Contemporary Photography and Video at the Austrian Cultural Forum

Contemporary Photography and Video at the Austrian Cultural Forum

A new exhibition by one of the leading Austrian photographers has just open at the ACF in Knightsbridge, London. It shows an excellent selection of intricate photographic manipulations as well as videos by Hubert Blanz - mainly produced from his residencies in London, Chicago and New York.

Homeseekers - A City from Behind by Hubert Blanz

The series might appear to be disparate at first glance, but there is a strong common link that connects the works. This link is in part thematic, in terms of Hubert's long-held fascination with mega cities that has translated into his different series. These all address themes such as urban spaces, urban infrastructure, spatial grids and geographic networks. The works also share similarities in terms of formal qualities, meticulousness and perfection, but also in terms of the long and engaging working process that culminates in one final piece of montage - in the case of the Homeseekers series, the montage of the City from Behind (as shown above). Barbara Egger, the curator, explains:

"We hope to inspire visitors to reflect on their perception of the specific cities featured in this exhibition (London, Chicago, New York) but also more broadly to initiate a process of thought about urban dwelling, human living condition in urban spaces, and the relation between man, architecture and cities".

Geospaces M 1:75.000 by Hubert Blanz

When I asked Blanz why in his portraits of cities there are no people, he comments:

"There feature no persons in these works or any of the works. This absence of people is deliberate and it is even reinforced through the architecture. In particular in the Homeseekers (London series) but also in Urban Codes (Chicago series). It accentuates the perception that this architecture has not been constructed for people. Other series such as Geospaces address in addition to urban issues also the impact of the digital revolution and how it has influenced living conditions and especially the working environment. But despite the visual absence of people, it is in the video works that the human is re-introduced, through the soundtrack (as in the case of the work Public Tracks the soundtrack are human voices) and noises stemming from the human body".

The Austrian Cultural Forum aims to provide a very ambitious cultural offer; a snapshot of waves of thinking currently in Austria. As Barbara Egger, also the project manager, explains:

"While aiming to showcase outstanding artistic quality, we find our remit stretched from the visual arts, to the performing arts and music, as well as literature, design and architecture. This broad mission is certainly a challenge but we perceive it as an opportunity for interdisciplinary projects. An example for this would be a soundart-drama-literature-visuals project on Rainer Maria Rilke's famous Duino elegies - a sequel is planned for autumn 2013 on the letter exchange between Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. Furthermore we are in the fortunate position of being able to commission and initiate new projects that are all executed in collaboration with British artists and British institutions. Thus it is on the one side the quality of the Austrian protagonists and their work that makes us stand out, and on the other hand the anchoring of these projects in London or their connection with the UK artistic community".

Homeseekers is a thought-provoking exhibition about the human existence in urban metropolis. Blanz's meticulous works demands a pause, and a reconsideration, into the way we seem to keep constructing environments unfit for human beings.

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