The Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation is relocating from Cologne to Berlin-Mitte in December 2009. The non-profit foundation’s prominent new location on the corner of Auguststrasse / Tucholskystrasse will enable the organization to better pursue its central aim: publicizing the work of Alfred Ehrhardt.
In Berlin the foundation will increase its work with contemporary art and will continue to expand cooperation with other institutions. The special dialogue inherent in the foundation’s approach to exhibitions is based on the juxtaposition of historic photographs and cinematic films by Alfred Ehrhardt with the work of contemporary photographers, who address themes that were his focus, the concept of »nature« and the »construction of the natural.« This dialogue will be furthered in the form of events, discussions, and accompanying publications.
The new space will open with the series Paradise Now by Peter Bialobrzeski and with photographs and films on the theme of Naturdinge (Natural Things) by Alfred Ehrhardt.
With his series Paradise Now, Peter Bialobrzeski (born in 1961 in Wolfsburg) takes a look at the jungle-like growth of nature—both cultivated plantings and areas left untouched by urban expansion—in the Asian megacities of Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. As in his previous series Neontigers and Lost in Transition, Bialobrzeski masterfully pushes the boundaries of the documentary. Like the paintings of the Romantics, his compositions are seductive, yet this beautiful surface is deceptive. Photographed solely at dusk or night, the rampant tropical greenery has an appearance that alternates between the hyperreal and surreal due to the neon lights and floodlights on high-rise buildings. »The images dramatize lush growth as a sign of hope, but they also raise the question whether we are able to justify these lights in the face of the predicted climate catastrophe,« says Bialobrzeski. Illuminated by the glittering light of the metropolis, the paradisical landscape seems to be able to assert itself within the city structure. Paradise Now thus evokes the scenario of a distant future, in which humans have disappeared from the planet and nature has regained its primacy.
Alfred Ehrhardt (1901–1984) represents nature as an eternal force able to outlast humanity. Humans are part of nature, and nature—as the traditional counterpart to the manifestations of civilization—assumes a normative authority. The dialogue between Ehrhardt’s work and Peter Bialobrzeski’s Paradise Now makes it clear that nature has the ability to combat man-made realms and persevere.
Alfred Ehrhardt is known for his photographic and filmic studies of natural artifacts, which range from corals to sponges, mussels, snails, sea urchins, starfish, crystals and stones; these images express great respect for the diverse forms found in nature. Using the powerful pictorial language of New Objectivity, he illustrated the wealth of forms and laws of nature through systematic typologies and scientific depictions. For him, the variety of forms in nature was a sign of an overarching, creative plan based on a pantheistic understanding of nature. Influenced by various »back to nature« movements originating in the 19thcentury, he was convinced that a cosmological force was manifested in the formal analogies depicted in Kunstformen der Natur by Ernst Haeckel and Urformen der Kunst by Karl Blossfeldt—a force underlying the micro cosmos as well as the macro cosmos. Studies of nature, obligatory for an artist, became the main source of inspiration for his creative work. The exhibition of photography is complemented by the screening of three award-winning documentary films, Spiel der Spiralen (Play of Spirals) (1951), Tanz der Muscheln (Dance of Mussels) (1956) und Korallen, Skulpturen der Meere (Corals, Sculptures of the Sea) (1964).