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The Julia Stoschek Collection opens an exhibition of works from its collection
From left to right: Sigalit Landau, Barbed Hula, 2000; Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, The Incidental Insurgents: The Part About The Bandits (Chapter 2), 2012/13; Hito Steyerl, November, 2004, installation view, JSC On View, JSC Düsseldorf. Photo: Simon Vogel, Cologne.

DUSSELDORF.- The focus of this edition of JSC On View is on works from the Julia Stoschek Collection that engage with sociopolitical topics. The exhibition in the Düsseldorf collection building presents seven video and film works and eight photographs by eleven international artists. In addition to time-based art, the emphasis is on the genre of photography, which is also well-represented in the collection.

The selected works not only look back thematically at past, political, and historical locations but also socially relevant events in the present age, which is characterized by political instability and violent conflicts. They also document current forms of territorial mechanisms of power and individual political resistance. Individuals and groups who are confronted with exclusion and separation take center stage in these works and are empowered through their diversity and differences. The works also present alternatives and unconventional havens for grappling with the political and social uncertainties of our time. In addition, the works reflect on the medium itself: photography’s claim to authenticity in the digital and global age. The photographic and time-based works illustrate how images can be manipulated, staged, and distributed on the internet and through mass media. They thus reveal how the borders between fact and fiction blur, and how images become icons and find their way into our collective memory of images.

Badezimmer / Bathroom (1997), which is probably Thomas Demand’s most well-known photograph, is a central work in the exhibition. Based on an image that was used on the cover of the German weekly magazine Stern for a feature on the suicide of the German politician Uwe Barschel in 1987, the body of the politician is absent in Demand’s photograph of his elaborately constructed paper model of the bathroom. Demand was less interested in the actual affair than he was in the fact that the case was determined by the medium of photography: the picture taken by the reporter who found the dead politician was reproduced on the cover of Stern to illustrate the alleged suicide for the first time. The photographs thus became icons that have been burned into the collective memory of Germans.

In APEX (2013) Arthur Jafa juxtaposes known images from jazz and pop culture with shots of marginalized culture. The video is a rapid sequence of found footage, starkly rhythmic and synchronized with the electronic techno beats of the Detroit DJ Robert Hood. The artist combines images of music icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley as well as fictional characters such as Mickey Mouse or Felix the Cat with disconcerting shots of murders, slavery, and discrimination of blacks. APEX addresses the history and present situation of black culture and the attempt to transfer the “power, beauty, and alienation”—in the words of the artist—of African-American music to film.

In November (2004) Hito Steyerl follows the various life phases of her friend Andrea Wolf, who joined the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) as a revolutionary and was killed fighting against the Turkish government in 1998. Using Wolf’s biography, November examines the diverse interrelations between territorial power politics and individual forms of resistance as well as the increasingly blurred border between fact and fiction in the global age.

Taryn Simon also examines reality and staging in her photo series The Innocents (2002). She created portraits of wrongly convicted perpetrators of violent crimes whose innocence was later proven by DNA tests; the portraits show them at the scene of the crime that was associated with their case. Turning away from photographic realism, Simon plays with the fluid borders between truth and construction, which are the basis of our verdicts in criminal trials—from the accusation to the defense—as well as in photography, in which even the most detailed likeness is never equivalent to reality. By focusing on the individual stories, the artist highlights the problematic constitutional system in which social differences result in inequality.

Tobias Zielony’s stop-motion video Maskirovka (2017) focuses on the protagonists of the young LGBTQI community in Kiev, combining these images with news reports on the Euromaidan Protests. The title of the series refers to the Russian tradition of waging war that is characterized by deception, camouflage, renunciation, and disinformation. Masks were also used by the protesters of the Maidan movement as a way to hide their identity, and in the Kiev party scene they are a favorite way of dressing up. In this way, Zielony’s piece creates a contemporary narrative based on the unconventional havens for queer identities of the Kiev techno scene, surrounded by a public that is characterized by violence, repression, and upheaval—the Ukraine in civil war.

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