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Blickmaschinen: Contemporary Art looks at the Collection Nekes at Museum fur Gegenwartskunst
Sigmar Polke, Laterna Magica, 1988-1996. In the background: Peep boxes for Chinese Fireworks, ca. 1790, Nekes Collection.

SIEGEN.- They guide, captivate, seduce, and mislead the viewer’s eye: anamorphoses, Laterna Magica devices, kaleidoscopes, or perspective theaters. Today, many contemporary artists turn to the images produced by these optical contrivances and appartuses, which are considered to be the forerunners of present film, television, and the digital age. The artists often incorporate these historical media into their works together with the use of video, digital camera or computer. Their interest, however, is not led by nostalgic yearning but by the aim at questioning the production of present-day images, examining the current manner of seeing, and visualizing the process of creating images.

The exhibition “Blickmaschinen” explores this subject pieces by 40 contemporary artists since the 1960s such as Dennis Adams, Olafur Eliasson, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, William Kentridge, Mischa Kuball, Pipilotti Rist, Thomas Ruff, Robert Smithson or Kara Walker. These artists’ work is on display together with circa 200 historic pieces from the filmmaker Werner Nekes’ prominent collection.

Through this juxtaposition the exhibition offers an unprecedented look at the origins of imagery production and how fiction and reality, illusion and vision intertwine. Together with the historico-cultural exhibits from the Nekes Collection the historical evolution of imagery production is demonstrated against the backdrop of the respective technological possibilities. The objects are showcased as groupings of work comprising media-archaeological stations within the exhibition’s thematic setting. In part, they are displayed in vitrines, in part they can be used by the audience.

By contrast, the artistic pieces visualize the specific conditions and characteristics that determine the creation of artistic imagery and the questioning of images. Materializing passed down concepts and contraptions means more than resuscitation: it contains the potential for development and innovation, for astonishment and experimentation. In comparing images – produced by instruments and different technologies – and the human eye’s capacity for processing images, an examination of the way in which we see, visually and cognitively, takes place.

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