News Update
9. November 1988
GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN, Neunter November Nacht
Reinhold Mißelbeck
Kurator für Fotografie und neue Medien, Museum Ludwig Köln
Neunter November Nacht
Es war ein Glücksfall, daß Gottfried Helnwein ebenfalls danach strebte, aus dem Museums- und Galeriebetrieb auszubrechen, um eine größere Öffentlichkeit anzusprechen. An einem Ort wie dem zwischen Dom und Museum Ludwig und einer Zeit wie der photokina mit ihren Hunderttausenden von Besuchern war diese Möglichkeit in hohem Maße gegeben. Die 100 Meter lange Bilderwand verfehlte ihre Wirkung nicht. Sie löste Betroffenheit, aber auch Aggressivität aus, Nach wenigen Tagen schon waren zahlreiche Bilder aufgeschnitten, eines sogar entwendet. Gottfried Helnwein verstand die Ausstellung seiner Arbeiten und die Reaktion des Publikums als einen Prozeß, der sich in späteren Präsentationen niederschlagen und fortsetzen sollte. Die Bilder wurden nicht erneuert, sondern geflickt, so daß dieses Mahnmal der Judenverfolgung auf seiner nächsten Vorstellung in Lausanne bereits die Spuren mangelnder Einsicht und des Unverstandes in der heutigen Zeit trägt.
Selection - Ninth of November Night
1988, Installation between Ludwig Museum and Cologne Cathedral, Cologne
Man has developed numerous variations of this attitude. The most harmless form is the snobby arrogance whereby one's fellow men are treated as pitiful worms, as quantité négligeable. A more dangerous one is that of the self-centred whereby one's fellow human beings are usually ignored or at best viewed as a nuisance. A fatal one is the ignorance which makes it possible to simply not acknowledge the misery of whole nations, be it due to convenience, be it due to negligence. Finally, there is the possibility to institutionalize attitudes of this nature and to legitimize them by law, which led to the establishment of societal hierarchies in the national or international structure of peoples.
In solchen Fällen ist eine derartige Sanktionierung meist wissenschaftlich verankert und begründet.
The National Socialists had combined all these elements in a particularly perfidious way and developed a system from a mixture of arrogance, racial theory, dictatorship and military might which allowed them to define "life not worth living", to discriminate against, and eventually to annihilate, millions of people.
What we see are average faces, identical to hundreds of others that we could meet on the street: children between the ages of six and seven, whose faces are slightly toned white with make-up. Indeed their facial expressions are passive in a way which is difficult to describe: sometimes the eyes are half closed, sometimes the head is photographed slightly from below or just off centre. The portraits are irritating, since the children are portrayed in a way in which children generally would not be photographed. There is no good cheer, no childlike innocence, no sparkle in the eyes. We imagine pictures of children to be different.
Those people had not changed, only their public image.The study of this paragraph in our history brings clearly to light that it is enough merely to alter the way an image appears to the public in order to achieve the reevaluation of a system of values handed down through generations.
Gottfried Helnwein, famous in the art world as painter and politically committed performer, familiar to a wide audience due to provocative front page features in magazines, complimented his work in art with photography from the outset. What had then begun as a documentation of his actions was granted autonomy through the years as he became conscious of how many effective possibilities photography possessed, possibilities which remain outside the realm of painting and drawing.
Whilst it is essential to the painting - especially those which tend to hyper-realism - that it is a product of the imaginary force and fantasy of the artist, every photographic project, however much it has been manipulated, bears a remainder of the authentic force of its daily uses for documentation in both the private and public sectors.
This appeared on a grand scale on the site between the cathedral and Museum Ludwig, and at a time of "photokina", with its hundreds of thousands of visitors. The 100 metre picture wall did not fail to hit its mark: it induced bewilderment as well as aggressiveness. After a few days numerous pictures had been slashed, one even stolen.

nach oben