Dirk Reinartz and Disciples

13 August to 10 September 2007

The title of the exhibition Silence characterizes the slow and deliberate photographic approach of Dirk Reinartz and his students both to their immediate surroundings and understated themes, which had an inner tension often evident only at second glance.

March 2004 marked the end of the life of a passionate photographer and a man of rare originality: Dirk Reinartz was only 56 years old, and his tenure as Professor of Photography at Kiel’s Muthesius-Kunsthochschule art college had lasted only six years. Shortly before, in January 2004, Dirk Reinartz had mounted his exhibition “Innere Angelegenheiten” [Internal Affairs] at the Kunstverein Glückstadt; an exhibition that originated at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin.

At the same time, he was engaged in negotiations with the Art Foundation of HSH Nordbank about a larger exhibition project to exhibit works by him and his students. After his sudden death, Reinartz’s tentative plans for a photography exhibition were briefly forgotten until the Art Foundation requested Christiane Gehner and Matthias Harder to continue with the project, as he would have wished. Now, three years after Reinartz’s original concept, the exhibition offers a forum not only for his former students’ diploma works but also for their current projects.

It all began with Reinartz’s New York photographs—some of which are unpublished—from the 1970s, when he was the same age as his students who were preparing for their final exams. The confrontation between the works of the teacher and his pupils would certainly have been less noticeable if Reinartz—modest as he was—had himself acted as curator.

However, given that the initial basis for the exhibition had changed, tracing photographic footsteps seemed important and appealing to the two appointed curators. Dirk Reinartz himself underwent a period of intensive training under Otto Steinert at the Folkwang School in Essen. Later he assigned his students similar tasks, such as “Das Tier” [The Animal], in his own class at the Muthesiusschule.

For his diploma work Reinartz’s student MARKUS STEFFEN attended competitions organized by animal breeders and dog hairdressers with surprising results, as his curious and contemplative pictures show.

SVEN-ERIC SINDT also chose an unusual way of tackling this theme: he collected animals that had been run over and had them Xrayed by a vet.

Various aspects of silence are discernible in the works of the students, as in CHRISTOPH EDELHOFFS series Elektrorecycling. The heap of computer waste reminds us of the short-lived nature of the technical devices that we are now unable to live without. THIES RÄTZKE’S diploma work Kontrollbereich [Control Area], on the other hand, was taken within the innermost security compound of the nuclear power plant at Brokdorf. The pattern of the electronic displays and the figures cocooned in protective suits convey a sense of slowed-down movement and muffled noises.

Not all Reinartz’s students fit neatly into the usual categories of the medium. The pictures of MARTIN LEBIODA cannot be classified either as photoreportage or conceptual documentary photography. On his trips to India and Afghanistan he made deliberate use of the notion of “dérive” (drift) in reference to the Situationists of the 1950s. At the end of the 19th century, a popular technique was taking panoramic views of major cities from a raised vantage point with a slightly altered camera angle. BIRGIT RAUTENBERG adopts this creative approach in her panoramic landscapes, some of which were taken in her native Schleswig-Holstein. In this series of pictures she examines the changes in the natural surface structure. HOLGER STÖHRMANN presents landscape of quite a different nature in his Anonym series. Most are deserted night scenes, dark places such as motorway service areas, parking lots or cinemas, where people meet for spontaneous yet planned sexual encounters. Never having met before, people recognize each other only by certain predetermined codes. The North German beach landscapes of SONJA BRÜGGEMANN as well as her close-ups of carpets and wallpaper form a subtle contrast of distance and closeness, of rural expanse and urban confinement. For her cycle Wie eh and je [Just like it always was], she directs her camera at her personal surroundings, the parental home where she photographed childhood memories in the present.

It is moments of transition that SUSANNE LUDWIG likes to capture: She photographs places like machine shops, warehouse interiors or the offices of firms that have just been forced into bankruptcy. It all began with the Nordisches Stahlwerk in Neumünster, where the photographer sought to reconstruct stories of what had happened in the midst of the confusion of the space being cleared out and business being wound up.

In many locations throughout Germany, the architecture of the Third Reich remains standing, despite the systematic destruction that took place during World War II. The buildings are used in a variety of ways, such as a documentation center and museum, a disco, a storage space for a catalog company, or they are left to decay as disagreeable ruins of history. RALF MEYER undertook extensive research in seeking out numerous buildings from the Nazi period and with this subtly arranged photographic study has recorded a piece of German architectural history.

After getting her diploma from Reinartz HEIKE MARIE KRAUSE went to New York with a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship, where she produced her portrait cycle Selves: various full-format mimic studies of her own face. What initially seems like a film sequence contains gaps and openings for our imagination. Es ist wie es ist [That’s the way it is]—a quotation from a very young, clearly overtaxed mother of three children, one of whom had been left with strangers for safekeeping—was chosen by RANDI DUBORG as the title of her diploma work, in which she examines family structures beyond the social safety net.

Dirk Reinartz managed to give his students a good start to their professional careers, although he only had a brief opportunity to teach at the Mathesius-Kunsthochschule. Many of these self-contained photographic positions arose in northern Germany, in his own front yard so to speak, and are in a way reminiscent of how Reinartz himself used to work. These silent pictures seem to have made time stand still while simultaneously describing open social spaces.

Birgit Rautenberg, Christoph Edelhoffs, Heike Marie Krause, Holger Stöhrmann, Markus Steffen, Martin Lebioda, Ralf Meyer, Randi Duborg, Sonja Brüggemann, Susanne Ludwig, Sven-Eric Sindt, Thies Rätzkes.

Exhibition and catalogue were made possible by the Art Foundation of the HSH Nordbank. The catalogue is available from the Walther König bookshop.

Organizer: Christiane Gehner and Matthias Harder
Sponsored by the Art Foundation of HSH Nordbank