The major survey exhibition Trace – Formations of Likeness is in collaboration with The Walther Collection, a New York City/Neu-Ulm–based art foundation internationally recognised for their critical engagement with contemporary and historical photography, as well as lens-based media. The more than 1000 works on display by a diverse group of artists from different cultural backgrounds, as well as archival, documentary and vernacular photography, offer a global context to reflect on the divergent trajectories of photography today. Collectively, they showcase the medium’s capacity as both an instrument for empowerment and formation of the self, as well as its complex uses as a tool for control and subjugation.
With works by anonymous artists and Ai Weiwei, Jane Alexander, Dieter Appelt, Richard Avedon, Martina Bacigalupo, Sammy Baloji, Yto Barrada, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Jodi Bieber, Karl Blossfeldt, Candice Breitz, Cang Xin, Edson Chagas, Kudzanai Chiurai, Mitch Epstein, Em’kal Eyongakpa, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso, David Goldblatt, Kay Hassan, Hong Hao, Huang Yan, Pieter Hugo, Délio Jasse, Seydou Keïta, Lebohang Kganye, Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong, Lin Tianmiao, Lu Yang, Luo Yongjin, Ma Liuming, Christine Meisner, Hentie van der Merwe, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, S. J. Moodley, Zanele Muholi, Eadweard Muybridge, Grace Ndiritu, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Adolfo Patiño, Dawit L. Petros, Jo Ractliffe, John W. Rogers, Rong Rong, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, August Sander, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Berni Searle, Sheng Qi, Accra Shepp, Yinka Shonibare, Malick Sidibé, Aida Silvestri, Penny Siopis, Song Dong, Thomas Struth, Guy Tillim, Michael Tsegaye, Sue Williamson, Xu Yong, Yang Fudong, Suzuki Yoshikazu and Kimura Shōhachi, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Zhang Huan, and others.
The exhibition’s core focus is portrait photography — of people, objects, and places — and the tracing of societal transformation across geographic spaces and contrasting socio-political and cultural landscapes. The photographic portrait is deployed as a means to shape identity, to advocate for social change and as a subversive strategy for visibility, often through an intimate investigation of politics of memory, history, and embodiment. The portraits on display range from Zanele Muholi‘s visual activism with its powerful presentation of Black members of the South African LGBTQ+ scene, to Accra Shepp‘s series of Occupy Wall Street protesters revolting against social and economic inequality in the streets of New York City, to Zhang Huan‘s documentation of his performances in which the human face is transformed into a stage expressing cultural belonging.
The substantial breadth and dialogical scope of the exhibition, which encompasses works from the last three centuries and brings together artists from Africa, America, Europe, and Asia, enables audiences to consider not only the parallel histories of the medium, but for its materiality, taxonomy, and serial structures to be revealed and drawn into question. As with Karrabing Film Collective, this exhibition brings together artistic practices that are focused on the making of images, and the production of representations of the real and the imaginary.
Together with Hamid Zenati’s display All-Over in the Mittelhalle, as well as a series of other exhibitions in the 2023 programme of Haus der Kunst, the exhibition Trace stands to reexamine the stories we are told, highlight that which is missing from historic narratives and repurpose the urgency of acting locally while keeping the world in our minds, as well as question canons and traditions and look to bring to the fore those voices historically set aside.
Curated by Anna Schneider with Hanns Lennart Wiesner.
This exhibition was developed in close collaboration with The Walther Collection, and curatorially advised by Renée Mussai.