York der Knoefel – Early Photographs from the 80ies

October 19, 2012 - January 26, 2013


Loock Galerie is pleased, after 25 years, to show early photographs by York der Knoefel, and to present the extensive material on Berlin’s slaughterhouse for the first time.

In the mid-1980s, Jörg Knoefel first attracted attention with his series “Charlotte", which appeared in "Entweder Oder", one of the most important illegal magazines of the GDR, and which were shown by Longest Stein, together with other portraits and a series of subway pictures, at Kulturhaus Treptower Park. In 1993, Knoefel said about the series in an interview: “I only know why I took photographs of Charlotte. It was disgust with what was establishing itself as underground art at the time. Everybody was trying to announce his or her mental state to the whole world. For me without a result.

From 1986-1988, Knoefel took pictures at Fleischkombinat Berlin: “With the pictures taken at the slaughterhouse, I wanted to take photography out of the glass frame, out of the way the medium was used at the time in the East. Schlachthaus took me to my limits. It wasn’t planned right from the start as an installation. But I was stressed. I wanted to produce a counter-attitude. It was a product of the stress. Schlachthaus Berlin is currently on view in the exhibition "The Shuttered Society. Art Photography in the GDR 1945-1989" at Berlinische Galerie, and Gabriele Mutscher writes in the catalogue to the exhibition: “The sequence of images and an installation Schlachthaus Berlin might be interpreted as a response to man’s brutality against his fellow creatures. In order to translate his experiences into art, a conventional visual representation soon turned out to be insufficient. To show his slaughterhouse sequence, he therefore created a large-scale installation in the form of a labyrinth. The beholder is led through a narrow labyrinth, where he is forced to face the cruelty of killing. While at Berlinische Galerie the original installation is on view, at Loock Galerie additional material is shown that provides insights about the extent and intensity with which Knoefel engaged with the process of killing, which is shown as both shocking and normal. In addition to the large thematic field of the slaughterhouse, Loock Galerie is also showing several series of portraits that express Knoefels central concern which runs throughout his entire oeuvre: the question of how an individual identity can be established within a social framework.

My cooperation with Knoefel started in 1992, at a time when Knoefel expressed himself in paintings and installations, and when he changed is name to York der Knoefel, probably also to mark a change in his artistic practice and the end of his career as a photographer. In spite of this, his artistic practice continued to circle around the central question of the relationship between the individual and society. An example may be the video installation "Thoughts" (1996), which was shown at Hamburger Bahnhof, where 300 New Yorkers described their current thoughts. In 2000, Knoefel returned to the medium of photography: he took portraits of his son’s first grade class, which he presented in a one-to-one format at Wohnmaschine. His final video installation "Synapsen" (2005) addresses in a six-channel collage the question of female identity. After this work, he started once again to draw and paint.

One year ago, York der Knoefel died suddenly after a heart attack.

Friedrich Loock