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Objects of Desire in Ethnographic Collections

With Marie Angeletti, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Azadeh Fatehrad, Olivier Richon.
In collaboration with the Royal College of Art, London.

In this exhibition four London-based photographers from France, Germany, Iran, and Switzerland present new photographic works produced in April 2013 at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt in direct response to the ethnographic collection and image archive.

Historically, photography has played an important part in the representation of foreign cultures. From the depiction of racial stereotypes through to the documentation of fieldwork, these photographic records speak of the complexities of the colonial as well as the ethnographic gaze.

Whilst one is relatively familiar with debates surrounding early anthropological portraits of people, which has not been analysed or discussed to date are the different ways in which ‘tribal art’ and ethnographic objects have been staged in studio photography. Acquired on expeditions to distant lands, once these objects reached the museum in Frankfurt they were allocated a new life: they were dated, photographed and exhibited. Here one encounters another projection of exoticism: ritual masks, statuettes, and even everyday objects are spot-lit to enhance their mystery, coloured backdrops are introduced to evoke dramatic effects, and distance is artificially restored through a theatrical, even auratic, mise-en-scene.

With this critical understanding in mind, the four guest artists have photographed the very same objects that have been repeatedly depicted since 1965, producing astonishing visual responses that accentuate the montage of meaning, fantasy and desire around ethnographic collections. Further works that can be seen in the exhibition include the photographic visualisation of myths from Latin America, as well as insights into the details of storage methods in the museum.

Exhibited together, these new works of artistic research created by Angeletti, Blees Luxemburg, Fatehrad, and Richon deconstruct existing presuppositions of cultural contact, photographic history and ethnographic realism.

Marie Angeletti (*1984, Marseille) lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include “Mixed Feelings”, Cole London; “Deagu Biennale”, South Korea; “Bloomberg New Contemporaries”, ICA, London; “Vitrine Gallery” London. She has recently worked on “Fabricants Couleurs” a site-specific installation inside a paint factory for Marseille, Culture Capital 2013.

Rut Blees Luxemburg (*1967, Trier) lives and works in London. Her large-scale photographic works explore the public spaces of the city. Monographs and exhibitions include “Commonsensual”, “Liebeslied/My Suicides” (with Alexander García Düttmann), “Caliban Towers” (with muf architects) and “Piccadilly’s Peccadilloes” (Heathrow airport). She teaches photography at the Royal College of Art, London. Her works are in major international collections including Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou. (rutbleesluxemburg.com)

Azadeh Fatehrad (*1981, Teheran) lives and works in London. She is a PhD candidate at the Photography Programme, Royal College of Art. Her research is concerned with representation and gender. Exhibition participation includes “An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street” at the Centre for Book Arts (New York, 2012), “Politics and Power” (London, 2011), “World Vision Exchange” (London, 2010), “The Selected works of Iranian Photographers” (Vancouver, 2010). (azadehfatehrad.com)

Olivier Richon (*1956, Lausanne) lives and works in London. He is Head of Photography at the Royal College of Art, London. He studied at the Polytechnic of Central London under Victor Burgin and graduated with a degree in Film and Photographic Arts and a Masters in Philosophy on Exoticism and Representation. In 1991, he received the Camera Austria award for contemporary photography. Richon’s photographs have been exhibited internationally and are in several public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum Folkwang, Essen, the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the National Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. His monograph “Real Allegories” was published by Steidl in 2006.

Weltkulturen Labor, Green Room
Schaumainkai 37, 60594 Frankfurt