Written by Gabriela A. Covblic

Introductory text by Chiara Valci Mazzara

Text will be published in the upcoming issue of Doc! photomagazine.


A moment in time. A suspended time lapse. Photography is -by nature- led by some sense of urgency to isolate frame in time.

The 'interior landscapes' by Mia Gourvitch and Urs Lüthi are developing this urgency into a further step. The depiction of the moment is enhanced by the choice to isolate, a volume suspended in time as well, a space between and contained by walls: a living room, a bedroom, a bar.

Through the use of the black and white technique and the choice of perspective, the artists succeed on constructing an atmosphere by representing the whole through the particular: picturing the complexity of the surroundings through a detail, giving relevance to the atmosphere through the intimacy of a chosen room.

Both authors choose spaces, which are at the same time public - since visited and lived, experienced by different people: hotel rooms, bar, living rooms of friends and acquaintances - and private - since perceived at the same time by the different guests as their own cause of a juncture, an occasion belonging to a moment. Back then, right at those very moment, they experienced something, they left a trace -an obvious one as the objects belonging to a person in the space of a living room (as for Urs Lüthi), or hidden as the blankets un-arranged when the guest left the hotel room (as for Mia Gourvitch).

The pictures are materialising the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future; the indefinite and continuous duration is regarded as that in which events succeed one another.

People staying and passing by in the hotel rooms, bars and living rooms create traces as footprints of their journey. The landscapes are mirroring a choice of perspective as well as a system of references valid in the past but relevant for the future.

The photographers are isolating a time lapse: the objects and the subjects are 'populating' the stage through the use of light and the depiction of the volumes.

In Gourvitch's works the objects, acquiring a relevance given by the absence of human subjects (in Gourvitch's works the passage of the guest is only represented by the position of the blankets, the door left open, the pillow piled up or not re-arranged properly) are evoking the consciousness of a liminal space held by a sense of variability.

The human presence, in the images by Lüthi, is held by the self portrait of the artist himself, by looking at the camera, giving the back to the other people in the picture, who are located in the foreground as parts of a human scenography. Lüthi appears as protagonist, he occupies the main stage, almost coming out of the photograph - he's looking directly at the camera - giving the idea to be about to commence a dialogue with the viewer, but still depicting himself inside the frame, engaging with the viewer as the main referent of a surreal landscape.

As a result, the time is folded, underlined and only apparently reduced to one photographic space.

The individuals present in the pictures and the intimacy given by them occupying a room, as in Lüthi the bars areas and as in Gourvitch picture Prologue, construct an ephemeral moment, an alternate time lapse.They are - depicted in the background by Urs Lüthi or from above by Mia Gourvitch -  at the same time, protagonist and non-protagonist. They are populating the scene, commuting to represent the atmosphere.

The instant is steady in time: at the bar people are sitting or waiters are looking beyond the counter appearing almost detached, as being there but not engaging with the camera shutter. The gathering in Prologue is represented from above as from an alternate perspective, looking down at them, being free not to be immersed in the moment but to taste it from above, isolating the flavour of the end of a day, of the encounter. The artist is there but not there, steals a moment while re-framing it, bending the time and isolating the 'transitory'.

Sometimes, the works by Gourvitch and Lüthi, are then organised through a narrative layout -consisting in different shots organised together in a unique frame- on the attempt to deliver a deeper understanding of the whole of the space and a wider perception of the ambiance enclosed between the walls, with this light, at that moment.

The artists are both accompanying us on a journey…

Capturers of glances, photographers Urs Lüthi and Mia Gourvitch hunt down moments in time sizing images from life. Yet, in spite of the liberty of the eye, the perception of the observer is also confined to the objective position of the camera. Nonetheless, both artists tend to escape the state of passive viewers to that of active creators, constantly passing the border of the photographic lens, from art to life and back.

As in much of the oeuvre of Urs Lüthi, the terms of Life and Art in Un’insola nell aria (1975) are blurred, mainly by the presence of the artist in quality of the protagonist, but also as the creator. Urs Lüthi’s main motif, that of himself, is present from his very first photographic series in 1969 where he is posing in front of Piazza del Duomo in Milan, changing such identities as a passerby, an onlooker, an outsider. Describing this early series, Max Wechsel asserts that “Lüthi still shows himself as an unworldly creature, mingling with the human beings: a surprised observer of their seemingly aimless activity.” (1) Unsurprisingly, in Un’insola nell aria Lüthi applies the same attitude, he is present in every shot, physically or through the means of his artworks. The series was in fact created to portray a period from his life, mixing intimate and public moments. On one photograph we see the artist/character in a tender embrace with his lover, in another, he is sitting alone in a bar, in a third, he is photographing the viewers of his own exhibition, his self-portraits naturally hanging on the wall. But his excessive presence leads to an opposite effect. Lüthi, in a very direct way, is superimposing the artist and the motif, to a degree that they become indistinguishable. The artist’s body, mind and intention is so immediate that it becomes therefore an intrinsic part of the artwork itself, and thus, not identified as a presence holding a separate meaning. Simultaneously, the concept of the artist as an observer and creator is also eradicated, consequently, once more, re-appropriating the concept of the creation to life.

On a fundamentally opposite path, the work of Mia Gourvitch is leaving a trace of anonymity. Her eye is sensed, yet never seen. Most of her photographs do not show figures, instead they portray remnants of a once passing human presence. The series Layover Dreams (2016), created in what she calls “orphaned hotel rooms” disposes of elements inherited from life, but which are also reconditioned into a surreal decor. The artist photographed hotels which have ceased operations and have been left untouched for over two years. Made and unmade beds, at a first look, evoke a change, a then and now, however the spaces and the objects are not in use, they simply lay there, awaiting. However, and in contrast to Lüthi, the photographs of Gourvitch also offer a liberty to the viewer of understanding and reacting to them in a personal way. The artist leaves space for imagination. Acting as an observer, a collector of human traces, an archeologist of a kind, Gourvitch simply captured the spaces at her disposal, no doubt believing they must exist outside of time, thus, as writer Hemda Rosenbaum wrote about Gourvitch’s eponymous exhibition “The works address the inherent finality of the situation by offering moments that seem suspended in time” (2). Yet Gourvitch is not reporting, she is creating. As much as the premises are left untouched, as an evidence of some kind, Gourvitch actively left her own trace through the editing technique she adopted. The photographs are blacked out, light is contrasted, some of the details she witnessed were erased. Layover Dreams is a series based on an intentional, but invisible mise en scene. The traces of life are swept into giving space to art, where the anonymity of the artist is not but an impression at first glimpse, because her touch has infiltrated every layer of the work. Like in Lüthi’s photographs, the artist, as an observer crosses the limit of the lens and becomes an active character, nevertheless differently still, for what is seen is not a reflection of the artist as a character, but of “echoes of mental subliminal states” (3) that she sensed and shared.

In the two series in question, Un’insola nell aria of Urs Lüthi and Layover Dreams of Mia Gourvitch, the artists seem to point their lenses into similar directions - we can observe interior landscapes, decoration objects, doors, lights, lamps as well as, of course, the signature use of black and white photography  - nonetheless, at a further look, the works are inherently different - Lüthi’s core line is the self portrait, else using foreign humain figures while Gourvitch limits her representation to non human elements. Even though both series are haunted by an absent presence, this is transmitted through divergent intentions. Lüthi’s series, though populated by humans, they are in essence passerby, en passage. On further notes, he portrays his own portraits on the walls, the artist is thus present and absent at the same time. Gourvitch, on the other hand, brings about questions non-existent in Lüthi’s photographs, questions of incognito possessions, of unidentified times and presences, delayed, yet lingering. The objects in these hotel rooms do not belong to anyone, not to the past, not to the new dwellers, they simply exist within their actuality. Even so, one can not help by notice that these works are oscillating around the border of the photographic lens, bringing up a question of ambiguity, a back and forth, as a mirror that lets you pass from one world to the other, from life to art, but also, from objectivity to subjectivity. Things are not what they seem to be, and probably, neither are what they seem not to be. Expectedly, Lüthi declares “Perhaps the most significant and creative aspect of my work is ambivalence as such … Objectivity … is not important to me; all is objective just as all could be subjective.” (4)

The question of the ambiguity is fundamental to Lüthi’s art and Un’insola nell aria is a clear witness to this intention and not only through the substance of androgyny. In an interview with the French newspaper Libération Lüthi once publicly announced that “the androgyny, in itself, has never been (his) subject. The sexual ambiguity is, for (him), the ambivalence which we carry inside of us.” (5) For all that, this ambivalence of wanting to be one and the other, of wanting to be here and there can also been seen through the constant use of the mise en abîme. The term initially associated with heraldry, it literally means to be placed into abyss, and in art is the act of portraying a work of art within the scheme of another. Typical for the swiss artist, he uses and reuses his own works of art to be further placed into new series. (3) In Un’insola nell aria, we can see the self-portraits or the artist being exhibited in exhibitions, or simply hung on walls. Yet again, the artist doesn’t place himself in a particular position, but fluctuates in an ambivalent dance of being the One and the Other simultaneously.

And a similar concept in hidden in Mia Gourvitch’s work Prologue (2015), which contrary to Layover Dreams is actively portraying time through human figure. Part of the series Evolution of a Poem, this work “was born out of an encounter with the poet Tuvya Ruebner, and it is based on one of his poems (Blur your tracks)” tells us Ms. Gourvitch. In essence a digital collage, this photograph assembles and disassembles moments in time captured by the photographer, thus folding a number of moments of time into one. But this photograph is also indirectly portrait. It portrays the life, the space, the surroundings of a poet, who at his turn portrays the surroundings of a culture he represents, a culture which Gourvitch is part of. A portrait of an artist, within the portrait of a poet.

Art for a better life is the title of a retrospective exhibition of Urs Lüthi’s work shown at the Rath Museum in Geneva, in 2002, twenty seven years after the creation of Lüthi’s  series Un’insola nell aria. Even so, these words are already shining through the beginning of Lüthi’s photographic career starting in 1969, bringing up his sense of reality - acquired, adopted, developed and later changed. Taking up different characters, acquiring different versions of the same reality, the artist is trying out ways to find the best of the possible renderings. In a similar way, the photographs of Mia Gourvitch discern a desire for a reinvention of life. The heavy use of post production altering the elements of reality, though leaving them as part of life is not longing for a complete disappearance of the real, rather, for a sort of an upgrade, using art as means to readjust reality. Both artists are sending elements of life across as products of their own creativity, thus blurring the borders in between reality and creation, life and art.

(1) Max Sechs, Urs Lüthi: Life as an ambivalent Art figure between Eccentricity and Normality. In: “Urs Lüthi, ART FOR A BETTER LIFE from Placebos & Surrogates. XLIX BIENNALE DI VENEZIA”, 2001.

(2) Hemda Rosenbaum, Text for the exhibition Layover Dreams, 2016. Part of WAS Biennale, Berlin, Curator: Chiara Valci Mazzara

(3) ibid.

(4) Lea Vergine, Il corpo come linguaggio, (La “Body-Arte e storie simili), Milano, Giampaolo Preardo, 1974.

(5) Quanq-Tri Tran Diep, Urs Lüthi, exposition à coeur ouvert, in Libération 09/07/1994

“i + you = us”

Text for the exhibition of Ann Noel at FREEHOME written by Chiara Valci Mazzara

Oh! Ann, was on my way to YOU today and couldn't read what wrote on my notepad.
The white pages were too bright with the sun, sitting on the train, going west.

Now got to know YOU. We share thoughts.

walk through your street with the confidence one has arriving to a known place... still, the pages of my notepad are too bright to read them.
did eleven steps as turned the corner, the letter ' ' is the eleventh of the alphabet. (Numbers can be tools to serve the words...)

am trying to read again the questions prepared...thinking about your work and your ideas as continuous flow, like a watermark in colours. ...feels like don't really need notes now.
Maybe only words would be better: questions always point somewhere and we want to be free to roam around over here... even just around a word or a letter... like if we were pivotal little bodies?

In my notes each and every topic involves a word, which starts with the letter ' i 'think there's no better start...

The words are never shy, one only has to listen. And to treat them well.

Sometimes they can't be found, but many times they're merging together: and they make complete sense.

The words are formed by letters and the letters, well, they've got a strong character.

Do you remember how you told me about the ' i ' you choose for each of your friends? Each one had his or her ' ' portrait.
Now think about it all the time.
dismantle the fonts of the advertising signs walking along the street.

meet a person and i wonder which kind, shape, outline, colour and thickness could have his very own ' ' (portrait).
But think that not to every person suits an ' '.
is all of YOU. And all of YOU is me.

am not sure if one should include all of the people in an ' '. Maybe it is only relevant to include the brightest 'YOU'. The people one can share with. As YOU did, as in a state of flow, working, processing ideas, sharing, encountering artists who became friends.
'YOUs' are important as we said, they are the whole of each ' ' and that is not ephemeral, it is crucial.

Somebody, then, can be an 'H' (that comes before ' i ') and function as a bridge (like between two straight lines, between two persons). And somebody can be an ' L ', so only be there for himself (showing an angle, staying there in this corner, not really committing maybe? But is good as well, brings a frame – or an angle? – to the table, right next to the wine corks).

So –eventually – very few, but a beautiful bright group, can be ' ' ... : all of YOU, is all of me comma ' '.

Wasn't it like that with your 'YOUs', in Berlin many years ago, sharing, inspiring, and flowing in a state of flux? That was real life, life together with a community of YOU(s).
Colours of flux.
Blue for the day.
Red and orange to drink and eat.
Green for money.

i–1.(Works and words with ' i '):

Your fascination for the letters.
The semiotic, the semantic, the shape, the outline.
The Concrete Poetry.
The form, the content of ' ': the most (apparently) insignificant letter, there's a line and a dot.
' seems to react to the seventies, when the 'me generation' was about self–absorption. People were concerned solely with themselves.
' as a character, as graphic sign looking like a person, mirrors the artist. Mirrors the person.
' is the good letter to start from. To turn the table upside down, revolving around a sense of 'me' as collectivism.
We were having coffee and we were speaking about the 'me generation' in desperate need of irony: an irony led by the urge to invent, with playfulness.
One had not to take one self so seriously, than each idea is lighter, comes across smoothly and takes shape vibrantly, goes directly where it should. From the hyperuranion of a merely intellectual thinking to a deeper understanding: while sharing.
Humour must be there, a visual one as well. As Emmett said: a 'cosmological humour', so a kind anybody can grasp and play with. Like an encounter between cultures and people, where the best things in life are still free.
Dieter Roth told you once that an artist should have 10 ideas a day. I believe you get much more than that, Ann?
Any image –to you– can be shaped by super–imposing words or your very self on pictures, in your works.
Further on, typography and calligraphy are drawing the outlines. The colours cyan, yellow, blue and magenta are blending while the thinking process organises them in a rainbow.
A system of meta–meanings is there, where the colours are the symptoms. And from the idea on, you embrace the unexpected, the intention is there, but the outcome is untamed.
The instructions, the process you have in mind, permit a trace to direct your ideas, recording the path.
So the flow is there, not hidden but unravelled through your diary: those 2 meters and 30 centimetres of colours hold within an entire world of references.

i–2.(More word with ' i '):

You write since a long, long time a diary each and every day. You write about yesterday, today.
The diary is a diary of names and encounters.
One after the other, after the other, times others, times colours.

The colours are occupying the different hours of the day: IN VINO VERITAS, interlacing inputs.
One is what one eats.
There's identity and encounters of minds in your diary. Flowing as in a CONFLUX : when artists are living among others, a real life, reciprocity becomes a mutual duty, oscillating the basis, inspiring each other.

The colours of FLUXUS are colours as people.

i–3. ( 'Incognito improvement, ' i ', ' i ', ...performances as act of a reluctant you...):
Being Incognito aims to a hidden signifier, the wish in there, revolves around a self–effacing desire.

But the public is too important. It engages. The performance is the duration of an act and it extends to the viewer.
Many words can define us, many can describe an ' '.
From the visual poetry, through the act of printing and following a constant progress of ideas, the words are formed.

They punctuate your performing act.
Reluctant to perform, but there by choice, you are moving and speaking in front of you(s). The nuances of the words are activating your ideas. You do something that is you.
Animating contents, you create recipients of your perception among the people in the public. The flux involves the person, relying on the element of constant change to meet an unexpected outcome. The improvement happens through a process and there... following the score, there you are.

Overall, I asked you questions in this letter of mine. Some ' 's are there, but as often happens, there are more ' ? ' s.
But if you think about – know you know better than me– the question mark isn't an upside-down ' ' ? Only a little more curved.
(i saw it in your works as well. i like its shape)

Maybe is just that the ' ? ' was up until late last night. So it feels a little upside down, and stands loosely. Like me today. Like when one asks oneself questions at night.
At night.


Stage and Meta-Stage:The Superimposed Subject Matter

Interview by Chiara Valci Mazzara of fontaine b. with Pr. Hans Peter Kuhn

Introductory text by Gabriela A. Covblic

Published in the September issue of Doc! Photomagazine, presenting works by Shozo Shimamoto and Zhang Huan.


Photography and performance art have long been associated acts, where photography was mainly documenting artistic performances. Lately, however, we notice a change in the photographic act, a change which attributes the two-dimensional artworks a new rendering.

Photography, initially meant as a tool to catalyze and reframe the ephemeral duration of a moment and block it in time, evolved to be the chosen medium to mark the evidence of the sense, of the energy, of the intangible tension in art. Sound and light installations and performance art have in common not only the characteristic of intangibility, as well as that of the use of our multiple senses (vision, hearing) - they also depend on time. Time supposes the presence, at some point in the duration of the act, of a sharp innuendo, which when captured photographically, provides a new essence to the photographer. By feeling it, and isolating it in a time-lapse, the photographer can shape this essence further and have it evolve an existence on it’s own.

Once the substance of the performance is found, a reverse process can be put in place, where the performance is no longer a live act, but rather staged, for the sake of a final photograph.

Hence, photography has been used to produce, in either series or unique pieces, works, which are now standing side by side the performer; they are complete works of art, witnesses of the process, researching and re-evaluating the media, and revealing further layers of the original installation or performance.

For this issue, fontaine b. decided to present a dialogue between two photographic series signed by performance artists, yet conceived within the photographic medium as a finality, and not merely as a bystander. Zhang Huan’s work Foam, though easily confused with documentation, was in fact intended as a staged performance, a concept photograph (1). We see here four of the fifteen large-format photographs, which show the artist’s face, covered in foam, holding in his mouth photographs depicting him, his wife and their families. The artist shows the people from the past, who engendered his present, slipping out of the foam, symbol of the ephemeral, of the change.

Shozo Shimamoto’s photographs belonging to an untitled series portraying the back shape of his shaven head beginning in early 70’s after the dissolution of the Gutai group, are unavoidably resonating with Zhang Huan’s work, consisting of using the head as a support for the projection of images symbolizing time - past, present, future. The head of the artist is bearing the ideas, which then are born through his art and into the world, translating the tension of reality into readable works of art. Two of the photographs are covered in the artist’s signature splashes of paint, which add a further dimension to the concept; the artist

reverses the usual process of creation - that is, performance first, and photograph later, thus limiting the content of the photograph to that of the performance - and, instead, adds his perforative act on a ready made photograph, consequently empowering the medium of photography to an independent work of art.

We invited professor and artist Hans Peter Kuhn to discuss with us the role of photography in the documentation process of Performance Art, as well as Sound and Light installations, based on his extensive experience in the production of many art pieces, especially with his wife, performance artist, dancer and painter Junko Wada.

Gabriela Covblic

(1) Foam and 1/2 are the only two rare projects conceived as concept photographs, a medium Zhang Huan explored before leaving China for New York in 1998.


Chiara Valci Mazzara: Hans Peter, during your career as artist and composer, producing a vast body of works consisting in sound and light installation, radio plays, composed film music, music and environments for theatre and dance, you had the chance to collaborate and create settings in the frame of performing art as well. Moreover, given your early start as composer and performer, you surely must have kept and projected this experience and heritage onto the process of creation of performing art environments and music. Would you tell me about your role and about the production during the performance art happenings? (experience with Junko Wada for example.)

Hans Peter Kuhn: Performances appear already pretty early in my life, during my time at school but, surely, at least since 1975 when I joined the Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer in Berlin. Of course this was a playhouse, not so much Performance Art - at least until Robert Wilson came and did his first European production of Death, Destruction & Detroit in 1979. In my eyes this piece belonged more into the realm of Performance Art, than to traditional theatre, with all its abstract use of language and the presentation of images, rather than narratives.

In all the years I worked with Wilson (until 1998) and, as of 1989, I also worked with dancers, it was always my main role to create the sound environment and music for the pieces. But through my experiences as an installation artist, I also have a strong visual aspect in all my works, and for that reason, I also often create the set design and the lighting for the pieces.

When working with my wife – the painter and dancer Junko Wada – we create the pieces sort of together, simultaneously, by rehearsing and creating at the same time in the same room. This allows the productions to appear as one thing, although the ideas come from 2 people. The content of these dance pieces is mainly abstract and non-narrative about movement and sound.

CVM: What, in your eyes, are the media that are documenting and, more precisely - representing, the eligible form in which performance art develops into a progression where photography (for

instance) is not anymore only documentation but, instead, is the actual - or one of the main - form to deliver the content and the concept of a performance act/work?

HPK: The difficulty of documenting a process in space is obvious, same is true for my installations, where the site itself has a huge influence. In performance work, as in installations, the documentation – no matter what media you use, it is true for video too – are very limited in what can be shown. Even in the best photos or videos you only get a section of the whole. As one cannot tell somebody how a performance was – or at least only in a very reduced way, there is no real way to document these kind of productions. But what photography can do, is to highlight a situation, to give an impression of the intent or the quality of the work. The best photographers manage to get just that moment of a performance where all tension is presented. That is when photography makes sense in my eyes. So not so much as a documentation (although we all also use it like this) but as an art form itself, creating something beyond the straight concept of documentation. That is something that is very valuable for the performer as an outside look, but with an artistic intention, creating an artwork on the artwork, so to say.

CVM: The series Foam by Zhang Huan is one of the works of the artist, which is conceived only and exclusively as photographic. Huan's production includes, together with performance, photographic works, installations, sculptural works and paintings. In this series, consisting of close-ups of the face of the artist covered with foam, he is holding in his open mouth photographs, old portraits of his wife's family. He is using his very own face as a frame to hold memories and history. A picture within a picture. What looks like a performance documentation - even if the close-ups suggest us that a specific visual rendering has been planned and structured - is in fact staged for the series of photo.

I wanted to ask you, in which moment do you think the 'stage' as we all refer to in Performance Art, becomes the body of the artist, and, in which - as in this case - his own face?
Which ones are the characteristics of the stage located above architectural and/or spatial measurements?

What are the features standing beyond the stage per se', which Huan translated while deciding to use his face as a stage?

HPK: Well a stage is an elevated space where one can present something, a space separated from the other people – the audience – who have the possibility to listen to and watch this presentation. The stage lifts the performer above the rest, there is a very clear distinction between auditorium and stage, not only in classical theatre settings, also in simple black box or white cube situations where one person presents something. The stage allows to show an alter ego or any other possible character, and that is not only true for actors, in a classical sense. This is true for anybody on a stage, be it a musician, performer, scientist, lecturing teacher or a businessman presenting sales numbers. A stage gives the person on stage an authority, simply through the command over the time spending. The performer makes the people stay until the show is over (at least he/she hopes that it will happen so). It is the performer that sets the rules: come in at 8, have a pause and a drink at 9, come back in at 9:30, applaud and leave at 10:30. Completely set. But of course this is true also in less rigid schemes. Any performance has this kind of agenda. And being on stage everyone is a performer ruling in people’s life.

So using one’s body parts as a stage, creates another layer to this. On the one hand the performer creates his own support but, more important, her/his body becomes an authority that sets a distance with the others, the body is no longer the actual object to perceive but the carrier of an object or a message. And by this the superimposed object or message gets elevated into another layer.

But besides all this, the use of foam reminds of course of the myth of Aphrodite, who supposedly was born from foam of the sea, while here his family appears out of it.

CVM: In the series Foam, what looks like close-ups on core moments of the performance, are in reality staged moments during production, anticipating the creation of the sequence. Huan set up a 'meta-stage' for his work and created a meta-performance to realize a photographic series. His mouth becomes the frame of family photographs. Shimamoto’s photographs, on the other hand, create a new, under-laying basis - a new canvas(?) - for his splashes. How do you thing a work of art changes when the original support changes, especially if the new support is a photograph?

HPK: I think – as I just said – that the meta-stage is already there through the usage of the body as a stage for the work. To perform this - not "live" in front of an audience, but rather "staged" - to have it photographed, lifts this to another level, because it is no longer the performance itself, it is the concept of the performance that is presented. But since it is a series of photographs, it gets a performance style character, in which time obviously passes by.

CVM: The images of Zhang Huan, as an expression of the self and staged on his own ancestry are visually meeting the series of photographic works of Shozo Shimamoto. The two artists are encountering each other in the use and development of the shapes of their heads: front close-up for Huan, back silhouette for Shimamoto. Both artists are conceiving an encounter between their performative act and the use of photography. In the series of Shimamoto, as well, the stage becomes the silhouette of his very own head and the splashes of colours - the witnesses of his practice - are now being developed in a photographic act. The stage - his cranium - and the light are masterfully used to realize this exclusively photographic works. What do you think about the evolution of the stage and the light used by Shimamoto? What are the specificities of both artists’ re-invention of the stage that are, in your eyes similar or different?

HPK: I think Shimamoto uses his head rather as a projection screen, while Huan changes his face physically. And the splashes of colour also hint towards a screen rather than a stage. Huan uses the face, and although these are photographs, it is a much more three-dimensional impression than the photographs of Shimamoto, which are clearly two-dimensional. Specifically, the photograph showing onto a background of buildings seems to be a straight projection, and, although it shows a bit of the curved skull, it looks mostly flat. So in my eyes Shimamoto does not make his head a stage, but rather a screen but I guess it is pretty understandable, since he did all these performances and the photographs are rather a different layer in a different media. Also, in contrary to Huan’s photographs, there is not really a performative aspect. They are stills, that get even more still by the color splashes, that obviously are done onto the existing image. They are not part of the image of his head, while Huan’s pictures in his mouth are directly integrated into the landscape of his face and the different small pictures give a timeline, with slightly changing content, as in performances. Shimamoto’s stills are pictures that remind me more of Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photographs. They stay pictures.

CVM: In your perception, having worked with your wife Junko Wada, artist and performer, realizing together performative happenings and you realizing the landscape and the sound, which one is the role of the body when it comes to be, as for Huan and Shimamoto, the stage of an act, functioning as landscape for the photographic works?

HPK: I think only in Huan’s work I directly see this landscape character. Also the fact that his face is covered with foam creates a hybrid landscape of his natural features and the random and artificial distribution of the foam. Shimamoto’s photographs are rather like a map of a landscape.

CVM: Which one is the importance of photography, when it comes to be not anymore a development of the performative documentation but is rather conceived as an actual art piece meant as a photographic work?

HPK: Shimamoto’s pictures are certainly further away from a documentation than Huan’s, they left the stage completely and don’t even try to be one. It is a distinct different level or layer than the performances that probably were the base for these photographs. Although the paint on these images come from his performance process, they still are part of a projection and not a direct documentation.
With Huan’s photographs it is different, they show much more the sequence of images of his performance, but due to the large number of similar pictures with only small differences (different photos in mouth/foam structures) They create a meta-structure and by that a new image that is not itself performative anymore nor a documentation but adds by multiplication a greater distance to the original performance and become a photographic artwork.

CVM: Thank you, dear Hans Peter!