Joachim Brohm: Ruhr Landscapes, 1981-83

June 27, 2020–Septem­ber 27, 2020

In 2006, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig ac­quired eleven works from the se­ries Ruhr­land­schaften (Ruhr Land­s­capes) by Joachim Brohm (*1955) from be­tween 1981 and 1983. Start­ing on June 27, 2020, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig will pre­sent th­ese pho­to­graphs in the Pho­tog­ra­phy Room.

Th­ese pho­to­graphs of­fer a spe­cial look at this time of change in the Ruhr. The eco­nom­ic cri­sis and a wide-rang­ing struc­tu­ral change trig­gered by the de­c­line of heavy in­dus­try left their mark on so­ci­e­ty as well as the in­dus­trial land­s­cape. Brohm’s col­or pho­to­graphs dif­fer marked­ly from the many pho­to­graphs of the Ruhr that were tak­en at the same time, which mapped the re­gion, its peo­ple, and ev­ery­day life in pho­tog­ra­phy. Of­ten tak­en from a great dis­tance, they show a broad view of an aban­doned land­s­cape in which the de­tails be­come sig­ni­f­i­cant. This al­so in­cludes the fact that peo­ple set­tled in the former­ly in­dus­trial land­s­capes which were now used for new pur­pos­es.

For ex­am­ple, the pho­to­graph Es­sen 1982 shows a peace­ful win­ter land­s­cape. Ice skaters have gathered on a frozen lake and are en­joy­ing the cold win­ter day. They are scat­tered hap­hazard­ly across the ex­pan­sive land­s­cape. From the el­e­vat­ed view­point they ap­pear mi­nia­ture. The frozen lake seems to strad­dle na­ture and cul­ture in a no man’s land be­tween the ex­pand­ing ci­ties. The pho­to­graph Bochum 1983 al­so shows such an in­ter­me­di­ate state. Here, too, we see the en­tire scene from an el­e­vat­ed per­spec­tive, from peo­ple in swim­suits tend­ing bar­be­cues to tents and col­or­ful parked cars. The peo­ple have tak­en over the land­s­cape. Ev­ery­where traces of their ac­tiv­i­ty are evi­dent. A ditch has been dug, dirt has been piled up, and new trees have been plant­ed along the Ruhr, which has been straight­ened and sta­bi­l­ized with a con­crete bed. Brohm pre­sents this in­ter­me­di­ate state be­tween na­ture and cul­ture with such spe­ci­fic­i­ty that the in­de­ter­mi­nate na­ture of the land­s­cape opens up a new imag­i­nary space. Ar­eas with­out his­to­ry and anony­mous places are spread out in his ex­pan­sive land­s­cape pho­to­graph­s—open and wait­ing for a new use. In this way, the pho­to­graph Es­sen 1982 with the skaters on the frozen lake makes the sereni­ty of a place that has not been shaped by eco­nom­ic forces vis­i­ble, giv­ing Brohm’s win­ter land­s­cape a strange­ly heav­en­ly ap­pear­ance.

Brohm, who studied vi­su­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Folk­wangschule in Es­sen from 1977 to 1983, saw th­ese sub­jects as a doc­u­men­ta­tion of “the com­bi­na­tion of lei­sure of­fer­ings and the lei­sure in­dus­try.” He was in­spired by the new Amer­i­can doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy, which no longer de­pict­ed hero­ic ci­ties or sublime na­t­u­ral land­s­capes, but gas sta­tions, park­ing lots, sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods, mo­tels, and busi­ness parks in a na­t­u­ral land­s­cape changed by hu­man be­ings. The se­ries Ruhr Land­s­capes is an ear­ly ex­am­ple of Brohm’s in­de­pen­dent pho­to­graph­ic po­si­tion, with which he opens up a new view of the re­gion be­yond the wide­spread stereo­typ­i­cal de­pic­tions of the Ruhr.

Cu­ra­tor: Bar­bara En­gel­bach

#brohm #ruhr­land­s­capes