The summer holidays are over and we are very much looking forward to our upcoming exhibition with new works by Barbara Probst and of course to seeing you again!
Excerpts from an interview conducted by Lorenza Bravetta on the occasion of Barbara Probst’s solo exhibition Poesia e Verità at the Triennale in Milan in early 2022.
Since your early works, vision has been a constant theme of your research. Photography is a useful tool for questioning how we see and how we construct images in our minds. Could we say that, like the photographer, the observer plays an active part in the work, that he is capable of influencing and determining it through his subjective perception?
Subjectivity is fundamental in both the fabrication of the photograph and the process of perception. As much as I am interested in all the details of making a photograph, I also like to think about aspects related to understanding or reading the image. The viewer of my work needs to become actively involved in it. In his mind, the images cease to be separate entities and start to play as a team. They connect, interact, and begin to make sense. Each viewer interprets the work a little differently, in the same way that we read books, see movies or taste food differently.
I am very interested in the fact that we all have our own ways of seeing and perceiving the world, depending on our point of view, but also on our physical and psychological condition, our life story and experience, our beliefs and knowledge. We are all here on this planet, right now, looking at the world, each of us under diverse conditions and circumstances. So it is not surprising that we come to different conclusions about our observations. But what fascinates me is that all our viewpoints have the same value. I have learned this from my work. When you photograph a scene simultaneously from various viewpoints you obtain images that are compatible and equivalent. They are also non-hierarchical, since they are tied to the same moment, just like we humans are tied to the here and now.
The exhibition title Poetry and Truth evokes the dual nature of photography, which is never a mere reproduction of reality, nor just a window through which to observe it. What part does photography play in the indeterminacy that characterizes our era?
It seems that we are currently in muddy waters. And perhaps that’s why there is such an enormous desire for determination and certainty. On the other hand, I sense a growing skepticism or uncertainty in societies, which may provide an opportunity to acknowledge that the truth is a slippery slope and not easy to arrive at. Anything that looks like the truth needs to be handled with care. And this is precisely photography’s tender spot: the medium’s unreliable alliance with reality.
I wonder when photography will be treated like painting, like an expression of the photographer and not simply the documentation of an event. If that were to happen it would signal a shift from unconscious acceptance of the given to a dynamic, inspiring search beneath the surface of things. Perhaps the way we deal with photography reflects the way we deal with our notion of truth. Like James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, we try to adjust reality to our desire, to our imagination, in order to avoid seeing what we don’t want to see.
Barbara Probst was born in 1964 in Munich, Germany, and studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. She had exhibited widely in Europe and the US. Her work was shown in „New Photography“ at the Museum of Modern Art New York, in 2006. She has had solo exhibitions at Centre PasquArt, Biel, Switzerland; Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Bignan, France; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; Stills Centre for Photography, Edinburgh; Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin; Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg, Germany; Rudolfinum, Prague; Le Bal, Paris; Kunsthalle Nuremberg, Germany; Triennale, Milan, Italy.
Her work is represented in numerous public collections including Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; Centre PasquArt, Biel, Switzerland; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Folkwang Museum, Essen; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Lenbachhaus, Munich; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée d´Art Contemporain de Montreal, Canada; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany; Vancouver Art Gallery; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York