"This is my letter to the world That never wrote to me."
about the work
The exhibition Sensing Nature shows two photographic works from the series Wild Flowers of Palestine by the New York multimedia artist Lisa Oppenheim. The two motifs come from the image archive of the American Colony, a Christian utopian religious community founded in 1881 by American emigrants in Ottoman Palestine. In addition to performing philanthropic tasks, they founded the legendary hotel of the same name in East Jerusalem, which still exists today. Over 20,000 surviving photographs document the community‘s activities, daily life, historical sites, and landscapes in the Holy Land. Today, the photo collection is part of the United States Library of Congress in Washington. The selected photographs are stereoscopic, created by a technique popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that makes a kind of pseudo-3D effect. In this process, a motif is photographed from two minimally different angles and juxtaposed—Lisa Oppenheim experiments with this historical photographic technique. Using analog development techniques, she pushes the two halves of the stereoscopic negative together in the lab to create a new double image. In doing so, she deliberately uses the inherent defects and exposure errors in the negatives to create new image compositions. The two motifs were taken between 1900 and 1920 and show two wildflowers typical of the Mediterranean region; the Anemone coronaria L., whose red blossoms light up the olive groves in spring, and the Althaea rosea Cav known as the hollyhock. The depiction of wildflowers isolated from their natural context gives them something iconic and unique. Lisa Oppenheim reinforces this phenomenon by greatly enlarging the original motif and presenting it in a way that fills the picture. The doubling of the blossoms and the visible traces of the development process gives them a temporal dimension. In this way, the long-forgotten historical motifs develop an entirely new presence of their own in space. Oppenheim succeeds in condensing the simplicity of the flowers into timeless images whose beauty at the same time reveals their vulnerability and danger.
Using materials from public archives, photographic anthologies, and the Internet, Lisa Oppenheim (* 1975, New York, USA)
engages the full breadth of photography‘s history and traces the technological processes, consumption, and circulation of photographs from Henry Fox Talbot to Flickr. With her work, Oppenheim explores the interactions between an image, its
source, and context. Oppenheim lives and works in New York City and Munich. She studied for a BA at Brown University in 1998, and later an MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School for the Arts at Bard College in 2001, and is a graduate of the Whitney Museum‘s Independent Study Program and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In 2014 Lisa was the recipient of both the AIMIA|AGO Photography Prize from the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography from the Israel Museum. Her works were recently shown in solo exhibitions at MCA Denver in Denver, Colorado and MOCA Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio, at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne in Reims, at Lulu in Mexico City, at Kunstverein in Hamburg as well as at Grazer Kunstverein.