A MATERIAL project

Built by D/L

GINNY: I wanted to finally say hi and begin the process. How do you think we should proceed? Do you have a website? Perhaps you might send me a CD of images to consider for the editing process? ULI: I was just about to send you an email about getting this thing off the ground, great to hear from you. For the process, I really would love to produce new work, and at the moment there are some (more or less) great theoretic ideas but none existing work yet. But all in quite a half developed stage. So maybe for you it might be more interesting to get involved in something that is not yet finished instead of choosing something out of an existing oeuvre (which still remains an option). I will prepare some more information on what is on my mind in the coming days. My work at the moment has shifted from flora to fauna, still keeping my interest in the pairing of nature and ideology. Most of my recent work is B/W for some strange reasons and there is an ongoing interest in found images. Attached you will find my latest ventures into my ongoing interest in human animal relations. The “Hairy” images (working title) are from a book about one special breed of hungarian shepherd dogs, which look quite funny in itself, where I take the idea behind the look of this dog manually to another level, so that we end up with a ball of just hair.

I think in a very general way those images fit quite nicely into the theme of the show since every single image is appropriated, coming from a never ending cycle and recycling of our visual memory.

Please let me know what you think of all of this, and maybe you have a sort of idea what to pick or what to do and what not to do...Any criticism is welcome as well.

GINNY: I really enjoyed looking through your images. I wish we could do an actual, physical studio visit. Damn! Next time I am in Germany perhaps...

I am really intrigued by the hairy shots. I am curious to learn more about them conceptually. From my standpoint (and this is where my own interest bleeds in), I like the frontality of the images - that they create this flatness and visual mystery that confuse the understanding and identity of the dog. The dog seems to be a stand-in for the photograph itself - something real and abstract, with a texture that has both flatness and depth. But I am curious to hear what you have to say about it...

ULI: Just wanted to say that I am on my way to Leipzig, where the Lab is situated. I will be printing my ass off tomorrow and Saturday and see how far I will come. Will tell you on Sunday all the things you want to know in more detail.

ULI: I am back from the dark dungeons of the analog photo world: there are 6 different images of digitally altered creatures that used to be hungarian sheperds dogs.

Conceptually, all there is to say is that I love generic photography with a didactic twist, photographs that want to show or establish something -- hence my interest for books on flora and fauna, in this case breeders of those special dogs. I feel I only finish the initial idea about the looks of those dogs in applying a little photoshop retouches. They looked ridiculous to me in the first place, so I worked on this quality. Having said that, they somehow manage to get their own lives.

In a broader context all my recent work deals with boundaries between nature and culture. Nature is never untouched though, it is always utilized, tamed or made useful for human ideas or the human will to dominate, order or exploit.

My tree piece with the List of Invalid Names is a good example as it portrays the pitfalls of taxonomy, a very human ordering and naming process pressed onto a subject, in that case conifers, that stay pretty indifferent to naming problematics. To explain the List: botany has severe problems with synonyms, some trees have up to 80 different names, because they were named by 80 different botanists who all thought they were the first to do that. I found this particular list in an appendix of a book about conifers from the 60s, and I liked the rigorosity of this special author, who thought he would be the one to clear up all the mess. I started out to find the trees in dispute and made my own atlas out of them, the layout closely linked to the book where I initially found the list.

The technical side: the images are taken from books, scanned, altered, printed on A4 with a standard photo inkjet printer and then reproduced with an analog camera. The images are then printed in a classical manner (that is fiber based paper) and mounted onto aluminum (just to make this hybrid process clear).

GINNY: Has a week gone by already? Our work looks completely different from one another’s but I definitely feel a connection to your conceptual approach. In my own work there is that remove - there is “re”photography or, more simply and technically, copy photography of collages/objects I have made. But there is also an interest in nature - but more in the imaginative possibilities that come out of plants’ common names, rather than their taxonomy. For example, there are works on paper, photographs and polaroids, with texts like “Gallant Solder” and “Laguna Beach Liveforever” - both of which are names of endangered plants.

But anyway onto the dogs and what’s in the show, a question: why do you photograph these altered/scanned/xeroxed images? Just to have images that you can blow and expose more clearly your personal alterations? Or is there something else to it? I am curious.

ULI: If we would all think and work the same, where would be the fun? I really love some culture clashes, and think this is the most exciting part of this voluntarily forced networking frenzy.

For the technical decisions, which are always artistic ones as well: I had found some old prints some years ago on a flea market depicting production processes in a socialist factory in East Germany from the 1970s which were handprinted Black and White and then mounted onto some cardboard structure so that they became like boxes that sit on the wall. What I liked was the didactic impetus of those, like images used for teaching purposes. They had a very distinct object like quality. And this is what I want to replicate.

And to do so, I mount those prints around the box/frame (a mixture of aluminum and cardboard construction), which is more a bookbinding experience than a photography thing. I can only do this with classic fiber based photographic paper (the one which is real paper), which can be mounted in a wet stage and then dried afterwards. So in order to have it on analog paper, I need an analog source, that’s why I rephotograph my inkjet prints after my digital alterations. The fact that all those images are taken from offset-printed books does make it manageable, because there are no halftones, they are all only black dots on white. But I have to say that I never intended to discuss technical issues around the words “analog” or “digital.”

I would rather investigate more about your conception of nature and your personal projections attached to it. Is there any kind of nostalgia inherent in your work or would you object to that?

GINNY: I would almost agree with you. There are certainly personal projections and connections attached to the images. My recent work with names of endangered, extinct and invasive plants employs the imaginative potential of language - that is, its ability for words to inspire images and reverie. And that desire to incite reverie in my viewers began with my own. My work has always had some connection to my previous landscape photography of the South. The newest work uses the common names of threatened (or threatening) plants to point to locations, or scenes in nature - for example, Drops-of-Gold, or Panic Grass.

So, in answering your question, I would say my work points sometimes to the past but more often to another present. It longs for elsewhere, for some place outside the image, outside the work itself. It conjures up now more often than then, but the now is up to each individual viewer. There are no images of actual plants or landscapes, no real information.

Ulrich Gebert
Dr. Kobers Sorge um die Suchtwahl (1-6), various sizes (2 of 6 images pictured here) 2010,
gelatin silver print mounted on aluminum construction