March 7, 2022
Pictures occupy the white walls of the museum in a composed way: without a frame, they pile up on doors and in the most unusual corners, appropriating the museum space, where captions alone recall the artistic and almost sacred context. From large format to postcard size, Wolfgang Tillmans' pictures get the viewer to the center of his poetics and his exploration of the photographic medium. The occasion of a new exhibition provides the artist a new framework of his own work: in a timeless tale, combinations of recent and past images offer new questions and new interpretations to the viewer.
The Sound is liquid exhibition, housed at mumok in Vienna and curated by Matthias Michalka, traces the thirty-year career of the artist from Remscheid to return a complete portrait: from the snapshots of the early Nineties - where friends and strangers are depicted in the underground club night environments - up to abstract proofs and photocopier experiments, he challenge the limits of the visible through various forms of presentation, framing and representation, exploring different printing processes and inks, or experimenting with degrees of focus and resolution, which far exceed the capabilities of our eyes.
As David Deitcher had stated about his work, if we want to compare his research to a narrative genre, it would certainly be that of the chronicle: light years away from pure documentary, but similar to the form of the memoir. Tillmans becomes the spokesman for a generation by going beyond mere surface and delving deeply: from traditional genres of portrait and still life to architectural photography, Tillmans asks himself "What do I really see? What do I see and what do I want to see? What is really in the picture? "; he becomes an explorer, he investigates our society and the conditions we live in, relationships and connections between human beings, the environment and technology.
In the exhibition space, pictures devoted to the human figure – like the bodies of young people enveloped in the euphoria of the night and loud music - alternate with sensorial ones that capture the environment, the atmosphere and the details of transformation of the material: the sound is liquid, like the one of a tropical rain immortalized through a long time of photographic exposure to return its dotted rather than dashed shape.
The exhibition also features Book for architects, a two-channel video installation that projects on perpendicular walls still images of buildings, urban clusters and interiors of houses and hotels collected in thirty-seven countries around the world: presented for the first time at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, the work is the result of ten years of independent research and summarizes Tillmans' idea of architecture as an expression of desire and hope, but also as an expression of social and economic differences. Through the juxtaposition of images, the installation aims to be a way for the photographer to dialogue with designers in order to make them understand the importance of the context in the construction of a building: never isolated, but included in a defined social context, that the architect can’t ignore.
Not only everyday life, but also the extraordinary: Tillmans' lens is like a telescope that immortalizes celestial phenomena and the most imperceptible atmospheric variation. The exhibition presents photographs of the astronomical world – that always fascinates the artist - a dimension characterized by fast and elusive moments, such as the very rare transit of Venus planet and the mysterious Earthlight, shot in an homonymous picture taken in 1980: halfway between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon receives the maximum illumination from our planet and appears enlightened as a thin segment. Now the photo is also the cover of Tillmans first music album released in November 2021 - a collage of sounds, voices, texts and instrumental tracks - to which a specific immersive video-sound installation is dedicated in the museum's cinema. The works on display at mumok offer a complete insight to the multiform and interdisciplinary work of Tillmans: through the careful and penetrating gaze of the photographer, they stage the social, mediatic and technological transformations of our present day, they play with our senses and with our perception in an engaging vision.
Wolfgang Tillmans. Sound is liquid
Curated by Matthias Michalka
mumok Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien