berg19 space for photography


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Sylvia Henrich
September 11 - October 16, 2010

Friday, September 10, 7-10pm


Sylvia Henrich’s conceptual photo works are about the encounter of nature and culture. Often she relates her own photographs to historical or contemporary images, or to information materials from the Internet and the print media. Depending on the exhibition situation Henrich varies arrangements and compositions. In that way, new associative structures are created that employ different visual and cognitive codes.

In her exhibition at berg19, for example, Henrich combines a diptych of the metropolis Los Angeles with a newspaper image from 1928 depicting from afar the engineer William Mulholland on St. Francis Dam, just hours before it collapsed. Although the catastrophe brought his career to an end, it could not halt the rapid growth of the city, which had been made possible by Mulholland’s water supply systems in the first place.

Nature and culture hold a precarious balance. Henrich’s diptych with its present-day view of the city seems to emphasize that as well. Photographed from a viewpoint south of Mulholland Drive, the two slightly different images each depict in the foreground a trodden path in the Hollywood Hills. A bluish-shimmering sea of houses covers the flat valley below, before dissipating into the smog haze. One is reminded of stereoscopic images intended to create an illusion of three-dimensional space. At the same time the images allude to the search, albeit illusive, of the “perfect”, unobstructed viewpoint. What is pictured corresponds too little with our visual memory of this endlessly often photographed and medially reproduced city.

This arrangement of images is supplemented by a photograph that shows a stone hill with an American flag waving on top. The night scene is strangely lit and appears almost model-like. The reference seems to be to the staking of a claim or the appropriation of land, but maybe it is all a game.

Henrich’s works are experimental arrangements that offer different possibilities of association and connection. Her research employs journalistic and scientific methodology, which confers authority to the works, while challenging its validity at the same time. Notwithstanding, no clear statements or insights can be deduced. Henrich observes, compares and ponders. The world she references is subject to continuous change and may appear at once banal, then strangely misaligned, almost ominous, and sometimes dangerously close to an abyss.

Text: Petra Karadimas