Martin Dammann directs his attention towards the multifaceted and often contradictory relationships of pictures to that which they depict, and thus to that which they (the pictures) themselves are not. These relationships are particularly palpable when the contents of the pictures prove to be difficult, or even encumbered. The latter is the case, for example, with war photography, which has come to serve as an important point of departure in Dammann’s works. Dammann uses such photos in a large number of media, whether in his large-scale watercolours, drawings or photographic works, but also in videos, frottages and installations. In the process, the individual elements of these works – the manner of painting, the contents, format and title – are each emphasized, and their contradictions contrasted with one another, in such a way as to create a kind of balance in which no interpretation alone is any longer capable of uniting all of those elements. The concern is thus less with conveying a message to the viewer; rather, the viewer himself is to be empowered to observe and investigate his own reactions and interpretations of the subjects depicted.
Apart from the structural interest, there is also an interest in what could perhaps be called the “contentuality” of the works in the narrower sense, in the actual subjects. Here questions of history, identity, authenticity, value systems and clichés come into play. Every one of these categories is understood as part of the pictorial structure. The focus here is less on the presence of photography as a medium, however, than on its inherent emotional or evocative possibilities, which themselves are placed at the viewer’s disposal in their functionality.
The coming exhibition at Galerie In Situ in Paris will pose questions of identity and its representation in pictures. How can photos originating in an encumbered context – World War II – be dealt with in such a way that they do not immediately fall into categories and thought patterns which rule out every means of dealing with such pictures from the outset? Conversely, what happens when the viewer finds himself outside such patterns? Is such a place even conceivable? And: how do painting and photography related to one another; what is in each medium possible, what (with respect to the subject depicted) is not?