Monday 11 February 2013

Martin Stöbich

All images © Martin Stöbich

This past November Brad Feuerhelm was invited on behalf of 1000 Words to attend the Vienna Portfolio reviews held at the Leopold Museum in central Vienna, Austria. Here he reports on his findings.

Among the standout artists and photographers who came to meet with me were the following for whom you may research at your leisure. Sara-Lena Maierhofer for her book on an infamous imposter. Krisztina Fazekas-Kielbassa whose emotional and poignant series on her mother and the troubles of growing up with a conflicting notion of love was exceptional in every regard and it deservedly won the portfolio award. Ernst Logar’s petroleum economic studies and further investigations of unseen power structures merit serious consideration. Klaus Pichler’s series on Austrian pub life and his former body of work on a criminal underclass were also spectacular. My personal favorite was Magda Hueckel’s Anima series for which you can expect further reportage, on the matter in the future.

And then there was Martin Stöbich, whose simple yet elegant photo books quickly caught my interest. Stöbich is a professional photographer working mostly in colour with a sort of current practice based on a post Parr observation of the hidden symbolic metaphor of the seemingly banal. He has published several small photography books with a superb eye for minimal typeface and editing. Think of the cover for A Brief History of Curating by Hans Ulrich-Obrist and you’ll get the idea of the design direction of the object.

Within the majority of the newspaper-bound lilliputian books are works by Stöbich himself. In particular, Wo Nehman Wir Nur Jeden Tag Aufs Neue Diese Zuversicht Her stood out as it was by far the most conceptually driven of the four books I was given. It is a fantastic pastiche of contemporary culture as it relates to the pandering of sexuality on the male hetero-psyche in the digital age of instant access and satisfaction. Appropriating online pornography, Stöbich has superimposed a series of brightly coloured texts onto the image while keeping the background photograph monotone. The viewer is required to look forcefully through and beyond the lettering in order to see the erotic imagery underneath.

Through simplicity of means, it makes the ocular ingestion of the base image a very complicated read since the viewer is forced to “see” the pornography through forced suggestion. It separates the layers of meaning and representation that are at odds with the potential libidinous gesture lurking below. The scathing psychological games of viewing at play with the overlayed words such as “SERIOUSLY” and “I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW” leap optically from the page to challenge our passing interests in the female subject.

In a manner similar to Ed Ruscha and Thomas Ruff the work then forces a contemporary reckoning with our understanding of internet and telecommunications and with the abjection our own bodies and minds can feel whilst absorbing the true conceptual or intellectual content of sex-and-image driven internet. It could be argued then that photography itself is not the language, but perhaps the combination of corporal desire to that of machine output. All in, the book offers a passing commentary on the absurdity of viewing pleasures and the use of material sourced from the internet is perfect fodder for this sort of short examination. 
Brad Feuerhelm