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Der Greif X FUTURES: Interview with talent Bärbel Reinhard


Bärbel Reinhard was one of the talents Der Greif nominated to join FUTURES in 2023. Reinhard’s project “Again Still Erratics Perhaps” is an enquiry on perception of veracity and reconstructions, stratifications and manipulations, memory and nature. Moving between observational photography, mixed media installations and collages, her practice reflects contemporary image culture's quest to deconstruct reality and create alternative realities.

Der Greif: Hello Bärbel! Congratulations on your nomination last year. How has it impacted your practice?

Hi! I'm grateful to Der Greif for nominating me. Being part of the FUTURES community is quite an honor. So far, I've appreciated the various opportunities, connections, and input it has given me. From online resources to meetings, the workshops in Budapest have been particularly valuable. This nomination has not only confirmed that I'm heading in the right direction with my photography, but it has also opened up new possibilities for discussion and amplification. Being included in the “Unveil” selection has been fantastic as well. Unveil is an accessible photography platform where contemporary artists can sell their work online.

Der Greif: Before we address the specific arguments in your practice, let's discuss the title of the winning project. What is the meaning of the term "erratics"? And why did you choose to title it "Again Still Erratic Perhaps"?

"Erratics" is a geological term that refers to rocks which have been moved from their original location. These are large boulders that have been transported hundreds of kilometers by glaciers to new places. The word "erratics" comes from the Latin term "errare", meaning "to wander". Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the hidden life of these massive, wandering stones. It is worth noting that "erratic" is linguistically connected to the word "error", describing something that is irregular, unpredictable, or even mistaken due to being out of its original position.

This idea of "wandering" also applies to the materials I use in my work. They often come from different sources, spaces, and times. I incorporate archival, advertising, and vernacular images, as well as natural elements that have been "deviated" and then combined in analog assemblages without any spatial or temporal boundaries.

The title "Again Still Erratic Perhaps" represents an ongoing project that unfolds in different chapters and evolves cyclically over time. The interpretation of the work also changes as time goes by. There are elements that reappear after years in other images, altering their context and taking on a third, fourth, or fifth life. These elements remain visually the same, but they are transformed into indexical signs through cropping and displacement. They exist in a state between déjà-vu and new possible destinies and relationships, perhaps yet to be imagined.

Der Greif: You define non-narrative photography as a flux of merging materials, while also highlighting the physicality of photographs. What are your thoughts on the materiality of photography and its relationship to immateriality?

That's a challenging question... This ongoing work, in fact, does not follow a narrative logic or act as a visual commentary by illustrating concepts. Instead, it is a flux of sensations and experiences. The images exist independently and have been created using a very physical and tactile approach. They are open to interpretation and connected through recurring motifs, such as the fragmentation of the body and our connection to nature, both in a material and immaterial sense.

I begin my work in the darkroom and then move on to digital manipulation. Throughout this process, I encounter small installations and re-photograph them. I am interested in exploring different image-making processes and the traditional idea of truthfulness, witnessing, and representation in photography. These ideas are strongly connected to the materiality and embodiment of photography in a concrete spatio-temporal correlation. I create small sets both indoors and outdoors, bringing together materials from diverse sources physically to create analog assemblages that exist only temporarily before decaying.

The layering of these elements creates a sense of depth and variety in surface texture. Traces, such as straps or cuts, are enhanced through different light sources, highlighting their often fragile physicality. The final part of my work involves translating these tactile surfaces back into a two-dimensional form, such as screens, projections, or prints. Materiality, therefore, becomes not only a question of the materials themselves but also the substance of the relationships between those materials. Digital photographs become tangible objects when they are displayed in physical spaces that we inhabit. Otherwise, they remain fleeting as ephemeral codes with multiple parallel existences, assuming no fixed form and lacking a physical counterpart.

From this perspective, physically fixed images of materials exist in a state of oscillation between tangible concreteness and the realm of different meanings and imagination that transcend it.

Der Greif: Do you view photography as a threshold, a barrier, due to its nature as a surface?

The potential of the surface as a type of skin, an intermediary space, that also serves as a point of interaction, is very intriguing to me. There is a constant migration of digital images, constantly changing in virtual and physical contexts, taking on different forms, sizes, relationships. The surfaces of these images act as a liminal space between the artwork itself, the environment, and the viewer, becoming a communicative interface for private and public intimacy. As Giuliana Bruno states, the screens that surround us today express a new materiality as they convey the virtual transformation of our physical relationships.

On a more metaphorical level, in addition to the idea of photographs acting as mirrors reflecting the author or windows revealing the photographic image, the act of photography, as well as the photographic image, can become a threshold, an experience that is not a solid boundary, but rather a place of transfer, transmission, and transformation.

Der Greif: Can you explain further the connection between photography and time, and how this is a "limit" in your own terms?

What you see in an image no longer exists; photographs are like echoes of something that physically existed in front of the lens at a certain moment, documenting or reproducing an event, but hardly capturing the human gaze. By combining fragments of existing images and objects from distant spaces and times, I aim to create a coexistence of time and its traces, a small-scale ubiquity, as opposed to a decisive moment. In these assemblages, layers of time collapse and overlap, resulting in a synthesis that aims to create reviews and previews. However, since these combinations only exist to be photographed again, they become fixed documents of what once was, a fixed memory that reveals to the viewer what has escaped their own eyes, without knowing when, where, and how they will circulate again.