About the work
Michael Höpfner explores the concept of slowness. On foot, he is crossing sparsely populated deserts and mountains in all regions of the world. With minimal luggage: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, camera, and diary, exposing himself to nature with all its unpredictability, silence, and loneliness. Höpfner sets out to escape from conventional images. He views the foreignness of not understanding language or culture as liberating, allowing him to concentrate on the essential senses. Thus, walking becomes a mind-expanding method for him to leave behind the known world, his own culture. With the analog camera, he tries to record his observations without revealing much personal information. The mostly deserted vast plains, mountain formations, and screes bear witness to loneliness and isolation and convey a great sense of peace and power. His pictures do not idealize. The apparent emptiness is charged with tension and uncertainty. His travel diaries, in which he notes his extreme experiences, doubts, and feelings, also speak of this. In the exhibition context, they are presented together along with maps and drawings that supplement his photographs.
In the exhibited work Conversations with a hunter-gatherer, the Austrian artist describes his wanderings in the footsteps of an imaginary hunter-gatherer through the Alpine region. On seven sheets, he combines strips of contact prints with handwritten notes. Step by step, Michael Höpfner lets the viewer participate in his thoughts. Poetically, they reflect the passage of time, vegetation, and history inscribed in the landscape: „walking is always time travel / … / walking is a form of memory / the hunter-gatherer says memory is in nature.“ They also illustrate his search for what nature means: something from which man, to his regret, has long since distanced himself. His works raise lasting awareness of the mysteries of nature and enable a different respectful view of it.
Michael Höpfner (* 1972 in Krems, Austria) studied painting at the University of Fine Arts in Vienna and photography at the Glasgow School of Art. His work as an artist since 1995 has been based on his artistic practice of wandering in deserted landscapes in Asia, Europe, and North Africa. He reflects on these landscapes, the changing nomadic societies, and his own experiences in his work. In the process, his black and white photographs, drawings, collages, and diary entries also tell of his quest to understand the nature of the human relationship with nature. Recently he presented his works at GAMeC in Bergamo, Eikon Schauraum, Vienna, Fotohof Salzburg, Landesgalerie Nieder sterreich, Krems, as well as at Kunsthaus Wien, Vienna. Höpfner has received various awards, such as the Art Prize of the Province of Lower Austria and the Austrian Graphic Prize, in 2010 was also nominated for the Prize for Young Art of the National Gallery in Berlin. In 2006 he represented Austria at the 10th Biennale in Cairo. He has also received numerous travel grants. Höpfner teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.