Dreams of Spaces
“Cities are like dreams: anything imaginable can be dreamt, but the unexpected dream is also a rebus containing a wish or its reverse, a fear. Like dreams, cities are built upon wishes and fears, even if the thread of their narrative is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceptive and each thing hides something else.”
Photography not only depicts, but it also visualizes. Comparable to other art media it creates worlds of images beyond the real situations, thus functioning as a means of transportation for travels into strange interior countries. Although any documentary photograph represents a manifestation of a subjective view of the world and thus an outer geography, photography may also be an instrument to explore our inner worlds of dreams. In contrast to the computer-generated images, classical photography does not create any virtual realities, but fixes arranged or constructed models of real situations. The precondition for this, however, is the three-dimensional space that can be altered by means of photographic processes but in the final analysis is always depicted. When looked at in this way, any picture thus produced has a model in realty, a three-dimensional pendant. To be sure, these photographic arrangements usually depict situations that are possible in reality, but in the final analysis they say more about the author’s personality structure or his dream worlds than about the state of the visible world.
Although they were not created while travelling, the photographs by Thierry Urbain and the Gegenlicht Group (Jochen Brauner & Werner Sedivy) give the impression of having been made in foreign countries or unknown continents. While Urbain’s photographs are based on spatial typologies that seem to be familiar from the Near East and North Africa, the Gegenlicht group takes up architectural elements that are borrowed from the realm of fantasy worlds and resemble the variety of shapes of anonymous building. What links the two groups of works is their concern with model spaces, with staged three-dimensional dispositions and hence the author’s own individual architectural mythologies. While Thierry Urbain creates austere photographic compositions in a rational and technically precise manner, for Jochen Brauner and Werner Sedivy the camera serves as an instrument to fix their dream-like and to some extent playful spatial concepts. While the building of models is calculated according to precise conditions and the use of light and shadow is precisely calculated in Urbain’s work, the miniature architectures by Gegenlicht are made spontaneously and without a specific plan. In them the authors’ inside is turned towards the outside and the models are staged by primitive means. The spatial narratives of Gegenlicht do not, however, end with a photograph of the resultant building, but find their continuation in the invisible stories which they invent to go with the structures. For to them each building is inhabited by a specific character, a ficticious person who is responsible for the outer form. Their buildings are inhabited by fairy-tale creatures, fantasy figures with human traits, that happened to be absent at the time the photograph was taken. Gegenlicht create spaces for their dreams and in their two groups of works narrate stories of possible worlds, thus transcending the narrowness of the real conditions. Without any tendency towards technical perfection they communicate their individual mythologies that originated in their joint travels to their respective inner territories.
In contrast to this, Thierry Urbain tells stories of abandoned cities. His pictures fix ideal states devoid of human beings that do not clamour for life but are based on pure geometry. In their sharpness and hardness they communicate the impression that no individual must enter or use this space. The atmosphere of the photographs exudes a frightening quietness. The presence of the spatial phenomena is defined by the absence of the human aspect, even though we know that their conditions of origin are connected to the work of human hands. Comparable to de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings they present a perfection of spatial relationships that make do without visible human traces. His photographed rooms live by themselves and need only the spectator’s eyes rather than any inhabitants. What they tell us are not everyday stories but myths, thus leaving ample space for abstract thinking.