1:100 Past and Present, Michael Wesely

„The extreme length of exposure leads to a shift in perception.“
Michael Wesely

With the programmatic title 1:100 the standard scale of architecture is called up. The German artist Michael Wesely puts it up for discussion here for a temporal understanding: the experience of a “one“ single year compared to the incomparably longer, barely comprehensible duration of 100 years Bauhaus. From September 2017 to September 2018 Michael Wesely created a photographic work in Mies van der Rohe‘s “Barcelona Pavilion“. A camera with a permanently open shutter, mounted by the artist inside the pavilion recorded the events during a full year. The result is a single photographic image. Everything moving and fleeting can no longer be recognized in it, every spontaneity is erased. The only things to be seen are the the architecture, the park, the sun-tracks and few traces of human movements in the pavilion. The view appears magically outshined by the light, at the same time ghostly empty – a view of the outer world turned into the supernatural, into the existential.

Now, this fall, a large scale print of this photograph will be shown at exactly the same point in the pavilion where the camera used to hang. In this way, the camera‘s viewing direction is intertwined with the viewing direction of the visitors viewing this photograph. The penetration of the exterior space into the interior – a central motif in Mies van der Rohe‘s architecture – appears heightened in the presentation of the work. For through the glass walls, in the perception of the photograph, the outside view and the inside view are again interlocked, and with them the layers of time, of duration and present, of “Past and Present“.

This on-site work “1:100“ has become the starting point for the artist‘s further contemplation of time in the legendary pavilion of Mies van der Rohe. In a photograph, which will also be shown in the interior of the pavilion, a diametrically different but equally central aspect of the pavilion is called upon: the anchoring of the western architectural icon in the global context. Again, it is a long exposure, but this time of shorter duration. People are waiting in a station concourse, which cannot be identified more precisely, which remains general. Human actions, in this case even individual persons, are more recognizable than in the picture of one year. Once again, however, the static architecture of the simple hall rises above the transience of human life. The view inevitably moves here to the unmoving objects, in this case also to the everyday utensils, in which a simple, non-European situation is reflected. The emptiness, the noblesse of the pavilion is located here by Michael Wesely in the time image of a globalized society. Here, too, it is planned to show the photograph as a large spatial enlargement in the pavilion, as a wall-sized photograph blocking the view on the sculpture garden. The people standing and waiting to be seen in the photograph thus formally refer to Kolbe‘s towering sculpture in the courtyard. At the same time, the clear and calm aura of the pavilion is particularly emphasized by the view of the everyday life of the present, characterized by great mobility transience and uncertainty.

Another large photographic work can be seen outside the pavilion. It is the result of the artist‘s years of involvement with the aesthetics of Impressionism and one of its main representatives, Claude Monet. Over several years he made studies and long exposures in the Water Lilies Garden of Giverny, which the French artist Claude Monet himself had created to inspire his large water lily paintings. Michael Wesely made long exposures of the water-lily ponds, which now refer to a double reality, to the temporal condensations of nature as well as to the temporal condensations in Monet‘s painting, who with his impressionistic pictures for the first time showed us the transience of visual phenomena. In Barcelona, a version of Wesely‘s Monet studies will be shown behind the pavilion‘s large water pool, that had water lilies at the inauguration in 1929. Mies van der Rohe deliberately chose the soft organic forms of the water lilies as a contrast and complement to his strict architecture. Wesely‘s view of Impressionism combines the experience of outdoor space not only with the experience of nature, but also with that of art. In dialogue with an almost “painterly“ photograph, the seemingly real architecture itself appears artistically transformed, individually shaped.

The seemingly so static and final, seemingly objective aspects of Mies architecture, viewed through the visual glasses of Michael Wesely, appear in the end to be as time-bound, subjective and variable as our entire existence. With Michael Wesely‘s three large works, the title “1:100. Past and Present“, a very distinct location of the pavilion was made. The photographs make it possible to experience various dimensions of time and culture in the pavilion in a new way, anchoring the world-famous monument not only in life cycles and processes of history, but also in the open way of life of the present.

Dr. Joachim Jäger, curator

Michael Wesely

born 1963 in Munich, lives and works in Berlin. The artist attracted great attention with his series of works on Potsdamer Platz, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), photographs of the architecture of Brasilia and Sao Paulo, as well as a series of portraits that have not yet been completed. Exhibitions, among others: Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin); Kunsthalle (Kiel); Gemeentemuseum (The Hague); Mies van der Rohe Haus (Berlin); Sao Paulo Biennale (Sao Paulo), Havana Biennale (Cuba)

Works displayed

„Mies van der Rohe Pavillon (13.9.2017 – 13.9.2018)“, photography on glass, 300 x 650 cm
„Railway Station (17.29h – 17.34h, 29.12.2005)“, photography on aludibond, 300 x 700 cm
„Giverny (15.5. – 6.11.2016)“, photography on aludibond, 300 x 1000 cm
All works Courtesy Michael Wesely