ON RUDOLF BONVIE
Regarded as one of Germany’s earliest media artists, Rudolf Bonvie is best known for his digital assemblages of film stills, media images, and fashion photographs, placed alongside his own photographs. While largely focused on the various ways images are used to both inform and manipulate the public, more recently Bonvie has turned his attention directly to the internet.
DIALOG | THE EXPERIMENT
The “Dialog” sequence from 1973 has been “reblogged” over 50,000 times to date so far, and “liked” or “shared” thousands of times on Facebook, meaning that it is a firm fixture in the visual universe of 16- to 24-year-olds. As part of this exhibition, Galerie Priska Pasquer and Rudolf Bonvie decided to interact with users and to establish a link between the virtual and the real world: A further motif from the “Dialog” sequence is being issued as a signed print in a limited edition of 1,000 copies at an affordable price especially for the younger generation. Internet users will have the opportunity to acquire the virtually “shared” picture as a physical object at cost price. This does away with the anonymity of the internet and raises a fascinating question: Do we just “like” and “share” these days or can a picture find its way from the computer screen to the wall.
Tumblr is a platform that is used above all by the younger generation to share photos, GIFs, videos and short texts. Founded in 2007 by David Karp (born 1986), Tumblr was sold to Yahoo for 1.1 billion dollars in May 2013. In August 2013, over 130.5 million Tumblr blogs were online.In his Tumblr works, Rudolf Bonvie explores perceptions of his own artistic works on the internet. He uploads these to the Tumblr blog portal where they are “shared” by other users. In this way, the works become part of other people’s visual worlds. These ever-changing contexts of his works have been compressed and fixed by the artist in his Tumblr works.
BONVIE ON HIS TUMBLRWORKS
Rudolf Bonvie: “In my Tumblr works, I am examining the changing perception of my artistic work in the World Wide Web. While visitors to my homepage were only passive observers (Web 1.0), they can now – thanks to today’s social media software – “like” my pictures or “share” or “reblog” them by integrating them directly in their own homepage (Web 2.0). Through an architecture that facilitates direct participation, the perception of my works is changing – suddenly they are being seen on someone else’s homepage in a wholly different context. People’s own images come together with other people’s to form a new dynamic.
This flood of images means that the generation of 16- to 24-year-old Tumblr users have new ways of seeing things. The huge volume of images rushing past them does not exhaust them – on the contrary, they love swimming in images, occasionally singling out one or two to reblog. Their perceptive faculties are faster – their eyes are keener.
This raises the following questions:
– Given this fleeting mass of images, does this generation still have a need for a picture on the wall?
– For something they can touch?
– For something static? Something that they can’t click away?
Everyone takes high-quality photographs, everyone posts them online – everyone joins in.
How do traditional photography and vintage prints react to these circumstances?”
On RHAPSODIE NUCLÉAIRE
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 was a historic event to which RUDOLF BONVIE devoted one of his most important works. He immediately understood that the magnitude and significance of this event could not be conveyed by means of conventional (image) reporting. The “Rhapsodie nucléaire” is based on starkly alienated photographs of nuclear power plants. The buildings appear detached, abstracted and flattened, almost unreal – yet at the same time with an objective, rational identifiability in their symbolic character. “The power of these pictures lies in their inadequacy when compared with the unimaginable, incomprehensible reality.” (Erich Franz).
While his photographic works attempted to capture the permanent threat posed by nuclear energy, BONVIE also explored the response to the disaster in the print media. Between 30 April and 1 June 1986, he collected all reports about the nuclear accident published in Cologne daily newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger and assembled them chronologically and column by column into a three-part picture diagram. This visual interpretation alienates the verbal news material while at the same time exposing the speechlessness masked by the supposed readability: the remembrance work is a monument to our ability to be horrified by something directly and then to forget about it quickly. BONVIE has now compiled the texts together again in a small book.
The work cycle “Rhapsodie nucléaire” met with an enthusiastic response ten years later in an exceptional project. To coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl reactor disaster, RUDOLF BONVIE designed a dinner service called “Sur la beauté d’une centrale nucléaire” (On the beauty of the nuclear power plant). All pieces feature hand-painted decorations from stylised nuclear power plants. The service is an angry, ironic comment on the human tendency to suppress and forget: how are we supposed to eat from plates decorated with reactor images without the food sticking in our throats?
All the series of works that RUDOLF BONVIE has created on the subject of nuclear power plants are still very relevant to the present day – 29 years after Chernobyl and five after Fukushima.