Article by Alison Hugill in Berlin // Saturday, Jul. 28, 2014
Photographer Conor Clarke recently opened a solo show at the Giftraum, an exhibition space that takes up the back part of famed Neukölln bar Das Gift. Clarke’s exhibition In Pursuit of the Picturesque: In Pictures (Observations from New Zealand), 2013—14 is a slideshow of recent Instagram photographs, taken on her last visit to her home country.
In this series, Clarke aims to historicize Instagram as a medium, comparing it to the 18th century Claude glass: a small convex mirroring device used to aid Picturesque artists and tourists in framing and composition in the tradition of French Baroque painter Claude Lorrain. The Claude glass requires the user to turn their back on the landscape they depict, viewing it as a tinted, reduced reflection of the original.
Clarke’s photos of the New Zealand landscape are stunning testaments to a kind of remote natural beauty, perfect subject matter for a theme that tries to capture the exploratory potential of travel photography, from a romantic point of view. Clarke is interested the post-industrial picturesque, romanticism, and tourism as themes in her work. The show at Giftraum was presented in a slideshow format, paced similarly to the average viewing of photographs on an Instragram feed. There’s an immediacy to the work, but also a clear reference to filters and manipulation as commonplace in our usual consumption of travel photos. Despite these tricks, the composition of Clarke’s photographs require a skilled eye and it is clear she is not merely dabbling in the medium.
This year, Clarke did a research trip to Germany’s Ruhrgebiet, where she took a series of portraits and photographs of the post-industrial landscape of the area. A selection of those works are on display at Galerie Pavlova in Mitte until the end of August.