Spinnerei archiv massiv
The ‘Brockhaus’, Germany’s venerable equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, has quietly gone the way of the dinosaurs. What will probably be its last edition (30 cloth-bound, gilt-edged volumes totalling nearly 25,000 pages and taking up two metres of shelf space) was published 2005–6. So what does it mean when the photographer Edgar Leciejewski includes 11 volumes of the outmoded reference work in his collaged image of a bookshelf? And when most of the remaining contents are theoretical writings on art and photography by the likes of Herta Wolf, Beat Wyss, Douglas Crimp, Roland Barthes, Peter Geimer, Wolfgang Kemp, Hubertus von Amelunxen and Hervé Guibert?
With Snout (2011), the central image in his show ‘Von Miezen und Mutanten’ (Of Pussycats and Mutants), Leciejewski addresses both the dawn of the age of photography and the talk of its demise. Besides paying tribute to the patron saints of theory by visual name-dropping, the work can also be related to one of the very earliest photographic images: Daguerre’s Coquillages, showing fossil shells arranged on three shelves, is dated 1839 – the year photography was officially born.
But Snout goes beyond a mere ironic-cum-nostalgic presentation of references. It’s clear that Leciejewski inserted extra books, an old photographic print and a blue snout beetle into the original image. Moreover, parts of the picture’s lower half have been blurred by digital image processing, which causes the viewer to search all the more eagerly, though in vain, for clues to why this blurring was done. Above all, this seemingly crude manipulation demonstrates one thing: the artist’s interest in focussing attention on image processing itself.
This interest was also evident in buzz (2010), where a power socket appears to have been scratched out of the picture, as if with sandpaper. Like a sculptor, the photographer followed a procedure of removal in his picture processing. Whether the tools are analogue or digital, behind every picture lurks another picture. This was also a possible interpretation of a display wall, dividing the exhibition space which remained open at one corner, revealing its frame-like inner construction.
If one considered the show together with the accompanying publication – which consisted primarily of several folded and thread-stitched posters, along with a cutter blade – an underlying iconoclastic motivation emerged: To get to the bottom of new photographic images, one must treat them without respect, perhaps even cut them up – thus accepting their lack of integrity. Perhaps this really is a way to overcome the deep-rooted reverence for pictures, a reverence that can only be an obstacle to insight in the post-photographic age.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell
First published in Issue 3