Cologne

Aglaia Konrad

Frehrking Wiesehöfer

In “Her City,” Aglaia Konrad’s first solo exhibition in Germany, the artist—who was born in Salzburg and lives in Brussels—skillfully combined an engagement with the standardized architectures of modernism, urban edge zones, transitory spaces, and rapidly expanding megacities with a conscious shift of perspective, a mobilization of the viewer’s gaze. Thus, in Fault Fold (Cairo), 2005, a twenty-foot-tall digital black-and-white photocopy glued directly to the wall and stretched over parts of the ceiling, two very different perspectives meet: The camera’s POV—a bird’s-eye view of high-rises in Cairo that, from this angle, look rather like models—is counteracted by the upward-looking perspective one must inevitably experience when looking at a photo tapestry that extends up to and onto the ceiling. Konrad engages in refined play with the viewpoints prescribed in the photographs and the organization of sight lines in the real space of the gallery. Depending on where you stand, new constellations reveal themselves, such as when Tokyo, 1994, a photograph of a group of girls in school uniforms waiting in front of a ticket counter in Japan, becomes juxtaposed, once one turns the corner of the L-shaped gallery room, with that of a group of adolescent male immigrants in nighttime Holland. As well-mannered as the waiting girls are—engaged in a more or less sanctioned use of the urban infrastructure—the intentions of the young men remain unclear in their inhospitable surroundings, in which time and place are determined solely by the title and date of the photograph, Rotterdam, 1992.

As Sønke Gau suggests in his essay for Konrad’s 2004 exhibition “Kopie/City” at Camera Austria in Graz, “In production and in use, spaces and architectures are largely created by way of views and image sequences. The urban space becomes a screen.” Konrad’s use of this ultimately filmic principle of urban perception comes through when, on the multipaned gallery window—which allows a view onto Ringstraße, a lively thoroughfare in the center of Cologne, and whose segments are reminiscent of film frames—she inscribes a series of epithets and neologisms on the theme of the city: VULNERABLE CITY, NORMAL CITY, ICONICITY, MIGRATION CITY, EXPANDED CITY, and so on. The terms reflect concerns that constantly recur in debates on the explosive growth of metropolises, and at the same time suggest possible categories—some of them thoroughly subjective—for understanding what transpires in urban space; they are, so to speak, the “subtitles” for the “film in real time” that runs continuously on the street.

This integration of interior and exterior space, urban fabric and represented city views, and the various speeds at which the city is perceived find an additional mirroring, but also a stopping point, in the four ink-jet prints of the series “Urban Creatures”: Looking at these functionalist modern buildings, photographed between 1995 and 2005 in Créteil (France), Mexico City, Beijing, and Chicago, one cannot tell where they might be located. The images are just a sample from Konrad’s archive of thousands taken on her travels. Her treatment of this trove of images, whose presentation format (photocopying, silkscreening, bundling into books, and so on) and dimensions vary widely depending on exhibition conditions, implies more than just a critical distance from images; in its variability, it also stands for our mutating conception of public space which, though inscribed with iniquitous power relations, remains open for different and sometimes unplanned forms of observation, use, and appropriation.

Astrid Wege

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.