My photographic works evolve out of a sculptural process: first I conceive and construct an object, then I photograph it. The conceptual impetus for a photograph usually comes from a found image, sometimes historical, from architecture or art. To realize my visual concept, I construct the subject matter of the photograph with the help of cardboard models and a diversity of everyday objects.
Although the picture space in my photographs appears to be extremely heterogeneous and broken, the images are not photomontages in the conventional sense. The photographs bear witness to a sculptural process that took place in my studio. The disparate materials, lines of sight and levels of reality were in actual, physical contact with each other. Anamorphic models—models that have been constructed for a specific camera viewpoint, appearing distorted when another viewpoint is adopted—are often integral to this process.
I am interested in systems of image organization that don’t follow the established norms of perspective representation. The fact that a photograph, with its monocular way of viewing, is assumed to be a reproduction of reality makes the medium of photography the ideal tool for me to experiment with new ways of structuring an image.
I construct images that, on first glance, follow the established laws of linear perspective. These visual traditions are like a musical score that underlies my images. When contradictory planes and lines of sight confront each other, however, their respective underlying visual systems are mutually disrupted, to the point of canceling each other out.
In the same way that cubism uses painterly methods to reflect on and break with the conventions of representation in painting, I want to use photographic methods to break with photography’s ingrained representational conventions.
The photographs in the series “Moscow Intervention” draw on the formal vocabulary of modernism, as developed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.
Underpinning these works is always a distinctive overall composition that I have borrowed from Suprematist paintings (for instance from Lazlo Moholy Nagy or El Lissitzky ). The painting serves here as a structural foundation, into which other visual elements are integrated, to be ultimately combined. On second glance, however, the compositions revert back into the various separate components—constructed architectural models, photographic surfaces and everyday objects—that first came into contact in my studio.
In some of the works I have integrated photographs of buildings of the Soviet avant-garde.
These images reference original photographs, which date from the time of the buildings’ construction in the 1920s, and which, in the same way as the buildings, have reached iconic status.
“Moscow Intervention” explores both photographic and painterly works of Russian Constructivism , bringing them, through an act of formal/aesthetic transfer, back into the present. My work uses the medium of photography to both reflect on and interrogate the aesthetic of Modernism.
— Christine Erhard
Christine Erhard’s work demonstrates her deep engagement with the field of photography and the historical practices of art. Assistant editor Alexander Strecker was curious to find out more about her inspirations and creative processes—this is what she had to say.
How did you first become interested in photography? When did sculpture come into your work?
At first, I studied sculpture. I started photographing my sculptures and installation purely for purposes of documentation. Over time, I became increasingly interested in the images of the objects, rather than in the objects themselves.
Today, my works are a result of a variety of visual and technical strategies. I began with drawings and collages. I realize the image through painterly and sculptural techniques. And then I photograph using both digital image and large format analogue methods. And so, I navigate the boundary between the many mediums and practices which interest me.
Tell us more about “Moscow Intervention.”How did you become interested in the subject? Did you have one inspiring moment or did it grow gradually? How did the project and your approach develop/change over time?
I’ve long been fascinated by Modernism both as an intellectual stance and a form of aesthetic expression. In particular, I have specifically engaged with the buildings of Russian Constructivism, which 1922 to 1932, a short revolutionary period where it seemed that it might be possible to create a new way of living and a new aesthetic for a new society.
Fast forward to today, when the buildings of Soviet Modernism have been represented over a long period of time by only a few images. Some buildings are engraved into collective memory only through images. The spaces that we were unable to directly experience had become images. What interests me above all in this, is the question to what extent our general imaginary space is far more determined by images than by our own personal experience. The work “Moscow Intervention” is not a finished project, but a few individual images that talk about various aspects of Constructivism. In my current work I visit this theme again and again.
What drew you towards Constructivism specifically—what feels relevant about the movement today?
I am interested in constructivist artists both because of their revolutionary vision of a utopia embracing art, design, technical progress and a new society as well as because of their abstract formal and aesthetic language, including their particular relationship to architecture. Many of these artists were simultaneously active as painters, poets, graphic designers, photographers and teachers.
—Christine Erhard, as told to Alexander Strecker