Chamisso's Shadow / Chamissos Schatten
Exhibition: 5 Dec 2015 – 27 Feb 2016
Fri 4 Dec 18:00 - 21:00
Johanna Breede PHOTOKUNST
Tue-Fri 11-17, Sat by appointment
"Wonderful, changeable lands, fields, meadows, mountains, steppes and sand deserts rolled out in front of my amazed eyes; there was no doubt , I had Seven-league boots on my feet."
from: Adelbert von Chamisso 'Peter Schlemihl'
Exhibition: December 5, 2015 – February 27, 2016
Opening: Friday, December 4, 6 - 9pm
The world is disrupted. Behind familiarity there is often the unknown; behind the present history extends itself. Wherever there is light there is also shadow - a discrepancy which is difficult to bear. From here to there it is often only a jump. Only a few manage to make exactly this jump to the homeland; to build a house on the cracks and borders. One who did manage this jump is the German-French naturalist and poet Adelbert von Chamisso. In an either/or situation he tried the third option. Although French was his mother tongue, he wrote some of his most beautiful texts in German; and although he came from an aristocratic background, he remained a free spirit and a liberal. When someone wanted to define this cosmopolitan philosopher by civilization und nation, he would escape in nature and discovery.
This must have been the case in 1815 when the then 34 year old "title scholar" boarded an expedition ship to Polynesia, Hawaii and Alaska. That was two hundred years ago. Enough time to rediscover this long route. The German artist Ulrike Ottinger (b. 1942) attempted this rediscovery. In her photo series „Chamissos Schatten“ (Chamisso’s Shadow) from 2014, the filmmaker and photographer followed the trail of the great discoverer. „In my project“, she wrote before embarking on her trip, „I am planning to follow the northern expedition route of Chamisso, Bering and Cook“. It is a journey through the steppes, mountains and sand deserts; an expedition to the Koryaks, Itelmes and Eskimos. „I will collect everything that I see and which seems exceptional on this trip“.
The cracks and the borders were especially interesting. They are the leitmotif of the large-format photographs that Ottinger brought back from her trips along with numerous films and accounts. As of December 5 they will be shown at the Berlin gallery Johanna Breede PHOTOKUNST. These images show a world full of fissures. It is a world on the border between tradition and modernity, but also poetry and reality. Titles such as "Zauberwald" (Magic Forest) or "Auch die Berge haben sich in Wale verwandelt" (The Mountains Also Transformed into Whales) bear witness to the poetic transformation that these landscapes have undergone through Ottinger’s camera lens.
Ottinger's photographic approach is similar to the aesthetics of the New Topographics – the American movement which wrote photographic history in 1975 with the legendary exhibition "Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape". Both artistic approaches are concerned with the changed landscape. Signs of civilization repeatedly appear in the endless rolling deserts in Ottinger's pictures; and deserted huts and rusty ships recount the immense change the region along the Bering Sea coast suffered in the past decades. But the New Topographics - Robert Adams or Stephen Shore – followed the shadows of pictures on their routes. Their work gleaned from the great landscape photographs of the first half of the 20th century. Ulrike Ottinger, however, follows the shadow of writing; on her feet the famous "Seven-League Boots", with which Adelbert von Chamisso once searched for the vastness. "Reise um die Welt" (Trip Around the World) was the title of the book published in1836, in which the Romantic poet related his expedition experiences. It was a book full of observations and anecdotes; a mix of poetry and science. These two poles are usually separated by a fissure. But both Ottinger, as well as Chamisso have a special talent in their art: they connect opposites into something new. They create a third option out of an either/or situation. (Text: Ralf Hanselle)
In cooperation with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin ULRIKE OTTINGER shows the exhibition:
"AROUND THE WORLD"
Forster – Humboldt – Chamisso – Ottinger
Dezember, 2 2015 – Februar, 27 2016
Potsdamer Str. 33 (Eingang Otto Braun Saal)
Tel.: +49 30 266 435100
Parallel to both exhibitions the Kino Arsenal will screen films from ULRIKE OTTINGER focusing on "Travelling the World" : www.arsenal-berlin.de/weltreisen