Thursday, May 21, 2009

The History of Now

by Kurt W Forster @ TATE Etc.

Armin Linke has a studio in a humdrum part of Milan, but if one wishes to do more than catch a glimpse of this peripatetic photographer, one needs to travel with him. He packs his bags whenever something grabs his attention. At first this has nothing to do with the camera, but everything to do with his eye and a disarming intelligence. Linke quietly scrutinises his chosen location, selecting a view that is of a scope and depth to warrant taking a picture. One day in Iraq, before the last war, he did just that, some distance from one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces on a slope of asphalt and sand. While he set up his camera, a group of men uniformly dressed in black walked into his view. They were leaving the palace after bearing birthday wishes for the president. The resulting photograph is really composed of two images: one is premeditated, taking in the sweep of a symbolic site (with few or no symbols, apart from the tall lamp posts, as if it were an airport); the other is created by coincidence. It is precisely the accidental that endows the picture with an uncanny meaning: men are leaving the site of power, as if the place were to fall vacant at their departure. By dint of its dual nature, the image enfolds a brief moment within a static frame. Linke caught an instant (gone the moment he snapped the picture) whose symbolic time had not yet come, but whose enduring backdrop ceased to hold any significance. Instead of fading into obsolete reportage as the years go by, the picture continues to acquire incalculable references.


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