Architectural Photography

from 04.12.1997 to 17.01.1998

Sabine Bitter, Helmut Weber, Ernst Logar

in frame

"Do not try to find a definition of the city too quickly; it is much too big, there is a great chance of being mistaken." - Georges Perec

The city is an abstract set of rules, a complex aggregate state in concrete spatial formations. Comparable to models of geological layers, the urban space presents itself as a system of folds, fault-lines and sediments that have developed from historical, social, economic and political processes. The essence of the city is as general as it is particular, as opaque as it is transparent. Its visible appearance is distributed in diverse pictorial forms, but its structure largely defies a two-dimensional access. To be sure, there are innumerable planning and abstractional models of the city, but all the same the urban system defies an unambiguous explanation. The attraction of the cities which is partly found in the tension between chaos and attempted systematization, frightens and/or attracts us, motivates the vigilant mind and challenges it to deal with it. The story of the city is always accompanied by the attempt to dominate it and by its loss. The genesis of the urban field is dominated by the tendency to control the space and its inhabitants, while yet realizing that this living system cannot be controlled rationally.
From its very beginning photography has also been used as an instrument for expressing the city and facilitating our orientation in it. The broad spectrum of the urban fabric has been shown in numerous photographs in order to communicate at least pictorial clarity. The photographic approaches to this fascinating phenomenon range from classical portraits of the city to the aesthetics of the backyards, from the edges of the city to the sites of the so-called power. The theme of the city has been measured and/or catalogued at different times and under various points of view. In connection with other systems of description photography unfolds the city and communicates a cursory insight into its structure and the changes in this structure.
Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber deal with these urban fluid dynamics in different ways. In their various projects and exhibitions they explore those dynamic systems that pervade the cities, determining their lives. They survey places and spaces by means of photography and video, either recording their inscribed mechanisms or the movement lines that can be determined there. Prototypically they always use pictorial material from airports, those crystallization centres of a condensed traffic flow that although outside the cities have increasingly taken over urban functions. In the past few years these terminals have developed into a kind of inverted urban centres that no longer function just as turn-tables for departure and arrival. Equipped with a full range of infrastructural facilities, service centres, recreational facilities and hotels (and all of these with a direct connection to the entire world), they define for many business people today their entire movement radius and perceptual horizon. The city in the background disappears from the scene or is taken in through postcards. What is lost is the immediate experience of the urban space, the system of signs from which we derive our identity that is given up at the expense of functional optimizing. Without wanting to comment on this development, Bitter/Weber deal with these new spatial and perceptual conditions, exploring the relationship between the individual and the mass and uncovering layers of the new urban situation. A characteristic feature of this concern is their terse way of dealing with these situations and their generally calm tone.
Ernst Logar deals with the theme of HongKong in a comparably direct way. He approaches this dynamic agglomeration of people and buildings by means of a camera obscura, that primitive black box which captures the surrounding space without a lense or lightmeter. With exposure times of between 15 minutes and one hour per picture he recorded the static relationships of that metropolis. These photographs dissolve the people and the flow of movement, they seem to have inhaled the different speeds and they exude a tense continuance. Hong Kong as a man-made landscape blurs into its own stage set, turning into the visible background for its proverbial activity. The dynamics of the city are represented only in its architecture and the necessary building sites and in fact our own knowledge of the situation there. Ernst Logar's photographs are mental starting points for structural travels in our minds, they do not provide dynamic information but the necessary background for a further concern with them.

Arno Ritter