Cecile Bauer

Galerie Cora Hölzl

Although her earliest works were performances and video installations, since 1980 Cecile Bauer has worked exclusively with photography. She often creates photocollages by joining dissimilar images and then placing over them small objects, such as a piece of string, a leaf, or a swatch of fabric. Bauer’s work is radically dissimilar from the photography—much of which has been influenced by the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher—that is produced in Dusseldorf, where she lives and works. Her images are ephemeral snippets, blurry details involving cast shadows and juxtapositions in scale.

This show, entitled “fernab mittendrin” (far away in the midst of things), served as a retrospective of Bauer’s works from 1968 to the present. In one of the older works, a self-portrait was juxtaposed with a photograph of a loaf of bread, and over both shots was laid a piece of string. Viewed separately these images might seem banal, but combined they suggested a peculiar narrative. In her more recent works Bauer often juxtaposes details of a single body part to form a tripartite sequence, yet she seems to resist theorizing about the body or engaging in a feminist critique. Rather, one has a sense that she envisions photography as a diaristic form. Her photocollages are also arranged according to formal affinities; many, for example, are unified by a particular color scheme. The resulting compositions, which often mirror several planes of existence, seem to contest photography’s claim to present documentary truths. In this show a photograph of a horse behind barbed wire was wedged between sharks’ teeth and a shard of glass, but whereas the apparent aggressiveness of the separate parts might have seemed to suggest a concrete message, any implied meaning was scrambled and reencoded in a cryptic pattern.

By composing images out of photographs and found objects, and by using a sequential method, Bauer seems to suggest that reality is a puzzle formed out of disparate fragments. In a manner that is personal and rather poetic, she plays with shifts in scale, engaging both vaguely biographical themes and the divide between nature and culture.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.