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Merchandise accompanying the exhibition FEMALE FEMALE at Galerie für Moderne Fotografie, 23.03.2018 – 22.04.2018.
With works by Aino Laberenz, Amira Fritz, Atlanta Rascher, branimir, Camille Vivier, Frederike Helwig, Katja Rahlwes, Kristin Loschert, Lotterman and Fuentes, Simone Gilges, and Ute Mahler
Women are, of course, not better people. But perhaps they are more observant. Perhaps it’s easier for them to recognize not only seductive beauty, but also what’s brutally ugly. In any case, this is the impression conveyed when looking at the works of the twelve artists in the group exhibition FEMALE, FEMALE.
FEMALE FEMALE is a hanging of works and a snapshot. Artists from four generations who have presented solo exhibitions at the Galerie für Moderne Fotografie over the past ten years pose themselves the question: What happens when a woman portrays another woman?
East German photographer Ute Mahler (born 1949), for instance, has always enjoyed portraying women. Her black and white images present women who are interested in standing out. They are individualists who, like the photographer herself, had to grow up in a system that only knew the collective. It would have been fun being there when the images were taken. I would have liked to have heard Mahler’s instructions and discover what sentences and looks were exchanged in order to transform the ordinary-beauties into proud Amazons. This is much the same with Katja Rahlwes (born 1967). The photographer, who was born in Frankfurt am Main, has also always avoided photographing demure girls, preferring instead to present powerful women. Simply because they’re far more thrilling.
Then there are the seemingly effortlessly buoyant works of photographers Nada Lottermann and Vanessa Fuentes (born 1977 and 1978). The duo from Frankfurt am Main has been photographing one other for years, provocatively exposing female lust and the sexuality of others. There is no room for a sense of shame in their images.
The world of the Frenchwoman Camille Vivier (born 1977) does not seem to be part of our present-day life at first. It’s odd, surreal, dark, and melancholic. Here, the feelings of female protagonists come so thick and fast that you’re glad Vivier was there to capture them. But this is also what it means to be a woman: tolerating inner and outer turmoils.
Can a woman be recognized even when disguised? And if so, what gives this away? The photo series pinAnon by artist branimir draws the viewer’s attention to the ostensibly female gestures of a woman, dance icon Pina Bausch. The way she moves her hands, holds a cigarette, or supports her head. Covering the face of the dancer are patterns of beige, black, and white pearls or colorful art prints, reminiscent of traditional costumes from northern Dalmatia and are codes that provide information about the social status and age of the specific wearer. Red stands for the young women ready for marriage, white for the wisdom of old age, blue for modesty. What are today’s codes? The photos from Aino Laberenz x African Twintowers’s work (born 1981) do not adhere to questions of beauty or status. They are snapshots of the life of the artist and costume designer. Intimate time and space capsules that allow us to partake in their idea of freedom. You can almost hear her shouting aloud: I’m going to make the world the way I like it.
The insightful American writer Joan Didion once wrote, “Remember what it is to be me: that is always the point.” And everything really begins with this “me” and the memory of this “me”: every encounter, every exchange, every change. The beginning of this all-female exhibition series is just that: a recollection and recording of femininity. And a wake-up call that exposes patriarchal voyeurism with extreme clarity.
Text: Carolin Würfel