In Berlin-based artist Julian Rosefeldt’s first solo exhibition in Berlin of his photographic work, ARNDT has curated a survey of images from Rosefeldt’s various projects since 2001. Rosefeldt is best known for his video work, in which he stages large theatrical productions of characters enthralled in the mundane activities of everyday life, yet always with an element of surreal uneasiness. The photos on display at ARNDT, however, are rare glimpses of still moments and “behind-the-scenes” images from Rosefeldt’s video projects. Seeing these frozen moments placed along the wall in a seemingly unconnected nature, dislodges much of the narrative element that is so strong in his videos, allowing the viewer to better absorb the meticulous attention to detail present in Rosefeldt’s constructions of his usually lowly lit, and very dramatic, other-worldly scenes.
While the still images are visually commanding, the historical overtones present in the clothing of the characters and the props employed in the scene construction are at times distracting, yet much of Rosefeldt’s work is concerned with the relationship between artfully produced scenes overlaid with kitsch and satire. The blending of the historical with the contemporary in epic indoor and landscape environments is also where surrealist overtones are most present, by the way Rosefeldt subtly manipulates our surrounding world so that it is simultaneously familiar yet unrecognizable.
These seemingly real yet also clearly fictional scenes when shown as photographs rather than video, then begin to question the very medium of photography, which historically has a constructed relationship to truth, in that at some level there is an expectation of reality in the still image. Rosefeldt’s dislodging of photography from reality allows for a reflection on the characters depicted in the images, whom often embody particular stereotypes or caricatures; calling into question how we map judgments and expectations onto bodies based on their appearance.
The multiple valences through which Rosefeldt’s photographs can be viewed, provide a space in which the viewer can relate to the work in a very unique and personal manner. It is perhaps this void of any kind of direct interpretation that most differentiates Rosefeldt's photography from his video work, which tends be so laden with a particular narrative, that such divergent viewer-artwork relationships are not as possible when viewing his video projects. In the absence of dialogue or movement, it then becomes the viewer’s responsibility to fill in a narrative based on her own dialogue with the complex array of visuals filling each of Rosefeldt’s arresting compositions.
~Collin Munn, a writer living in Berlin.
(Images: Julian Rosefeldt, Making Of (The Ship of Fools), 2007, lightjet print from the film: The Ship of Fools, 23.62 x 31.5 in.; The Soundmaker (III), 2004, from the series: Trilogy of Failure, Lambda print, framed 120 x 146 cm.; American Night, 2009, from the series: American Night, lightjet print, framed 114 x 168 cm.; Making Of (Asylum), 2001, from the series: Making Of, lightjet print, framed 62 x 82 cm.; Courtesy of the artist and ARNDT Berlin)