intermedia and interdisciplinary actions and installations. What distinguishes The_Vegan_Scanning_Printing_Cooking_Project from “pleasant pictures of flowers”?

Achim Mohné – You’re right, they are “pleasant pictures of flowers,” aesthetically appealing. But they should not be viewed without the context of their origin. As in all of my works, I first develop the concept, the images follow. They are created from, inside of and in conjunction with a social activity, in this case a joint cooking and eating experience that was indeed also quite “pleasant”. But the pictures were made above all with an intention, because their background is problematic: The consumption of meat is responsible for more than 50% of the man-made climate catastrophe. A startling figure that dwarfs car, ship and air traffic worldwide. This unpleasant fact prompted the intention of making “pleasant pictures of flowers” and thus formulating a political statement. For most of these flowers and plants are edible and a tasty alternative to meat and animal products.

Copyright Achim Mohné and Galerie Judith Andreae, Bonn

JA – You have created several works in which the performative and instrument-based aspects are directly juxtaposed, for example, in “Mediarecycling” or “Zu ihrer eigenen Sicherheit…”. The visitors become witnesses or even a part of the machine-based or audiovisual process, or of the distribution of images and sound. How important is it for you to expose these mechanisms?

AM – For me, experiments with the medium of photography arise in syntactical experiments at the intersections of device, interface, software, action, and intermedia, not in picture series hung in museums. Questioning and juxtaposing different analogue and digital media is just as important as investigating the instruments and the processes of distribution. I conducted this sort of “media performance” with scanners for the first time in the year 2000. The issue then was overfishing, which people were gradually becoming more aware of and that is today a major problem. I wanted to show the beauty of fish, crabs and crustaceans. The manufacturers of technicized foodstuffs offering us fish sticks in a totally “abstract” way, for example, attempt to conceal the fact that they are living beings. This promotes excessive consumption. Here, too, cooking and eating together in the form of a ceremony was at the fore. The purpose is not primarily to produce pictures. Instead, it is about pictures functioning as links between social, interdisciplinary, intermedia actions. The attempt to counter ecological offenses is not meant as a moral pointing finger, but rather to show that there are alternatives—in this case even very tasty ones.

Copyright Achim Mohné and Galerie Judith Andreae, Bonn

JA – Why do you use a scanner instead of a camera?

AM – As in many of my works, I am interested in placing the instruments against themselves, in this respect I am entirely “Flusserian.” A device invented to record two-dimensional documents is used to optically record three-dimensional objects, it is misappropriated, so to speak, turned against itself, “misused.” This engenders a different, hitherto unseen aesthetic: a semantics of its own, created by the specific syntax of the scanner. For example, the “focus depth” of a scan is one-dimensional, as it were.

Only objects positioned directly on the flatbed are depicted sharply; the parts of the plants protruding into the space are out of focus and scanned with diminished light. Intensity of light and sharpness correlate, in photography these parameters are totally independent of each other. Furthermore, the flatbed scanner is far superior to any professional camera in terms of technical quality and resolution due to its large scanning surface. These pictures would correspond to a camera resolution of 150 megapixels, today’s cameras range from 45 to 60 megapixels. That is why the tiny blossom of a woodruff can be enlarged to such a degree, while still showing the plant in its entire anatomy.

Copyright Achim Mohné and Galerie Judith Andreae, Bonn

JA – Let’s talk about the pictures themselves. Are they to be attributed more to painting or to photography, and is it even important to define these “pigeonholes”?

AM – The depictions are reminiscent of 17th to 19th century painting, of still lifes of flowers, fruits, fish, venison etc., as they were painted by Johann Wilhelm Preyer, for instance. So the depiction of plants, which also served scientific purposes starting in the Middle Ages at the latest, has a great tradition and is a model for these pictures, except that they are not drawings.

The technical, instrument-based recording of nature was heralded by the photograms of Henry Fox Talbot in “The Pencil Of Nature” or Anna Atkins in the 1820s. They were deemed “more neutral” because they weren’t influenced by the personal style of the artist, and during the course of the 20th century they became better and more precise due to technological developments, from Karl Blossfeld to today’s laser microscopy. The digital printing technology and the resolution of the scanner have also been considerably improved since 2000, so I found it appealing to once again apply the concept.

The materials used in the performance, however, are almost identical with those used by Georg Flegel, Maria Sibylla Merian or other artists and natural scientists of the 17th century in their drawings: real pigment color on (handmade) paper. The manufacturer “Hahnemühle” can look back on a 500-year tradition, and the pigment colors of the digital printer are still the same as those used in painting, only that in this work they don’t come from the tube but from the printer cartridge.

From an “instrument-based” point of view, they are “digital-photographic” pictures, although the mechanism of the scanner cannot be compared with the “camera obscura.” From the point of view of the material at hand, it is probably more like painting. So I can’t give an unambiguous answer to your question. But this shows that the work cannot be pigeonholed, or, as Werner Nekes once said in an analogous sense: “Film is what happens between the pictures.”

Galerie Judith Andreae