Volker Hageman’s work deals with the phenomena of everyday culture in the context of cultural history. It is almost always depicted in the context of current discourses (media theory, space theory); The aesthetic dimension and readability of the images is just as important as this background. The illustrator studied literature with an emphasis on text theory and political science.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: Your most recent solo exhibition was recently held in the exhibition space in Tunnel 19. You are one of the founding members of the group of artists that runs this Kreuzberg gallery. Can you tell us something about your business and exhibition space?
Volker Hagmann: Tunnel 19 has been around since summer 2019; Our group includes seven photographers. We met years ago at Photocentrum Kreuzberg as participants in the project course given by lecturer Ebba Dangschat. During our first joint exhibition, we decided to stay together as a group and now run our own gallery, making space for contemporary photography. There, near the Kottbusser Bridge, we will initially show our work. And like every summer, “tunnel weeks” are underway: in seven consecutive one-week exhibitions, we show what we’re currently working on. But we always have guest exhibitions and together we decide who is close to us with their work and who we want to show their work.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: Your photos manipulate what we perceive as reality and what we classify as fiction. In your LOOK BACK series, you photographed people in urban settings. While some of your photos are of real people, the confusingly similar ones are of people on billboards. The reflection of urban space in shop windows is the unifying design element of almost all images. What excites you about playing with documents, theater and imagination?
Volker Hagmann: In my opinion, the boundary between document, theater, and fiction is so fluid: both our perception and our ideals are shaped by media paradigms that they have a direct bearing on our supposedly unambiguous identity. To some extent, I think we are always copies of something someone else has come up with. All of this operates subconsciously, and the degree of sampling varies for different people. But it is always there. We are probably 2%-20% mods of many of the top models and idols – many of which were launched with great success through advertisements. We are not as individual as we feel.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: Can one understand your photos as a critical comment?
Volker Hagmann: I think the word “criticism” is not enough. For me it is primarily a description of the state. There is also something reassuring when role models and self-image mingle: shared role models enhance a sense of community; They are part of the glue of society. And strolling in front of shop windows – the project ultimately reflects this context – also has something semi-religious about it. The common worship of the golden calf, so to speak. It connects the idol seen on the label, whether it is this summer’s fashion, elegant tattoos or the gloomy mood of a model.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: You mentioned art critic John Berger in our conversation. In his essay on vision, he says, among other things, that identity is the result of vision. The issue of identities is also a central concept in your work. Can you go into more detail about understanding identity in your photos?
Volker Hagmann: As I said before, I think what we consider identity is based on a high degree of shared imagination due to media influences. This part of identity is not very individualistic: hours of advertising, TV and Instagram consumption leave very clear marks on who we want to be as well as who we are. Also, precisely because the importance of public space away from screens and monitors continues to diminish and because the decline in true connectivity means that an important correction is often missing.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: In LOOK BACK you also draw attention to the gradual changes in the functioning of urban spaces. Can you briefly describe the changes you would like to show us?
Volker Hagmann: In my opinion, the disappearance of public spaces where actual encounters occur is a central problem in our society. Even the rooms in which we consume merchandise of all kinds are quickly disappearing: online shopping and rents that are no longer affordable push traditional stores in front of their store windows that we can dream of in the shared dream of consumerism. Not only does a common denominator disappear in our society, but also a visually stunning world where role models and self-image meet. This urban space, still present, can be seen in the reflections in the shop windows in almost all of the photos in my LOOK BACK project.
Carola Hartlieb-Kun: What are your upcoming projects?
Volker Hagmann: Looking Back It’s Not Over Yet: I am working on a picture book that includes poetry and other texts and will contain many photographs. In October, during Photography Month, Tunnel19 presents the very comprehensive joint exhibition TABULA RASA in the Bethanien Art District. This is a good opportunity to see the work of all the members of our group. And there’s also my long-term project here, here, everywhere, which deals with the segmentation and delineation of the spaces we’re testing.
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In conversation with photographer Volker Hagmann
Volker Hageman’s work deals with the phenomena of everyday culture in the context of cultural history. It is almost always depicted in the context of current discourses (media theory, space theory); The aesthetic dimension and readability are equally important to him.
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