Antje Hanebeck / Lucas Buschfeld


The exhibition of selected works by Antje Hanebeck and Lucas Buschfeld is a dialogue between two related positions in the emerging photo scene. Both authors work preferentially or exclusively with black-and-white photography and use their own strategies of alienation to highlight hidden and significant structures of the realities of life. They trace the poetic essence of the Real, illustrating it in the process of a graphically oriented abstraction.


Antje Hanebeck: Document and Vision


Hanebeck's artistic focus favors the built environment: the structural, the means of technical and scientific engineering such as architectural visions of created urban habitat, and the modern urban structure. Views of characteristic details, striking individual formal elements, and discrete zoomed-in structural connections of spectacular, internationally acclaimed architecture are on equal footing with wide views of larger architectural nexus and the urban spatial context.


The urban environment illuminated through the filter of (photo)graphic alienation shows, above all, its technical and structural side here. Street fronts with no real outlook, views onto towering scaffoldings and beams collaged onto each other, raw elements in the process of being built, and dizzying monumental building complexes create winding constructions that interlink, run into each other, and lead to nothing. Bold and cold constructs with a futuristic elan form Piranesian labyrinths in which hypertrophic radiating networks and volumes are lost and without a sense of place.


Is Hanebeck’s architecture photography project inspired by a critical impulse? Is an out-of-joint modernity presented here, that does one thing in particular: put itself in the scene? This impression imposes itself at first and is not neutralized by the exalted beauty of the structure, or its virtuosity and formal elegance. A certain disorientation materializes in light of this wondrous, visionary diversity of form; the feeling of the all-powerful sneaks up on the viewer, especially in view of deserted rooms, hallways, and courtyards. The man-made seems to keep growing almost automatically, developing its own strange uncontrolled dynamic, freed from the requirements of proportionality and functionality.


The low-key lighting technology used by Hanebeck in favor of a space-absorbing, dominating black lets the abandoned architecture emerge in part like a neo-noir film backdrop. The human form, which does appear here, sometimes seems isolated or incidentally staged in an unplanned swarm, as a cluster. A cool, concrete ambience allows anonymous figures to slip by one another like alien objects; sparse residual light reveals a view of a group of people, in the background shadowy concrete columns rise up; and in the next moment the dominating darkness of the picture blanks out the shadowy shapes already abstracted into ciphers.


In addition to strategies of abstracting alienation and isolation, and the disorienting lighting design, another device can be seen in Hanebeck's works: a technical photo filter effect, in the form of a texture scattered all over the image surface, that denies the observer direct "access" to what is happening. Hanebeck's scenes are then immersed once more into an otherworldly atmosphere, which can seem mysterious and veiled, and which ventures to dissolve the concrete and the real to the edge of abstraction. The interiors, flights of stairs, corridors, and courtyards seem especially dreamlike — their exciting and melancholy poetry drawing the viewer into their spell.


It is these almost picturesque impressions that reveal Hanebeck’s artistic sensitivity and expressiveness. They lend the considered spatial situation in all perceptible abandonment a poetic intensity, a magic, that is beyond any impact of documentary acuity and critical inventory, and the Seen as that which is looked at underscores this. The profound beauty and atmospheric density of a specific site is not only anticipated, but its identity is effectively generated.


Thus Hanebeck’s artistic approach is represented as a complex form of spatial portrait. Why is this? Because of the document or the virtually disintegrated vision? Upon closer examination this apparent contradiction seems to dissolve.


Again and again the character of an architectural idea based on essential details will come into focus. The degree of abstraction that turns image motifs into the surreal first places these details in the background. Only upon a closer look does the insight open up that beyond all fantasy, it is about the search for the original essence, into the very nature of the construction project.


This strategy is emblematically demonstrated in the image of the Nakagin Capsule Towers by Kisho Kurokawa. One of the most famous works of Japanese Metabolism is made into a picturesque transparency within a seemingly playful abstraction. The ultramodern structure is transformed into a kinetic light object. But it is precisely this disconnect from the purely factual that reveals a view of this free-floating module — a sculptural interplay in architectural concepts — and its graphically minimalistic formal language.


The interpretation carried out in a kind of visionary display redefines the architectonic–spatial portrait: as an X-ray image of inherent structural principles, so to speak. Document and vision attain unity.


Lucas Buschfeld: The Quiet Life of Things


The black-and-white works by Lucas Buschfeld appear at first to point in a direction that approximates the works of Hanebeck. The tangible dynamic elan of the picture's message is found again in his compositional approach: an image strategy tending towards the monumental and Neues Sehen–style presentational forms isolates simple, clear structures from their relationship with reality and allows motion-oriented diagonals and steep alignments in views from above and below to push forward in the image space and take possession of it. Basic geometric figures set up areas of tension and at the same time denote a noticeably cool distance in the mostly unpopulated scenes. A few compositional elements dialogue within a subtle nodal system of fine lines, structures, and patterns.


But where Hanebeck leads us into a complex game of deception, Buschfeld confronts us with a bleakness bordering on severity. The moment of puzzling encryption no longer results from the complexity of the visual construction, but from the greater use of compositional strategies like isolation, reduction, and emptiness. The things moved into the field of view seem to live a strange life of their own. However far away they are from the uncontrolled hypertrophy of Hanebeck's architectural backdrops, Buschfeld's stray subjects find themselves in unspectacular places and situations that are characterized by anonymity and aloofness. Only the selective focus and sensitive regard to the overlooked emphasize the hidden references and the communication lines of the real.


Buschfeld sets the impact of the telegram against the seductive power of the epic. Buschfeld's artistic sense can be felt at this point. In an uncompromising dedication to a terse narrative style and the void, he manages to avert the danger of monotony. His visual inventions are tense and have an almost hypnotic appeal. Fragments of everyday reality that initially appear irrelevant receive an increasingly surreal intensity of expression.


Removed from contextual pattern and primary structural relationships, it is possible to view the microstructures and details, and their quiet interaction with their surroundings. Detached traces function here as human-made signs that write themselves into still untapped empty zones, and develop and inform space. A general connection to nature or reality is observable or excluded, depending on the level of abstraction. The object-like can dissolve; volumes can mutate into flat compositions in hard-to-define spatial relationships. The natural sometimes threatens to yield to a clinical artificiality, which continually questions image and construction. The material is either accentuated in the coarse texture of a lithograph or at times diminished in an exaggerated light-dark contrast.


The human form seems to be excluded from this fickle handling of the presentation and staging of reality. Nevertheless many of Buschfeld’s images give a sense of their presence. The view of the made, the constructed, the urban context, allows the laconic places to stand as voids, which signal an absence: in the next moment these voids will be filled. The result is a stage-like tension of expectation, of temporality.


The mysterious silence of this powerful and subtle "fotografia metafisica" is only partly comparable with those similar works by Hanebeck. The effects of abstraction and alienation seen by both artists let their work diverge despite many points of contact.


Buschfeld's work seems calculated as too crystal clear, hard, and precise compared to the dreamlike, fantasy interpretations of Hanebeck. Her search for the poetic spirit of the subject of study counters Buschfeld's analysis of hidden structural connections, the exploration of a muted gray area between likeness and image.


Two related, original characters follow their own paths in search of a principle, the essential of our phenomenal world and the challenge of the consequent artistic articulation.


Thomas Appel (translated by Thea Miklowski)