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Collaborations: Social Utopias | Andreas Gursky

mumok insider

As part of the current exhibition Collaborations, we present selected works over the summer. After the couple as the smallest collaborative unit and the group for example in the form of artist associations, we now focus on social utopias. Under this headline, we look at works that deal with or provoke exemplary forms of the communal, exploring the emancipatory potential of art.

Andreas Gursky
Nha Trang, 2004

What viewers might initially perceive as a tangled web of materials turns out to be an orderly factory situation, ornamental in its organization, with conspicuously archaic working conditions. The title Nha Trang indicates that the scene must be set in a popular tourist destination in Vietnam. The composition has unmistakable ties with Gursky’s pioneering photographs of crowds in the midst of their work environment, which began with a press photo of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1990. Since then, Gursky has demonstrated like no other just how close-knit our globalized economy is. Interdependent yet not equitable— these asymmetries are made laconically clear in Gursky’s images, and it is precisely this lack of involvement that summons us to take a stand ourselves. What is fascinating about these photographs is that they allow us to examine both the ornamental whole and the individual in detail. In this concrete situation, however, one realization is particularly irritating: certain work conditions only exist in this form and were not delegated to machines in order to claim the label “handmade,” which is highly appealing to tourists in their search for the authentic. “This state of non-identity and being in-between [interests me] in particular as it puts the status quo in a state of limbo and reveals free spaces for utopian models of society.”(1)

Cathérine Hug

(1) Andreas Gursky in conversation with Bernhard Bürgi, in Andreas Gursky, ed. Bernhard Bürgi, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Zürich (Cologne: Walther König, 1992), p. 28.


The texts published in this series were written for the catalogue Collaborations. Find the catalogue here.