Candida Höfer : Candida Höfer
26 January – 15 March 2008
Upon closer inspection, every room tells the story of its usage and the change in usage during the time of its existence. Candida Höfer has been dealing with this topic since the beginning of her career. For over 30 years she has been photographing public and semi-public interiors with a firm tenacity. Höfer’s main interests are places of meetings, exchanges, and places where culture and knowledge are passed on and preserved. In her photos of museums, castles, libraries or archives, she traces the architectural strategies to communicate cultural memories. In our society, there is a consensus about the worthiness of preserving and presenting cultural artefacts. This consensus is based on an understanding of history that comprehends the past and the present as a unit. Historical testimonials, preserved relics of times past unfold their impact today and enhance our present. Höfer’s distinct interest in libraries and archives can be traced back to the fact that such institutions reflect this principal particularly clearly. But also museums or representation halls in castles or other historic buildings are places of no time of their own, respectively enclaves disconnected from time while showing traces of different eras. Thus they create a space for the past in the present.
Candida Höfer presents the rooms chosen by her with an analytic sobriety. Her views of the rooms are factual and free from her own staging – that is if you do not consider the emphasised distance and the lack of all disturbing side factors an artistic intervention. Often, her clearly constructed photos follow the layout of a strict central perspective. The structure of the rooms can be grasped easily. The objects placed in them stand out distinctly. Laconically, the photo titles state the name of the institution, a Roman ordinal number and the year the picture was taken. Höfer mainly uses a heavy plate camera. She works with day and artificial light as she finds it. This requires a very long period of exposure. Thus she creates her big photos that are characterised by an extreme depth of focus. Formal aspects of the institution and special characteristics of each particular place can be found in great detail. Changes and fractures are visible. By working in series, Höfer’s work comprises photos of the most varied places, each with the same function and intent. This emphasises the uniqueness and individual atmosphere of each room. While at the same time, principles of classification and recurrent structures of rooms for the same usage are visible. The rooms’ own, conscious or unconscious staging, the obvious but also the hidden order can be read from Höfer’s photos which are somehow cleansed and freed of grading or hierarchy. Höfer’s images allow a comparative inspection on different content-related and formal levels.
Höfer came twice to Weimar to work there. In the summer of 2004, she photographed the famous rococo-style hall of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library – only a few weeks before a devastating fire destroyed it. In the summer of 2006, she was invited for a second time to take photos of further rooms in and around Weimar. Weimar’s cultural landscape offers Höfer numerous institutions that reflect her artistic interest. At a first glance, her photos of these idealised ‘classical’ places, of this first-rate cultural centre, seem to conform to an existing criterion immanent to her motifs, due to their monumental size and their formal dignified presentation. Upon closer inspection, however, one can see that Höfer – unimpressed by these places’ history and significance – is not working towards their self-portrayal. For such intents, it would be necessary to optimise the motif according to that aim – which she does not do. For her pictures, nothing gets tidied up, made into a museum, or staged. Her photos are not meant representatively. Höfer’s room portraits are on a level between documentation and representation. Beyond capturing the status, they also always carry the original’s aura. This position characterises Höfer’s work’s special quality as its own contribution to finding a form of presentation of cultural artefacts relevant to society.