Anne Pöhlmann | Kurven

30 October to 14 December



In the light of the manipulator

The darkroom once held alchemical secrets, an image appeared on pale paper out of nothing. Its developing process was subject to many uncertainties, and the result proved intractable as a marble sculpture. Photographers liked to stress that their medium was no more than reflected and filtered light. In a split second, the intangible became the immutable. What  magic!

Even today, photography draws on light as its primary source. Yet the subtle backlight of a monitor – a glow that lends all images a certain Jeff Wall effect – has also cast light on the once dark process of image development. Buttons, grid areas, saturation, curves, a sea of digital controls and assistance, a reality as intangible as light, makes even the tiniest pixel subject to the artist’s every whim. Maybe it isn’t an artist bending the image to his or her will, but a person assigned a task – possibly for the world of advertising, where idealized colors used to stoke our imaginations. Dreams inside our heads. In her latest works, Anne Pöhlmann is no longer showing the way to the light, at least not the light alone, but also the moment of conscious manipulation. It is an extremely fleeting moment made of perception and comparison with remembered visual knowledge, one that no longer shapes the light, but guides the way information is processed in our minds. In 1988, David Robbins published a series of interviews with other artists of his generation, artists that have long had to confront the power of media images and were willing to play with them, to crawl behind them, perhaps, in order to expose them. The title of the book: „The camera believes everything“.

Today, after the digital disenchantment of the camera (even though lenses, shutter speeds and light-sensitive sensors continue to have a huge impact on the image) the viewer is no longer in the dark. But does he or she believe it all? In the spirit of Guy Deutscher’s theses from his book „Through the Language Glass,“ Anne Pöhlmann asks what it is that influences the viewer. And finds it to be the mind’s eye. Deutscher titled one chapter „The Brain’s Photoshop“ – the brain actually manipulates images, evaluates them based on ideas of how an image should look and ajusts them accordingly. There is an internal correction function for color or sharpness, for example, which explains why it can take an astonishingly long time for slow-onset visual problems to be noticed. We continue to see what we expect to see.

As the person on the computer, the professional image manipulator, becomes an agent of the images, he plays with the brain. In five, large-format panels and a series of images on fabric, Anne Poehlmann creates gestures of working and processing in ambiguous scenarios. The brain asks, „What kind of objects are these?“ „How do I get the moire effect out of the image“ asks the brain manipulator. A game that still finds the now rapidly-evolving recording-, software- and printing techniques at its limits. Anne Pohlmann shows the traces of these limits as well. They are witnesses – if also the materialized aesthetics – of our efforts to see what we want to see.


Oliver Tepel