East German Photography 1980 - 89
Thirty-three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, what do we know about East German photography? This exhibition focuses on the final decade of this large and too little-known chapter of history through the prism of the body. Its aim is to show how, within an authoritarian state based on the negation of individuality, physical confinement, surveillance, and normativity, photography was a medium through which artists were able to express the singularity of their lives and their relationship with their bodies, revealing a powerful inner sense of freedom.
Following three decades of documentary and humanist photography, a more subjective, hybrid language started to emerge in the early 1980s. Without disowning the legacy of their predecessors, photographers distanced themselves from their subtly critical empathy in order to confront social taboos and give substance to the men and women of their time. The marginalized or isolated bodies highlight the life that boils over under the lid of repression, the solitude of the individual within the community, and the irreducibility of the subject, especially in nude photography.
Exploring the margins of society, some artists joined the counterculture, including the punk movement and underground fashion groups. They captured their restlessness, imagination, rebellion and differences. Dressing up and staging themselves became a weapon allowing them to stand out from the crowd. At the same time there emerged a generation of photographers who chose hybridization, drawing on performative art. Most put the body at the centre of their experiments, translating regime-induced schizophrenia, existential questioning, and the thirst for subversion and speed in various forms. Another survival strategy, internal exile, is also shown photographically through introspection, an attentive examination of both body and face. The withdrawal from a couple's intimacy or circle of friends, the pursuit of an alternative life "under the radar," and the escape through dreams are expressed by many photographers of that time.
The exhibition is curated by Sonia Voss and was initially conceived for the Rencontres d'Arles 2019 with the support of the Rencontres d'Arles curatorial research fellowship.
Curator Sonia Voss
Architect Mindaugas Reklaitis
Designer Laura Grigaliūnaitė
Participating artists:Tina Bara (b. 1962), Sibylle Bergemann (1941-2010), Kurt Buchwald (b. 1953), Lutz Dammbeck (b. 1948), Christiane Eisler (b. 1958), Thomas Florschuetz (b. 1957), York der Knoefel (1962-2011), Ute Mahler (b. 1949), Eva Mahn (b. 1947), Sven Marquardt (b. 1962), Barbara Metselaar Berthold (b. 1951), Manfred Paul (b. 1942), Rudolf Schäfer (b. 1952), Gundula Schulze Eldowy (b. 1954), Gabriele Stötzer (b.1953), Ulrich Wüst (b.1949).
The project is realized with the support of Lithuanian Culture Foundation
Partners of the exhibition: IFA (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Goethe Institute Vilnius, Galerie Loock Berlin
Sponsors: Exterus, Fundermax
Media sponsor: JCDecaux