At a moment when the visual clarity made possible by digital photography is being viewed by amateurs an impediment to authenticity and feeling, this exhibition throws the current trend for syntheses of analogue imperfection into relief. Showcasing an extensive personal collection of images by the young German photographer Johannes Förster, produced during his formative years, Liquid Archive displays the sublime visual results and intellectual questions that have resulted from what might be described as an ‘act of god’.
Förster documented his world with great enthusiasm during his youth. Candid vignettes from childhood and teenage life, from reading porno magazines in scout camp to his friend Walter’s first marijuana crop, were captured with all the intimate spontaneity of an young man. the outcome was an extensive biographical archive in photos. so far, so normal. A lot of people have private photo collections in their attics, for instance. Förster kept his in the basement of his Neukölln home, to protect them from renovation work, eventually forgetting about them. that is, until a couple of weeks ago when heavy rainfall flooded the whole room, enveloping and forever changing the material store of memory he so treasured – not just the prints but the negatives too.
A whole life document destroyed. Well, nearly. What first looked like a disaster proved to be something more ambiguous. some of the prints survived, changed – the water making their colours run and bleed in places, sometimes obliterating all pictorial image but more often than not leaving some piece of figure behind – framing a face, a hand, in expressive scratchy hues; recomposing the whole photograph. The resulting images – and there are hundreds – are painfully beautiful. As we see it, exhibiting these prints allows us to think about mortality and the fragility of the analogue photographic print as a store of memory. Perhaps, also, to speak about chance and the importance imperfection plays in life. With Liquid Archive viewers are invited to dive into the ebb and flow of memory, and the transience of its material and immaterial forms.