Because of their scent, their beauty, their healing power, and even as food, plants have always had a firm place in humanity's symbolic world. Annette Kelm's four new large-scale photographs are also charged with this cultural-historical significance. However, the Berlin artist seems neither to enforce nor to negate the symbolic power of the plant world in her art. Instead, her approach to flora is characterized by care, an interest in aesthetics, and staging as well as a sober view on the plant. Vegetation is one of the recurring motifs in Kelm's work. In combination with technical elements such as mechanical springs, the connection between art and technology is thematized in a subtle way. This nexus is particularly potent in photography, which is driven by technical innovation.

In her Kreuzberg studio, Kelm builds arrangements that look like small temporary landscapes. The artist combines withered palm leaves with a delphinium flower and a metal spring, the spherical, lilac-colored flowers of the giant leek (Allium giganteum) make an appearance as well as a ruffled spider plant or the so-called cockscomb (Celosia cristata). Kelm photographs the plants in front of colored photo cardboard in a way that the "builtness" of her scenes remains traceable. This is how she achieves "open pictures." The artist herself describes their creation as the result of various theoretical readings, reflections, impressions, and experiences: "I try to express my thoughts with pictures. It is important to me to keep my work open, thus, to have many references at the same time. My pictures should not illustrate anything but stand for themselves."

In this sense, the metal springs used by Kelm also open quite different lines of thought. These could, for example, lead to the artist's biography, who as a teenager in the early nineties often went to the Stuttgart Werkstatthaus right after school to work artistically and weld sculptures in the public metal workshop. The springs could also refer to the immediate surroundings, as many of the springs Kelm uses come from a closed metal factory, where the artist's studio is located today. In Berlin's cultural history, metal springs also have a pop-cultural connotation, as they were among the preferred sound bodies of the influential band Einstürzende Neubauten and their experimental percussionist N.U. Unruh early on.

But Kelm's images also bring to mind the English artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942–1994), who once noted in his text, published posthumously in 1995, about his famous garden on the southern English coast in the shadow of a nuclear power station, how the relationship between the worlds of things and plants changed depending on the season: "The garden is full of metal: rusty metal corkscrew clumps, anchors from the beach, twisted metal, an old table-top with a hole for the umbrella, an old window, chains which form circles round the plants. All this disappears in the burgeoning spring."

© Text Kito Nedo



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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