(Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, text following the introduction to the exhibition, held on 12th of March 2004, Gallery Gaby Kraushaar, Düsseldorf)
german version >click
Oliver Siebers works follow a different, nonetheless related model of perception, comprising two analogue corpuses of work. Starting from two distinguishable models of urban housing, a high rise tower block in Berlin near the Alexanderplatz and a settlement of semidetached houses in Düsseldorf-Lörick, he shows architectural photographs as well as series of portraits of the respective residents, which were taken in 2002.
As with previous projects of Sieber – one thinks of the thematically structured portraits of blind people, the aforementioned female soccer players or the Skinsmodsted series – his work is again founded on a consequently claimed concept. His motivation is a never tiring interest in the human being and his or her surroundings, which he transfers to methodically spaced series.
The portraits linked to the specific kinds of housings seem at a first glance not much different from his previous works. For the portraits of the residents he showed the limited detail of the head or bust image, reminding us of passport pictures. Here as well his „model“ look past the camera objective in relative frontality or with a slight twist towards the camera.
But unlike the previous portraits people are not standing in front of a bright background but what looks like a black fond. But this is only the result of a new flashing technique used for the exhibited photographs, which consequently shut out the real surroundings at the same time highlighting the features. Thus the people portrayed become a homogeneous group, gaining in individuality by their belonging to a certain model of urban housing.
Furthermore the black fond serves as a kind of stage setting, meeting the architectural photographs which have been taken against a blackened sky. Even considering the sharp focus of Sieber’s photographs – which is the result of using a large-format camera – this points at the ambivalent relation between photo and reality.
On the one hand we are face to face with people of different background and age – Oliver Sieber knows a lot of stories about them, like the rocket scientist in the Berlin tower block who came from the former DDR who is critical of any form of housing which divides into lots, or the family in the house in Lörick, where three generations are living under one roof with their au-pair. On the other hand Sieber’s composition take on a model-like appearance and by the artistic means used in creating them are meant to characterise the portraits in the mentioned way.
Like Katja Stuke, Oliver Sieber looks for the history of people, for their present and past, for questions and answers which he postulates himself: „What makes people different who live in different models of housing; do they differ at all? What do people think about the way of living? Do they live there by coincidence or have they willingly chosen their situation and for what reasons?“
The answers one might get to these questions are probably as varied as peoples‘ histories, as their architecture or their furniture. One of these answers has been written down. What follows is a passage from one Martin Sokol’s texts which accompany the photography in the artists‘ book that has been published with the exhibition under the title Citizen’s Handbook (Schaden Verlag, Köln).
Martin Sokol: „Everything speeded up, when the refugees finally had the money to free themselves from the small rented rooms. Half of Germany moved into own houses or at least in new, more spacious high rise residential blocks. Into towers with elevators, waste disposal units and broad balconies. Everywhere the homesteads arose from the misty river landscapes. High rise blocks with semi-detached houses, high rise blocks with rows of garages. In this world of clinker bricks and sandstone each new residents would jump a little higher up the social ladder. Refugees became house owners, workers became employees, soldiers became fathers. The workers lived in residential blocks ten storeys high, with flat roofs made from asbestos cement. The employees lived in residential blocks five storeys high, with an elevator. The ambitious ones lived in small semi-detached houses, which meandered like cooling ribs around the new high rise blocks. As little children we played in huge sandpits, the mothers played in pathetic front gardens and the fathers in dark garages.“