The neighborhood has a lot to say. The microcosmos of the neighborhood becomes the background of the portrait. The idea is to create the conditions so that private and public life in the moment of a portrait overlap. Back- and foreground bring together people and city.
Visitors tend to document and capture the city through images trying to catch the pulse of street life. In those images people, although present, are the background and stay anonymous while the city’s build features play the role of the foreground.
Having experienced that people on the streets on Addis are hesitating or uncomfortable being photographed in public spaces, it seems on the other hand a common thing to go with the family, mostly as a sunday habit, to photo studios to shoot family portraits.
The protagonists in those sunday pictures and family portraits, taken behind closed doors in a nearby photo studio, are eponymous, they have a name, they are in the foreground. But the city they live in is absent, the background is a staged or ficional one.
City Portrait tries to create a setting that allows private and public life to overlap in the moment of the portrait. Back- and foreground bring together everyday people and everyday life in the city. Starting point, is the idea of a mobile photo studio. The microcosmos of a a neighbourhood becomes the background of the portrait. City Portrait aims to not focus on touristic and prominent sites that have always been in the focus and have been widely documented. The neighbourhood, not only the generic main squares and meeting points, has a lot to say about social constellation, the history and the environment where a family comes from. A neighbourhood might change with rapid pace or it might look the same since decades, but the portraits captured a very specific moment in the coexistence of the city’s build structures and its inhabitants.
City Portrait performed the idea of an mobile outdoor photo studio during different times of the day, trying to capture a part of the social dynamics and the everyday structure and daily rhythms of a specific neighbourhood.
In the late afternoons and especially around and after sunset the artificial light control togehter with a mobile platform photoframe creates an illuminated space in the dark cityscape. This notion of the interior of a photo studio and photography in public space blend into one another. The photo frame and the light setup become tools to bridge between two traditions in photography we are all familiar with.
When a water droplet falls on a surface heated to over 100° it will, for a moment, hover on an aircushion of steam.* The impact splits the droplet into numerous beads of water that gently circle one another in contemplation before gradually gliding together. Little by little the tiny spheres merge into a larger droplet soon to be fractured once more by the next drip: a clear, meditative moment that reoccurs again and again, enabling time to dance in a space verging on the “here and now”. Lukas Töpfer
I wasn’t present for the carrying out of this piece – but that was almost the point.
During the exhibition in Jan Meda I was back home in the snow in Berlin – thinking about Addis Ababa where I had been a week earlier.
My aim was to place myself into the consciousness of those who were taking part in the exhibition. Over the two weeks that I spent in Ethiopia I collected small stones – tiny pebbles. I selected each one with a particular participant in mind. For every stone there was an accompanying letter – each one was individual; describing where I had found the pebble and that I thought it would suit them perfectly. I requested that they place the stone into their shoe each time they went to the exhibition – and to allow the irritation of the pebble to remind them to remember me.
The envelopes containing the letters and the stones were handed out on the evening before the opening on an individual basis. Later on, in the still snowy Berlin, I got told stories of reading letters next to campfires and conversations that were had explaining to people that they had a stone in their shoe – and why.
Some of the pebbles were returned back to me as I had requested. Most people kept their letter.
The banners adopt the form of common advertisement banners found throughout the city of Addis Ababa. Small holes are usually cut into the fabric in order to protect the banners from being ripped by the force of the wind. Holes allow for passage. What seems more fragile may last longer.
The three used wooden boards are displayed as fragments which lost its origin and function. The added layer of the colour acts as a common sign of urban demolition and renewal at the same time.
After the exhibition the boards will be abandoned in a public space in the city and will be exposed as an experiment to a possible process of appropriation.
What does a home mean? What will you take with you when you leave your home for good? What will you leave there behind? A perception of people’s relationship and attachment to their values and past.
The installation, using the technique of stacking out a planned shape of a yet nonexisting building, reflects upon the spatial and social structure of a former Kebele neighbourhood.