Critics’ Picks

Wim Wenders, Beetle Cemetery in Coober Pedy, 1988, C-print, 5' 10 1/8“ x 14' 8 1/8”.


Wim Wenders

Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Deichtorstrasse 1 + 2
April 14 - August 19

In films such as Paris, Texas (1984), The End of Violence (1997), and Palermo Shooting (2008), Wim Wenders presents seemingly frivolous characters who slowly reveal their intricate life stories amid picturesque surroundings. Some of these environs now take center stage in “Places, Strange and Quiet,” which consists of over sixty photographic works that were taken between 1983 and 2011 in countries around the world. Having established a reputation for his idiosyncratic treatments of the road-movie genre, here Wenders similarly deals with images of itinerancy, capturing transient moments in peculiar locations. Predominantly comprising expansive, open-air scenes rather than details, photographs such as Country Cemetery, 2008, Forest Piece, 2011, and Petrol Station in Alaverdi, 2008, appear to be the work of a photographer who one day wandered off course. It is in this sense that the exhibition is infused with Wenders’s biographical information, not because of his celebrity status but because his peripatetic lifestyle is integral to his multidisciplinary practice.

Focusing on human encroachment on natural environments, Wenders’s exhibition provokes reflection on how one’s sense of place can manifest in conditions that might otherwise be considered uninspiring or sterile. Signs of industrial decrepitude are depicted in scenes of a ramshackle car yard in outback Australia for Beetle Cemetery in Coober Pedy, 1988; fungus growing on an air conditioning system appears On a Skyscraper, 2008, in São Paulo; and graffiti adorns a building site in Berlin in Alles oder Nichts (All or Nothing, 2008). In contrast to the dryly observant style of German photography that Bernd and Hilla Becher inspired at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the 1980s, Wenders, who grew up near the industrial landscapes of Düsseldorf, attempts instead to generate emotional responses from viewers, occasionally provoking a sense of nostalgia for places that they have never even visited.