Looking for the Clouds
The exhibition presents photographic works and videos by international artists and photojournalists who have focused their attention on events that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center up to the current refugee crisis. The exhibition visit begins with radical juxtapositions and layout approaches around the subject of 9/11. The iconic image of The Falling Man (2001) by reporter Richard Drew published in The Herald on 12 September 2001 and now completely eradicated from the media, is in dialogue with the conceptual work 9/12 Frontpage (2001) by artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. The latter presents 160 front pages of international newspapers published the day after the explosion and collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York.
Still in dialogue with Feldmann’s series, the two series 11 (2014) and Gaza, Summer 2014 (2014) by Swen Renault also question the way images are received, particularly after the spectacular media coverage of the New York attacks. When gazing at 11, a series of eleven photographs taken in 2014 in New York, spectators recall these events – some of the most tragic in recent history – by observing, possibly in a state of fear, that planes continue to take the same flight path as that used by the attackers in 2001. In Gaza, Summer 2014, the beauty and power of clouds – images found on the Internet and completely decontextualised by the artist – confront us with another major event: the Gaza war in the summer of 2014.
Representation given a new media angle takes on a whole other character in the work of Sinje Dillenkofer, who, in her series of fifty-nine photographs titled Place Holder 1–59 (2016), presents the marks of girders on the ground of the collapsed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. According to Dillenkofer, this series of photographs taken at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum shows the traces like ‘scars, relics or memorials, indeed silent witnesses to cruel events frozen in concrete and steel.’
Confronted by the systematic repetition of Feldmann’s front pages, the geometrical abstraction of Dillenkofer’s series contributes to making the image re-emerge in its factual and fictional contradictions, between absence and presence.
We find this paradox again in the Hunting Scenes (2016) series by Spanish photographer Valentín Vallhonrat. In these photographs, the transformation of war machines (planes, missiles, drones, etc.) into ornamental objects in front contemplative landscapes engages a visual strategy of the deconstruction and recontextualisation of the image.
In the video installation by Omer Fast, 5000 Feet is the Best (2011), the play between artefact and truth is subtle. The film is based on the encounter with one drone pilot in a hotel room in Nevada in 2010. Fast calls upon actors to restage the situations.
While with his “skywriting” actions, David Birkin reinterprets the CIA’s rejection of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information request for documents, Drone Shadow, Luxembourg (2017) by James Bridle (1987, London; lives and works in London), from a series of outlines of war drones painted to 1:1 scale on the asphalt of urban spaces (in this instance, in the courtyard of Neumünster Abbey), makes the threat of an attack in cities, which are normally far removed from targets, resurface. .
By an even more distanced approach to headline-grabbing geopolitical situations, with their images of the New York skyline, Wolfgang Reichmann and Aude Moreau evoke surveillance and observation for political reasons. While the video Reconstruction (2012) shown here (a location scouting film for a future project called The Blue Line) refers to the absence of the Twin Towers in the New York skyline, the panoramic photographs and blow ups of window details by Reichmann confront us with our own voyeurism.
Eden (2014) an installation by Vittorio Mortarotti and Anush Hamzehian – Hamzehian is the son of Iranian refugees who fled the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – traces the stories of men and women living at the border between Armenia and Iran. According to the artists, Eden is the result ‘of an inquiry into the claustrophobia and violence of this border town as a metaphor for all borders’.
The exhibition, which presents different visual representations, ends with the conceptual work 404 NOT FOUND (2016) by sisters Carine and Elisabeth Krecké. The title refers to an http error code indicating the absence of a resource. Through various apparatus, this exploration of the images of Google Street View, whose legal distribution outside Google’s platform is prohibited (only a LED installation features in the exhibition), intervenes in the process of information dissemination.
The golden blotting out of newspaper texts in the Golden Newspapers series by Panos Tsagaris is a way of subverting the violence of news images. The series, of which September 12, 2001 is a part, questions the relationship between the real world and the unconscious, between sociopolitical reality and symbolism. By covering columns of texts with gold leaf and by thus framing the central image of a newspaper’s front page, Tsagaris lends the work a sacred and reliquary character contrasting with the ephemeral nature of the media.
Blackbox – Looking for the Clouds – Contemporary Videos in Times of Conflict
The three videos selected for the Blackbox fit within the theme of Looking for the Clouds.
In The Long Way Home, Sven Johne evokes the tragedy of 9/11 by showing a man behind the wheel of his car, driving at night in the city, harassed by a voice that describes the horrors of various events or situations in minute detail (the text is based on captions of World Press Photographs).
Note on Multitude, the video by Ibro Hasanović, is also based on an emotional and violent approach, but here, it is a question of the drama of leaving and saying goodbye and of the uncertain future that awaits refugees.
In Eden, Anush Hamzehian (the son of Iranian refugees) and Vittorio Mortarotti offer an account, through gripping images, of the claustrophobia and violence of borders.
Three personal standpoints, three metaphors that find their echo in the Looking for the Clouds exhibition presented on the first floor of the Casino Luxembourg.