OLIVER SIEBER – “THE NEW FUCK YOU”

May 19th, 2014

America, Asia, Europe… each continent spawns its own counter-cultures, centered for the most around music scenes. From these subcultures, Oliver Sieber creates an  “Imaginary Club” composed of goths, punks, skins and rockabillies – irrespective of their cultural demarcations. 

About 100 photos define the perimeters of Oliver Sieber’s “Imaginary Club, portraits taken in a makeshift studio of concerts, festivals and in clubs, and juxtaposed with black and white shots of deserted rehearsal spaces, street shots and club entrances. 

Oliver Sieber’s “Imaginary Club” is exhibited at the Villa Noailles in Hyères as part of the 29th International Fashion & Photography Festival, a variation on his most recent book of same title.  While setting up this exhibition, Oliver and his collaborator Katja Stuke spoke to The Stimuleye about the need of upheaval, total erosion of style and dress codes in youth culture and the need to find new forms of expressing positions of identity.

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Oliver Sieber, "Imaginary Club": Exhibition at Villa Noailles, Hyeres

THE IMAGINARY CLUB

The Stimuleye: Who are these people in your “Imaginary Club”?

Oliver: What really interests me is reaction and forms of counter culture.
After WWII, the teenagers in America and England started to discover new forms of music and fashion, new forms of liberation. Many people I met are still in this sort of idea.  Punk is a very good example, because it did have real societal meaning.

That is what is important to teenager culture: upheaval, the struggle to identification, to root themselves. To not only take position against the elder generation, but in general. And that has often to do with music. I am interested in music, and communication of style codes.

The people in my “Imaginary Club” are not always part of a subculture in the classic sense. I have also portrayed artist friends, that, similar to teenagers, are forced to redefine themselves again and again. Here for example is a photo of Rebecca. From a wealthy family, she received always best grades, suddenly something switched in her head. Rebelling against her intellectual parents, she was climbing down the eaves gutters and was not to tame anymore.

 

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Oliver Sieber, "Imaginary Club": Exhibition at Villa Noailles, Hyeres. Right Side: Rebecca

When I look at my work, I understand it as an entry for the viewer, or a window upon which I reflect myself. Often it is not really about what is on the wall or who is depicted, but about the dialogue between the image and the onlooker. That changes from person to person.

The Stimuleye: Looking at the Portraits there are many Punks, Skinheads, Rockabillies.- is there also something a bit like nostalgia?

Oliver: We have a very globalized music culture today. Subcultures developing real novelties is something rather sparse and rare.  Are there really subcultures that result from youth movements? I think it is not like that anymore. It’s more that youngsters try to identify with their role models of choice.

A good example is David Bowie that in the 70’s offered an image of “multi sexual liberation” for many people, also in combination with music and the song texts that bore a poetry and language that people picked up on.  Just because we have 2014 now, his music did not disappear. You can still buy the records and the language still speaks to people who want to identify with it. And as fans do, they associate themselves with this.  I think people living this don’t reflect on what they do, as we look at it. They just do it.

Katja:
There are always new aspects adding up and things get mixed up. So you have a development that can’t be called the “nostalgic”. It may be rooted in a source, and like in this case ideally there is a progression where new aspects ad up.

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Oliver Sieber, excepts from the book "Imaginary Club"

FASHION CODES AND THE INTERNET : THE NEW  “FUCK YOU”

Katja:
Today you often cannot rely on the looks giving an indication on who people are: In Germany you find nazis that look like left anarchist “Antifa” fighters.
That possibly has to do with the internet, where you can communicate your stance or orientation in different ways then through fashion and dress codes.
You also have to react on other people adapting what you personally take serious as a subculture, how they mix your codes, abuse or pervert them.

This makes it sometimes also difficult to determine whom are you following in a protest, where codes are so mixed up, that no one is able to keep up track.
For example in Ukraine its absolutely ambiguous who is protesting with whom recently. Unlike in the past, today it’s hard to determine who is on which side, from demonstrator to counter protester. Now you have young Nazi Hipsters in all black with tight jeans shouldering a jute bag, which really requires more than a second look to recognize what is going on.

In this position you’re forced to find other forms to show your conviction that are different and function without the need of fashion as we had it in the past.
I am sure there are subcultures, but they function really differently, without the involvement of fashion, as the channels are much more multi layered. It’s not about provoking through your look anymore, because nowadays people are not easy to shock. So you have to find other ways and places to put your orientation forwards.

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Oliver Sieber, excepts from the book "Imaginary Club"

Oliver: In Japan a lot of messages get transported through flyers and stickers. This was similar in Los Angeles up until recently, but it changed and is now functioning mainly through hotmail panels. Everyone has a smartphone, no matter to which group you belong. The Cosplay culture for example functions only through the forums in the web. That’s all chat, appointments for conventions and Skype.

Katja:
But the internet is not at all as public as you may expect.
Often it’s very difficult to access a certain online group or forums. There are strict admins that want to know who you are and what you do, and remind you that with access you commit to a regular contribution etc- so you can’t just get in and check out. It’s much easier to go into a bar or a club, even if you have to pass and convince the bouncer.

Oliver:
For example I photographed a young punk who realized how his style had been adapted and declared a trend. He totally changed his appearance to not be associated with this widely publicized new trend. That doesn’t mean though that his anti-ascist conviction or adoration for punk changed at all.

As label and the designers pick up on elements of subculture their message is watered down extremely fast, so you have to have to change your codes again. As Jason (Evans) recently said at the Tate: “The new normal is the new ‘Fuck You,'”, because you can’t be categorized like this anymore.

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Oliver Sieber, "Imaginary Club": Exhibition at Villa Noailles, Hyeres

PROTEST

Oliver:
That there is a new protest culture again is really great. These positions are getting from the internet to the street again, where you suddenly  have to make an effort, as the codes we’re used to don’t work anymore when you can’t diversify between “good” and “evil”, nor recognize “your” or “my” people.

Katja:
At the same time there is also these movements of parallel culture to create an existence and surrounding of some sorts of withdraw, even resigning.
This may be an approach resulting from being overwhelmed by societal developments. Specially in Japan we’ve met people that engage in small initiatives, artistic ones or others that take care of the homeless. There is this movement of “do it yourself” culture where people search for new forms of living for themselves apart from mainstream, norms and social graces, which are less visible.

Oliver:
When visiting Osaka soon for another exhibit, we plan to investigate deeper into this, meet with these “alternative” people that found a totally different life and structure within of Japanese society.
What I found puzzling was that we met many homeless who spoke great English or Spanish, and had lived and worked abroad, but this had lead that they were not fully integrable any more into society, because the’ve been abroad too long and back in Japan landed on the street.

Katja:
I think that also has to do that people with knowledge of languages have access to much more information over the internet for example, and thus are more open to ideas to try a different draft for their life than their parents, because that didn’t work that well either.
Specially as you can’t rely on social securities anymore- it’s not like our parent generation that studied, took a job and continued with a great retirement plan.

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Oliver Sieber, excepts from the book "Imaginary Club"

The Stimuleye: How do you work together?

Katja:
There are varying methods, but at times there are actual connections or a common greater theme and possibilities to juxtapose our work in an exhibition or we publish a book together for example at BöhmKobayashi.

The City of Duesseldorf has provided us with a space we curated for three years where we developed “ANT!FOTO” which was to show exhibitions on positions of photography we feel were missing. As a result we also started a publication the “ANT!FOTO Manifest”  which was a common project of us.

Oliver:
The “ANT!FOTO Manifest”  was a project where we asked 70 photographer and curators to word their statement after a 10 point thesis we created. Initially this was planned only as a magazine, but finally will be shown in the Museum Folkwang as well as going to the
Fotomuseum Winterthur .

The Stimuleye: What is the last thing that stimulated you?

Oliver:
After we talked so much on imagery, I would like to mention something that stimulated me:
when we talked to Frenkie (Bosnian Rapper) while visiting him in Tuzla, i asked him what is “heimat” (homeland) to him.
He said after being a refugee returning from Nuernberg to Tuzla, he realized what he missed: it was the scent of the firing wood that you can smell everywhere in the city. For my senses, apart from sound or music, the smell is very important.

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Oliver Sieber, excepts from the book "Imaginary Club"
Imaginary Club 2005-2012 
432 pages, Offset-Print,
a BöhmKobayashi/GwinZegal Joint
Imaginary Club is running at the Villa Noailles in Hyeres until may 25, 2014
and after that at the Galerie Stieglitz 19 in Antwerpen. Opening May 25, 2014,
further dates are at PhotoBookMuseum from August 19, 2014 and after that the Exhibition will be travelling

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#AllEyesOnHyeres2014: Interviews with Photographers in Competition

April 25th, 2014

By the time the Hyères Festival opened to the public today, Friday, April 25, more than 100 exchanges had already been had between the competing photographers and the established members of the photo jury. Brought together in the Cubist Garden at Villa Noailles—a Modernist masterpiece built by architect Robert Mallet Stevens in the hills above the village—each candidate met individually with every member of the panel, overseen by renowned fashion photographer Steve Hiett and assembled very much in his image: eclectic, open, progressive.

The Stimlueye took some time to speak with each of the competing photographers about their work and background.

All Photos by Filep Motwary

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ARNAUD LAJEUNIE, 27, FRANCE

Who are you? 

My name is Arnaud Lajeunie, I am 27, from France. I have a MA in Political Sciences (SciencesPo, Paris) and a BA in Photography (Les Gobelins, Paris)

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

Some contemporary writers (Deleuze, Maldiney)
Painting (Cézanne, El Greco, Klee, Cy Twombly)
Music also played a rather significant role too, (Steve Reich, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, french rap and german electronic music)

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

Water meets colour, colour meets water is a project I started in 2011, when fascinated by the waves-rocks contact. I desired to overcome the mere spectator status and to engage nature. The colors came rather naturally, and after some research about the products I could use, I finally opted for food colorants. The introduction of colour serves different purposes: it thickens the transparent water, add density and then enables short-term sculptures that alter the viewers perception and understanding of the scene. But, more significant for me, the colour modulates the landscape and create the inner rhythm of the image. This notion of rhythm is crucial as the latter conveys sensations, which, in return raises questions. The images provide no straightforward interpretation and therefore offer a space for imagination, sensation and questioning. I feel there is a contemporary relevance to create area that contest this desire to render decipherable the physical space in which we live.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

Water meets colour, colour meets water adresses the recurrent idea of engaging nature through artificial devices, in order to modulate and then blur the initial understanding of the depicted landscapes. Through this collision between natural fluxes and man-made inputs I seek rhythms, that will generate sensations and, in a second moment, raises critical questions (notably about the issue of control and failure). However, the aesthetic sensation remains compulsory, I think, as it paves the way to a sort of “mental space” where these questions can blossom.

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ANNA GRZELEWSKA, 38, POLAND

Who are you? 

My name is Anna Grzelewska. I am 38 years old. I’m from Poland. I studied anthropology of culture, documentary directing and photography.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I was always inspired by women that were photographers. First of my authorities was Julia Cameron, then Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin and recently Cindy Sherman. Not only their work but also their lives, their sensitivity. Also cinema and theatre had a huge influence on my work.  I explore  the line between true and fiction, reality and creation.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

Julia wannabe project is searching for woman’s identity. It tells about maturation of the girl, my daughter Julia. About this ambiguous and mysterious period of time. Photographing Julia I discovered the transfer process. My childhood mix with hers and hidden, never expressed emotions revive. In that sense this is my self-portrait.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

Julia wannabe is a long term project.  Among others, this one is special. It’s about my identity my daughter, about myself. It is not finish yet. I will continue it.

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OSMA HARVILAHTI, FINLAND

Who are you? 

My name is Osma Harvilahti and I was born in Helsinki. My work is based on traveling and exploring different cultures through documenting and a certain visual philosophy and rules that I set to myself. Currently I’m spending about a third of each year traveling and shooting material for books and other personal projects. My background is in social sciences and still the most common motive behind my photography is social. The body of work that I’m showing at Hyères this year is titled as “New Colour”, simply because one of the dominant themes in my work is the use of colour and because it’s “new” as it’s shot during the past 15 months and within a period of 3 months.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

One of the greatest motives behind my work is the challenge of transforming my aesthetic to resonate between different cultures. The work is mainly build on very formal qualities such as combinations of colour, material and other abstract elements but on the other hand I’m always aiming to tell stories through abstract visual narratives.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

The body of work that is on show at Hyères is an edition of photographs from my first monograph that got published in 2013. It reveals the sometimes abstract and largely visual philosophy behind my work and shows some of my favourite pieces I was able to produce last year. During the festival I will also show a new body of work in forms of a presentation and a print portfolio.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

It’s very important that the image I produce feels honest and unpretentious. Simply put, I’m always aiming to produce work that feels “real” and looks beautiful. One of the qualities I’m constantly aiming towards is that I could create a sort of a continuum and a connection between my older work and the new work, so that the photographs relate and resonate between each other and most importantly become part of something larger rather than just a body of work that get’s forgotten when something new appears. I’m hoping that the new work that I will be producing in japan and China this year will connect and respond to some questions I created last year at very different cultures and locations.

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ORIANNE LOPES, 25, FRANCE

Who are you? 

My name is Orianne Lopes, I’m 25 years old, I was born in France (Lyon) but my parents are Portuguese. I have been studying at ECAL (École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne) in Switzerland where I’m living now.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I was inspired by all the myth about the Venus and feminist preoccupations in all ages but also by the artists who had worked on these subjects. For this work precisely, I have been influenced by famous figures like the black Venus, Josephine Baker, Grace Jones…

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

I would describe it as a totally uninhibited and visual feeling about the black female body in the western culture and the clichés which are linked to. In a more larger view it’s a photographic work about the image of the feminine ideal.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

I have always been treating of femininity and body in my practice in different ways and with different use of the photographic medium.

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BIRTHE PIONTEK, GERMANY

Who are you? 

My name is Birthe Piontek. I am originally from Germany but currently based in Vancouver, Canada. I moved there in 2005, after graduating from the University of Essen, where I did my Masters in Communications Design and Photography. Since then I have been working as a photographer for various magazines i.e. New York Times Magazine, Le Monde, Esquire etc. while also pursuing my own artistic projects.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I’ve always been very interested in portraiture and the different ways of how people’s identities are displayed. In the beginning I looked a lot at classical portrait painting from the Renaissance or the Dutch masters. I was also inspired by  a certain cinematic style that you can find in movies of David Lynch.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

The work I am presenting at Hyeres is a continuation of my exploration of the idea of an image representing a person. With the work Mimesis I create a fictional world of representation that mediates our relationship to reality. I appropriate, change and reinterpret the original found images, in an effort to invite the viewer to look beyond the surface.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

I’m interested in portraiture and see my camera as a tool to investigate the question of identity. While in the past I worked in a more traditional way of portraiture, I am now more curious to include other art forms such as installation and sculpture in my practice.

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VIRGINIE REBETEZ, 35, SWITZERLAND

Who are you? 

My name is Virginie Rebetez. I am freshly 35 and I come from Switzerland. I studied Photography first at the Photography School of Vevey, in Switzerland, then I went to Amsterdam to do the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, from which I graduated in 2008. I am living now in Lausanne (CH), after having spent 7 years in Amsterdam.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I am interested in photographic works having a real reflection on the Photography medium. I am a fan of Taryn Simon, for instance. But I can get inspiration to start a new project from many different things: People I meet, “faits divers” in the newspaper, movies or books (the description of “the psycho-magic acts” from Alejandro Jodorowski for example.)

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

The work I am presenting at Hyères is called «Under Cover». The serie counts 13 photographs (5 presented in the festival) and was made last year in the biggest cemetery of Soweto (South Africa). I photographed the tombstones which are covered with different materials (blankets, plastic..) and so are masking the identity of the deceased. This practice is part of the funeral ritual. When the tombstone is placed, after the funeral, the family covers it immediately. The tombstone will stay in this state until the “unveiling ceremony”, a big ceremony not to honor the life on earth of the deceased anymore, as the funeral, but to celebrate his life after death. This covering period can go from weeks to years.

I decided to photograph them in front of a black background to put them out of their context and so giving them a new status, a new identity. They become then statues, totems, silenced characters, or monuments waiting to be revealed to the public. Of course, the action of ‘unveiling’ is quite symbolic…

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

All my works are closely related and follow the same research, the same interest for the invisible, the invisible world, the traces left after a disappearance, after death. I like to reactivate something dying or already dead in creating something new out of it, as an attempt to stop the final closure. I am interested in questioning our concepts of identity, memory both individual and collective as well as the medium of Photography itself.

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MARIE RIME, 24, SWITZERLAND

Who are you? 

My name is Marie Rime. I am 24 years old and come from Switzerland. I am actually finishing my BA in Photography at the Ecal in Lausanne.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

What inspires me the most is the place I come from, Switzerland. I have been raised and I still live there, so its culture, traditions, news and problems are part of who I am today.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

I am presenting two different series at the festival : Armures and Pharma. Armures is a series representing seven pictures of women wearing armors that I created myself with household objects. Pharma is a reflection about the power of pharmaceutical industry and the ambiguity of its role, attractive but necessary.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

The two series have a very different esthetic but they both refer to the general idea of power and its ambiguity and attractiveness.

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MARLEEN SLEEUWITS, 33, NETHERLANDS

Who are you? 

My name is Marleen Sleeuwits and I am 33 years old. I was born in the east of Holland where I grew up in a small village. At age 17 I moved to The Hague where I studied photography at the Royal Academy of Art. After graduation I worked two years as a commercial photographer but this didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started the MA in Breda to find out about my own fascinations and how to work on my own projects. With my photoworks I explore places with which it seems you are unable to make any connection. I construct and deform spaces in empty office buildings until an image comes into being that conveys this experience.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I like wandering through cities I haven’t been before but mostly I am inspired by the buildings where I temporarily work. These are office blocks from the 70’s. Their interiors are filled with cheap short lived materials such as laminate flooring, self-adhesive wall tiles. It’s fascinating for me that these materials are like a shell that holds no memory and can be changed every few years.
Also I’m very interested in photographers who search for the boundaries in photography. In The Netherlands there are quite a lot of young photographers who make great work and experiment with the medium, combining photography with video, sculpture and installations.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

The four photo’s shown in Hyeres are an overview of the works I made in the last three years. Their all interiors I have constructed in empty office buildings. It is unclear what their function is, where they are and what time of day they were photographed. They almost appear to be situated beyond consciousness. The feeling of estrangement and detachment is at the heart of my work. I try to capture the experience of being disconnected from a physical space by almost inviting the viewer to step inside the picture and relate physically to what is portrayed there. Print size and sharpness are therefore of essential importance. In Interiors I play with scale, perception, and the tension between reality and illusion.

4. How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

For a long time my work was focused on generic urban spaces such as the empty corners of office blocks, waiting areas at airports or the deserted corridors of hotels. Interiors where we often find ourselves but are shut off, as it were, from our consciousness. Previously I searched for and photographed a portrayal of such places; three years ago, in order to delve deeper into the experience of these locations, I have began to intervene with such like interiors. These transformations mostly resemble temporary installations or sculptures and make the experience of disconnection transmissible on a more psychological level. The four photo’s shown here can be seen as a small overview of this last period.

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CHARLOTTE TANGUY, 35, FRANCE

Who are you? 

My name is Charlotte Tanguy, I am 35 and come from France. I actually studied drawing and illustration. I am self-taught in photography, it came later: five years ago.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

I was interested in a cinematic way of sequencing. Cinema and literature influence my work, but also dance, scientific essays etc.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

It is a vivid sequence and experience. I put myself in a situation that creates distance between me and my surroundings, and at the same time it makes elementary forms visible.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

This series is the continuity of my previous work, which ended on an inability to read and understand my surroundings, it became my statement.

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LORENZO VITTURI, ITALY

Who are you? 

My name is Lorenzo Vitturi, and I am a Venetian photographer living and working in London.
I studied design and photography, and I started to work as a set designer in the film industry in Rome. I then I brought all this experience into my photography practice which revolves around playful site-specific interventions at the intersection of photography, sculpture and performance.

What forces, cultural or otherwise, have influenced your work?

The main force that influences my work everyday is my passion for light, colour and form.
Culturally I’ve been mostly influenced by my hometown Venice and it’s melancholic beauty.
Venice influenced the way I looked at the world, my experiences and expectations.  My memories are suprasensorial, and I’ve searched for ways to harness this, and translate it into photographs – to disregard it’s perceived intangibility, to manipulate space and the space of the image, and evoke smell in colour and memory in transforming forms and materials.

How would you describe the body of work that you’re presenting at Hyeres?

Here at Hyeres I am presenting a brief selection of my latest project, Dalston Anatomy, which is a book about the Ridley Road Market in Dalston– a unique place in London that is maintaining its authenticity in spite of a surrounding gentrification process. Its community represents perfectly the multicultural nature of Hackney and East London.

During the last year I have been taking pictures, making sculptures and collages with all sort of material I have been finding along the street of the market.

How does this specific suite of images relate to your larger practice?

My larger practice is a continuous dialogue between photography and sculpture. For this reason, in order to make the most of the space I had available here in Hyeres I chosen to present the suite of images as a site-specific installation using different kind of materials coming from my studio in London.


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