10 JULY – 6 SEPTEMBER 2020

KÖNIG GALERIE is proud to launch its fourth exhibition at KÖNIG TOKIO with works by Annette Kelm. It is also the artist’s fourth exhibition in Tokyo.

Objects are not merely functional things. They are cultural signifiers and embodiments of codified meaning. When shown in museums, they even represent history and, being metonymies of the past, act as materialized traces.

Annette Kelm’s photographs often focus on artificial arrangements of objects that look familiar and yet generate additional signification that makes them difficult to read. Her images quote the genres of still life, studio or architecture photography, but never fully comply with the conventions governing these genres. On the contrary, they seem to defy photography’s function as a medium of either documentation or staged representation in favor of something that is both a pictorial composition and a meditation on photographic representation as such. Capturing their subjects in frontal view and in great detail, Kelm’s conceptual approach to photography keeps an air of slight impersonality and yet emphasizes the visual potential of the motifs to stand for more than just themselves. In her still lifes, everyday objects loose their original meaning to gain an unexpected new one. Paper napkins with sun motif become a picture within the picture (Good Morning, 2018). Spirals develop an abstract life of their own (Big Sur, 2018). The architecture of the Research Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Shipbuilding in Berlin, too, appears as an abstract volume that does not reveal any of its functions (Versuchsanstalt für Wasserbau und Schiffbau, Berlin, 2018).

Over the years, the artist has shown much interest in how things are presented in museums or as part of a collection. How does an object in a display case become a placeholder for cultural history? How do displays frame and structure an item’s readability? Which supplementary information is needed to decode its meaning? The dungarees shown in Latzhose 1, “Relaxed” and Latzhose 4, “Jump” (both 2014) are icons of German feminism of the 1970s. The violet color symbolizes the merging of the male connoted blue with the “female” red, while the working clothes refer to women’s emancipation. In her photographic approach, Kelm animated and ‘freed’ the trousers from being mere symbols that represent a movement still relevant today. The technical apparatus in Zuse 1 (2016) is Z1, the world’s first programmable data processor, which was developed by Konrad Zuse in his parent’s apartment in 1938. The photo presents a detail of the computer under plexiglass as it is shown today in Berlin’s Technical Museum. The technical structure resembles an abstract architecture, yet the plotted text on the vitrine’s surface adds the information necessary to identify it as a milestone of information technology. Annette Kelm’s photograph, however, seems primarily interested in the transposition of the object into the abstract, two-dimensional realm of photography, where meaning is negotiated in a different way: something vanishes and resurfaces anew as visual surplus. Other photographs resemble avant-garde shop window decorations, in which a product is staged in a flashy way, and yet the matching colors between background and object make the latter almost vanish (Makramee Shoe, 2019). In Straws and Stripes and Apples (both 2018), textile backdrops emphasize the two-dimensional nature of the photographic reproduction as if the pictorial space converged with the depicted object – unless a fold challenges the illusion.

These works – like Annette Kelm’s oeuvre as such – are meticulously visual creations that draw attention to what we see and how we see. Like a frame structuring the view, the compositions unfold references and a manifold context, but in the end they prompt us as viewers to reflect on the potential of representation as a means to analyze both present and past reality.



Annette Kelm (b. in 1975 in Stuttgart, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. She studied at Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg and is one of the most important representatives of contemporary photography in Germany. Themes of seeing and displaying, the constructed nature of images, as well as the disclosure of the circumstances of their production, run through Annette Kelm's work, in which documentary and staged images stand alongside one another.

In her still lifes, portraits, landscape, and architectural photographs, Kelm documents the modern everyday culture and often uses object photography to do so. Removed from their original ...
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