Still Life in Contemporary Photography

Annette Kelm, Desert Plants, 2016
Sharon Lockhart, No-No Ikebana, Arranged by Haruko Takeichi, December 1, 2002 (December 4-11), 2003
Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Rose Napkin, 2017
Annette Kelm, Welcome, 2016

Opening: Sept. 12, 2018, 7 p.m.

This major theme-based exhibition showcases a genre that is currently being re-examined and re-appraised, namely the still-life. The re-appraisal is not so much about a nostalgic reference to a genre that was thought to have disappeared. On the contrary: artists working in the field of photography are currently radically scrutinising the still life as a means of expression. It is about disrupting prevailing image conventions and extracting a clearly delineated artistic alternative out of ostensibly antiquated styles and practices – with regard to both the space of the objects, the space of the images, and the space of photography itself.

In their works the artists featured at the exhibition often follow in the specific image traditions to be found in the history of painting on the one hand and the history of contemporary photography on the other. In Stillleben (1997) Harun Farocki for instance examines the functions of the historical still life and the parallels with current advertising and product photography; in Still Life (2009) Tacita Dean references the principles of composition of an objective-pictorial style and its foundation in painting.

As with the historical still life, the new photographs are also founded on a stock of material that signals contemporaneity. But unlike the Netherlandish tradition, today it is no longer trading relations that are conveyed through precious and exotic goods, but the global markets, with references to the mass consumption of democratised or elitist consumer worlds (Anette Kelm, Myora Davey).
In a number of photographs, objects are visible as ‘traces’, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the real life of their owners or the photographers. In other concepts the objects are turned into their own aesthetic symbols through stringently formalised views, symbols that appear to refer to nothing other than themselves.
At a time when our image cultures are in upheaval and photographic images are beginning to take the place of language, it raises the question of whether these new still lifes are understood as an alternative space to the fast-paced world of images that characterises our digital present. The still life slows down the viewer’s gaze: image spaces achieve a presence that contrasts sharply with the fleeting nature of ever-changing images.

The works represented at the exhibition refer to the often coincidental and changing appearance of objects and the fact that they are open to interpretation. The works therefore resist the concept of complete control of the image, let alone complete control of the information.

List of artists (provisional)
Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili (GE), Dirk Braeckman (BE), Moyra Davey (CAN), Tacita Dean (GB), Harun Farocki (DE), Hans-Peter Feldmann (DE), Matthias Herrmann (AT), Annette Kelm (DE), Sharon Lockhart (US), Andrzej Steinbach (DE/PL), Lucie Stahl (DE), Ingeborg Strobl (AT), James Welling (US), and others

Curator: Maren Lübbke-Tidow
Curator KUNST HAUS WIEN: Verena Kaspar–Eisert