Koschies – SURFACES

Review by Gerhard Clausing •­

If you have had enough of the same old style of portraits, then get ready for something completely different. These meticulously produced portraits by the artist duo known as Koschies demand some new definitions, since they challenge our customary way of visualizing each other. We are used to seeing portraits that mostly show us from the front, or sometimes in profile or semiprofile. Here we get the whole head, with all the trimmings, all sides of it, laid out as a continuity, as SURFACES. We also immediately notice that these photographs elicit strong emotional responses from the viewer.

Furthermore, time itself becomes a major dimension that is depicted in these portraits as well. Here we are not talking about traditional longer photographic exposures, in which the passing of time is shown by layers upon layers superimposed on top of each other in the same single dimension (cf. the work of Titarenko and Weseley). Instead, this Koschies project makes use of a slit camera to record a 30-second stretch of a person’s presence, and due to the magic of that special camerawork and the rotational presentation of the subject, we get a 360-degree view of each person’s head, laid out sequentially and flat in the resulting image, with great sharpness, from left to right, hair and all – in fact, sometimes a quite a bit more hair than we had expected, almost like a curtain or window frame. Oh, and those ears have suddenly gained prominence, in full view and both of them at the same time, facing each other.

We see a process that uses the head as a kind of carousel, or merry-go-round, then spreads it out before us like a map: a complete shift of perspectives has occurred. We are looking at cinemascope-screen-like images that certainly get our attention. Suddenly the dream of seeing our heads from all sides has come true, but what that looks like certainly takes some getting used to.

There is something other-worldly about these panoramic head depictions. We immediately notice that the center of the face takes up a much smaller amount of room of each entire head presentation than we had previously imagined, and that the hair, wherever present, is the ruler of the head volume. There is also something eerie about a slight emotional change we sometimes detect in the time during which the individuals are shown. Sometimes that is reflected in the titles the Koschies have given to particular portraits, such as references to doubt, suspicion, tension, and more. Religious and historical symbols and looks also come into one’s mind. Most of the people portrayed seem to sit fairly still during their thirty seconds or so, but some wiggle, perhaps giving rise to some interesting variations and/or ‘glitches’ occasionally, such as shown in the fifth page reproduction below.

The three sections of the book are accompanied by valuable insights from three different perspectives, shedding light on relevant art history, philosophy, and technology – all of the essays are contributions by top people in their field. I urge you to especially study the essay by art historian Professor Sigrid Weigel, who relates the Koschies process to the art of previous centuries. The eminent art critic and curator Klaus Honnef guides us through the differences, the new considerations and premises required for a fruitful understanding of this new way of portraying. I especially like his term “the fascination of the unexpected.” I am also pleased with the generous size of the printed images, each measuring approximately 27cm (10.5 inches) wide, allowing their full impact in book form. The Koschies prints shown in galleries are much larger yet.

Alternate ways of seeing are what makes art exciting, and the Koschies Duo has certainly made an important contribution to the expansion of our horizons in the area of photographic depiction our fellow humans. Hovering between graphic arts, photography, and cinematography, we are in the midst of discovering ourselves and each other anew.

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Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, PBJ Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California

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Koschies – SURFACES

Artist/Photographer Duo:  Koschies (born in Kiel and Berlin; living and working in Potsdam, Germany) 

Publisher:  Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin and Munich, Germany; © 2022

Texts:  Klaus Honnef, Christoph Tannert, Sigrid Weigel

Languages:  German and English

Translation: Bettina Abarbanell

Hardcover, illustrated, sewn binding; 160 pages, paginated, with 73 images; 34 x 21.5 cm / 13.4 x 8.5 inches; printed and bound in Germany by DZA Druckerei zu Altenburg GmbH. ISBN 978-3-422-98947-4

Photobook Designer:  Bernd Markau

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). The images and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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