Topfpflanzen [Potted Plants] and Radios: upon hearing this matter-of-fact title that reminds us of a dictionary entry, one could hardly imagine more contrasting subject matters. Plants here, technical consumer goods there, living organisms on one hand, designed matter on the other. Nature versus technology.
Volker Schrank leads the eye directly to the object itself. Nothing distracts the viewer, who can now concentrate on details. Initially, the images present a sensual experience to the attentive observer. However, the works entail more. In these photographs, Volker Schrank investigates the factors that determine our history as well as our image of history.
Volker Schrank purposely draws the connection to well-known images and archetypes from the history of photography. 'Potted Plants' thus becomes part of nature’s visual history – or more precisely, of the visual history of domestic nature – nature in the age of mechanical reproduction.
One can also find historical references within the radios – for example, to experimental Bauhaus photography by Herbert Bayer or Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Or also to Albert Renger-Patzsch’s works, whose advertising photographs for 'Pelikan' or 'Fagus' in the 1920s and 1930s shaped consumer aesthetics at the time, just as Hans Hansen’s chairs photographed for 'Vitra' did, fifty years later.
In this context, the philosopher and filmmaker Jens Christian Grøndahl coined the term "photography is the archeology of time." "It reveals layers of memory that otherwise only appear as vague shadows, as a distant echo and feeling of déja-vu."
Consumer goods and everyday objects – including 'mass produced' plants that can be bought in every home-improvement store – mirror certain historic eras, precisely capturing the 'zeitgeist' and feeling of the times. Volker Schrank’s seemingly objective, distanced photographs can therefore neither be understood as plain botanical taxonomy nor as a full color catalog with pretty objects the old days. They are consciously constructed spaces for memory, reinterpreting the earlier mentioned dictum "photography is the archeology of time."
bildkultur presents the series Zeitzeugen as an exhibition
Topfpflanzen [Potted Plants]
13 Light Jet photographic paper, acrylic glass
Picture format 1.200 x 750 mm
5 Light Jet photographic paper, acrylic glass
Picture format 660 x 900 mm
© Volker Schrank / bildkultur 2010
lives and works in Stuttgart. In 1999, he won the Award of the Federation of Independent Photo Designers. In 2000, he received a scholarship from the Art Foundation Baden-Württemberg.
He became well-known for his collection Stars of Truth, which portrayed Germany's major television newscasters in a new artistic way. He unwaveringly devotes himself to the photographic exploration of myths.