Photography is the central subject and medium of the Austrian artist Anja Manfredi, whose comprehensive retrospective the Gallery OstLicht now presents. The show includes about 60 works, dating from 2000 to the present day, which unfold numerous reference points of the photographic discourse, setting it in motion, so to speak. The focus is on the human body and its complex gestures.
The exhibit highlights mainly recent and latest works by the artist, juxtaposing them with selected pieces from her unpublished early works and her well-known Archiv der Bewegungen (Archive of Movements, 2005-2007). Photographs, film projections and object installations enter into a mutual dialogue, including such diverse motifs as a photographer’s posing chair, oriental carpets and plants in developing dishes; these elements are interrupted and rhythmised by interspersed photographs of drawings that translate physical movement into patterns of abstract lines (Eine Geste wird belichtet [Exposure of a Gesture], Part 1, 2012).
The principle of collage characterizes Manfredi’s working method. She produces photographic tableaus which play with images within images, creating concentrations and evoking associations. During her early years, her material comprised extensive staging and figures of her own body; in the meantime, she also draws upon image and text reproductions from various printed sources as well as photographs of re-enactments. With these re-creations and interpretations, executed by people from her artistic and scientific circle, Manfredi reflects historic body concepts and social conventions – for example the 19th century’s discourse on hysteria (Wiener Teppichläden, [Vienna Carpet Stores], 2013) or the beginnings of modern expressive dance (Re-Enacting Isadora Duncan with Robert Lima I, 2009).
Thus, Eine Geste wird belichtet (since 2011), the artist’s most extensive project currently, has the three protagonists – Nicole Haitzinger, Katrina Daschner, and Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein – interact with models of classic instruments of physical discipline: a photographic posing device, a corset lacing machine and a ballet barre. This led to three 16-mm black-and-white films which are projected analogously in the exhibit, where Manfredi continues them in various media, e.g. printed curtains quoting the inventory of a photographer’s studio as objects in the room, or a series of photograms in which formations of a role of film are delineated in white on a black background (Eine Geste wird belichtet, Part 2, 2012). Thus, the film material was thrown back, in the truest sense of the word, onto the photographic medium.
The importance of the analogous, of the photographic act and process, is essential to Anja Manfredi’s art. The question of what photography, that strange process of writing with light, is, accompanies her activities with an intensity that permits us to diagnose her with “photography as a philosophy of life” (Vilèm Flusser). The latter is embodied especially well and pointedly in one of her most recent works, Selbstbildnis mit Graukarte und Zahnschmerzen(Self-Portrait with Gray Chart and Toothache, 2013).