Image/Counterimage: Tarrah Krajnak, VALIE EXPORT, Sanja Iveković, Ana Mendieta, Carrie Mae Weems

April 22 – Au­gust 27, 2023

The point of de­par­ture for the Pho­tog­ra­phy Room pre­sen­ta­tion is the work Mas­ter Ri­t­u­als II: We­s­t­on Nudes by the artist Tar­rah Kra­j­nak (b. 1979 in Li­ma, Pe­ru, lives in Los An­ge­les, USA). In this eigh­teen-part se­ries from 2020–21, she re­cre­at­ed fe­male nudes that the North Amer­i­can pho­to­g­ra­pher Ed­ward We­s­t­on be­gan tak­ing in 1927, and which were pub­lished posthu­mous­ly in 1977. Kra­j­nak pre­sents her­self as pho­to­g­ra­pher and mod­el in one in this work. Her ap­pro­pri­a­tion of We­s­t­on’s pho­to­graphs high­lights the tra­di­tio­n­al hi­erarchic re­la­tion­ship be­tween artist and mod­el, in which the mod­el is shown as pas­sive and her or his part in the cre­a­tive pro­cess is typ­i­cal­ly ig­nored. More­over, Kra­j­nak’s per­for­ma­tive and pho­to­graph­ic nudes are di­rect­ed at the canon of West­ern pho­tog­ra­phy, which is im­bued with a white im­age of ide­al femi­nini­ty.

VA­LIE EX­PORT (b. 1940 Linz, Aus­tria, lives in Vien­na, Aus­tria) is rep­re­sent­ed by pho­to­graphs from her se­ries Body Con­fig­u­ra­tions from 1976. In them, a wo­m­an dressed in ev­ery­day cloth­es is shown in­te­grat­ed in vari­ous pos­es in­to the ar­chi­tec­tu­ral forms of the Burgthe­ater in Vien­na. The pas­siv­i­ty with which she is po­si­tioned is re­flect­ed by the ti­tles of the in­di­vi­d­u­al im­ages: the wo­m­an’s body is fitt­ed in­to the forms of a state­ly build­ing from the 19th cen­tu­ry. It was dur­ing this pe­ri­od that the bour­geois no­tion of gen­der char­ac­teris­tics emerged, which deemed pri­vate space to be a place of re­pro­duc­tion and thus fe­male, and public space, as a place of pro­duc­tion, to be male.

In the work she makede pri­or to the break-up of Yu­goslavia, San­ja Iveković (b. 1949 Za­greb, Yu­goslavia, lives in Za­greb, Croa­tia) turned at­ten­tion to the para­dox­i­cal im­age of wo­m­an un­der the regime. In her se­ries Sweet Life from 1975–76, she jux­ta­posed voyeuris­tic snap­shots from the tabloid press with pri­vate pho­to­graphs of her­self, which were sim­i­lar enough to suggest that their con­tent was re­lat­ed. The pho­tos are ac­com­panied by cut-out frag­ments of head­lines, such as “in­sieme al ‘night’” (the whole night to­gether), “skan­daloz­na” (scan­dalous), and “Pop­u­larni iza po­zor­nice” (pop­u­lar be­hind the scenes). Their sala­cious­ness goes back to the se­pa­ra­tion of public and pri­vate spheres in bour­geois so­ci­e­ty around 1900, in which wo­m­en were rel­e­gat­ed to the pri­vate sphere.

The pho­to­graphs by Ana Mendi­e­ta (1948 Ha­va­na, Cu­ba–1985 New York, USA) in her se­ries Un­ti­tled (Fa­cial Hair Tran­s­plants) doc­u­ment a per­for­mance from 1972 in which she glued a beard on­to her face. The se­ries was Mendi­e­ta’s pro­ject for her Mas­ter’s de­gree in paint­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa. That same year, she be­gan us­ing her own body in her art, to­gether with ma­te­rials such as blood, stones, feathers, flow­ers, and smoke.

In her se­ries Not Manet's Type from 1997, the artist Car­rie Mae Weems (b. 1953 Port­land, OR, USA, lives in Syra­cuse, NY, USA) de­picts her­self—indi­rect­ly, us­ing a dress­ing-table mir­ror—in vari­ous pos­tures, in­clud­ing as a nude mod­el. In the ac­com­pany­ing texts, Weems ob­serves with bit­ing dis­dain that mod­ern Eu­ro­pean pain­ters nev­er chose Black wo­m­en as mod­els; in­stead, their beau­ty was ex­clud­ed. At the same time, she ad­dress­es her un­cer­tain­ty as to the an­gle from which she should ap­proach the sub­ject: as artist or mod­el? On the lev­el of the gaze, she switch­es the un­cer­tain­ty around: the mir­ror frames the in­ti­mate scene and thus makes the view­er guil­ty of voyeurism.

Com­mon to all of the se­lect­ed im­ages, which were made dur­ing a pe­ri­od of around fif­ty years from 1972 to 2021, is that the artist’s own body is per­for­ma­tive­ly and pho­to­graph­i­cal­ly in­clud­ed in them. Us­ing their body as medi­um, the artists in­vesti­gate spe­cif­ic pow­er struc­tures at work in their par­tic­u­lar so­cial sur­round­ings and ren­der them vis­i­ble. 



Cu­ra­tor: Bar­bara En­gel­bach