Annette Kelm | Annette Kelm MOCAD
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit | 6.5.–31.7.2016
Detroit City/Detroit Affinities: Annette Kelm

The photographic works of the Berlin-based artist Annette Kelm often feature a single, vaguely familiar object, which she renders using a direct and realistic style that oscillates between genres, such as documentary and advertising. She makes series revolving around these objects, pressing the relationship between photography and sculpture—her work moves between the creation of images and the recording of a staged object or objects—in order to unfold her subject's social, economic, and cultural context. The work shares much with that of contemporaries such as Josephine Pryde and Wolfgang Tillmans, but perhaps her clearest influence is Christopher Williams, who also puts his camera at the service of finding historical marks and contexts embedded within forms. Yet whereas Williams typically provides lengthy captions that help viewers decipher and unpack his images, Kelm offers few clues.

The presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit brings together works from throughout Kelm's career that outline the abovementioned concerns. In particular the piece Monney (2015) offers a link to Detroit, given the city's turbulent financial past and current economic realities. The work is a photographic triptych in which numerous freshly printed US $1 bills spell out the word "monney" (the misspelling is intentional). The composition is then abstracted and deconstructed; in the final picture the accumulated banknotes are no longer legible as a word. Kelm thus points toward the artificial character of money—a cultural construction that has been created as a way to pay for goods and services that also functions simultaneously as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, something that "stores" value yet as a mere piece of paper is worthless in and of itself.

The work establishes a connection between art as commodity and art as an investment possibility that, like the dollar, is based on symbolic, not intrinsic, value. 

Curated by Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at Large Jens Hoffmann