Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Oliver Kern: A German View

Looking at these photographs, I've often had the sensation to be present when they were taken. I do not experience that often, so how come? My best guess is that this is the kind of photographs I would take myself – they are unspectacular and capture sometimes rather peculiar aspects of everyday life. And precisely by not appearing to show something special they actually are.
Oliver Kern "travels throughout Germany on the lookout for places connected to German identity", the publisher lets me know. I must admit I'm a bit at a loss as to what these pics could possibly tell me about German identity; I do however very much warm to what Michaela Heissenberger expressed in her brief intro to A German View: "There is something timeless about these pictures: through the event that's occurring, they try to capture something that is always there. An atmosphere, a kind of background noise that surrounds us and determines a large part of our lives: always the same activities, the same situations, the same places. These are the things that have the best claim to general validity, that at least come close to redeeming a promise to tell us something about this life in these places  about everyday life in a country." In English this may sound rather awkward, the German original is much more convincing
Although these pictures show the ordinary, I've often spotted something strangely out of place when spending time with them. The guy with his back to the camera who looks at the two towers (on the second picture shown) for instance. What is he doing there? No idea really and maybe he doesn't know it either. In any case, his presence gives the picture a somewhat surreal quality. In fact, as ordinary as the places pictured are – to me they look unreal in their ordinariness, or maybe because of it. And the out-of-place persons contribute to this impression – and made me think of paintings by Magritte.

Oliver Kern
Die deutsche Aussicht / A German View
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2012

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