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Talents 39 . Praesens ll Präsens

Maja Wirkus / Jule Schaffer

Complex shadows create patterns on the floor. A sheet of curved brass casts a golden sheen. Delicate white concrete blocks rest on dark wooden pedestals. On the wall in between: photographic collages. The shapes and materials used in Maja Wirkus’s work extend far beyond what is conventionally understood as photography. What at first appears to be purely sculptural is in fact the result of a complex photographic investigation, in the course of which Wirkus explores architecture through photography, and photography through architecture. How does one approach a space? What impressions does a space make? How can individual perceptions be abstracted, compressed and disseminated? How can one recreate the experience of a space?

Photographs are transformed into three-dimensional objects in space, mounted onto other materials, collaged, bent, enlarged, and dissected. Finally, they are photographed, further abstracted, and recombined until their original form is unrecognizable. The photographic image as a fixed, flat, and often framed object enters an entirely new territory, with its old incarnation recollected only in the negative imprint of the paper in concrete. (Sculptural) works and installations emerge as condensed multimedia experiences of photographic-architectural space, but also as subtle displacements in which the processes of perception are disrupted and altered; only then do they become visible. In her work, Wirkus probes at the margins and structures of the photographic as we know it in everyday life. Photography serves as a medium through which spatial constellations are recorded and appropriated.

Paradoxically, it is precisely this “expansion of the photographic zone” to include more than the flat surface of a sheet of paper that represents something inherently photographic, particularly taking into account the development and multimedia differentiation of photographic images. Photographs have long defined our everyday lives in a manner extending far beyond since mere two-dimensional black-and-white or color pictures stuck into photo albums. From Daguerre’s metal plates and glass plate negatives to celluloid film and Polaroid photos, to digital data collections, huge billboards in public space and the digital flood of cellphone selfies: photographs seem to possess a multimedia, fluidly gliding quality that seemingly knows no bounds.

In light of Umberto Eco’s concept of the “open work”, Wirkus’s works may be discussed as possessing an inherent openness that fully develops for the first time when perceived by the viewer. Hence the photographic discourse she herself unfolds becomes an appropriation of the space in which the visitor plays an active part. In extended photography, as Wirkus’s works make clear, new architectural and photographic spaces present themselves, offering a special potential for experience in a fast-paced and superficial world. Architecture is not simply considered in passing; instead, the artist seeks to render the space visible as a location of physical experience for the viewer and to provoke an individual physical / introspective reflection on the surrounding architecture and its material relativity. Wirkus’s installations function in a sensitive and profound way, one that lingers in the memory and encourages us to pay more attention once again to the architecture surrounding us in everyday life.

Maja Wirkus, born 1980, studied experimental photography at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, where she completed a master’s degree with honors under the guidance of Prof. Johanna Schaffer and Prof. Bernhard Prinz. 2004 to 2006 founded and directed the artist-run gallery Loyal in Kessel. 2009 to 2010 studied at the Sint-Lucas Universiteit Beeldende Kunst in Ghent, Belgium. 2013 to 2014 research into the Praesens group in Warsaw on a scholarship from the Otti-Braun-Stiftung. Her works have been exhibited in Mexico City, Hamburg, Berlin, Poznan, Lille and Ghent. Maja Wirkus ives in Germany and Poland.

Jule Schaffer, born 1982, studied art history, English philology, theater, and film and media studies at the University of Cologne and the University of Seville. Until 2015 she studied at the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities in Cologne towards a PhD on concepts of sacredness and sacrality in contemporary photography and taught in Cologne and Essen. She is currently working for the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, works as a freelance art historian and critic, writes essays and articles on themes concerning contemporary photography, and is co-editor of the blog on-artbooks. Jule Schaffer lives in Cologne.