SCHEUBLEIN + BAK celebrates the rediscovery of a very important and long neglected artistic movement and shows a comprehensive historical presentation of the beginnings of concrete and generative Photography in the 1960s. During that time a market for photography did barely exist in Europe. Therefore most works in the show ‘Against Photography’ are unique prints. This important movement in Germany and Switzerland set the ground-breaking footprint for the birth of computer aesthetic and cybernetic art, which retrospectively can be regarded as the beginning of the discourse on data images and digital photography.
While in the theory of painting the term Concrete Art was invented by Theo van Doesburg as early as the 1920s and was practiced by artists such as Max Bill, Camille Graeser and Richard Paul Lohse in Zurich, the notion Photographie Concrète only appeared in 1967 for the first time at galerie actuelle in Berne, where a group of photographic works by Roger Humbert, René Mächler, Rolf Schroeter and Jean Frédéric Schnyder was shown. Relating to the experimental photographers such as Christian Schad, Man Ray, Alvin Langdon Coburn und Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the Swiss group of concrete photographers was making playful camera-less luminograms and photograms. In the current show, rare prints by Mächler and Humbert are being exhibited.
During that time, similar tendencies in photography came up in Germany as well, which later became known as Generative Photography. Mentors of this group were Herbert W. Franke, a pioneer of computer art, who combined rational physics and mathematics with photographic experiments, as well as philosopher Max Bense, based in Stuttgart, whose program aimed "at generative aesthetic conditions, which fragmented what was generated into many individual parts, finitely distinguishable and describable."
Based on this philosophical term, Kunsthaus Bielefeld opened the legendary group show Generative Fotografie presenting works by Gottfried Jäger, Hein Gravenhorst, Kilian Breier and Pierre Cordier in 1968. Generative photography can be understood as a part of concrete photography on the one side. Moreover, it articulates the idea of artistic constructivism onto which has been grafted the numerical programming of apparative systems. Unique chemigrams from its founder Cordier, camera-less luminograms by Zero artist Breier, photomechanical transformations by Gravenhorst and pinhole structures by Jäger are shown in the gallery and bring us back to the founding years.
The exhibitions of Heinz Hajek-Halke and micro photographers Carl Strüwe and Manfred P. Kage, initiated by Jäger in 1965 and 1966 in Bielefeld, would eventually trigger a separate class of photography at the Werkkunstschule in Bielefeld. Since then Gottfried Jäger und Karl Martin Holzhäuser were teaching the theory of generative photography over decades, and together they published the manifesto-like compendium Generative Fotografie.
The notion “to play against the apparatus" by theorist and philosopher Villém Flusser set the tone for this particular style of photography. The yearly symposiums on photography in Bielefeld have become legendary over the course of thirty years and have transmitted ideas, which have radiated on the art of younger generation artists such as Michael Reisch, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff and James Welling in their experimental, camera-less photography. A selection of rare cliché-verre works by Hajek-Halke, oszillograms by Franke, mechano-optical experiments by Holzhäuser as well as microscopic images by ZERO artist Kage and Strüwe showcase the overwhelming creativity of these artists as well as their strong relation to science.
Rarely shown vintage works from the archives recall the spirit on this historic moment in this exhibition, and point out surprising connections to Switzerland.
On the occasion of the opening reception, artists like Karl Martin Holzhäuser, Roger Humbert, Manfred P. Kage, Ursel und Gottfried Jäger will be attending.
OPENING RECEPTION: Tuesday, 9 June 2015, 6 - 8 pm
DURATION: 10 June – 28 August 2015
LOCATION: SCHEUBLEIN + BAK, Schloss Sihlberg, Sihlberg 10, 8002 Zurich
OPENING HOURS: by appointment
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