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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for October, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“…industrial design is the art of the 21st Century…”
— Lovegrove

“This was in West Virginia. The plant was due to be closed down, but the workers made a stand and decided to buy it together, which they did.”
— Bernd Becher

“Only nothing remains of the industrial age. So we thought that our photos would give the viewer the chance to go back to a time that is gone forever.”
— Bernd Becher

“When someone discovers something in their lives that really interests them, then they should be content with doing that – without having to go and lie on a beach once a year.”
— The Bechers

“…internationally celebrated pioneers of conceptual art, emphasize their influence on the following generation of photographers and last but not least, sing their praises as archaeologists of the industrial age.”

“They were constructed with no consideration of so-called beauty and serve their functionality alone. Which means that when they lose their function they are no longer entitled to exist, so they are torn down.”
— Hilla Becher

“War thinking was still prevalent in those days. Every now and then someone would ring the police on the grounds of suspected espionage. People actually believed that we were researching targets for a military attack. Why else would anybody want to photograph winding towers?”
— Hilla Becher

“As time went by we developed a sort of ideology without ever formulating it as such. I’ve always said that we are documenting the sacred buildings of Calvinism. Calvinism rejects all forms of art and therefore never developed its own architecture. The buildings we photograph originate directly from this purely economical thinking.”
— Bernd Becher

“All we did was to turn back the time to a photography of precision which is superior to the human eye. Other art schools used to put the fear of God into their students by asking them ‘Can you make a living out of that?’ We wanted just the opposite and simply told them to make stuff first and then we’d go on from there. They could see how we’d made our way. Showing by doing, maybe that was it.”
— Bernd Becher


Bernd (1931 – 2007) and Hilla Becher (born: 1934)

Bechers_Book Cover Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, née Wobeser were a German artist couple, best known for their photographic images of industrial buildings.

Both Bernd and Hilla were born at a time (1931 and 1934 respectively) where as teenagers they lived within a devastated post war Germany. Born in the Siegerland, Bernd experienced first hand the landscape of the German iron industry as a child. In photography, they focused their early attentions towards the architecture of that same coal industry which they saw as examples of a pre-Nazi Germany and a steadfast foundation held against the reconstruction architecture that was taking place.

The objective direction of their work was an unusual choice as after the two world wars, documentary style had become impossible. it was of good taste for german artists to ‘ignore history’.

However the bechers had some precedents, for example in fellow german photographer August Sander, who over the period of forty years took portraits of thousands of german citizens. The idea of ‘the archive as art’ was proposed by his oeuvre. He arranged these portraits according to social type and occupation — from peasant farmers to circus performers, to prosperous businessmen.

Their Style

Becher_mit compTheir approach to photographing was to reduce every aspect of personal style in order to emphasize the impersonal aesthetics of the buildings. This included the necessity to photography the structures straight on and from a height that provided a neutral vantage point. They look neither up nor down at their subjects, thus reducing the potential for politicizing these industrial structures. The 1920’s and 30’s depictions of industry celebrated it and held it up as signs of political or modern power. The Bechers neither monumentalize nor renunciate. This approach brings forth a notion in the viewer to compare one structure to the next. One pleasure of their work is following their direction.

Becher_Typology 'Tall Furnaces' That notion of comparison is what sets the Bechers apart from other photographers interested in types like August Sander. With Sander we look at his portraits one at a time and there is a clear division between each image. They are separate worlds that share common threads of humanity. The Becher’s types are linked physically by their presence as series. To see only one image on display in a show would amount to seeming like staring at an orphan. This, of course, is primarily because we know their working method and have been conditioned (or poisoned). To the unconditioned, could one photo from their work stand individually like a Charles Sheeler photograph?

Becher_Water Tower 2 Aside from their personal work, they were also the team behind the famed photography program at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf whose star pupils included Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Demand, Candida Hofer and Andreas Gursky. Their Freie Kunst (free or open art) program at the Kunstakademie was based on a master-student relationship. Although only Bernd was officially employed as a professor, the importance of Hilla’s contributions to their collaborative art led them to often conduct critiques of student’s work in their home. They served as individual mentors to students and only at their sole discretion did they then granted a diploma after they felt the student had achieved independence. Andreas Gursky was awarded this distinction in 1987 after six years of classes with Bernd Becher.

Life and Work

Bernd and Hilla Becher 1 The Bechers first collaborated on photographing and documenting the disappearing German industrial architecture in 1959, and had their first Gallery exhibition in 1963 at the Galerie Ruth Nohl in Siegen. They were fascinated by the similar shapes in which certain buildings were designed. In addition, they were intrigued by the fact that so many of these industrial buildings seemed to have been built with a great deal of attention toward design.

Together, the Bechers went out with a large format camera and photographed these buildings from a number of different angles, but always with a straightforward "objective" point of view. The images of structures with similar functions were then displayed side by side to invite viewers to compare their forms and designs. These structures included barns, water towers, storage silos, and warehouses.

Becher_life compThe Bechers also photographed outside of Germany, including buildings from the United States and other areas of Europe. Bernd taught at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and influenced students that later made a name for themselves in the photography industry. Former students of Bernd’s included Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer.

Their Subjects

Becher_France 1980 Blast furnaces, cooling towers, gasometers, water towers, lime kilns, compressors, factory halls, head-frames of mine shafts – not the stuff of excitement for most of us. However, these anonymous industrial structures have been a fountain of passion for the German spouses Becher who have avidly photographed them for over 40 years.

Their black-and-white images are all taken in the same clinical manner: a front and profile angle provide a clear and objective documentation of each structure, the building is placed in the centre of the frame and isolated from its environment. the mass of photos are made coherent through categorization into typologies, revealing the vast diversity of objects all with the same purpose. non-identical, yet uniform — the idiosyncratic differences and similarities become fascinating.

Becher_Germany 1995 The Bechers describe their subjects as ‘buildings where anonymity is accepted to be the style.’ Presented collectively, their images transform these buildings into objects worthy of interest, if not admiration.

The typological approach to photography has historic as well as aesthetic significance. we turn to photography because it is a rich means through which to represent — and interpret, reality — and the documentary aspect to the Becher’s work has been widely appreciated by engineering and architectural historians.

Awards and Honors

They were the 2004 winners of the Hasselblad Award. The motivation for the award:

“Bernd and Hilla Becher are among the most influential artists of our time. For more than forty years they have been recording the heritage of an industrial past. Their systematic photography of functionalist architecture, often organizing their pictures in grids, brought them recognition as conceptual artists as well as photographers. As the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school’ they have brought their influence in a unique way to bear on generations of documentary photographers and artists.”


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Bernd and Hilla Becher that can be found at…

Also, an article on Bernd and Hilla Becher found in… 
Peter Stepan. (2008) 50 Photographers You Should Know. New York: Prestel.

by Gerald Boerner


“It’s good to think of someone other than yourself.”
— Shiela Hartfield, Parent

“And it exposes kids that there’s a need out there. There are people who can’t afford the luxuries in this country.”
— Asima Kachroo, Parent

“Your UNICEF Trick or Treat Day has helped turn a holiday too often marred by youthful vandalism into a program of basic training in world citizenship.”
— Lyndon Johnson, President

“It’s a way for kids to give back. Also it helps them personally to get their confidence going. Once they take care of their candy business, `Do you want to donate some money for the poor?’ It helps them come out of their shells.”
— Asima Kachroo, Parent

“Children have a chance to reach out and assist children throughout the world. They’re told that a small amount of money can provide clean water, a school package for children around the world. Our children learn about that and help a great organization like UNICEF.”
— Amy Leslie, Parent


Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF

Trick-or-Treat_for_UNICEF_logoTrick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fund-raising program for children sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Started on Halloween 1950 as a local event in Bridesburg, Pennsylvania, United States, the program historically involves the distribution of small orange boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit. Millions of children in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and Hong Kong participate in Halloween-related fund-raising events for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and the program has raised over US$188 million worldwide.


The idea known as Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF came from Mary Emma, the wife of Presbyterian minister Clyde Allison. In 1949, the Allisons were living in Bridesburg, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Mary wanted children to be taught something more from the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating besides obtaining treats. When she saw a UNICEF booth collecting funds to send powdered milk to undernourished children around the world, Mary thought of getting children to collect donations for UNICEF instead of candy. Rev. Clyde Allison liked the idea and introduced the concept to local Presbyterian churches. On Halloween 1950, the Allisons recruited their own children and their community’s to go door-to-door collecting nickels and dimes in decorated milk cartons to aid children in post-World War II Europe. They collected a total of $17 and donated all of it to UNICEF.

tot_UNICEF1 In 1953, the United States Committee for UNICEF started actively promoting the program. By the 1960s, the concept had expanded throughout the United States, with small orange collection boxes distributed to millions of trick-or-treaters. When UNICEF won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson said in his congratulatory letter: "Your UNICEF Trick or Treat Day has helped turn a holiday too often marred by youthful vandalism into a program of basic training in world citizenship." In 1967, Johnson declared Halloween, October 31, to be ‘UNICEF Day’ in the United States; by 1969, 3.5 million American children were trick-or-treating for donations. Children (and adults) in the U.S. have collected over US $144 million for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. In 2008, the U.S. Committee for UNICEF introduced mobile phone text message donations as well as a MySpace and Facebook page.

The program has also expanded outside of the United States. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in Canada, which started in 1955, has raised more than CAN $96 million. A Canadian proclamation declared October 31 of each year ‘National UNICEF Day’ in 2000. In 2006, UNICEF Canada discontinued the collection box part of their program, citing safety and administrative concerns. However, the program in Canada continues, with the 2008 program featuring events including pumpkin-carving contests, pumpkin art tours, and reading marathons. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in Hong Kong was launched in 2001, and has raised more than HK $6 million.

How to Do It…

tot-kids-250x96 This October, make Halloween count by Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF. Doing so will help us get things like water, education and medicine to the children who need it most. Your efforts will show that you believe ZERO children should be without the basic necessities that we often take for granted.  

Getting involved is easy and fun!

tot-boxorder First, you’ll need a box. Order boxes online until Friday, October 30th at noon (eastern time), or create your own using this canister wrapper.

Then, while you’re out on Halloween, ask everyone to help you raise money for kids around the world and to join you in believing in ZERO!

Once you’ve collected the money, send it to UNICEF to help save kids lives, and be sure to celebrate your success


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.” 
— Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“Eat, drink and be scary.”
— Author Unknown

“Nothing on Earth so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night.”
— Steve Almond

“I’ll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.”
— Author Unknown

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” 
— George Carlin

“A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” 
— Erma Bombeck

“Halloween is huge in my house and we really get into the “spirits” of things.” 
— Dee Snider

“This Halloween the most popular mask is the Arnold Schwarzenegger mask.  And the best part?  With a mouth full of candy you will sound just like him.” 
— Conan O’Brien

“Those seemingly interminable dark walks between houses, long before street-lit safety became an issue, were more adrenalizing than the mountains of candy filling the sack.  Sadly Halloween, with our good-natured attempts to protect the little ones, from the increasingly dangerous traffic and increasingly sick adults, has become an utter bore.” 
— Lauren Springer

Happy Halloween

Halloween-card-mirror-1904 Halloween is a holiday with ancient origins that has been gradually Americanized. Historians trace its roots back more than 2,000 years to Samhain, the first day of the Celtic New Year, observed around November 1. Samhain (“summer’s end”) was both a harvest festival and time when sould of the dead were believed to travel the earth.

In the ninth century, after Christianity spread to the British Isles, Pope Gregory IV designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day to honor all the saints of the Church. All Saints’ Day was also known as All Hallows’ (hallow means holy one or saint). The evening was called All Hallows’ Eve — over time shortened to Halloween. As often happened, pagan customs mixed with Christian traditions, and Halloween remained a time associated with ghosts and wandering spirits.

all-saints-day Halloween celebrations weren’t widespread in the United States until the great waves of Irish immigrants caused by the potato famine of the 1840s. The Catholic Irish brought both their observance of All Saints’ Day and remnants of the older Celtic traditions. Their festivities mixed with other Americans’ harvest customs to become Halloween as we know it today.

The American tradition of trick-or-treating echoes the ancient Celtic tradition of leaving food on doorsteps for souls of the dead. In Britain, people went “souling” on All Hallows’ Eve, walking from house to house asking for “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.

halloween_pumpkin_3d_screensaverIn the Old World, people carved turnips and gourds into lanterns to scare away evil spirits. In America, they used pumpkins instead. Irish legend says a fellow named Jack was barred from hell for being too tricky, and had to walk the earth carrying a lantern lit with an ember the devil gave him. His name was Jack of the Lantern — or, as we say today, Jack-o’-Lantern.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1803…
    During the First Barbary War, the USS Philadelphia runs aground while blockading the port of Tripoli and is captured.
  • In 1864…
    Nevada becomes the thirty-sixth state.
  • In 1941…
    Work on Mount Rushmore comes to an end.
  • In 1950…
    Earl Lloyd, playing for the Washington Capitols, becomes the first African American to play in an NBA game.
  • In 1956…
    Rear Admiral George J. Dufek and six officers become the first Americans to set foot on the South Pole, and the first men ever to land a plane there.


Description, dates, and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Are the Apple media adds in for a change in the near future? The primary ad man that has handled some of Apple’s high visibility campaigns (remember the ‘1984’ ad announcing the Macintosh?) is moving to CEO and his place as the creative leader will be occupied by a new face. Will this mean a different approach? Is this good for Apple? Who knows… Time will tell…

Ad man behind ‘1984,’ ‘Think Different,’ and ‘I’m a Mac’ stepping down by Yahoo! Tech 


Lee Clow has served as the chief creative officer TBWA/Media Arts Lab, which handles Apple’s advertising business, for a long time. Clow is the man behind Apple’s iconic "1984" ad, the Think Different campaign, the dancing silhouettes that shill iPods, and the neo-classic "Mac vs. PC" campaign starring The Daily Show guy and Drew Barrymore’s sometime boyfriend.

Now, though, he’s stepping down from directly overseeing the Apple account and relinquishing his post as chief creative officer of the Media Arts Lab, according to AdAge. (He’ll stay on as chairman and global director of Media Arts Lab and as chief creative of the TBWA network, according to the same report.)

Clow is also known for his work on the Energizer Bunny and the Taco Bell Chihuahua, but apparently never saw fit to attach a cuddly animal to Apple’s brand—like the Macintosh Muskrat or, and we’re just spitballing here, a half man, half antelope, half Mac. [MORE]

All you history buffs out there… This could be an interesting read. It’s always interesting to see what cities are thought to be historical, since in the broad sense, all cities are historic in some ways… I look forward to reading this sometime in the near future… How about you?

Book Review: ‘The Great Cities in History’ – 

Tunku Varadarajan reviews ‘The Great Cities in History,’ edited by John Julius Norwich, with essayists including Simon Schama and A.N. Wilson. The cities range from London and Paris to Cuzco and Timbuktu.

John Julius Norwich is an earnest and somewhat stiff-backed editor. So it’s not entirely surprising that he reveals in his introduction that he is "braced for objections" over his selections for "The Great Cities in History," a collection of essays and images. He anticipates that readers will ask, for instance, why Timbuktu is included and not Toronto, why Meroe (an ancient Nubian city) is included and not Melbourne. It’s a dull question, and Norwich answers it dully, by pointing to the "in history" part of the book’s title. The better answer would have been that there’s not a shred of romance in Toronto and Melbourne. [MORE]

This category will include profiles and tributes to those individuals who have made significant contribution to the development our country into the land that it is today…

Windows 7 vs Linux: What are the differences? While most TV commercials are focused on the differences between the Mac and Windows 7, the real battle of the office will undoubtedly be between Windows 7 and the various Open Source versions of Linux, the Unix-like OS. This article examines ten of these differences. Take a look and be informed. This is informative… 

eweek-logo Enterprise Applications — Lab Gallery: What Does Windows 7 Have That Linux Doesn’t?

How well do popular Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE stack up against Microsoft’s new desktop flagship, Windows 7? eWEEK Labs identified 10 features new in Windows 7 and put them head-to-head with popular Linux distros to see how the platforms compete. Labs Analysts Jason Brooks and Andrew Garcia found that Version 7 makes big strides on the Windows front with its new features, but that Linux is competitive by most counts. [MORE]

eWeek gives us a scare… Technology features of today that should send us in serarch of the ghostbusters. In our mass consumption of the network and social networking sites opens us up for not only identity theft, but many other dangers that many are either not aware of or oblivious to. Please take a look at this and be forewarned. Otherwise, Halloween will bring tricks instead of treats… 

eweek-logo Network Security & Hardware: The 10 Scariest Technology Ideas…

Plenty of technologies and products are based on—or full of—bad ideas. But sometimes these ideas go from being bad to being scary. These ideas, usually put forth in the name of ease of use or increased functionality, actually serve to make products dangerous to use, threatening users’ security, privacy, finances and even their lives. A list like this could easily become very long, especially if we included biotech and health products. But, for now, we’ll focus on classic PC, Internet and mobile technologies in use by businesses and individuals today. [MORE]

by Gerald Boerner


“Accepting the insolvable nature of certain questions whilst continuing to research relentlessly is, for me, a viable way to engage reality.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans

“I don’t feel a restless desire at the core of my work. I feel it’s about stillness, about calmly looking at the here and now.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans

“The thing that makes working this way both harder and much more interesting is that it’s also how I experience my life: there never are sharply circumscribed experiences or fields.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans

“What matters is how we shape the things on the paper, somehow forcing it to become a representation of life, or experience. People always think that a photograph is bodiless, that it’s not an object unto itself but merely a conduit, a carrier of some other value.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans

“But I’ve also thought that my point of view deserved to be heard, because I always felt that neither I nor the way that I look at the world was adequately represented. That of course changes, and we’re now living in a completely different image world than we were ten years ago.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans

“They’re part of a series of pictures in which black and white photocopies were made into large-scale photographs. They represent an exact recording of what has to be the most ephemeral type of image that exists. A black and white copy with unleveled contrasts created by tiny dots of pigment…a total flattening of an image. What I’m interested in is the transformation of value that takes place when I take a tiny, worthless piece of paper, and give it a body, a weight by massively enlarging it and giving it physical substance by framing it.”
— Wolfgang Tillmans


Wolfgang Tillmans (born: 1968)

wolfgang-tillmans_559px Wolfgang Tillmans is a German artist and photographer who lives in Berlin and London. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 2000.

It is obvious that Tillmans does not do this only for our benefit; it is part of his consistent, personal commitment to evolving in relation to his art practice and as a rigorously engaged human in the world. Each time, he generously gives us the occasion to experience again, experience more, and experience more deeply.

Life and work

Wolfgang Tillmans was born on 16 August 1968 in Remscheid, Germany. He lived and worked in Hamburg at the end of the 1980s before moving to England. He studied at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art from 1990 to 1992.

Tillmans_zuerich_reprint_front Tillmans is mainly known for the use of multiple photographic genres in his gallery installations, in which he has also included video.

Since the mid-1980s, he has uniquely interpreted portraiture, still life, landscape and abstraction through the medium of photography. He employs a presentational practice that engages the dynamics of space, varying the size of his photographs based on the specific spatial setting of a venue and producing them as large inkjet prints and c-type-prints in multiple sizes, shown framed and unframed on walls as well as under glass on tables. First recognized in the early 1990s for photographs of friends and street subculture he has developed a highly distinctive style of image making that freely embraces a broad range of subjects—from portraiture, still lives, landscapes to abstraction.

Tillmans_truth His exhibition strategies are distinctive, and have changed the way in which photographic images are read and received in the exhibition context. An aspect of his work is to assume a curatorial role—he creates configurations with his photographs that draw formal, symbolic and ephemeral connections.

Tillmans_lighter_cover One of Tillmans’ other chief modes of presentation is through the book form. He has produced a number of artist’s books throughout his career. As well, there are numerous solo publications on his work including the most recent, Lighter, 2008.

He is the first artist working with photography at the center of his practice to have won the Turner Prize and, controversially, the first non-British citizen to have done so.

Since 2006 Wolfgang Tillmans has run an exhibition space below his studio in London called Between Bridges. Tillmans is a judge for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2009, exhibition touring from Manchester (GB) to London (GB).

Gil Blank summarized Wolfgang Tillmans’ body of portratiure work with the following:

“For much of its history, photographic portraiture has somewhat pathetically echoed its precedents in painting, continuing to reflect the compromising relationship between patron and artist. Portraitists often go to confectionary extremes to pad a sitter’s chosen mythology, demonstrated most awkwardly by the work of photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, and Annie Liebovitz. Likewise, photographic dissent rarely extends beyond hijacking the presumed objectivity of the process to artificially (and negatively) hyperstimulate our perception of the subject, as demonstrated by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and most photojournalists. Both methods depend on and promote the fallacy of the clarifying gesture, the singular image that captures essences and reveals mystic truths. In fact, what photography has more consistently shown, despite its practitioners, is the opposite: the infinite ambiguity of the human experience, a flood of implication that by its elusive nature denies explicit understanding. Genuine portraiture reflects that continuum, rather than attempts to act as an isolated document superior to it.”

“The painter Gerhard Richter has said that the amateur’s family snapshot, as an unself-conscious and direct recording of information, is a more reliable method of depiction than the cleverly composed art photograph. In his formulation, both of those attempts at understanding human experience are doomed to frustration anyway, but the snapshot at least is uncontaminated by ridiculous delusions of grandeur. It is, in his words, “pure picture.” Maybe it’s a bit cynical to contend that any single snapshot, as an embodiment of careless resort, is more profound than a purposeful but vain attempt at establishing meaning. But there is great originality in the thought that a lifetime of such images, a compendium of them, the result of an ongoing, fractured, and subconscious but active routine of searching, comprises a more viable kind of compound “portrait” than any single image that teeters dangerously on the verge of propaganda. It’s not merely a matter of volume: Nan Goldin has an ample cache of solipsisms, but their sum never reaches a critical mass that can lift them above the weight of individual anecdotes. They become a foreseeable routine. What might instead render the quotidian as sublime is an approach from oblique angles, from the indirect and always limited information we more realistically know life to afford, so that the attempt at depiction itself reflects our finite capabilities and knowledge of experience. A viable portraiture then might serve not so much as a terminus or distillation, a “decisive moment,” but as a catalyst for reconsideration, and a point of departure rather than one of obviously false finality.”

“Wolfgang Tillmans’ work is an open-ended example of this kind of portraiture. If the most common criticism of his photography is that it lacks focus and resolve, that same sense of loss and existential capitulation grants his portraiture an anticlimactic fragility that’s nonetheless strong, convincingly intimate, and never once surrenders to patronizing homilies. No single Tillmans portrait fully coalesces or completes itself. No single portrait is ever a portrait. Rather, each gels by the same process as memory, through the unending accretion of multiple and imperfectly formed instances. In comibination, his photographs form a sythesis of glances, always incomplete and peripheral, constantly realigning our knowledge, as snow accumulating over a landscape dynamically and randomly defines the thing observed. There’s no question that Tillmans’ anarchic, threadbare style can be troubling to eyes more conditioned to photography in a mode of perfected majesty. It’s no help sinking to the contemporary indulgence of calling it “real”, but  the work is honest, and gratifyingly upfront in its copious shortcomings. It makes no assumptions and, in a way that is exceedingly rare, never attempts to inform. The totality of Tillmans’ oeuvre, consisting of thousands of pictures of maddening variety, serves as a single, plainspoken document that paradoxically diffuses our knowledge and expectations.  It contradicts all of the demands of historic portraiture, and so is uniquely photographic.”

As a viewer, a participant and a follower, one is always granted not only a new layer of imagery and content but also a mind-expansive opportunity to clarify our base assumptions of the power of art as a whole and photography more specifically, both as a visceral experience and an intellectual responsibility. "Accepting the insolvable nature of certain questions whilst continuing to research relentlessly is, for me, a viable way to engage reality."

Tillmans_tree Tillmans images speak to us so strongly and directly because we feel that they have been created in a moment of attraction and engagement – that is, that he makes pictures of that which he finds meaningful. His images are about contact and closeness with a subject, the desire to capture and transform that three-dimensional instant of reality into a two-dimensional image. Yet the created object is not merely a metaphor-it is itself the essence of intent.

A theme explored in this exhibition is precisely that human impulse – to create tangible objects redolent of their creator. For Tillmans the creative impulse goes beyond taking pictures into editing and making things – exposing the fall and curve of his inkjet prints or occupying the space of the gallery with pages laid flat on tables. In his ‘paper drop’ works, he creates extraordinary sculptural forms in photographic paper, then by photographing them returns them to the accustomed flatness of that same medium. The golden ‘Gong’ and the tables first seen as part of the ‘truth study center’ installation, both included in this exhibition, are thus by no means his first engagements with the three-dimensional, though certainly the first works shown as uncompromisingly sculptural objects. The video ‘Farbwerk’ in Gallery 3 concludes this exhibition’s journey with a spellbinding zoom into the red ink reservoir of a printing press.

Tillmans_no bra ‘Garden’, ‘Venice’, and ‘Victoria Park’, three exquisite large black and white photographs, provide strangely compressed experiences of equally ordinary and extraordinary subject matter. In conversation with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Tillmans states: "They’re part of a series of pictures in which black and white photocopies were made into large-scale photographs. They represent an exact recording of what has to be the most ephemeral type of image that exists. A black and white copy with unleveled contrasts created by tiny dots of pigment…a total flattening of an image. What I’m interested in is the transformation of value that takes place when I take a tiny, worthless piece of paper, and give it a body, a weight by massively enlarging it and giving it physical substance by framing it."

Using whatever means necessary, Tillmans composes a visually unified experience on the diverse phenomena that comprise the broad spectrum of lived experience. His "multi-vocal" process amplifies the individual voices embedded within each work. Tillmans’ essentially optimistic vision of the interconnectedness of life eschews imposed boundaries whether between reality and abstraction, photography and other media, or between art and life.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wolfgang Tillmans that can be found at…

Also, an article on Wolfgang Tillmans found in… 
Peter Stepan. (2008) 50 Photographers You Should Know. New York: Prestel.

by Gerald Boerner


“Corn and grain, corn and grain, All that falls shall rise again.”
— Wiccan Harvest Chant

“The Celts celebrated Hallowe’en as Samhain, the Feast of the Dead, when the deceased revisited the mortal world. This Oiche na Sprideanna (Spirit Night) marked the end of summer.”
— Bridget Haggerty

“Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.” 
— Carol Bishop Hipps

“Samhain fires have continued to light up the countryside down the centuries. In some areas, ashes from these bonfires were sprinkled on surrounding fields as a form of protection. The added bonus, of course, was that the ashes improved the soil.”
— Bridget Haggerty

“At the reunion at All Hallows, when the sheep and cattle were brought back from the summer pastures, fires were lit to mark the end of the period of growth and to herald the new year. The Hallowe’en fire was used long ago to supply light and to rekindle the domestic fire. The crops would have been harvested and the turf saved by then.”
— Bridget Haggerty

“Another way to make an evil spirit release any souls held captive was to throw the dust from under your feet at it! And if you’ve ever wondered where we get the tradition of carving pumpkins, it dates back to 18th-century Ireland, when a mean and nasty blacksmith named Jack was denied entry into heaven.”
— Bridget Haggerty

“Celtic Druids dressed up to disguise themselves from the ghosts or devils roaming the land on Hallowe’en night so as to avoid being carried away. Hence the tradition of dressing up at Hallowe’en. However great the fright, nobody would really be surprised to meet with the Puca, the Black Pig, or meet up with that headless ghost, the Dullahan… or to wake in the dark of night and find the returned dead of the family seated around the kitchen hearth…”
— Bridget Haggerty

“The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.”
— Canuckville, Useless Matter That Doesn’t Really Matter


Halloween Celebrations: Samhain

samhain Samhain ("summer’s end", from sam "summer" and fuin "end") is a festival held at the end of the harvest season in Gaelic and Brythonic cultures. Principally a harvest festival, it also has aspects of a festival of the dead. It had its roots in ancient Celtic polytheism, and continued to be celebrated through medieval times, and is seen as contributing to the modern celebration of Halloween. Many scholars believe that it was the beginning of the Celtic year.

The term "Samhain" derives from the name of a month in the ancient Celtic calendar, in particular the first three nights of this month, with the festival marking the end of the summer season and the end of the harvest. Samhain was also called the Féile Moingfhinne ie "Festival of Mongfind". According to Cormac’s Glossary, Mongfind (mod.Irish spelling Mongfhionn) was a goddess the pagan Irish worshipped on Samhain. The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls’ Day, and appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween. Samhain is also the name of a modern festival in various currents of Neopaganism that are based on, or inspired by, Gaelic traditions.

Samhain and an t-Samhain are also the Irish and Scottish Gaelic names of November, respectively.


samhain_Dogs The Gaulish calendar appears to have divided the year into two halves: the ‘dark’ half, beginning with the month Samonios (the October/November lunation), and the ‘light’ half, beginning with the month Giamonios (the April/May lunation). The entire year may have been considered as beginning with the ‘dark’ half, so that the beginning of Samonios may be considered the Celtic New Year’s day. The celebration of New Year itself may have taken place during the ‘three nights of Samonios’ (Gaulish trinux[tion] samo[nii]), the beginning of the lunar cycle which fell nearest to the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. The lunations marking the middle of each half-year may also have been marked by specific festivals. The Coligny calendar marks the mid-summer moon (see Lughnasadh), but omits the mid-winter one (see Imbolc). The seasons are not oriented at the solar year, viz. solstice and equinox, so the mid-summer festival would fall considerably later than summer solstice, around 1 August (Lughnasadh). It appears that the calendar was designed to align the lunations with the agricultural cycle of vegetation, and that the exact astronomical position of the Sun at that time was considered less important.

Samhain_Autumn_FaceIn medieval Ireland, Samhain became the principal festival, celebrated with a great assembly at the royal court in Tara, lasting for three days. After being ritually started on the Hill of Tlachtga, a bonfire was set alight on the Hill of Tara, which served as a beacon, signaling to people gathered atop hills all across Ireland to light their ritual bonfires. The custom has survived to some extent, and recent years have seen a resurgence in participation in the festival.

Samhain was identified in Celtic literature as the beginning of the Celtic year and its description as "Celtic New Year" was popularised in 18th century literature From this usage in the Romanticist Celtic Revival, Samhain is still popularly regarded as the "Celtic New Year" in the contemporary Celtic cultures, both in the Six Celtic Nations and the diaspora. For instance, the contemporary calendars produced by the Celtic League begin and end at Samhain.

Gaelic folklore

samhain_spirit_rising The Samhain celebrations have survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the harvest and the dead. In Ireland and Scotland, the Féile na Marbh, the ‘festival of the dead’ took place on Samhain.

The night of Samhain, in Irish, Oíche Shamhna and Scots Gaelic, Oidhche Shamhna, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and falls on the October 31. It represents the final harvest. In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still Oíche/Oidhche Shamhna. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place for the dead at the Samhain feast, and to tell tales of the ancestors on that night.

Traditionally, Samhain was time to take stock of the herds and grain supplies, and decide which animals would need to be slaughtered in order for the people and livestock to survive the winter. This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since summer grass is gone and free foraging is no longer possible.

samhain1 Bonfires played a large part in the festivities celebrated down through the last several centuries, and up through the present day in some rural areas of the Celtic nations and the diaspora. Villagers were said to have cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames. In the pre-Christian Gaelic world, cattle were the primary unit of currency and the center of agricultural and pastoral life. Samhain was the traditional time for slaughter, for preparing stores of meat and grain to last through the coming winter. The word ‘bonfire’, or ‘bonefire’ is a direct translation of the Gaelic tine cnámh. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together. Often two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people would walk between the fires as a ritual of purification. Sometimes the cattle and other livestock would be driven between the fires, as well.

Divination is a common folkloric practice that has also survived in rural areas. The most common uses were to determine the identity of one’s future spouse, the location of one’s future home, and how many children a person might have. Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often employed in these rituals. Apples were peeled, the peel tossed over the shoulder, and its shape examined to see if it formed the first letter of the future spouse’s name. Nuts were roasted on the hearth and their movements interpreted – if the nuts stayed together, so would the couple. Egg whites were dropped in a glass of water, and the shapes foretold the number of future children. Children would also chase crows and divine some of these things from how many birds appeared or the direction the birds flew.


In parts of western Brittany, Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou, cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his ‘cuckold’ horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld. The Romans identified Samhain with their own feast of the dead, the Lemuria. This, however, was observed in the days leading up to May 13. With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman festival in May) became All Hallows’ Day on November 1 followed by All Souls’ Day, on November 2. Over time, the night of October 31 came to be called All Hallow’s Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated to the dead eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.


The Welsh equivalent of this holiday is called Nos Galan Gaeaf (see Calan Gaeaf). As with Samhain, this marks the beginning of the dark half of the year and it officially begins at sunset on the 31st.

Isle of Man

The Manx celebrate Hop-tu-Naa, which is a celebration of the original New Year’s Eve. The term is Manx Gaelic in origin, deriving from Shogh ta’n Oie, meaning "this is the night". Traditionally, children dress as scary beings, carry turnips rather than pumpkins and sing an Anglicized version of Jinnie the Witch. They go from house to house asking for sweets or money.

“The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.”
— Canuckville, Useless Matter That Doesn’t Really Matter


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Samhain that can be found at…