About SEND ME AN IMAGE: From Postcards to Social Media. An exhibition at C / O Berlin, from May 29th to September 2nd, 2021.
Three gigantic yellow rubber ducks in front of the C/O Berlin gallery in the Berlin-Charlottenburger Hardenbergstrasse serve several purposes at the same time: On the one hand, they are an eye-catcher that should lure the audience into the photography museum, which has reopened a few weeks ago, especially since this time the gallery does not show the work of common, well-known photographers, but an exhibition with the somewhat bulky, initially inaccessible title “Send me an Image: From Postcards to Social Media” (alongside the two as well highly recommendable exhibitions “Nadine Ijewere: Beautiful Disruption” and “Anna Ehrenstein: Tools for Conviviality”). And on the other hand … But more on that later.
“Send me an image” begins in the foyer. 350,000 photo prints are lying around there. Piled up, glued on, accumulated in mountains. One would like to rummage around in it and discover something exciting, but the exhibition organizers probably don’t want that. Perhaps Erik Kessels would like the visitors to rummage around in his installation 24HRS, but if everyone secretly pocket their memento, there would soon be nothing left of the installation. The mountains of photos represent the number of images that were uploaded daily to “Flickr” 15 years ago, a ridiculously small number today compared to what is now permanently uploaded to Instagram, Facebook or anywhere else.
However, “Send me an image” as well examines the social communication in photography at a time when social networks were still unthinkable utopias. The exhibition investigates how and why photography was used to communicate back then, it studies the influence of photography as a medium of communication on the perception of our world. And it also examines how the perception of the world has changed through photography over the past 150 years, since photography has developed from a pure imaging medium to one of the most important communication media of our time, possibly even replacing language in its meaning for communication . “Send me an image” also explores phenomena accompanying this development, namely censorship, surveillance and visual algorithms.
The London author Orit Gat writes in her essay “Postcards from the past, or how past and present meet on twitter”, which was published for this exhibition: “This idea that there is something that could be rescued from the past, reclaimed in the present, and that it could tell us something about our lives now: our lives, this confusing, all-too-new thing, full of platforms with very little history, and a visual language that repurposes the past as a way of quickly indoctrinating us into the present.“
„Photography is truth and lies. A veil and a revelation. Specific and arbitrary. Contemplative and revolutionary. Photography is society’s mirror – and its playground”, recognizes the new “Mission Statement” of C/O Berlin. „Send me an image“ is the most consistent, most convincing and most prototypical implementation of this statement. And the way in which this exhibition is presented is fresh, provocative and museum-like in the best sense of the word, in that it not only sees us as recipients, but also sees us as protagonists of museum presentations.
Photography as one of the younger art forms (which, incidentally, was only half recognized as an art form after the later invented film) is threatened – similar to theater or the visual arts – by the loss of connection with today’s reality of life. Just as there are examples of artists and dramatists of the 19th century who belong to a canon of classics that no longer find any connection points in the world of the current 21st century, there will be more and more photographers in the „canon of photography“ – so I prophesy – who lose their connection to our present. Perhaps there will soon be an audience that groans in annoyance when the next Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition is announced, or famous galleries around the world who always advertise the same, names, that promise success and sales. There will be photographers whose work “ages badly”. „Send me an image“ avoids these dangers and takes an uncomfortable but worthwhile route.
But to come back to the rubber ducks in front of the C/O: They refer to the Tian’anmen massacre in Beijing in June 1989, and that famous photo (and video) when a single man stopped four tanks by opposing them. This photo was subject to censorship in China, but in 2013 strangers succeeded in circumventing the censorship algorithms by replacing the tanks in the picture with yellow rubber ducks. The images penetrated the algorithm – and were understood. The seemingly harmless ducks became a symbol of protest.
„We teach our audience to see“ explains the C/O manifesto – „then make them question everything they’ve learned.“ This applies to “Send me an image” like a fist on the eye.
The artists taking part in the exhibition include the ABC Artists‘ Books Cooperative, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin with Der Greif, David Campany & Anastasia Samoylova, Fredi Casco, Moyra Davey, Themistokles von Eckenbrecher, Martin Fengel & Jörg Koopmann, Stuart Franklin, Gilbert & George, Dieter Hacker, Tomas van Houtryve, Philippe Kahn, On Kawara, Erik Kessels, Marc Lee, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Mike Mandel, Theresa Martinat, Eva & Franco Mattes, Jonas Meyer & Christin Müller, Peter Miller, Romain Roucoules, Thomas Ruff, Taryn Simon & Aaron Swartz, Andreas Slominski, Clare Strand and Corinne Vionnet.
The exhibition was organized and designed by Felix Hoffmann and Dr. Kathrin Schönegg. The exhibition can be seen until September 2, 2021. It is accompanied by a publication published by Steidl Verlag.
SEND ME AN IMAGE
Ed .: C/O Berlin, Steidl 2021
328 pages, 17 x 27 cm, 282 illustrations, hardcover
€ 28.00 INCL. VAT
Daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Time slot tickets and further information at co-berlin.org