press release

Peter Friedl. Rare Pictures & The Children
24.06.2017 - 30.12.2017

In his first solo exhibition at Galerie Campagne Première, Peter Friedl presents works spanning several decades that explore, through a variety of means, the relationships between history and biography, document and artefact. A selection of rare photographs taken mostly in the 1990s will be shown in public for the first time. As fleeting snapshots and memory traces of fragile autonomy they exemplify Friedl’s conceptual practice, which deals with critical intimacy, permanent shifts in genre and place, the political historicity of images and the search for new forms of narration. In contrast to his long-term projects such as The Diaries (since 1981), Theory of Justice (1992–2010), Playgrounds (since 1995) or complex film installations like Report (2016) – produced for documenta 14 –, the artworks in this exhibition serve either as fragments from other narratives, as references, or as closed entities in themselves. Small-format color photographs that have been painted over – on the occasion of Friedl’s first retrospective in Brussels (1998) – are mingled with earlier photographic records from artistic interventions as well as documents from extensive travels across the globe. Among the most well-known works in the exhibition is the video Dummy (1997), a looped Lehrstück on delayed acts of exchange commissioned by documenta X. In the form of a documentary performance, MOB (1997) depicts the surveillance society in London’s Canary Wharf. The oldest photographic work on show is a collage from 1971 – a piece of material culture raising questions of artistic authorship and self-empowerment. In its conciseness, it echoes the drawings made by Friedl in his infancy, which were on display at documenta 12 and in several retrospective exhibitions.

Theatricality and the staging of childhood as a microhistory of desires and exclusions are recurring themes in Friedl’s oeuvre. For the video work The Children (2009), he relocated a street scene in Tirana into the Hotel Dajti, designed by an Italian architect during the Fascist occupation, to create a filmed tableau vivant based on the propaganda-style social realist painting Fëmijët (1966) by Albanian painter Spiro Kristo (1936–2011). In the voice-over, one of the girls says in Albanian: “The image should stand out from the frame.” Francisco Pacheco, author of Arte de la pintura, gave this advice to his pupil Diego Velázquez. Michel Foucault quoted it in his “Las Meninas” essay, which was to become the first chapter of The Order of Things (1966).