Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present a retrospective exhibition of artworks by celebrated German photographer Andreas Mühe, “Pathos as Distance in Hong Kong”. Mühe’s first gallery exhibition in Hong Kong encompasses 30 photographs taken from 2004 to 2018, including works that have been shown in major museums previously. Hovering between the notions of ‘truth’ and ‘construct’, Mühe examines and questions the power and ambivalence of photography with a predilection for the German historiography and identity.
Andreas Mühe’s artistic engagement with his origin and the German past has been influenced by his upbringing. Mühe was born in Saxony, East of Germany, to parents Ulrich Mühe, one of the country’s most acclaimed actors, and Annegret Hahn, a director and prominent figure in German theatre, who were both socialists and Germany’s cultural elites. Megalomania is thus central to Mühe’s aesthetics, his photographs are powerful, masculine, and often reminiscent of images of 20th-century dictatorship and ideologies. Mühe uses various motives to portray these aesthetic appeals, yet the location of his photographs is always significant. For example, ‘Schwimmhalle’ (2009) is a photograph of an abandoned pool, which served as the Berlin athletes’ quarters for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the location there provides a historical context. Another example is one of his most important series, “Obersalzberg”, which in Mühe’s visualizes power through positioning his subjects in superior postures and various states of dressing and even undress – in SS Army uniform and accessories or simply naked – on the Obersalzberg mountain, best known as the former Hitler’s vacation retreat. Once again, the specific geographical site serves to make a connection with German history.
In the “A. M. Eine Deutschlandreise” (2013) series, Mühe plays with the ambivalence that is intrinsic to photography. The series shows a travelling woman who resembles Angela Merkel, looking out the window from the backseat of a limousine gazing on different cultural landmarks and scenic landscapes of Germany. The photographs seem to be showing the country’s essence through the eyes of German chancellor, yet the woman in the photograph is de facto Mühe’s mother. Inspired by his trips accompanying Merkle to the US, Mühe meticulously stages these images to provoke questions about reality and appearance. Another example is the “Mühe Kopf” (2018), which served as a study of the “Mischpoche” (2019) series. Andreas was foremost interested in exploring the suggestive power of photography and his ultimate concept was to construct sceneries and choreograph his subjects into family portraits that allude to art history. During this process, Mühe started contemplating his own mortality and the vulnerability of the human body. The artist had his own head rebuilt in a form of sculptural replica by a professional sculptor using clay, a material which is easy to erode – the same as the human body is fragile. Akin to “Mischpoche” in which each family portrait brings together living and no longer living persons, as well as past memories and contemporary events, “Mühe Kopf” wholly manifests the moments of ‘illusion’ and ‘reconstruction’, in which a living person is staged in his own decay. Mühe also explains: “Photography is actually very close to ‘death’, since everything in the instant of taking the picture is already the past, photography is a way to ‘grasp’ time. The oxymorons in Muhe’s storytelling such as the ‘living-death’ and ‘constructed reality’ are simultaneously triggering something in both sides. Transcending time and realities, selected works of “Mühe Kopf” are displayed in this exhibition, uncovering the different stages and fragments of the laborious production of the sculptures.
Furthermore, Mühe uses his subjects as instruments to convey power in his images, therefore, he often collaborates with prominent politicians and musicians. “Rammstein USA und Kanada Tour” (2012) is a provocative photo reportage of the German rock band, Rammstein. Whether it is on walks along Santa Monica beach or on the long drive of San Antonio, the band members are often portrayed in a state of nudity. It is no coincidence that Rammstein is chosen to be Mühe’s subjects, the band’s progressive style asserts the grotesque and spirit of German socialism. In doing so, Mühe keeps bringing back history in contemporary narratives.
Also featured in this exhibition are Mühe’s early works, such as “Prora” (2004), a series of images made in the Prora beach resort, built by Nazi Germany as a future holiday facility for the German proletariat, due to its endless housing blocks on the island of Rügen in North Germany. “Prora” strongly reminisces the cinematographic heritage of Leni Riefenstahl – one of the most important 20th-century German filmmakers, known for her imposing propaganda films which put the German Nazi’s in a glorified light. For example, the men in ‘Sport’ are staged in a manner that put emphasis on their athletic and grotesque bodies, whereas in ‘Heimat’ the name literally means ‘home’ and suggests Mühe’s profound obsession with the German identity. Further included in this exhibition is “28 hours in USA” (2011), a series of black and white photographs taken in 2011, capturing moments of Mühe’s trips in company with Merkel’s to the United States.
Relying solely on the analogue technique, Mühe’s images require careful measurement of brightness and arrangement of the lights, but above all, it is the artist’s labour in staging his subjects and intention to frame a historical context that makes his works intriguing. Each photograph offers a unique perspective, triggers dialogues and confronts the viewer with the past. Sometimes bold, other times subtle, Mühe’s construct management turns even the heaviest subjects into a light and humorous image, and vice versa. Encompassing patriotism, nostalgia and megalomania, Mühe goes back to his origins and brings understandings, contexts, and constellations to his stage. Mühe’s works are not for quick glances, instead, they are lasting and revealing the inevitable need for questions, discussions and self-inspections. What is reality? What is appearance? What is present, and what is the past? The artist makes us question everything. In the end, it is all about power for Mühe, “whoever controls images controls reality”, as the artist himself declared. The embedded pathos and longing to the past in Mühe’s visual images create a certain distance that unravels details that are otherwise overlooked in an epoch of image manipulation and deception.
Andreas Mühe was born in Germany, in 1979. The artist’s works were previously presented in museums and institutions such as “Mischpoche”, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2019); “Andreas Mühe/ Sebastian Nebe – Im Osten nichts Neues”, G2 Kunsthalle, Leipzig (2018); “Andreas Mühe: Photography”, Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (2018); “Deutschland 8 – Deutsche Kunst in China”, Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2017); “Pathos als Distanz”, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2017); and “Andreas Mühe / Markus Lüpertz – Ancien Regime”, Kunsthalle Rostock (2016). Pathos as Distance in Hong Kong is Mühe ‘s gallery debut, bringing about the artist’s best known works.
Opening Reception: 23 May 2020, 4pm – 7pm
安德里亞斯·穆埃的成長深深影響了他藝術創作的來源和當中的德國歷史元素。穆埃出生於東德薩克森，父親為德國著名演員烏爾里希·穆埃（Ulrich Mühe），母親為德國著名戲劇導演安格麗特·哈恩（Annegret Hahn），兩人既是社會主義者亦是德國文化精英。“狂妄自大”可說是穆埃美學的核心－－他的作品充滿力量、剛陽，讓人聯想到20世紀的獨裁體制和其意識形態。穆埃以不同方式來描繪這種美學，而當中作品的地域所在是最為關鍵的。其中“ Schwimmhalle”（2009）為廢棄游泳池的照片，游泳池於1936年被用作柏林奧運會的柏林運動員住所，此場地為作品提供了重要歷史背景。而最重要的作品系列之一“Obersalzberg”中， 藝術家取景於上薩爾茨堡山－－著名的希特拉度假勝地，透過主體人物擺出的各種姿勢和衣著（如納粹親衛隊軍服和飾物甚至裸體），將納粹德國的權力影像化。
在“ A. M. Eine Deutschlandreise”（2013）系列，穆埃探討攝影本質上的含糊及矛盾。作品中貌似德國總理安格拉·默克爾（Angela Merkel）的女士，從轎車的後座望向窗外並凝視著各個德國文化地標和風景名勝。作品看似以總理的視覺展現國家的本質，但有趣的是照片中的女人實際上是穆埃的母親。穆埃受到與默克爾到訪美國一程的啟發悉心製作這系列作品，引發觀眾對現實和表面的質疑。“Mühe Kopf”（2018）系列為“ Mischpoche”（2019）系列的研究作品。穆埃對探索攝影的暗示能力很感興趣，他的最終想法是建構並編製影射藝術歷史的家庭照。在此過程中，穆埃思考死亡和人體的脆弱，並找來雕塑家以黏土為自己的頭部塑造雕塑品－－黏土容易腐蝕，就似人體一般脆弱。“ Mischpoche”在全家福中使活著的和逝去的人重聚，亦結合過去的回憶和當下事件；“Mühe Kopf”以類似的方式完整地體現“幻覺”和“重建”的瞬間－－在世的人上演自己的逝去。穆埃表示：“攝影實際上非常接近死亡，因為拍攝照片的瞬間已經過去了，攝影是一種抓住時間的方式。”敘述中“活著的死亡”和“建構的現實” 的矛盾同時觸發雙方的某種元素。是次展覽展出這超越時間和現實的作品，並展示製作雕塑的不同階段和費力細節。
穆埃作品的主體是傳達力量的重要工具，因此他經常與知名政治家和音樂家合作。“Rammstein USA und Kanada Tour”（2012）是拍攝德國搖滾樂隊Rammstein的系列：樂隊成員赤裸著沿聖莫尼卡海灘散步、於聖安東尼奧駕駛 。Rammstein被選為穆埃的拍攝對象並非偶然，樂隊進取的風格體現了德國社會主義的荒誕精神。透過這種方式，穆埃不斷以當代敘事回看曆史。
展覽還展出藝術家早期作品，例如於普洛拉度假村拍攝的“ Prora”（2004），度假村位於德國北部呂根島，由納粹德國興建延綿不斷的房子組成，並原定將作為無產階級的度假設施 。作品令人聯想起20世紀最重要的德國電影製片人之一蘭妮·萊芬斯坦（Leni Riefenstahl）－－她以其讚揚德國納粹政治宣傳片聞名。“Sport”中的人物突顯身體的運動性和怪異；“Heimat”則是“家”的意思，透露了穆埃對其德國身份的深深迷戀。是次展覽亦展出黑白照片系列“28 hours in USA”（2011），記錄了穆埃伴隨默克爾出訪美國旅行的時刻。
安德里亞斯·穆埃1979年出生於德國。藝術家的作品曾在各博物館和機構展出，如“ Mischpoche”，漢堡車站美術館（2019）； “ Andreas Mühe/ Sebastian Nebe – Im Osten nichts Neues”，萊比錫G2美術館（2018）； “安德里亞斯·穆埃－攝影”，北京紅磚美術館（2018）；“德國8－德國藝術在中國”，北京民生現代美術館（2017）； “ Pathos als Distanz”，漢堡堤壩之門美術館（2017）和“ Andreas Mühe / Markus Lüpertz – Ancien Regime”，羅斯托克藝術館（2016）。“作為距離的悲憫”是穆埃在香港畫廊的首次亮相，帶來藝術家最重要的作品。