September 04 through October 14, 2009

Bleiben ist nirgends (detail), 2006/09


Franziska Schmidt, Museum of Photography, Braunschweig
There are many different ways of approaching a picture, a work of art: the iconographic analysis, the arthistorical
perspective, the reflection of content, the realistic comparison, the empathetic understanding.
One approach to Weidner’s work is provided by the title of his photographic series, taken from the Duino
Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke. This citation refers to the most elemental driving forces of human existence,
to the polarities of life, to the attraction of terrible and beautiful events that remain etched in our memory
Our lives are determined by dichotomies: childhood and old age, beauty and horror, fear and joy, life
and death, passion and boredom, perfection, flaws and abnormality. These extremes dominate our being
and have always accompanied humanity. Between these poles, between the abysmal and the hopeful, men
and women try to make their way in the world. Weidner’s photographs, like Rilke’s collection of elegies
completed in 1923, revolve around an existential search; photographs and text use images to give meaning
to our state of being, given our unavoidable decay, in equal measure.
Life goes on. The neo-romantic Weidner transfigures experience and attempts to find an individual
beauty in cruelties suffered, and to present it as a gift. Existing photographic materials, largely taken from
the mass media, generated by television and the Internet, are his point of departure, but he also uses images
borrowed from the history of art. He places his own photographs alongside these pictorial citations; the
former making reference to the found public material, commenting on it, and facilitating new individual
ways of reading and interpreting it. Does Weidner therefore not create a tense balance between the official
images canonised by the media, and his personal images, his own photographs, presenting perceptions
from his own biographical history?
T his series was initiated by the collective experience of the pictorial analysis of the catastrophe of
September 11th. The omnipresence of the same media images on all television channels, at times with
music, had the effect, that the photographs of this terrible disaster, despite their great import, suddenly
appeared so enticing that it was barely possible to look away from them. Over and over again, in front
of the entire world, the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. Over and over, bizarre piles of
ruins emerged from the smoke, evoking a shape and atmosphere of fascination.
I n the book, these and the other media images in Weidner’s series are portrayed as cropped photographs,
which however fill the entire page: here, the artist has blown up the images to such extremes that the
images are disorientated. The abstract dots of the printed photographs become a structural element. The
familiarity of a concrete event, portrayed in an image, disappears and is replaced by medial and emotional
identification with events that lie between states of perception and subjective sensation. Dense visual
situations emerge that refer to a similar lexical pictorial structure or to a similar energy. The viewer is
reminded of a quite specific image and the corresponding situation: Weidner places his pictorial answers
in opposition to the destroyed World Trade Center, to the deserted piles of washing in a refugee camp in
Macedonia, to the Challenger catastrophe and to a forest fire, all in contact print size: 6 cm × 6 cm. Here,
the ruins of a demolished building in Braunschweig are given the title Ice Sea II, a reference to Caspar
David Friedrich’s Ice Sea; we see clothes left behind on a bed by two friends during a visit to Paris, a car
crash observed by chance.
H is photographs in no way reproduce their predecessors; instead their divergence is disconcerting.
For example, the photograph of apparently completely functional car on a roof initially appears to be
The photographic art of Sascha Weidner II April 2006
pure performance: there is no debris, no blood on the asphalt to indicate an accident. However, this
chance situation is indeed authentic; paradoxically, this event really did take place. With his feeling for
curious and surreal scenarios, Weidner creates interrelations and links between heterogeneous experiences
and impressions, which he portrays as if he had experienced them himself, either manipulated or partly
orchestrated. He makes use of reality, its collisions and crashes, in an undisguised and, in this respect,
truthful representation; but then goes a step further by exaggerating and questioning. »In the final analysis,
what I am probably most afraid of is reality«, announced the American photographer Gregory Crewdson, whose
pictures of perfect filmic portrayals of his fantasies and ideas intermingle with the real world. Weidner, in
contrast, does not see reality as a horrific scenario that must be shaped and formed. Instead he sees its
potential for creating access to both the official and personal images of this world.
Franziska Schmidt,
Director of the Museum of Photography, Braunschweig, Germany
[ translated by Eileen Laurie ]
The photographic art of Sascha Weidner II April 2006