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Photography That Captured Body Performance at Helmut Newton Foundation

  • Viviane Sassen - Untitled from Roxane II
  • Barbara Probst - Exposure
November 27, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Performance art as an ephemeral discipline was usually captured and archived only via photography meaning that two became media became rather inseparable. Although that changed after WW II due to the fact that recording technology became more accessible, the artists continued performing live but they have also conducted performances in the intimacy of their own or studios of their collaborative peers, the photographers.

The upcoming exhibition at The Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin tends to unravel various collaborations between the photographers, choreographers, visual and performance artists through an exciting exhibition titled Body Performance.

Left Helmut Newton - Ballet de Monte Carlo Right Bernd Uhlig - Sasha Waltz Dialoge
Left: Helmut Newton – Ballet de Monte Carlo, 1992 © Helmut Newton Estate / Right: Bernd Uhlig – Sasha Waltz Dialoge I/99, Sophiensale Berlin, 199 © Bernd Uhlig

The Exhibition Concept

Although the very exhibition title recalls the specific branch of performance known as body art (where an artist primarily use their own body as a medium), the aim of this show is to look closely at the modalities of behavior captured by the camera by unraveling a selection of photographs that feature performance art, dance, and other staged events often initiated by the photographers themselves.

The installment will encompass the works by Helmut Newton, Bernd Uhlig, Vanessa Beecroft, Jürgen Klauke, Erwin Wurm, Inez & Vinoodh, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Probst, Viviane Sassen, Robert Longo, and Yang Fudong.

Vanessa Beecroft - VB55 Performance
Vanessa Beecroft – VB55 -Performance, 2005, VB55.004.NT, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2005 © 2019 Vanessa Beecroft

The Works

The audience in Berlin will be able to see Newton’s relatively obscure series of images featuring the dancers of the Monte Carlo Ballet intended for theater’s marketing purposes. On display will be the session that photographer Bernd Uhlig produced while following the choreographies by a renowned contemporary dance performer Sasha Waltz.

On the other hand, the photographic documentation of groups of nude or clothed women in public spaces will show how the artist/photographer presents itself through a collective alter ego.

Jürgen Klauke’s 1976 Viva España depicting a man and a woman engaged in a mysterious, erotic dance on a dark stage will be shown alongside the series One Minute Sculptures by Erwin Wurm that depict mini-performances conducted by random people in front of the camera.

The hybrid photographic blends exploring the human body by Barbara Probst will be juxtaposed against the works by Viviane Sassen who is known for undertaking a similar approach of staging different bodies in unexpected ways.

One of the highlights of the exhibition will be the collaboration between the fashion-based photographic duo Inez & Vinoodh and perhaps one of the most acknowledged contemporary photographers, Cindy Sherman, known for outstanding role play and costuming.

On display, there will also be the sophisticated black-and-white film-inspired photographs by Yang Fudong; Robert Longo’s photo sequence of Men in the Cities taken on the New York City building roof; as well as the highly stylized and choreographed poses of Lisa Lyon, the former bodybuilding world champion, by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Left Erwin Wurm One Minute Sculpture Right Inez and Vinoodh Cindy Sherman
Left: Erwin Wurm – One Minute Sculpture I, 1997. © Erwin Wurm, courtesy König Galerie / Right: Inez & Vinoodh – Cindy Sherman – The Gentlewoman, 2019 © Inez & Vinoodh, courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery

Body Performance at The Helmut Newton Foundation

The exhibition will surely underline the effect of physical transformation and role play on various visual aspects of movement and the representation of the body, and the changes which occurred through the time regarding the media and the perception of the performative body.

Body Performance will be on display at The Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin from 30 November 2019 until 10 May 2020.

Featured images: Viviane Sassen – Untitled from Roxane II, 040, 2017 © Viviane Sassen, courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town; Barbara Probst – Exposure #129, Munich Nederlingerstraße 68, 2017© Barbara Probst, VG Bild-Kunst, courtesy Galerie Kuckei + Kuckei. All images courtesy The Helmut Newton Foundation.