Organizers: Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Goethe-Institut China
Sponsor: Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Further Education and Culture Rheinland-Pfalz
Opening: August 9th, 2014, 17:00
Curator: Nina Zlonicky
In August 2014, Dieter M. Gräf realized his second exhibition project. The exhibition was made possible by the Goethe-Institut China and the Three Shadows Photography Art Center and sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Further Education and Culture of Rheinland-Pfalz. The exhibition included about 40 photographic works, a sound installation based upon three poems created in cooperation with the composer Volker Staub, and accompanied by a catalog. The project was entitled “The big chance”, named after the movie from the 1950s. It dealt with the background of the artist and with keeping alive the memory of the postwar period.
Where do I come from? For many who grew up in the postwar period, this is a central question – and this is true for Dieter M. Gräf as well. In 2012, after the death of his mother, he started to take pictures with his iPhone of the vacant parental home in Maudach, a suburb of the industrial city Ludwigshafen am Rhein, “I chose the iPhone, because it seemed more suitable to approach the items I grew up with than if I’d used standard equipment. Using the phone, I was able to go into the narrower spaces and take shots with my free and mobile hand, especially in low light areas the options and limitations of the phone’s camera created a slightly trashy aura and delicate elegance.” The pictures and items referred to the aesthetics of the German postwar era and its neatness, which loyally followed the time of piled up corpses. “ […] but in the strangeness reflected through the floral wallpaper, the Self can shine through, one’s memory – of childhood, of the past, of history, of those things that are talked about and those that are kept quiet about.
The works presented in the exhibition were created from 2012 to 2014. The poem “Rolling suitcases - Rollators”, which is about the death of the mother and the two Maudach-poems were translated by Yang Lian into Chinese for the trilingual catalog, one of the most famous Chinese poets of the present, Hairao and Andrew Shields also contributed translations.
Dieter M. Gräf was born in 1960 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein. In the fall of 2013, he spent two months in Beijing, as a poet for the Goethe-Institut’s “Stadtschreiber”-residency program. He received various stipends and awards, including the “Leonce-and-Lena-Preis” of the city Darmstadt, the writer-in-residence at the Literary Colloquium Berlin, at the Villa Aurora Los Angeles, at the German Festival in India, in the Villa Massimo in Rom, at the German House in New York and others. Among the poem collections he published at Suhrkamp are “Rauschstudie: Vater + Sohn” (1994), “Treibender Kopf” (1997) and “Westrand” (2002), “Buch Vier” (2008) was published by Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt. In 2012/2013 he worked as a visiting professor at the German Literature-Institute in Leipzig, he has been a member of PEN Germany since 1996. His books have been reviewed frequently and extensively in leading media. Michael Braun wrote in the “Frankfurter Rundschau” about Gräf’s last volume of poems: “These poems try something elemental, fundamental, something that cuts deeply not only in our understanding of ‘literature’, but it also into the coordinates of our world perception.” And Arne Rautenberg, for Deutsche Welle: “The current poetry boom in Germany originates from the lyrical upheavals of the 1990s, out of which young, strong voices such as Durs Grünbein, Thomas Kling or Dieter M. Gräf came. They dusted off the slightly old fashioned genre of poetry, gave it new strength and encouraged the next generation of poets.”
The exhibition “The big chance” marks a new phase in the work of Dieter M. Gräf, who complemented his poetry with photography and arranges it spatially in close collaboration with architect Nina Zlonicky.