b&w photography in Antibes

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Do Not Refreeze - Photography Behind the Berlin Wall

Do Not Refreeze - Photography Behind the Berlin Wall

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Sibylle Bergemann, Kirsten, Hoppenrade, 1975.

MANCHESTER, UK.- Cornerhouse presents Do Not Refreeze - Photography Behind the Berlin Wall with artists Ursula Arnold, Sibylle Bergemann, Arno Fischer, Helga Paris, Evelyn Richter, Maria Sewcz, Erasmus Schroeter, Gundula Schulze-Eldowy,and Ulrich Wüst. The exhibition will be on view through June 17, 2007 and was curated by Matthew Shaul. Do Not Refreeze brings together a group of photographers whose extraordinary contribution to European photography has been 'frozen out' by the Cold War. Almost completely unknown in Britain, these artists developed their practice in the former East Germany negotiating its omnipresent secret police to create imagery, increasingly compared to that of luminaries such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Paul Strand.

Disparate in background and experience, their works use an unforgiving documentary aesthetic to convey both the harsh realities and remarkable richness of life behind the iron curtain. The stunning images convey a glimpse of day-to-day life and evoke the claustrophobia, rage, envy and ideological pomp of the Communist era as well as its unexpected personal warmth, tenderness and exoticism.

Sticking closely to the mantra of 'realism' - the state-directed creed that defined what was artistically acceptable - these photographers circumnavigated a rigid system of censorship to produce the most insightful and openly critical visual arts output in East Germany's forty-year history. Had they been painters, sculptors, authors or playwrights, these photographers would have been arrested or imprisoned for their brazen portrayals of the underbelly of the socialist experiment. However, as photography was not considered by the East German authorities to be 'art', these artists were, incredibly, not only able to work and have ongoing professional contact with their western contemporaries such as Robert Frank and Henri Cartier Bresson, but sometimes also to publish and exhibit in this police state.

All these photographers had at their disposal were the pared down range of motifs, locations and subject matter, of East Germany, the Soviet Union and its satellite states. The resulting images reveal the humour, stoicism and resignation with which East Germany's citizens dealt with their lives.

Do Not Refreeze is a touring exhibition from the University of Hertfordshire Galleries. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council England, and IFA - the German Government's Institute for Foreign Relations. With support from Goethe Institut, Manchester and Staatliche Galerie, Moritzburg Halle, Landeskunstmuseum, Saxony-Anhalt.

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